View Full Version : tips for taking slides of paintings?

11-03-2006, 10:09 AM
First, off, I'm an absolute newbie with digital photography. Until now I've used a Pentax MX, fully manual film SLR.

That being said, I just got a Fuji s6000. I want to take digital images of my paintings, to make both into slides and for the web. So far, though, my pictures have looked very un-sharp when I've viewed them at 100% in Photoshop. They're taken at the higest quality settings, both in auto and manual focus. But the brushstrokes look mushy, and the colors look more patchy than my actual painting.

My question is: does anyone have tips about how to take good pics of paintings? Specifically, which settings to use to get best color, best definition.

Secondly, lighting conditions - I'm using natural light to avoid glare - (my paintings tend to have glossy surfaces). I've also used tungsten bulbs, but get hot spots and more glare. Can anyone suggest how best to set up the lighting.

Again, please forgive my inexperience here, and thanks.

(Oh, in answer to the question of 'why don't I just use my Pentax film camera': I would, but I want to be able to work with the images a bit in Photoshop, do the cropping there, so that I don't have to mess with all that silver tape for what will be a couple hundred slides.)

11-03-2006, 12:46 PM
A book you might find helpful is “The Quick & Easy Guide to Photographing your artwork” by Roger Saddington. It is published by North Light Books.

I like to use sun light, but I still need to tweak them in Photo Shop. In the winter I use Halogen.

Have you found a way to make slides yourself, or do you send them out to be made?

I should point out that even though the book has a 2003 copywrite, its chapter of digital cameras is antiquated.

11-04-2006, 12:25 PM
First, natural light. Since your camera has adjustable white balance, you no longer need to shoot in neutral shade to get good color. Invest $5 at your local camerashop in a grey card, and use it to set anally precise white balance.

Get as much diffuse light as you can, because the more light you have, the lower ISO you can use. I use a variety of lights, including 2 150 watt natural light bulbs in mud (sp?) lamps (should cost less than $20 for bulbs and lamps) and 2 300 watt halogen construction lights (around $30 at home depot.) You want this light diffuse, to avoid glare. That means something like pointing the lights AWAY from your paintings, bouncing the light off of white bed sheets if your walls and ceiling aren't white. Set your white balance after you set your lights up.

Get a decent tripod. You will want to shoot on the tripod, using either a remote or the camera's timer so you don't introduce vibration. Make sure the camera is aligned perfectly with the painting, otherwise you will have to correct the perspective in photoshop. The camera should be pointing straight at the center of the painting, perpendicular to it.

Set your aperture at some medium. Your lens will be sharpest around f/ 5-11, probably, though it goes from f/2.8 to probably around f/22. Also, you don't give an old slice of bread about depth of field, because your subject is flat. So, a medium aperture will give you a fudge factor for focus innacuracies.

By the way, it sounds like you are haveing either focus or vibration problems. The vibration problems will be fixed by putting the camera on a tripod, and using the self timer. You might be interested in diagnosing focus problems using this page (http://www.focustestchart.com/chart.html), which I have linked here before, and will probably link again... If you find you have front or back focus problems, get your camera fixed.

About slides: While there are fancy developers that can turn digital shots into slides, you will probably find that you don't really need slides of all your paintings. I take my paintings to a professional developer/studio when I need slides. They charge around $7 per slide, and do a good job. Even most juried shows these days will be happy to take digital files instead of slides. I haven't had a slide shot in over a year.

Most of the time the only post processing I do is using "levels" to get the white bright enough. You may find yourself doing more, but if you get the white balance right, and don't screw up the perspective in your set up, you shouldn't need much. If you do find yourself futzing around with curves or saturation, you may want to get your monitor calibrated. It is nice to know that your red is the same as some one else's looking at a completely different monitor.

The book JLV recommended is probably pretty good too, but feel free to ask more questions here.


11-05-2006, 08:19 PM
... use it to set anally precise white balance...

I don't usually point out typos, but I thought you might want to correct this one :rolleyes:
Although I got a good laugh out of it :D
Very informative post.