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MatG 04-03-11 09:10 PM

Photographing ET
Does anyone have tips for documenting egg tempera paintings? I am familiar with the basics of documenting art work and am handy with both cameras and advanced image editing software. My attempts to shoot my paintings, however, never results in an image that feels true to the original.

In particular, hatch marks seem too prominent. They are visible but not obtrusive in the real paintings (and this harmony is what I strive for in both painting and in reproduction) but are obnoxiously present in reproduction. The trees obscure the forest, so to speak.

I believe this is to do with scale, the difference in typical relation between a viewer and a reproduction/screen, but some people here and elsewhere accomplish reproductions that would satisfy me, and I wonder how?

Here is a link to an image on Douglas Wiltraut's site, though many people here have equally successful images on their personal sites.

For reference, I shoot with a 10Mp digital SLR from a tripod. I either bounce a flash or I shoot from straight overhead in noontime sun. (I only have one flash, so I canít do two or four strobes at 45 degree angles.) I use a circular polarizer if I have trouble with glare. I use a calibrated white/gray/black card to measure white balance and exposure, then develop from RAW Files in Adobe Camera RAW and continue in Photoshop CS 3.

DLH 06-03-11 11:48 PM

The key to photographing any kind of flat work is to insure that the light not reflect off the work directly at the camera. The light must be at an angle to prevent this. 45 degrees is usually enough.

Instead of strobes use any light with a high CRI (color rendering index). Incandescents work fine. I use two four foot fluorescent fixtures fitted with high CRI tubes. Tripod mounting the camera allows any length exposure so lights neednít be high power.

StephenJT 25-03-11 10:22 AM

Hi Mat. May I suggest trying outdoors on a bright cloudy day.

mona 28-03-11 06:48 AM

Photographing ET
Hi Mat - without getting too technical, I have found that whether I am using a scanner for a smaller ET or a digital camera for larger ET, the translucent nature of the medium means that it can be tough to duplicate what the naked eye sees in the original, since digital photography tends to read through the layers more, and at times unevenly. For a while I had two scanning software programs, and I was also amazed at the difference when I scanned the same piece of art with each of these programs. Sometimes I liked one result better, sometimes another.

I don't mean you can't get a decent record, but I continue to feel dissatisfied over how contrast is heightened, strokes increase in prominence when I seek a blended look, and color subtleties become lost. I feel that photoshop is also an important tool toward a better match with the original, but it's never quite perfect, at least until technology improves matters, which I trust it will.


MatG 05-05-11 10:42 PM

Mona's reply better describes the problem I'm having. I'm pretty conversant in photographic copy work and I sometimes use two diffused strobes at 45 degree angles (usually one bounced, though, since I have to borrow to get two), and sometimes shoot in direct sun. I often have the best luck in an evenly shaded area on a sunny day. Anyway, I'm never perfect avoiding glare or getting an even exposure, but that's not the issue that concerns me.
What does concern me is how distinct my brush marks are. I've seen work in person and in reproduction from both Michael Bergt and now from the Ivanovs, as well as reproductions of one of my former professor's work (Jules Kirschenbaum). All of these have similar surfaces in person to my own work, the Ivanovs' work is, in many cases, even coarser. Still, the reproductions on their Web sites or in print are so smooth. I'm inclined to believe that they are more reduced in size, or that a higher quality digital camera with greater dynamic range or a camera with film are being used. It also may be tied in to the post-processing in software and how local/gobal contrast is handled.
Any further tips are appreciated. If anyone here can ask their photographers or share tips for what they do I'd sure appreciate it. I'm trying to establish a new presence with a new and increasing body of work, and the documentation that I have so far is not doing the work justice.

Bron 28-05-11 10:33 PM

I occasionally document fine art for dealers and institutions, besides my own work.

I use florescent bulbs in reflectors, going through umbrellas. If I need to remove glare, polarizing gels and filter on lens. Distance and angle of lights changes with the art; move them around. I've been using a Canon G9 as my main camera because: big, live view LCD, like a mini-view camera, 12 MP, more than enough, good lens, especially in it's mid range, both zoom wise and F stop wise, and at base ISO, excellent images. Tripod with delayed timer, so after I press the button, everything has a chance to settle down. The live view allows you to preview what exposure changes do to the image. Exposure change can alter contrast and saturation.

I do shoot RAW, but absolutely prefer to get it right in camera, as possible.

However, as Mona says, ET is tough. On my site there are a few of my paintings, that the images are ok, but not as accurate as some of the others. If you look at the Kim Hoffmann pages, on my site, her oils, and the frames are all very accurate. Water color is also difficult; I've found it hard to get the color right, but a little better than ET.

And, the prize for most difficult, goes to trying to document black and white photographs.


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