How To Photograph a Painting

Written by Robert Lowdon

Robert Lowdon is an internationally published commercial photographer based out of Toronto, Canada. He spends his time photographing architecture and industrial projects for the most part.

Published December 10, 2013

photograph a painting

 Photographing art can be a little bit on the technical side of photography, but it actually is not to difficult if you have the proper gear and know your equipment.

Use Studio Lighting

For photographing art pieces, specifically paintings I use two studio strobes at 45 degree angles. One on the right and one on the left. The light should be equal distance from the artwork and should have a matching power output. You will need to meter all areas of the painting to ensure even lighting. Make adjustments as needed.

Use a Polarizing Filter

Often times you won’t be able to remove the art from the frame or glass. Reflections in your image will be unacceptable. Really pay attention to the placement of lighting and use a polarizer to eliminate or reduce reflections.

Choose The Right Lens

You will want to use an 85mm lens or even longer. There should be absolutely no distortion and the longer the lens the less distortion created. The goal is to create a perfect rendition of the artist’s artwork and should not be open for interpretation.

Use a Tripod

Using a tripod is an absolute must when photographing art. The camera needs to be absolutely flush with the piece you are photographing. Use your tripod levels to make sure everything in straight.

Depth of Field is Essential

The resulting image needs to be sharp. Use an aperture around f16 to ensure the edges are just as sharp as the center of the image. Another reason why you will want to use studio strobes to be able to achieve proper exposure. Shooting at f16 with a low iso can result in the need for a long exposure.

Perfect White Balance

The white balance needs to be perfect. If you know the the white balance of your studio lights set your cameras white balance to the proper color temperature. Do not use Auto White Balance – set for 5500k if your not sure of the color temperature.

No “Grain” or Noise

Shoot at your lowest ISO to avoid any camera noise. The texture of the work should be visible not the artificial texture of the photograph.

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