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Photographing Artwork

Hi - I just got a call from an artist who has a small studio at a community arts center where I photograph events. One of the events was an opening in the main gallery where her work was being unveiled. She wants to have about 20 of her paintings photographed for a website she is developing.

Of course I said yes (gotta go after it, right?), but I really don't have a good idea of how best to do this. The only thing I have overheard is "flat lighting".

Any advice would be much appreciated. Links to any tutorials are welcome. It's just the paintings, not her posing with the paintings.

Thanks - Dave


  • TrevTrev Moderator
    edited February 2016


    It is not that really hard, you need a camera mounted on a tripod and the artwork maybe hung or standing on something around waist height like an artist's easel.

    The *really* important thing is the plane of the camera sensor must be perfectly in line with the artwork, otherwise you get the artwork where the edges are not 'square' in the frame, like converging verticals, so that's where the tripod comes into play.

    I have done a couple for a friend, and yes how to light, as you stated you need to be aware of light raking across paintings causing shadows, (paint is texture and that texture can cause shadows) so 2 lights into umbrellas set up and making sure exposure, light is perfectly even from side to side, which I have done.

    Here are some links, I have not looked at them but the YouTube first link from the little bit I saw looks good.



    There would be literally 1000's of article on it. But the most important to get a perfect proportioned image is making sure your camera sensor is perfectly on the same plane, cannot be tipped up or down otherwise as I said, the image will not be proportioned correctly as I said above.


  • Trev - Thanks for the links. I have looked at three or four of them, and nowhere is there a mention of "the plane of the sensor must be perfectly in line with the artwork". This may have come from your experience in doing this. So, how critical is this? Are we talking laser rangefinder, tape measure, or a good carpenter's eye?

    Thanks - Dave
  • TrevTrev Moderator

    I merely meant if you want a completely 'flat' image so the outside edges of the frame do not converge either up (if shooting from below like a skyscraper) or converge 'down' if standing above the frame.

    The guy I shot for wanted a 'perfect' proportional straight on shot so the image could be reproduced in digital format to put on a website and for 'digital reproduction' as artwork.

    No one would buy an image if it did not look right, and that was his most important criteria for me to shoot.

    However, if you want just a 'snap' with no reproduction type image, then of course you could hand hold, and not be so critical, but me personally I used a tripod, set it up around 3 meters back using a 100mm prime lens leaving a small edge around the image so I could crop it out later but making sure I had it perfectly aligned with the image.

    It took around 10 mins to set up properly, but once I had it was perfect so when I did a 'freehand' crop, it cropped precisely around the edges.

    That image was then place onto another blank background black filled layer of a 'set' size like 30x40 inch so he could get prints done for resale.

    I should have stated it in my initial post Dave, sorry, but I was being 'perfect' I suppose to get a straight on image.



  • This isn't something I have a huge experience of, but I was called upon recently for a similar assignment. A favour rather than a job, but artwork was brought into the office for me to photograph. Luckily for me, none of it was large so a folded flip chart worked for lighting (with bounce flash obviously) and then as Trev said I made sure everything was lined up, just by eye. Photos came out well.
  • Thanks, guys, for the help and suggestions. Planning to set up with a tripod, and two off-camera speedlights using reflective umbrellas. I am taking the advice of one article, and am aiming the lights at the sides of the artwork opposite the lights, so they criss-cross. I also have to figure out if any window lighting will affect things. I'll just set up away from or block it.

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