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JammyHeff
25-Nov-2007, 04:21
Hey there. I'm new to this but it certainly seems like a great forum. I have some large format experience and I'm looking to set up an art copying (photographing in a studio with 5x4 original paintings) and scanning service for local artists. I would also like to use the camera for my other landscape/documentary work.

Can anyone recommend an affordable bundle of equipment: camera, lens, scanner? I was kinda interested in these Fotoman cameras, a 150mm or 135mm lens and an Epson v750 scanner. Complimented with an entry level Bowens Esprit setup.

Any advice would be appreciated like a Sunday morning cup of tea with a bicky or two!

James

Greg Lockrey
25-Nov-2007, 07:44
There many ways to approach this. Most people who get into this usually work with the equipment that they already have. If I were you and knowing the subject they way that I do (I make my living copying artwork) I would first purchase a copy of "Copying and Duplicating". It is put out by Kodak. Much of the really good films that I used to use in the past are no longer made. My work flow is now 100% digital whether I'm using a scanner and stitching the pieces together or using a high end digital camera on very large pices and stitching those pieces together. This book will give you the funadmentals of the process. Many people think it is just taking a photo of a flat object, it's more than that.

Ted Harris
25-Nov-2007, 08:33
Jammy,

Let me underscore what Greg just said and further point out that the "entry level" equipment requirements for this rather specialized segment of the market are way different than what you are thinking, as are the skill requirements (as Greg mentioned). IF you ar going to do this right then, while a Fotoman camera is not a bad idea you will still be much better using it with a dedicated digital back. If you are going to go the film route then I wouldn't recommend one of the consumer scanners. I certainly wouldn't recommend any beginning lighting setup and would strongly recommend learning a lot about the lighting requirements before jumping in.

To give you a concrete example, I have been working with a client who is in the midst of setting up just such a business. His setup will include a Betterlight digital back on a Linhof Kardan GT rail camera, a dedicated laptop computer, a studio stand, necessary lighting and a 44" HP Z3100ps GP printer to deliver output. Total investment in the range of $25,000-30,000. You can leave off the digital back and substitute a used high end scanner but you will still be pushing $20,000. I'm not saying you can't do it on the cheap, you can but what you save in equipment costs you will spend in time and less than professional results.

JammyHeff
25-Nov-2007, 10:09
Thank you Ted and Greg,

I definitely don't have that kind of money (wish I did). I have used £10,000 Imacons before and regularly pay for my negs to be drumscanned. The thing is...there are many local painters where I live and many galleries and I believe they aren't using anywhere near 5x4 reproductions. At most the odd pro offers a copy using his/hers 1DSII.

I'm not aiming to offer a giclee service too...just an accurate slide which they purchase off me. They can then do what they like with it. Is it possible to get decent results up to this point in the process without breaking the bank?

As a side note...Ted, you mentioned the Betterlight system, are they only useful for very still subjects or can they be used outside in the wild? I'm a digital skeptic...don't want to be, it's just I haven't seen a print from digital capture that competes with a film capture...have you? Personally I find it difficult to prefer a lightjet print from one of my drumscan files (all calibrated and spot on) than a simple C-print hand made by myself.

Thoughts?

Michael T. Murphy
25-Nov-2007, 11:34
James,

I don't know what you intend to do about pricing. As you can imagine, those of us that have invested $30K in equipment have a certain base cost that we need to recover when charging customers.

Often part of that cost is recovered in pricing for the output - prints, canvas, etc. As you decide on what equipment you are going to invest in, you may want to do some research on your cost of doing business (CODB.)

Here is a decent article to get you started. Many photographers totally underestimate what is required to *stay* in business over the long term.

http://burnsautoparts.com/BAPsite/Manuals_files/CODB.pdf

Also, the scanning backs are of limited use, at best, outside the studio, or for portraits, etc. I would consider that a cost that needs to be 100% amortized - billed - through the fine art work.

Good luck!

Henry Ambrose
25-Nov-2007, 11:34
I'd look for an old monorail camera - something not popular or perhaps unfashionable and therefor inexpensive (but still perfectly usable). Then I'd buy a 210mm lens - plenty of those around and usually modestly priced. Add a sturdy tripod and that takes care of your copy camera needs. Buy lights that are easily serviced near where you live. Add a shorter lens for your other shooting. The Epson flatbed or similar will be good enough for lots of jobs.

You can probably buy all that for $2,500.00 US. Or spend 5-10 times as much for a digital rig. If you're trying to pay for digital gear with your copy work you better have a lot of it.

Gene McCluney
25-Nov-2007, 11:44
I scan paintings regularly. I use existing 4x5 studio equipment I already had, plus I invested in a Betterlight scanning back. I have a 44" wide printer (Epson-Ultrachrome), but I didn't acquire that just for this application. I use my Sinar-P expert system camera with a 4x5 back, 2 bellows with center standard and normally a 14" Commercial Ektar. This allows me to be well back from the painting, so I have plenty of room to move around the lights for reflection control. I use a couple of Bardwell-Macalister 2000w fresnels, left over from when I did hot-light photography of products. These are big "movie" type lights. You need plenty of light.
The 14" Ektar is too big to attach the infrared blocking filter required for the Betterlight back to the front of the lens with the normal filter attaching frame, so I tape the filter to the back of the lens, which puts it inside the camera.

Using a long focal length lens, helps minimize the effect of any error in alignment of camera and painting. I hang painting on wall, and do a prescan with a grey-scale density wedge to get color balance, then remove wedge for final scan.

Scanning back photography in the studio is an ideal venue to use a lens in barrel mount. Longer process lenses would be ideal. I use the Ektar in shutter, because that is what I have. It provides excellent results.

Jim Jones
25-Nov-2007, 19:35
I must be the worst cheapskate on the forum. I'd start out with a carefully aligned press camera and about a 200mm lens corrected for macro work. By using open flash, the lens doesn't even need to be in a shutter. This way you have an inexpensive dedicated system. If your business succeeds, you can upgrade. Until then, you can burn a lot of film for the price of the right gear.

Gene McCluney
25-Nov-2007, 20:55
I must be the worst cheapskate on the forum. I'd start out with a carefully aligned press camera and about a 200mm lens corrected for macro work. By using open flash, the lens doesn't even need to be in a shutter. This way you have an inexpensive dedicated system. If your business succeeds, you can upgrade. Until then, you can burn a lot of film for the price of the right gear.

You can't use flash with a Scanning Back, and a Scanning Back has become the industry standard used by galleries and archives for their digitizing of paintings. This is what the public has come to expect. No question that a 4x5 tranny can be better, but only if well scanned, and the cost of the scanner will equal or exceed the Scanning Back. If you have to charge for a 4x5 transparency....and...a externally purchased professional scan..you may not be competetive in price, particularly for struggling local artists.

You pretty much have to offer a hi-rez digital file as your end product, as the primary reason people have quality photography of their paintings is to have limited edition "Giclee" aka Inkjet, prints made, or to submit for publication, both applications require a digital file.

sesshin
26-Nov-2007, 00:58
Watch the internet auction site for BetterLight backs to come up from time to time. A slightly older scsi model just went for less than half of what it originally sold for. All the other camera equipment could be purchase used online as well, obviously, for a great discount.

JammyHeff
26-Nov-2007, 03:35
Thanks for all the replies.

I have a friend who's a photo realist painter and he just sold a painting at Christies for the same amount as my salary! He uses a guy 40 miles away who takes a 5x4 tranny of his work with a simple flash rig. What he pays for is ownership of the original positive. He then gets this scanned using a consumer flatbed, and makes edition giclee prints in the local town and flogs them for 'x' amount a pop. Now after talking to him he has suggested that It would be a good business opportunity as this guy he uses is the only one doing this in the area. He also mentioned some file sizes generated from the scans and I'm 100% positive they're substantially smaller than what could be gained from a relatively crappy Epson V700. I know size isn't everything blah blah blah...

Just mulling it over that's all.

Betterlight looks great but just way out of my league. If I was in London doing work for top galleries/museums then sure...but i'm not. It appears many of you here are really experienced at art copying...I guess I'm just looking to tap into that and get an answer for the question: If you had 1500 ($3000) what would you buy to start such a business? (not bothering is not a good enough answer by the way!)

Cheers again.

Pentacon Globica
26-Nov-2007, 04:43
Check my thread http://www.largeformatphotography.info/forum/showthread.php?t=29308&page=2
Check also this:
http://www.camerafusion.com/?page_id=42
Thread on FM Forums:
http://www.fredmiranda.com/forum/topic/574519/15
With my photomutant machine I have images 70x36cm by 300 DPI. With flat things you even dont need to use Helicon focus like me. But probably best and relatively cheap solution is ZOERK Panorama Shift Adapter:
http://www.zoerk.com/pages/p_psa.htm

Ted Harris
26-Nov-2007, 05:57
I've tested a back similar to the Globica and there is no doubt that the results look good. However, I did a quick side-by-side test with 4x5 film then scanned the film on the Screen Cezanne. I printed both images at 16x20 and there was no doubt that the film image was better, more shadow detail, better resolution in the corners of the image.

Going back to the OP's question .... 1) you need to compete in price and quality with what those who have the proper equipment are offering. 2) if you want to offer a low en dservice that is both less expensive and lower in quality than what folks can get elsewhere maybe you will find takers but I think not. Having said that ... with £1500 to spend it is going to be tight to impossible. Figure around 500 for the scanner, 600-700 for camera and lens, 100 for a good light meter, 200 for a very basic lighting setup and that leaves you next to nothing for the odd bits, etc.

Michael T. Murphy
26-Nov-2007, 09:17
Thanks for all the replies.

I have a friend who's a photo realist painter and he just sold a painting at Christies for the same amount as my salary! He uses a guy 40 miles away who takes a 5x4 tranny of his work with a simple flash rig. What he pays for is ownership of the original positive. He then gets this scanned using a consumer flatbed, and makes edition giclee prints in the local town and flogs them for 'x' amount a pop


Going back to the OP's question .... 1) you need to compete in price and quality with what those who have the proper equipment are offering. 2) if you want to offer a low en dservice that is both less expensive and lower in quality than what folks can get elsewhere maybe you will find takers but I think not.


Your friend obviously has the money to pay for high quality images and high quality output.

The prints are probably high priced items in themselves, in addition to the painting of course. It takes a lot of technical knowledge to make a good giclee print of an art object. You probably have a lot of that knowledge already.

So why do all of the work - research, buying the system, settting it up, testing, etc., just to give it away for less than what it us worth?

I am not saying that you can't do this with less expensive equipment. Something like a Fotoman is probably a good choice, actually, because it has a rigid body that should maintain an accurate, flat plane of focus.

But please, read the cost of doing business article. Understand the economics of doing photography as a business. And don't try to "lowball" to get into a market when there is a demand for a quality service and the economics make a good quality reproduction highly desirable and profitable.

Get what you need - within your budget of course - to make a quality product. Test equipment, refine technique. Find others who can work with you to do the output, for example, as part of a whole value-added partnership. And then price your product to amortize the value of the equipment, your time, health insurance, auto, etc. Why go for the low end when the market is untapped? Find a way to bundle the whole service, through the giclee print, and deliver a top quality product.

Of course you have to start somewhere. Find equipment to test to see what will work. But once you convince yourself that there is an opportunity that will pay for itself, make the investment and go for a qulaity product at a realistic price.

Yo are starting a business, albeit a small one at first. Look at general information on business planning - identifying your target market, demographics of that market (who they are), etc. FWIW, I have a degree in photography and philospohy, but I also have an MBA.

Good luck!

JammyHeff
27-Nov-2007, 15:42
Just out of interest...why would a 'cheap' set up not work? Surely we're talking about three main things here: light , focus & resolution? Yes I understand these have to be tip top, but break the bank and shove up the prices?

Like has been suggested, I think I may well just invest a bit...do some tests...make a choice. Now here's the question...to do such a test to 'SEE' if a 'cheap' option is possible what would people on this forum recommend as a camera, a lighting setup, a lens and what film stock/scanning solution?

Kirk Gittings
27-Nov-2007, 17:32
Jammy,

To give you a concrete example, I have been working with a client who is in the midst of setting up just such a business. His setup will include a Betterlight digital back on a Linhof Kardan GT rail camera, a dedicated laptop computer, a studio stand, necessary lighting and a 44" HP Z3100ps GP printer to deliver output. Total investment in the range of $25,000-30,000. You can leave off the digital back and substitute a used high end scanner but you will still be pushing $20,000. I'm not saying you can't do it on the cheap, you can but what you save in equipment costs you will spend in time and less than professional results.

I have to agree with Ted here. I used to do art copying for a living in the old days before I had so much architecture. I shot allot for artists but also for museum catalog's including a few for the Dallas museum. You can get by with even an old Calumet VC but.... there are a few places you cannot skimp if you want to be competitive in today's market, good color corrected lenses for copying (not your normal landscape lenses), lighting that is consistent from head to head (don't mix brands bulbs etc.), a good professional level scanner (at least a previous generation Imacon) or even better a scanner back.

Without such professional level equipment there are too many places to loose resolution along the way. Not a huge deal for small book reproductions but for large inkjet print editions it is crucial. Artists are incredibly picky about sharpness, color, gamut etc. and it is really hard to make money from them (or do justice to their work) if you skimp on crucial pieces of equipment that result in less than stellar results.

Frankly, IMO, the only thing more demanding, difficult, picky etc. than shooting artists work is trying to do portraits of women that they are happy with.

Michael T. Murphy
27-Nov-2007, 17:33
Like has been suggested, I think I may well just invest a bit...do some tests...make a choice. Now here's the question...to do such a test to 'SEE' if a 'cheap' option is possible what would people on this forum recommend as a camera, a lighting setup, a lens and what film stock/scanning solution?

I think that is a great idea. Or borrow equipment to test.

Here is one "explanation" of why a film set-up is not the greatest. I honestly can't say whether their reasoning is right. Just FWIW:

Reproducing From Transparencies
Transparencies are very high in contrast and need to be scanned by a scanner that has a very wide range. For years drum scanners have had the distinction of being the only scanning technology capable of reaching the full dynamic range of a transparency. Today there are a number of non-drum scanners that come very close. Besides the sharpness of the scanner's ability it all about dynamic range.

Transparencies have numerous problems. They were never created for capturing art and are inherently non linear. That means its ability to produce a perfect gray scale is almost impossible. When adding the anomalies of film processing the results can go from not bad to disastrous.


I am not as "negative" (no pun) as he is, especially for modest size or limited quality expectations. That is one reason why color negative film may work better for you though.

It really depends on the client. Generally, clients that are successful enough that thier paintings actually sell, and for a lot, are very knowledgable about color. They can also be very picky about exactly how their art is reproduced. The ones that aren't as picky are probably not the ones selling for big bucks and can't pay as much.

But, honestly, you have to start somewhere. Just do it and evolve as you see what works for you and your clients. :D

It doesn't make sense to sink big bucks into somethging if your clients want top pay you $10, or even $100. If you figure you can do 50 jobs a year and buy a $20K kit, the amoritization on the equipment - cost you have to charge the client - comes to maybe $150 or $200 per job (if you spread the cost over a 2-3 year period) just to pay for the equipment! :eek: That is easier if you are also doing the prints, and the prints are selling for $300 to $500 each.

Here is some more verbiage from the same vendor trying to sell their equipment. Interesting though. Again, I remain agnostic on how much is actually true - everyone has a theory :cool: :

http://www.inkjetcolorsystems.com/Inkjetcolorsystems_Printers_Inkjet_Inks_Bulk_Ink_Systems_A.htm

Printing Fine Art
Fine art reproduction differs significantly from photographic reproduction. Photography is comprised of tonal shades, whereas, paintings are comprised of a blend of color tones mixed to create the illusion of shades of tone. Being able to reproduce the nuances of color is far more critical in Fine Art Printing.

Painters throughout history have used very little black pigment, their shadows and deep tones are comprised of rich color combinations. This differs greatly from traditional digital printing.

Digital Printing has traditionally used black ink to replace color in the shadows and to enhance the depth of color. Often the technique used is called UCR, which stands for under color removal. This process is used to reduce the amount of ink layered down in the shadows. While a painter can layer pigment, digital ink when layered pools, puddles, and blisters. This is not a good thing. So the amount of ink used in the shadows and deep tones must be kept to a minimum. Therefore, "the quest" is to increase the amount of color density used in place of black. This is a complete antithesis to the basics of digital printing. How do we accomplish this?

To accomplish this, each color must reach the desired saturation at no more than 70% of its density scale. This means that we have to cut back each of the primary printing colors CMY. However, this is not possible with most inks manufactured by printer companies, OEM's. We spent a great deal of effort, research time, and capital to develop Symphonic Pigment ink. It accomplishes this prerequisite. Let me tell you this was no easy task, but well worth the results. Now we can reach the depth of color without relying on black.

The Quest For Rich Long Life Inks
There are several elements that contribute to longevity. One of which is its ability to resist fading and another is the concentration of the formula. To find a pigment that offers both longevity and brilliance is usually expensive. Most inks are compromised with the idea, “its good enough.” Symphonic Ink was made without compromise from the highest quality long life pigments made with a very high concentration.

Rip Software
The Rip driver used to process the image is essential in controlling the tonal scale as well as the saturation. It sets the parameters of amount of ink used for profile making. For more information see Rip Info.

Color Management
The control of making the right type of profile is essential to quality reproductions. If you intend to make your own, take the time to try different approaches with black generation control. Here is where the control of Black Generation is critical in making a profile ideal for Fine Art. Look in our area of Color Management Theory for a understanding in UCR, GCR, and black generation.


More on equipment in a bit.

Michael T. Murphy
27-Nov-2007, 19:13
Well, lets start "top down" on the equipment. From a really great - but expensive - set-up, to something less expensive.

A friend has a Sinar 54H digital back that he uses for fine art repro. It has a 16 shot mode that gives *great* image quality.

To use 16 shot, he had to get a solid metal camera body (a Sinarcam.) His Mamiya AFD had too much vibration for 16 shot.

He has Broncolor lighting, because it is *very* consistent from pop to pop (for the 16 shot.) He uses two 20" beauty dishes with diffusion, and a polarizing filter on each dish. Plus a polarizer on the lens.

He has a very sturdy Foba camera stand. All connected to a Mac laptop for control of lights, live focus, and preview.

He used an alignment device to get a perfectly flat plane. MacBeth color checker to get his exposure and color balance right. Epson 7800 for output.

Total cost about $33K. Call it $20K for the back (cheaper now), $3.5K for the pack and lights, $2K for the Mac, $1K for the Foba, $2K for the Sinarcam, $3K for the 7800.

If he used a scanning back, he would need continous lights instead of the flash.

So - we will use film. We need a camera, film. A rigid body camera like the Fotoman would be great. Doesn't let you change lenses though. $800. Plus a good used lens, $300. Plus film and developing.

Lights. You could try something like White Lightening. With two beauty dishes, diffusers, polarizing material, about $1.2K new.

Tripod? Whatever is sturdy. With flash it is not movement (shake) that is a problem, but adjusting distance and height and keeping it parallel. $250??

Scanner is the big ticket item. Lets start with outsourcing the scans for now. Maybe $35 for a good Imacon scan to $80 for a drum scan? (FWIW, I think good quality medium format digital kicks butt on film in this case for color quality, but that is another story :) )

So, set up whatever camera you have. Cheap used monorail off Ebay, $125. Lens, 150mm to 210mm regular lens, $250. Lights, used Speedotron Brownline with two heads, $450. Beauty dishes, used, $150. Diffusers, $50. Polarizing material and filter, $100.

Film, bracketing, $4 a sheet developed x 5 sheets = $20. Scan $80. Computer to prep digital file ... do you already have one?

Borrow all of that, or go to a friends house. Buy an old painting at Goodwill. Set up, test. Get a scan done of the best exposure.

Pay for a large print of your processed image and evaluate your output. Go to a gallery and look at prints that they are selling. See what level of the market you can aim for.

Repeat. :)

Gene McCluney
27-Nov-2007, 19:14
While transparencies are relatively contrasty, most paintings are not. In fact there is no medium of flat art that will remotely tax the contrast range of transparency film. Also, paintings, watercolors, etc., are copied with very flat lighting, which also helps them fit into the resolving range of transparency film.

Now, having said that, I own and use a Betterlight scanning back, but if I didn't have one, I would not hesitate to shoot 4x5 color transparencies of paintings. In fact I used to do just that. The Betterlight is just quicker to arrive at a digital file, which is what the client wants.

Michael T. Murphy
27-Nov-2007, 21:26
While transparencies are relatively contrasty, most paintings are not.

Yeah, I should have said something. I think the next paragraph was more interesting, about the non-linearity of film.

My Epson V700 handles Fuji Astia exposed under normal contrast outdoor conditions fairly well. Astia would be my choice for a transparency film for this.

Still I am one of a few who really likes negative film. Transparency has many advantages in quick proofing/feedback. I like Kodak Portra 160NC though.

Expose a couple of sheets of both and test.

JammyHeff
28-Nov-2007, 04:20
Cheers Michael and everyone...

...I'm a portra NC shooter at heart too...just love the stuff...the rendition and range when you overexpose that puppy is quite lovely. Have you tried the Fuji equivalents? When at college I always found Fuji film and paper very greeny/purple/blue...I have heard that Fuji films (being Japanese) are adjusted for a darker skin colour...which makes sense.

James

fuegocito
28-Nov-2007, 10:42
Well, lets start "top down" on the equipment. From a really great - but expensive - set-up, to something less expensive.....



Very nicely put, but what about pricing for the actual work in relation to the set ups, generally that is and not taking the caliber of professionalism involve.

How does it work in Art reproduction being priced anyway, is it by the proximate time required, like day rates, or is it priced by the individual art pieces.

Robert

Lenny Eiger
28-Nov-2007, 22:06
Can anyone recommend an affordable bundle of equipment: camera, lens, scanner? I was kinda interested in these Fotoman cameras, a 150mm or 135mm lens and an Epson v750 scanner.
Any advice would be appreciated like a Sunday morning cup of tea with a bicky or two!
James

I can only echo what a number of others have said. I do this for a living. You don't want a cheap, junky scanner like the 750. If you want to do a good job you can either invest very heavily in digital technology that will come down substantially in the next few years - or you can use film and scan. This is my preference as I get 320 megapixels off a 4x5. It's sharp as a razor... I would recommend a Howtek 4500. They are available regularly for 5K or less. Of course, one needs a mounting station and software. I recommend Digital PhotoLab.

I also use a Roland dVinci setup. Stunning images... very wide gamut and very smooth. I have been thrilled with it....

Lenny Eiger
EigerStudios.com

JammyHeff
30-Nov-2007, 02:44
Ok. Lets forget the scanning part. Is it possible to copy artwork in your own house without breaking the bank?

Greg Lockrey
30-Nov-2007, 03:53
Ok. Lets forget the scanning part. Is it possible to copy artwork in your own house without breaking the bank?

Did you get the book on "Copying and Duplicating" by Kodak? Basically you need polarized lighting, and a camera with a polarizer on the lens. Whether you go with film or digital depends on you. If you use film, you will need a method to make it digital, scanning is the best way and there are varying degrees of quality involved there too. Digital printing is a must today especially on a professional level. You will also need a method to insure that your set up is square to the work otherwise the artwork will look like a trapazoid.