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Thread: shooting fine art

  1. #11

    shooting fine art

    Hi Savanna,

    I do photography a lot of artwork. Fine paintings are sold by sending large format (4x5 and 8x10) transparencies to the client. The standard film for photographing artwork is Kodak's EPY which is a tungsten balanced film. I don't know the contrast of EPN but EPY is low enough in contrast to work well with paintings. Tungsten lights are cheaper than strobes and the only other choice is what Stan L-B recomended which also works well with daylight film. For paintings that large I would recommend a at least 4 and probably 6 lights. Buy sheats of polarizer filters from Edmund Scientific (one sheat will filter two lights when cut in half). Polarize both the lights and the lens in a darkened room. Find the biggest and heavyest tripod you can afford. They are probably cheap on Ebay because unless your are only in the studio everyone else wants the lightest they can get away with - Magestic or Stanford and Davis might be good choices. As for film size usually bigger is better but I don't have much experience with scanning so place more weight on other answers.

    Good Luck

  2. #12

    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    Location
    Sherman Oaks, CA
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    79

    shooting fine art

    Savanna, I photograph artwork for a living, as Dave Karp said, and have done so for 14 years now. The ideas presented so far are all good, a very heavy tripod at least or a camera stand, like the Cambo, if you can afford it, sure makes the work much easier. A monorail camera like a Toyo, which can be had quite cheaply nowdays. Make sure it has a gridded groundglass to insure squareness of the image. The best film is Kodak EPN, it comes in 4x5 and 8x10 and has the longest tonal scale and lowest contrast and scans well, EPY works well too but is a warmer color balance and slightly higher in contrast, but is necessary if using tungsten lamps. The GClaron line of lenses is perfect for this work but any modern APO multicoated lens will be fine, and will be brighter on the GG as the GClaron is f9. I use A & I for my film processing, they are very good and deliver on time. It is necessary to have one lab process your film as each lab can have slight color and density differences, I know they are all Kodak Q Labs but there are tolerances and that can drive you crazy chasing your tail with the variables. Unless you run a lot of film I suggest sending the film to a good lab. Lighting such large art is an art in itself, the light needs to be within one third of a stop all over the image to get quality reproductions. You may take the advise of another poster to photograph the art in sections and scan then join them together in PS for the final printing, that way a 4x5 will hold better detail. Doing the work in daylight has it's own problems such as cloud cover or other inclement weather and the color balance will change by the minute, so I advise all controled lighting indoors. There are 5000k flourescent lamps and that is what I use in my studio. I built two light banks with ten two lamp fixtures, twenty tubes each side, and that gives 1 second at f22 at 6 feet from the artwork. I balance for each lot of film with the Calumet polyester gels. Any more help I can give just email me. Paul

  3. #13

    Join Date
    Mar 2006
    Posts
    5

    shooting fine art

    Thank you for all your advice,
    I have copied pages of notes and am off to search for the equipment.

    For what Im looking for, you seem to all agree, buying used isnt a bad option?
    Ive decided to start with the 4x5 and see how that goes this year.
    Im not into E-Bay but can you suggest reliable used dealers for me to start with.
    Im wary of what I pull up at random on the Internet.

    Thank you all for your assistance.
    Savanna

  4. #14

    Join Date
    Mar 1998
    Posts
    1,972

    shooting fine art

    My recommendations for a camera are a Sinar p2 4x5 or a4x5 Arca-Swiss F or FC.

    I second the recommendation of a Better Light scanning back. There are many reasons for this instead of using film but better color fidelity larger contrast range and more detail, along with instant near real time feedback are the prime ones. The digital file you shoot wil be a first generation color corrected image not a second generation scan.

    look at the new Rololight Fluorescent lights for lighting .

  5. #15

    Join Date
    Mar 2006
    Posts
    5

    shooting fine art

    Just to bounce a couple thoughts back.
    A couple of you have suggested digital and the Better Light scanning back (I admit I dont know what that is and Ill look it up today).

    I did try the digital piecing option twice this last year, for lack of better options here, and with professional photographers. The first was a total unusable disaster and the second photographer assured me he could do it better, it still wasnt up to par, the piecing was far from seamless. Their digital could not yet match the 4 x 5 film (even scanned) when it came to clarity for the larger re-prints. They were using what I thought were the most current digital systems Have things changed that much in a year, where I need to consider it? For the simplicity I would love to cut out the whole middle process, but I dont want to trade quality for it.

    I did look up the software for piecing photos, that may have been a huge help

    Looking forward to your advice,
    Savanna

  6. #16
    Moderator Ralph Barker's Avatar
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    Sep 1998
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    Rio Rancho, NM
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    4,874

    shooting fine art

    Although I'm certainly not an expert in the area, I'd think that stitching together multiple digital images, while attractive from a theoretical perspective, would have numerous practical problems to resolve. Aside from the issue of joining the individul digital images, consistency in exposure and color balance between the images would need to be maintained. Thus, even minor fluctuations in line voltage to the light sources, and slight variations in shutter speed accuracy would produce variations between the images that would require correction prior to stitching.

  7. #17
    Dave Karp
    Join Date
    Dec 2001
    Location
    Los Angeles, CA
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    2,954

    shooting fine art

    Savanna,

    I think you can find excellent cameras used. I recommend looking at used Toyos, Cambos, and Sinars. If you can find a used Sinar P or P2 in good shape, they are going for a fraction of their former value and are just wonderful cameras. They are the ultimate in studio LF cameras. There are also lots of used Toyo and Cambo cameras out there that will be even less expensive and will serve your needs very well. In addition, so many of these cameras appear to have been sold over the years that there are many many relatively inexpensive accessories available for these cameras. Toyo C and G cameras and Cambo Legend cameras may be good alternatives. Arca Swiss makes great cameras, but they seem to still be in demand and command higher prices than the Sinar cameras. An alternative might be an older model Arca, but beware, not all current accessories work with the older Arcas.

    For a great used LF camera dealer, call Jim Andracki at Midwest Photo Exchange in Columbus, OH. Look for the number at www.mpex.com. Tell him you heard about him on the LF Forum. He will treat you right and give you good advice. Tell him what you want to do. He will be able to set you up with the right equipment, including a used lens.

    Good luck. Let us know what you do.

  8. #18

    Join Date
    Mar 2006
    Posts
    5

    shooting fine art

    Sorry for the delay,
    I was away on business and had to put the learning and searching on hold... I'm back at it.
    Thank you all again for your advice. It is a small world, I contacted Chromatics to solve a problem of getting a 4 x 5' piece (that is on canvas) shot asap, and the owner Mike is here in the V.I., I'm meeting up with him and his wife tomorrow.
    You all have taken some of the fear out of the process of diving in the deep end with the big kids. I know I will have more questions as I start to search, (I'll be searching the used market places this week). my books have not arrived but then I just received my September Bank statement...

    Sincere thanks and good wishes for all of your artistic projects,
    Savanna

  9. #19

    Join Date
    Jun 2006
    Posts
    26

    Re: shooting fine art

    Savanna

    I've done a little bit of copy work and they were of paintings. The way I was taught was to get a heavy tripod make sure the camera is normal or orthoganal to the plane of the painting. I use the daylight blue bulbs as they give an approximation of sunlight. Place two of them at the same level of the painting, 90 degrees from each other or 45 degrees from the center axis of the camera lens and at approximately the same distance as the camera. I then take a gray card approximately the same size as the painting and take spot meter readings in nine places across the entire surface of the gray card to make sure the illumination is even. If not I adjust the flood lights until it is. I use a polarizing filter to eliminate any glare from the paint surface. I focus and take the shot. Also another hint, do not leave the lights on too long for two reasons: first, is that we do not want to heat up the painting; second, the bulbs lifespan is only about an hour or two, then they go poof. The good news is that they are relatively inexpensive, about $4 a piece. Always replace them in pairs. They do not change color much with use, but light output will slowly degrade over that hour. Good luck and let us know how you make out.

    PJ

  10. #20
    MJSfoto1956's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2004
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    Boston Massachusetts
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    Re: shooting fine art

    I scan artwork for a living using a modified 11' tall animation stand together with a BetterLight 6K-2.

    If you can afford it, I would recommend the following as providing the ulitmate in quality:

    Schenieder Makro Symmar HM 120mm + any solid 4x5 camera + any solid tripod + BetterLight 8K-2 + any decent laptop (Mac or Windows) + ColorChecker card + decent lights (the latter item is probably the most important single item and cannot be under-estimated, but often is).

    I would also suggest you attend next year's BetterLight user forum to rub shoulders with expert users like Bill Atkinson. The attendees are amazingly free with their experience and techniques -- particularly with regard to museum-quality copying using the BetterLight technology.

    There is a wealth of information on the BetterLight site @ www.betterlight.com

    J Michael Sullivan
    MAGNAchrom...

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