Using a Camera to Photograph Artwork. By Don Finkeldei: Settings for best imaging of artwork.
I have no special setup and I take photos indoors in my studio without a flash --- I do that with my camera in PROGRAM MODE where I have specifically set the white balance for my lighting situation. I also use a tripod do reduce jitter.
Most every camera has a program mode where you can set specific parameters to take pictures. For indoor photography you should be in program mode where you can manually set the flash to “off”, use a tripod, always place the painting in the same place… and set white balance correctly.
Because artificial light (fluorescent, tungsten, etc.) have different color temperatures you will get off color images (blue or yellow images, for instance). Setting the white balance will correct that. Turning off the flash is most important. No flash because you will get strange reflections.
For your camera, setting up the program mode is usually done by selecting “P for program mode” finding the white balance menu on your camera and placing a pure white sheet of paper in the exact position where you want to place the paintings to photograph and taking a white balance picture of the pure white sheet (see your camera manual… look up “White Balance”). That adjusts the white balance bringing all color shifts to neutral and compensates for different kinds of lighting.
- Set your camera to program mode. Setting up the program mode is usually done by selecting “P for program mode”
- Turn off your flash in program mode. It won’t affect using your flash in auto mode, just the program mode.
- In Program Mode, find the menu for “White Balance”… and set it to “Custom”. Place a pure white paper in the exact position where you want to photograph paintings… and take a “White Balance” snapshot. The program mode will remember the setting. If you change lighting sources, do it again.
- Don’t let direct sunlight shine on the painting.
- Use a tripod to steady the camera to prevent “Jitter”.
- If your intention is hi resolution prints rather than for website internet, make sure your camera is set to the highest resolution. Images for printing should be at least 150px/inch. 600px/inch is best but that usually takes at least a 10 megapixel camera.
- Make sure your camera on the tripod is perfectly perpendicular to the painting and in the same line as the center of your painting. This will prevent parallax skewing of the image.
You’ll get perfectly balanced color, no glare and right every time.