Best Nikkor lens to shoot artwork/paintings?

Started May 13, 2012 | Discussions thread
OP ScottnLaguna Contributing Member • Posts: 755
Re: Micro Nikkor seems like the top choice

Hi Robin, thank you for your thoughtful response. I pulled out my old 55mm today and took the prong off with an eyeglass screwdriver. After a few test shots on the D800, I was pretty impressed. Have not put it on a tripod but handheld with 36mp is pretty sharp. I will get the 60mm version for the road ahead.

The mirror idea is fantastic. Best thing I have heard in quite a while. Thanks. Also the polarizing filters for lighting and color software.

I have been trying to make decent shots of paintings for years and usually hired it out. I know a guy who shoots for museums but the shots I get from him are always low rez. The scanner guy is an hour away and is a pain to deal with. I will shoot my own and maybe take on some side work with all the artists I know$

In the back of my mind, I thought the 60mm was a gold ring $2000 lens for some reason. Happy it is "only" about $600.
Thanks again

Robin Casady wrote:

ScottnLaguna wrote:

Thank you all for your help! I used to have a Micro 55mm on my very first Nikon F, back in the late 70's. It was a tremendous lens in every way. I suppose the Modern 60mm is that one upgraded.

Still have my Nikon F and 55mm Micro from 1970. I modified it to work with current Nikons and found it to be less sharp than the AF Micro-Nikkor 60mm f/2.8D. The AF-S Micro NIKKOR 60mm f/2.8G ED is supposed to be sharper.

I also have the 105mm Micro VR and find the 60mm to be much sharper.

The 60mm Micro lenses were designed for copy work. I would choose one of them over the 105mm. Both versions of the 60mm are still available.

Anyway, I asked about the 14-24 because that is the first "pro" lens I plan to buy to go with my D800.

Very difficult to use filters with the 14-24, and a very bad choice for copy work. It is sharp for ultra-wide, but that doesn't hold up against a 60mm Micro.

Shooting an oil painting correctly is full of challenges. First you have color, which you can mitigate by including a color chart for print matching. Some pigments don't translate to RGB very well (like cobalt blue).

If you are using Lightroom 4, or Photoshop CS5 or CS6, you can make camera color profiles with either a ColorChecker Passport or a QPcard and their free software.

The ColorChecker Passport can be used with the included X-Rite software, or the free Adobe DNG Profile Editor. The color is a little different with each.

There have been reports that QPcard chart and software produces more accurate color. I plan on trying it, but haven't gotten it yet.

I have used the ColorChecker Passport with both software profile makers. While it is an improvement over the canned profiles, skin tones could be better.

Next, is reflection from semi-shiney surfaces.(polarizer would help here) After that, in my case, the impasto areas need to be shot to their full advantage. (Impasto is thick paint layers that help give the work a 3-D texture.) Impasto looks best lit from above, as painted.

My brother used to have a special effects animation house in Hollywood. When he had to shoot animation cels (glossy acetate painted on the back) he would put polarizing gels over the lights and a polarizing filter on the camera. The gels are available from Calumet.

My hope is to use the D800 to shoot a sharp, faithful image with the option to include zoom versions of certain areas on a website. Like you would click on a face and it would fill your screen in rich detail. Or just and eye.

Should work. You need to insure that the camera is centered on the painting and the sensor is perfectly parallel to the painting surface.

One way to do it is to place a small mirror at the center of where you will place the painting. The mirror needs to be parallel to where the painting will be. So, you could mount a small mirror on the wall you will shoot against. Aim the camera at the mirror and move the camera until the lens is in the center of the mirror when you are looking through the camera. Then place the painting flat against the wall.

Lighting is something I really need to learn about. I think a combination of even downward light plus soft on each side would be the best for me.

Two lights at 45 deg. to the painting will work if they illuminate the entire painting evenly. For larger paintings, you may need four lights.
Robin Casady

 ScottnLaguna's gear list:ScottnLaguna's gear list
Nikon D300 Nikon D800 Nikon D500 Nikon AF-S Micro-Nikkor 60mm f/2.8G ED Nikon AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II
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