Photographing 2-dimensional art

Started Nov 27, 2012 | Discussions thread
Michael Fryd
Michael Fryd Veteran Member • Posts: 6,616
Re: Photographing 2-dimensional art

Majikthize wrote:

I, too, shoot artwork professionally, and the above are all excellent points. I have not felt the need to polarize the lights & lens when shooting bare art, though I understand the thought behind this. In my experience, using a polarizing filter on the lens has caused some color shift and an unnatural flattening of tone. I suppose that's just because we're used to seeing the specular highlights on acrylic and oil paints. In any case, it reduces the appearance of paint texture, so I don't bother. ...

A polarizer should not cause a color shift if your custom white balance with the filter in place.  For fine art copy work, I recommend you always custom white balance under the final lighting and shooting conditions (this is one use of the color checker in the image)

Whether or not the polarizing filters help or hurt depends on the actual artwork, and the taste of the artist.

I find that proper use of polarizing filters increases contrast and detail.  My artist usually prefer this.  In particular the artists who work with bold colors love that the polarizing filters maintain the strong color saturation of their work.

A big problem is shooting reflective art.   One of the artists I regularly shoot creates collages on canvas. She uses paint, paper, aluminum foil, translucent mylar, and shiny paper.   The problem is that reflections are a dynamic quality, and it is difficult to capture when limited to RGB.

If you completely eliminate the reflections you lose the feel of the piece.   If you leave them in, they can overpower everything else.  The trick is to get enough glare and reflections to convey the tone, while still showing the details of the piece.

In this case I shoot multiple images rotating the polarizing filter as I go.  In some images, the polarizing filter reduces glare and in some it enhances glare.

Ideally, we get a frame the artist loves.  Otherwise I combined frames in Photoshop to limit glare to some areas to keep the feel of the piece, and eliminate glare in others so you can see the piece.

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