Photographing a painting

Posted in: Photographing Artwork | 5

Wearing all the hats, as an artist, can be a challenge, but there are benefits. One of them is, I have learned to work around my limitations when documenting my paintings. My main concern is colour; representing colour as accurately as possible.

In a pinch, if I colour-correct in photoshop, I can photograph my work in bad lighting and still come out with a relatively decent document. It would be nice to just take excellent photos right out of the box, and save a lot of time and hassle.

I take the original painting home to my desktop computer and compare my digital image to the real thing as I colour-correct.

This is an example of a photograph that I took and worked with:

Photographed in mixed lighting –some daylight and some daylight overhead fluorescents — without a flash, underexposed, and needing to be cropped and sized, this was a typically good candidate to work with. It was selected out of a batch of shots that were taken on a variety of colour and white-balance settings.

This process works relatively well, if I have all the time on earth, and have the original painting beside me when I’m colour-correcting. However, in this case, in order to meet a deadline, this painting flew out the door without my completing the corrections.

In this scenario, I was relying on my memory of the painting to adjust the colour. The liability, my worry, was that the photograph could end up looking better than the original painting. Obviously, it is not a good thing if an art buyer finds that the painting is not as exciting in real life as it was when they saw it online.

If the photograph looks better than the painting, the benefit, for me, is that I have done research that will make me a better painter. And I realize that this is a great way to work on paintings. I have also learned that photo documenting my work needs to be taken more seriously. Although I have learned a great deal, it is a task that I am looking forward to paying someone else to do.

As an aside, it was said of Jack Shadbolt that if you gave him back a painting to be repaired, when he was done with it, you were returned an entirely different painting.

This painting was juried and accepted into the North Vancouver Art Rental at Cityscape Community Artspace. It will be shown in the Art Rental Show in January 2018, along with one more of my landscapes. It was shown previously at the Parker Art Salon 2017, but I have repainted it since.

landscape painting of clouds over water

“Cloud Mirror” oil on canvas  9″x12″

5 Responses

  1. Terry Sawatzky

    It would be a rare individual, indeed, that had you eye for colour nuances, Donna! And they would need to have both the painting and a correctly colour calibrated monitor.

  2. Brad Rines

    Beautiful painting, Donna! And nice job on the photo correction. So many variables these days… monitor, as Terry pointed out, and I discovered in my own photographs that my camera adds an uneven pink tinge on a portion of the image, and various lenses, focal lengths and f-stops add there own unique vignetting. To correct for this, I ended up shooting a huge set of “flat field” images, basically plain white, evenly lit and out of focus, which reveals all the flaws. This is the first thing I apply to an image when I start correcting. Photoshop, or in my case Raw Therapee (which is free but equally powerful), uses the flat field image to subtract all the variations from the photo and make it, well, flat. Then I start colour correction. Getting a print made requires even more fiddling. Who knows what my aging eyes actually see. Ha!

    • donna

      Your info about the “flat field” images is informative. What camera are you using? In that vein, I have discovered that there is a slight colour difference between the left side and the right side of my 17 inch iMac monitor. Who would think that would be the case? Also, nice to know that there is Open Source software that works as well as Photoshop. I’d never heard of Raw Therapee. Thanks for your input, Brad.

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