Wednesday, October 26, 2011

How to Photograph Oil Paintings, Part 2

I have previously shared my method for photographing oil paintings, always a challenge and now I'm adding an addendum.

This week I've been photographing six paintings for my upcoming Peterson-Cody Show, two of which have a very dark background. I was having difficulty getting good pictures because the walls of my studio, the legs of the tripod and the silver on the camera, even my pale mug were reflected in the dark areas of the painting.
This is what I was finally able to get after much fumbling around and experimenting. 
For you the short version - here's what worked.
I wrapped a piece of black fabric around the tripod and camera, I wore a long sleeved back T shirt and I stepped to the side so my face wasn't reflected and used a cable release to take the picture. A cable release is always a good idea.
I also draped a piece of the fabric over a frame made of 1x4's that was clamped to a sawhorse and stood it behind the tripod so that it was reflected in the painting rather than the light colored wall. (luckily the frame was still in the studio from a photo shoot I'd done this weekend, the orange fabric you see is from that shoot).

I suppose I could have covered the wall with a big black sheet. Maybe I should paint that wall a dark color?
Another thing I've added is a Kodak, Q-14 Color Separation Guide. Magazines and printers use these to color correct for publication purposes. I've never used one before but thought it was time to start.
Here's the previous post about my method for photographing oil paintings.
Ode to Melancholy, 24x36, oil on panel
This is a video about the body of work I was documenting and shipping off to Peterson-Cody Gallery this week. (more about the shipping drama and solutions in a couple days!)

The opening is November 4, 130 West Palace Avenue, Santa Fe, NM. If you're in town stop in and say hi, I'll be in town.


  1. Very good tips. I've often used black mat board or foam core in the same way - sometimes cutting a hole in the middle of the board to stick the camera through. A bit of black tape on shiny camera parts works too.

  2. Thank you James, those are good tips too, Doesn't it feel like jumping through hoops sometimes?!



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