I've been asked to photograph all sorts of different projects, but something that comes up time and again is artwork. Artists, conservators and museums have all asked me to document everything from historical documents to large oil paintings so that they can be featured in books, on prints or online, or just preserved for future generations.
Photographing artwork isn't as straight-forward as it might seem, and I use either daylight balanced lights or cross-polarised strobes* that eliminate reflections and allow the artwork to be seen, not just the surface of the artwork. The camera is aligned exactly with the artwork to avoid distortion, professional lenses are used to reduce unwanted optical imperfections, and grey cards are used to check optimum exposure and white balance.
Once photographed, images are checked for alignment, distortion and colour, before being provided to the client as low resolution jpegs which are perfect for online use, high-resolution jpegs ideal for giclee fine art prints, and very high resolution TIFFs which can be used for anything from a print to a billboard.
"Let me say that these are fabulous! You have done an amazing job and the portrait will be a valued addition to the publication. I am delighted the photography could be organised within schedule and I am extremely grateful for your help with this project."
Victoria and Albert Museum
Setting up on location to shoot a two-hundred year old oil painting for the V&A
"Thanks again for the fantastic images [and the] bonus one, it's a great image too. "
A large canvas about to be photographed - one of 4 this size.
"Thank you for professionally photographing my large scale paintings ready for giclee printing. Incredible high-quality images, 10/10 recommend.
Lincoln Lightfoot, Artist
A 1 metre square canvas photographed for artist Lucie Wake to enable giclee prints to be produced for sale.
If you have artwork or documents that you need photographing, get in touch for chat - firstname.lastname@example.org
Some things to be aware of:
High-end digital cameras work like computer screens in Red, Green and Blue pixels, so any artwork is converted by the camera into RGB values. Viewed on-screen, your artwork will look different as you are looking at projected light rather than paint or whatever medium the artwork has been produced with.
When those images are then printed, it is usually done with a further conversion to CMYK - cyan, magenta, yellow and black inks. That means there are two colour conversions before your artwork is printed, so colours will never be absolutely identical. Colours that are particularly affected are oranges and some blues, but other colours may also fall outside the abilities of current print methods.
*a photography technique where the lens has a polarising filter attached, and polarised gels are attached to the lights. By rotating the gels until they coincide with the filter on the camera, most reflections can be eliminated.