What equipment do I need to take clear photographs of 2d artwork from above?
September 24, 2009 6:52 PM   Subscribe

What equipment do I need to take clear photographs of 2-d artwork from above?

I'd like to keep costs low (under $200). The artwork would range in size, but some would be what I would consider pretty big (30" or perhaps more).

I found this DIY camera stand online.

I also found mention of tripods that can be used to shoot straight down.

Any specific model recommendations of tripod? Or particular models of old studio/copy stands that I should poke around and try to find online used?

Also, what inexpensive light source will give me good results? These bulbs seem to have a good color temperature and high CRI, but I don't know if that actually makes them an appropriate choice.
posted by Nonce to Media & Arts (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
If you're shooting work that is 30" or more you are better off shooting with it vertical since it's hard to set up a copy stand that will have enough height to get the entire piece. While I have a copy stand which is similar to what you linked to more often I shoot in the studio with the artwork on a wall. I use two daylight corrected lamps - mine are OTT rather than the blue max you linked too but the same sort of idea. I find that shooting digitally has been less picky about color temperature in lighting than when I used to shoot film although you may need to correct that some in Photoshop unless everything in your setup is carefully calibrated. Joann Fabric turns out to be a pretty cheap place to buy color corrected lighting - when it's marketed to crafters/quilters rather than artists it is often priced lower. Shooting with the work on a wall or flat you'd want to lights set at 45 degrees to the work. Cheapest way yet of course is to take the work outdoors on a bright day, ideally with high even cloud cover, set up avoiding shadows and shoot. I don't think there's a big advantage to shooting 2D work on a copy stand. If your work has any dimensionality to it shooting vertically with appropriately aimed lights will do better to portray that kind of detail than shooting flat. So not quite answering your question but maybe useful anyway.
posted by leslies at 7:16 PM on September 24, 2009


Thanks for the perspective; quite useful.

If I do end up shooting vertically some of the time, I'll need a tripod. Do you have a model you could recommend that would also allow shooting straight down for smaller pieces?
posted by Nonce at 7:20 PM on September 24, 2009


I don't, sorry - mine is an el cheapo which was had limited range of motion. It was a hand-me-down - and just died - so am looking to replace the head myself.
posted by leslies at 4:07 AM on September 25, 2009


I would recommend that you try to ensure that ALL of your ambient lighting is the same color temp (or turn off those that aren't). This will make getting the proper color temp in the photographs much easier.

Like you found - you could probably make a DIY camera mount of PVC tubing and/or plywood that would let you point at the floor if you cannot find an off the shelf tripod that suits your needs. The tripod screw on almost all consumer cameras is a universal thread: 1/4"-20.

Do you already have a camera? Do you want digital photographs or prints?
posted by kenbennedy at 7:13 AM on September 25, 2009


I use a Manfrotto tripod. Most (if not all?) have a removable center element that can be installed upside-down to allow for straight-down shooting.
posted by rocket88 at 8:15 AM on September 25, 2009


I would recommend that you try to ensure that ALL of your ambient lighting is the same color temp (or turn off those that aren't). This will make getting the proper color temp in the photographs much easier.

Thanks for the tip. Any particular light bulbs you can recommend? Does the one I linked look like an acceptable choice?

Do you already have a camera? Do you want digital photographs or prints?

I have an xsi. The idea would be that they might ultimately be made into prints, yes.

I use a Manfrotto tripod. Most (if not all?) have a removable center element that can be installed upside-down to allow for straight-down shooting.

Any particular model you can recommend? Cost is way more of an issue than weight. And I suppose it should be as tall as possible.

This model looks like it would fit my needs, assuming it would allow the straight down shooting. Is there a particular marketing term that is used to indicate whether or not the center element can be installed upside down?
posted by Nonce at 10:29 AM on September 25, 2009


"Any particular light bulbs you can recommend? Does the one I linked look like an acceptable choice?"

Unfortunately I have no idea, but I think so. If all the lights are the same, when you are working with the digital images, you can correct the color balance to something pleasing/appropriate most easily. You can also color correct individual colors or tones in your subject matter easily in this case. Just be sure that all the lights shining on your subjects are the same, or that you intentionally do otherwise. That would make things easier. Diffused light will not produce harsh shadows (from frames or textured paint or anything), so don't use harsh spot lights, get some brightwhite posterboard to use to help reflect light if you need it (nothing fancy needed).

Maybe read up on strobist if you haven't already, you may find some useful info there.

"ny particular model you can recommend? Cost is way more of an issue than weight. And I suppose it should be as tall as possible."

Yes, it will need to be really tall to "stand over" a large piece of flat artwork. If you aren't otherwise constrained, it may be easier to shoot staight on with the art vertical for some larger pieces. Just try to get the camera facing the art dead on so you don't distort it.

The tripod you linked to looks like it will do the job, and looks like it has a removable center post/column. Those legs can go almost 90 degrees too, which will give you more positioning options. Let us know how you make out.
posted by kenbennedy at 1:13 PM on October 6, 2009


I just went through this (with an XSi!) for my paintings. I set up on my tiny back patio with the pictures hanging vertically in open shade, the camera on a $10 pawn shop Velbon tripod about 3-4 feet away, and that works fine. Across from where I hang them is a big concrete-block off-white wall, which helps.

I have the kit lens and set it to a little past 24mm (where the dot is) to minimize barrel distortion. I set the WB to shade and shoot in raw format so I can tweak it, but it's usually pretty OK. I underexpose just a little (maybe -2/3 stop) to make sure you can see a little texture in the white parts.

Use the 2-second timer to minimize any camera movement. For the last couple I used Live View, which was handy for making sure the photos were as sharp as possible.

I tried a 45-degree setup indoors with 4 100-watt equivalent daylight compact fluorescents in Home Depot metal-bowl fixtures, but still got too much reflection off of raised brushstrokes.

(The pictures on jamesbarnett.net were taken like this, but before I had the XSi and tripod; still, open shade and vertically.)

You want the camera to be square up to the plane of the artwork, not tilted away left or right, so you don't get too much perspective happening. I generally allllmost fill the frame with the artwork and check the top and bottom lines against the edges of the viewfinder. I still get a tiny bit, but Photoshop's distort and/or warp transform tools fix it fine.

Hope this helps!
posted by El Rey at 3:47 AM on October 15, 2009


« Older Repairing the iPhone headphone jack fastener?   |   How likely is it that this would come back to... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.