Hi everyone and welcome back!
In the Part 1 of this tutorial I talked about the equipment. In this second part I am going to show you how to put your equipment to good use.
Following is an overview of the individual steps:
- Artwork placement.
- Lighting setup.
- Camera settings.
- Color Checker Passport.
- Proper camera position.
- Taking the picture.
Artwork on paper can be either directly attached to a wall by taping it down with an artist’s tape or by using some sort of adhesive putty (I use Pritt SmartFix). The cleaner solution I personally prefer is to use some kind of a board, plywood, foam core, etc. I use a board that can fit works up to 22 x 30 inches or 56 x 76 centimetres, which is full imperial sheet of paper. This board accommodates all sizes of paper I usually use. I marked the center of my board by two crossing diagonal lines as shown on the picture. Then I marked two rectangles within the frame suggesting the correct placement for my quarter and half sheets.
When positioning your artwork/board always be aware of the angle at which the board leans against the wall. This angle has to be considered later when positioning the camera.
Beware of surfaces of intense color near the work area. These can reflect their color into your light and affect the resulting image.
Keep in mind:
- Either directly tape the work to a wall or use a board.
- When using a board, adhesive putty is an easy way to hold your work in place.
- Mark your center and the standard sizes of your artworks.
- Don’t work around highly reflective surfaces or surfaces of intense color.
I demonstrate the process using artificial lighting – specifically continuous daylight lamps. As I mentioned previously, you can use sun as your light source but that’s not something I would recommend. The results are not going to be consistent. If you do use or want to use natural light, feel free to give it a try and if you do, share your results in the comment section down bellow.
I use two lamps with 4 fluorescent bulbs each. The output of each lamp is 600W, making it 1200W total. The lamps came with white attachable umbrellas. I used to use them to defuse the light further but ultimately found the practice unnecessary. If you, however find it difficult to have the light spread evenly, I highly recommend working with umbrellas.
With continuous lights it’s a good practice to let them burn-in for 5-10 minutes before taking your first shot. They need some time to reach their full output.
There are two ways of setting up your lights. For easy understanding I include diagrams illustrating the way your lights are set up in relation to your camera and artwork.
It’s best to try one setup for several shoots and only if the results are not satisfactory try the other one. Don’t switch the light arrangement for every shoot, it will only get more confusing and make your results inconsistent. Images below illustrate the two possibilities. When setting up your lights, always remember that symmetry is your friend. The distances between left lamp and camera and right lamp and camera must equal. The same goes for left lamp and artwork and right lamp and artwork. Always check that the lights are placed correctly before progressing any further.
I have been alternating between both setups and they both work well once you get used to each of them. Once you are decided on your preferred setup, the next step is to make sure your board/artwork is receiving light evenly. Usually the outer edges of your board are going to be lit a bit more strongly so it’s necessary to play with the position of your lamps until you reach even illumination of the whole board. If your board is not of uniform color it is necessary to cover it with a sheet of paper so the whole surface is of single color and value.
The quickest but also most inaccurate method is to stand before the board at arm’s length, stretch out your arm and touch the center of the board with your index finger. It is important not to block the light from either lamp! You will see shadows coming from both sides of your hand, these must be the same value. I consider this method too inaccurate, but still may be suitable for rough measurement.
The other method, the one far more accurate and preferable is to use an exposure meter. The meter built in your camera will be sufficient. For this procedure set your camera to spot metering. Then point the camera at 9 different points on the board surface and take the measurements. The readings should be consistent throughout. This is very important, the value must equal throughout the whole surface of the board!
Keep in mind:
- For consistent results use professional lighting, either continuous daylight bulbs or strobes.
- When using continuous lighting let your lamps warm-up for 5-10 minutes.
- Your lamps can be set up either at 90° angle to the artwork or at 35-45° angle.
- Use white sheet of paper to cover the board if the board is not of even color and value.
- Play with the placement of your lights until you have managed to illuminate your board evenly.
I include a brief list of the more important camera settings I prefer to use:
- “M” for Manual mode, the shutter speed and aperture are set manually and independently of each other.
- ISO 100, use the lowest ISO number possible.
- Metering mode needs to be set to Spot Metering.
- I use Adobe RGB color space but I recommend you choosing sRGB (if you want to learn more about Adobe RGB vs. sRGB follow this link).
- Custom White Balance is to be set later.
- Aspect ratio 3:2.
- File format RAW.
It is best to set your aperture first. Find out at what aperture your lens does the best job regarding image quality and set it accordingly. Don’t use apertures below F8.0, lenses generally tend to get “softer” below F8.0.
Color Checker Passport
Once you have your lights set up properly and the camera settings adjusted, you can proceed with setting up correct exposure and white balance.
First step is to set your exposure according to the gray card of your Color Checker Passport. Get close enough with your camera so that the gray card fills the center of the screen. Take the measurement with your built-in exposure meter and adjust your shutter speed. Once you have correctly set the exposure, take a picture of the gray card. Go to the menu of your camera, select Custom White Balance and then select the image you’ve just taken. Remember to work at this stage with the camera on your tripod, the shutter speed is going to be way too slow for working without it.
Next step is the calibration card itself. You can either include the card with each artwork or only take one shot for the entire shoot. The safer and more future-proof option (and the more convenient) is probably to include it in each image together with the artwork. Especially if you consider having the images printed by a professional studio. They will need to have the card included so they are able to calibrate their printer correctly. That said, you can always supply the image of the card separately if you decided for the former option but it’s not as convenient. In case you decide to include the card with each work, keep it in mind when setting up your lights. The card needs to receive the same amount of light as the work itself. Either way, to make your post-process as painless as possible, I recommend taking a separate shot of the card regardless of whether you include it with each work or not. The Color Checker Passport software may have trouble recognizing the card in the picture if the card is too small.
Keep in mind:
- Fill the center of the screen with the gray card.
- Adjust your shutter speed accordingly.
- Take a picture of the gray card and use it to set your custom white balance.
- Take a picture of the whole calibration card.
- You have the option to include the calibration card with each artwork.
Camera should be positioned so the lens points to the center of the artwork and the sensor is parallel to it. You may find it difficult to position the camera at first, but trust your eyes and your judgement. Notice the outside edges of your LCD screen, the edges of your painting should be parallel to them.
Keep in mind:
- Make sure your camera is parallel to the artwork.
Taking the picture
I recommend working with LiveView on. There are a few reasons for this. You can easily adjust the position of your camera because you can clearly see the edges of your work against the edges of the screen. Also, the screen lets you see 100% of the frame whereas the viewfinders of lower-end cameras usually shows only 90 – 95 % of the frame.
Our next concern is not to cause any unnecessary vibrations while pressing down the shutter button. There are two workarounds for this, you either use remote switch or set the self-timer of your camera to 2 or 10 seconds.
Keep in mind:
- Use LiveView if your camera offers the option.
- Use remote switch or self-timer to eliminate vibrations.
I hope this article will help you either start photographing your own work or get better at it if you already do. If you have any questions leave them in the comment section down below and I’ll be happy to help you out.
Coming up is the final Part 3 where I explain how to process the raw files and turn them into images ready for web publication or print.