Walker 18/07/12 – lights, camera, action!

Every week or so our front room turns into a studio and Adam gets out his equipment! Adam and I are creating a series of interactive books for the iPad and are having to do everything ourselves – Adam coordinates the technical stuff and I get on with the ‘colouring in’, as Adam likes to call it.

I thought it would be good if Adam could go through our technique for photographing art work for the book. We have tried various approaches in the past, many of which have not managed to give totally even, reliable results, but this seems to do the trick….

As you can see from the photo, our current setup is quite simple. We have one of Becky’s wooden easels setup to hold the work that is being photographed. First thing on the easel is a large background sheet, usually grey card. This blocks any backlighting from the windows and gives a clean edge to help frame the shot. In front of this we place the work to be photographed. The bottom lip of the easel can intrude into the shot, but this easel has a couple of rubber feet on the lip which helps to lift the work clear of the lip. It is important to get the alignment right so, first thing, make sure that the work is at right angles to your line of site, otherwise, you wind up bending over to the camera view finder, which is very tiring when you have a lot of work to take. Once the easel is setup, there is the lighting…

We invested in two proper studio lights quite a while ago but until recently they were rarely used – now they are always used! Each light has five low energy daylight balanced bulbs, kicking out the equivalent of 500 watts each, but only using a fraction of the power and generating very little heat. It is possible to reduce the intensity by turning off individual lamps but we usually use them full blast. Positioning the lamps is important, especially for work with any relief. The lamps must be positioned on either side of the camera, and at 90 degrees to the work. Finally we come to the camera…

The camera I use is a Cannon 5d, a good quality digital camera. We always use a tripod, even if it is only for a single shot. The lamps provide enough light for a reasonable shutter speed but it is simply so much better to use a tripod. It is setup up centrally, in front of the easel, so that the lens is at 90 degrees to work. Finally, we can start taking the shots…

I have a ball head on my tripod so I simply loosen the ball clamp, adjust the zoom and position of the camera so that the work almost fills the view finder. I then tilt the camera slightly up so the work is touching the bottom of the viewfinder, then I lock off the ball clamp (the camera position will always ‘sag’ slightly and when this has happened, the work will then sit centrally in the  view finder). Now just to shoot…

With everything set up correctly, this is super simple. I trust the Program mode on the camera – it very rarely fails me but I always check the histogram on the first few shots, just to be sure. Then my (Becky) places the pieces of artwork, one by one, on the easel. Actually, getting the works onto the easel, without disturbing the equipment, can be an exercise in dexterity and Becky, not being a natural contortionist, sometimes catches the whole lot with a misplaced foot!

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About jellywalk

I am a professional artist who is happy to take commissions, be they portraits, paintings of baby ultrasound scans, houses, or pets... Please see my art website for contact details: www.RebeccaJelbert.co.uk. I have prints available for sale from www.Society6.com/RebeccaJelbert.
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One Response to Walker 18/07/12 – lights, camera, action!

  1. Fabiana says:

    wow…it’s really good blog thanks for sharing. i bookmarked it.http://www.maladiretasegmentada.com.br

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