I recently discovered, to my horror, what not to do when photographing a painting and thought I would share it. Many of you are skilled, professional photographers with equipment that is far beyond what I will ever understand, so bear with me if you will.
The last couple of photographs of my paintings showed the whites and creams screaming brilliant garish colors. I couldn’t imagine what was happening, because they looked nothing like the original oil pastels. So I went to WetCanvas and PMP (both sites with professional photographers) and posted my dilemma. Wow the answer to my problem was so simple, I feel pretty disappointed in myself to not realize what I had done when taking my photographs.
A couple of weeks ago, I hit a button on my camera when I was adjusting the settings to take some photographs. What I didn’t realize is that I changed the White Balance Over/Under Exposure setting higher and over-exposed my photographs, so over the next two weeks I took some pretty awful shots without understanding what I had done and spent a tremendous amount of time trying to fix them.
Some tips from an artist friend, Cherry Aron on pmp, for taking photographs of paintings:
First check out your camera adjustment and settings on its menu, such as brightness, contrast and saturation. Any of these that are not set correctly can over-expose the whites.
Second, if your camera has a white exposure setting, that should be looked at as well. Same here, if this is not set correctly it can overexpose the whites – exactly what happened in my case.
Third, consider the external light and conditions. Take photos of a painting outside on a bright, but not sunny day – or as natural light setting as possible. Some artists will lie the painting flat on the ground and standing directly over it zoom in to take the photo, being mindful not to cast your shadow over it! This solves the problem of tilted angles as well as uneven light.
Fourth, check out the editing software during re-touch, again looking at color balance, saturation, brightness and contrast.
After I did each of these steps, I saw a dramatic difference in my photographs, as noted below. I can’t tell you guys how much time I wasted over the last 4 days – that I could have used for painting. But the problem is corrected and I’ve posted both the before and after photographs of my latest two oil pastel paintings so you can see what a difference the right setting makes. There are four photographs posted, please scroll down. Okay, now it’s time for some serious painting!