View Full Version : Tips & Techniques - Working from slide photos
03-07-2001, 08:19 AM
I have just been reading in the new Pastel Journal about some artists who take slides and work from them. I am wondering how you do this since to look at a slide, you have to have the room dark. I think slides would be great because you would have a larger image to work from, but how do you do it in the dark?
03-07-2001, 06:29 PM
Very good question! There are two major ways to work from slides, and either are in the dark!
One is using a rear-projection screen. This is something you can make yourself if you have the space available in your home or studio, and is the preferred method. Special equipment is also available. This can be inexpensive or very costly depending on your budget.
The second way, is using a special slide projector (TELEX Caramate & others), available through mail-order photo catalogues, and now the Web. These machines take standard Kodak Carousel trays and have the flexibility to project onto a wall or, on a viewer, approximately 10". It has an optional close-up feature so you can zoom-in for more detail. I use one of these on a tall, vertical chest of drawers, positioned next to my easel, so it is at my eye level. I just have to switch my eyes back and forth to see the subject.
Some upsides are:
- That you can paint in the studio. I strongly recommend taking many, many shots of your subject so you can maximize the benefit for painting from slides (especially for representational painters). Take close-ups, distant shots, different angles, etc. Since a slide does not move, your subject is static. Using multiple shots will give you more opportunity to combine, adjust and enrich your painting than relying on one, lone picture. Although, on those rare occasions, that ONE picture will have all the info you need.
- Using slides via rear-projection yields overall better brilliance to paint from than photos.
Some downsides are:
- Whether a landscape, architectural or portrait painter, you must learn to compensate for the camera's distortion, color loss and shifts. Otherwise, your work can be spotted as having been done from a slide/photo.
- If a landscape painter, you miss the outside.
I will not address the debate over using photos/slides vs. not using them for painters. That is for another forum. But, if you paint from either photos OR slides, it is best to you learn how things really look, act and operate in nature to do your very best work usilizing the above tools.
L. Diane Johnson (http://www.LDianeJohnson.com/) NAPA, PSA
Plein Air Workshops (http://www.LDianeJohnson.com/workshops/)
I've read here and there about scanners that scan transparencies and slides and haven't had time to look into it. How about that method?
Would it work to scan the slide and print it off? Would that defeat the purpose and make it the same as using a photo? Or would the colors be truer, depending on the printer used?
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03-07-2001, 09:30 PM
This is very interesting! Now I may sound ignorant, but if you are in the dark, looking at a slide, how do you paint? Do you just have a light over your easel, or what?
03-07-2001, 10:43 PM
It's fairly easy to buy a scanner these days but to find one with a transparency adapter does drive the cost up. Then, once you have it, it's quite a process to get colors right and might require some additional software (in addition to a photo editor) in order to color match.
Fortunately, my wife has all that stuff as a graphics designer. Even so, it is of "comp" quality and we rarely use one of our scans in the final product. I send the 35mm slides to Dale Labs in Hollywood FL and they are scanned at $8 each. From there, I can print 11x14's or smaller to photo quality (these are the pro scans, not the master scans - which are more).
If a person wants true color and top quality scans, this is the cheapest method I've found.
Having said that, I will often scan a slide quickly, print it with approximate colors and then use the slide on an occasional basis to observe the correct colors.
<<I've read here and there about scanners that scan transparencies and slides and haven't had time to look into it. How about that method?>>
Would it work to scan the slide and print it off? Would that defeat the purpose and make it the same as using a photo? Or would the colors be truer, depending on the printer used?>>
03-07-2001, 10:44 PM
Anytime you scan slides (transparencies) or photos, even from large format, then print on a laser jet, ink jet, etc. you are getting further and further from the original (particularly with colors shifting). Even printing limited edition prints from transparencies that a high-end photographer has taken, special lighting, magnifiers, etc. are used to get back as close to possible to a painting, let alone a scene, or portrait of a person.
For practice, working abstractly, or if a painter has done years work, I think printing from slides/photo, then painting from these may be ok. But the more one paints from photos the more dependent one can become. And more importantly, the more one learns how to paint photographs, not real things.
I painted for 25 years from slides and photos...still do. But when I paint from real things, trees, people, architecture and the rest, I see how tight, static, and color locked I become when working from photos as regular fare. I guess all I am saying is, that If you paint from photos just be prepared to adjust for the camera. The camera can't see the range of color and shapes that our eye can. And when printing from photos/slides it gets even further away from what is real.
It's really no different than painting from magazine photos which are prints from transparencies, except that magazine pictures are generally at a high resolution. The color range is more narrow than the transparency it was printed from.
Sorry, forgot to address the painting aspect. There is really no difference between normal painting and using a projector except for one factor...
When painting from either rear projection screens or smaller projected rear proj. screens, be sure not to have direct light on those screens. The most important thing is to have the same light on your painting as on the materials you are using. Have one light on your work surface, then a second light (which is the same color and type of bulb) on the painting taboret, palette, etc. while working.
If working under North light from windows behind you, just tilt the screen so there is no glare on the screen then just paint under your normal lighting conditions.
03-08-2001, 06:47 AM
Although it's not as good as working from life, I prefer working from slides instead of photos, and use the rear projection system as Diane suggested. An inexpensive setup would be taking an old stretched canvas frame and stretching white plastic (like a Kmart bag) over it, mounting it to a pole/stand and projecting from the rear at an angle to avoid too intense a light.
To me, slides work better than photos, especially for the shadow areas. Ken
03-08-2001, 09:40 AM
Thanks Diane, Ken, and everyone,
This is a lot to digest! We have a carousel and a screen, with a fairly nice projector as my husband gives slide presentations to his patients. It's not a fancy projector but it will have to do. Although, after this conversations, I think I will take photos instead of slides. When I am more confident, and the weather gets better, I want to start going outdoors. I haven't tried plein aire yet but I just ordered a pochade box so I could hike around the mountains with it. Diane I have taken to heart what you said about painting from life above all and that is my goal. I am understandably a little unsure about my abilities right now, I definitely need to build confidence. I truly appreciate all your help here at WC.
I just found out that Doug Dawson is teaching in my area this summer so I signed up for this workshop. Any feedback about his teaching or his work would be appreciated.
03-08-2001, 10:57 AM
I took a workshop with Doug last year and found it helpful. He covers a lot of material that is found in his book, as far as his working procedures, methods of pastel application, and preparing his working surfaces. He's down to earth and easy to talk to, but his pastel "palete organizational method" would drive Daniel Greene crazy! http://www.wetcanvas.com/ubb/eek.gif Ken
03-08-2001, 07:47 PM
I took a workshop with Doug several years ago. He is low-key, patient and will works with his students, particularly beginners. If you have an opportunity to study with him, especially close-by I encourage you to do so.
Read anything written by him before you attend, and take photos of your work with you for a personal critique. It is always helpful to an instructor to see what a student has been doing prior to attending. However, if you do not have photos, the instructor can see by what you bring and how you work how to help you best. He can give you good advise on how to paint from photos, even poor ones.
And yes, Doug does not use an organized palette although he will work with you with whatever setup you use. Since he travels a great deal, he has a special setup which is very different than many use in a studio environment. Daniel does use a very disciplined approach with pastels, but if you work with an open palette, it can be as effective, just different.
The slide vs. photo stuff is a lot to digest but not hard. If you can paint from slides rather than photos that is better. Just watch your husband's machine. Slides can burnout more quickly on these devices. Turn the machine off and on to cool down every several minutes or so. It is hard on the bulb, but more gentle on your slides.
But to those of you who use photos...There is something to be said about taping several pan shots together that can give you a greater breadth to work with.
L. Diane Johnson (http://www.LDianeJohnson.com/) NAPA, PSA
Plein Air Workshops (http://www.LDianeJohnson.com/workshops/)
03-08-2001, 07:52 PM
I am feeling afraid that all the caveat's concerning slide film, printing an projecting are hiding the truth!
Without question, you will get the sharpest images and truest colors on a slide film approaching neutral color (IOW, no Velvia - as beautiful as it is http://www.wetcanvas.com/ubb/smile.gif).
Also, prints, unless using a pro lab, will pale in comparison with the real thing and in comparison to a well exposed color slide.
If you husband has an excellent slide presentation program, then he will know exactly what I mean and he will have slides you can use with comfort.
Don't be afraid of slides - just be aware of their limitations http://www.wetcanvas.com/ubb/smile.gif
03-08-2001, 07:54 PM
It's embarrassing to type one thing and see another. Please excuse the typing errors. an = and and you = your.
03-08-2001, 08:44 PM
This is all extremely helpful, I think I will try slides. I am going to New Mexico in two weeks and I have decided to take slides instead of photos. However, no one has really answered one of my very basic questions, unless I missed it, and that is HOW DO YOU PAINT IN THE DARK? I have to have mega lights on my work as it is dark here in the winter and my eyesight is not what it used to be! If you are looking at a projected slide, what do you do for light to paint by?
03-08-2001, 10:17 PM
You don't need complete dark. Project to a side of the room that is darker and put a light on your pastel box and the painting. If you are projecting for long periods of time, keep in mind it will fade the slide.
03-10-2001, 11:26 PM
Ooops, sorry Shari; When I project from the rear on my screen, I'm painting in daylight or my regular studio flo lighting. The image shows fine; doesn't have to be dark to view it.
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