View Full Version : Help on Night-time Painting

Kathryn Wilson
09-21-2006, 07:44 PM
I am just about finished on this larger night-time painting. Again, of the Blue Ridge/Smoky Mountains in North Carolina. This one is somewhat of a composite of the previous 4 paintings I've done. 11 x 26 on black Art Spectrum.

Problem, I cannot get a good photograph of any of these night-time paintings. If I tweak the background to get the right color, I lose all color in the foreground (goes almost black like this one). If I bring up the greens/reds in the foreground, the blues go all whacky. I want to enter some of these in a competition and a good photo is imperative as it is only by slide or digital image for juror selection.

Please nit-pik away, but forgive the colors if you can.


Kathryn Wilson
09-21-2006, 07:51 PM
Here's a close-up of the town, highway and lake


Paula Ford
09-21-2006, 07:58 PM

Have you taken it outside during the day to try to get a photo of it? It's beautiful, by the way. I'm really love night time paintings.


Kathryn Wilson
09-21-2006, 08:19 PM
Yup, outside, inside - with flash, without flash. Deborah said something about being careful of the white balance matching the painting. ?

We'll keep working on it and post another if we get it better.

09-21-2006, 08:33 PM
Hi Kat,
Beautiful night rendering!! I love these colors!!
And sort of abstract feeling....they both are lovely!

I don't know what your digital camera is capable of but there are some settings you can fool with...have you checked the manual?
Also, Photoshop is capable of remedying some of the black problems in the foreground with a couple tools...if you'd like me to try my hand at it, I'd help out if I could. I would select the foreground black area only and play around with the shadows to read slightly and much better than the solid black.
PM me if I can be of help. I'd have to get the larger file from you via email.
I'll check email later tonight. I gotta watch Grey's Anatomy...on now! :)


Paula Ford
09-21-2006, 08:45 PM
Deborah said something about being careful of the white balance matching the painting. ?

Never heard of that before.

It's always a struggle for me also. My camera never seems to get the colors right. The photos always end up being tweeked in my Kodak program to look a bit closer to the real thing.

I'm interested in knowing what the "white balance" is.


Deborah Secor
09-21-2006, 08:49 PM
I sometimes use the magic wand tool in Photoshop to select the overly dark area and then use the levels slider to tweak it some. I'm not sure if this is the perfect solution!

White balance is key. "If we can tell the camera which object in the room is white and supposed to come out white in the picture, the camera can calculate the difference between the current colour temperature of that object and the correct colour temperature of a white object. And then shift all colours by that difference." You can do it automatically on most cameras, or you can do it manually. I've done both...takes some fiddling but it makes a huge difference. Once you figure out what you need to do to correct color for the kind of lights you're using you can keep it set that way.

Kat, you know I love this composition! I'm so glad you showed the close-up, too. It DOES have a lot of different colors. (Well, I know you said so, but it's so hard to imagine what I can't see!)


Kathryn Wilson
09-22-2006, 07:31 AM
Kat, you know I love this composition!

For the sake of critiquing, maybe you could tell why you like the comp? It might be helpful for others to read. If you have time, that is :)

09-22-2006, 11:40 AM
Kat, you might also be surprised how different a slide will look from a photo or on the monitor screen. I've used my digital camera which I'd place in the middle quality wise (Dimage G600 - 6.0 megapixels) with good success when taken outside on a high overcast day. It doesn't look perfect on my monitor, but I send it to iprintfromhome anyway, and the slides come back great. I've tried the fiddling with photoshop method, but found it unnecessary when taken this way. When the weather isn't cooperating- about 75% of the time around here - my daughter-in-law has a very expensive digital camera that always works very well.

As for your painting - I like it a lot. The direction of your darks weave back and forth very nicely leading from your city (thanks for the closeup as it that really helped with a clearer understanding of what color you painted)- to the pinks of your sky and back again. There is a nice counter balance of the wedge shapes I see, and the "fuzzy" textures help describe that hazy look of night. I'd sure like to see the original painting as your color choices would then be more obvious. btw: What color did you use instead of black?


Kathryn Wilson
09-22-2006, 11:45 AM
Peggy, that is an excellent suggestion about sending for a slide. Have not done that before, but I have enough time to see if that will work.

The color in the sky is Ludwig black on black spectrum, but the rest of it is some of Terry Ludwig's great darks that I have no idea what they are. Darkest blue, and his darkest green and red for the foreground. I used some really dark eggplant in the hills, but that's about it.

Kathryn Wilson
09-22-2006, 12:00 PM
'Nother question - if I do get a slide made - how do I check to see what it looks like when I get it back?

Mary Brigid
09-22-2006, 12:10 PM
Kyle I really love this painting. Your colours are great. I took it into my Paintshop Pro and fiddled with it but could not work it without too much distortion. I think the advise you got about the slide is your best bet. You can buy little hand held viewers very cheap at camera shops.

09-22-2006, 06:51 PM
A hand viewer will work, but I own a slide projector. That's the way a juror is going to look at it so I want to see the same thing before sending it off. Yes, I did have to forego buying more pastels for awhile when I bought it, but I did find one on sale at the time so it wasn't too bad. My digital camera was a lot more expensive! Unfortunately, I know they aren't as easy to find anymore since everyone is going to cd format. I wonder what getting a cd of your image would show you - hmmm gonna have to try that too unless someone can tell me they've already done this and what the results were.


PS Thanks for the color information. Although I don't see them here, they sound very nice together.

Kathryn Wilson
09-22-2006, 08:11 PM
Peggy, I am going to get a slide made of this and I will you all know. I have an art projector that I've never used - I wonder if that would work, or would the heat from the project melt the slide?

Hi Mary! Thanks for giving it a good effort - we tried Photoshop and all the tricks it has to offer, but after reading the resolution the slide company can use, I think that might be the answer. On WC, the images are so compressed, that it's a wonder we can see anything at all! The higher the resolution the more pixels you can see, therefore, the more colors you can see too.

09-23-2006, 12:52 AM
Peggy, I am going to get a slide made of this and I will you all know. I have an art projector that I've never used - I wonder if that would work, or would the heat from the project melt the slide?

If what you are describing is what I think it is, the heat would indeed melt the slide. Only a slide projector will be safe for a slide. I think the little hand held ones will give you an idea of the color if not how it will look projected on to a screen (which I don't have btw. I use a full sheet of foam core and consider it close enough). I suggest taking your slide with you when you go to consider a hand held, and you will know if it will work for you.


Deborah Secor
09-23-2006, 01:42 AM
Go to yard sales and buy an old projector for cheap and use it till the bulb goes--then go to another yard sale...etc. Works for me! I have 2 of them now...the one from the 50s is the best one of the two. You really HAVE to enlarge it to see what they're seeing.

Another reason why I like digital submissions, but that's a whole 'nother ball of wax!


Kathryn Wilson
09-23-2006, 08:05 AM
Okay, let's talk digital submissions then. This particular show only allows a certain size, similar to what WC requires - so are we not back to compressed jpg's again? Losing whatever great pixels that contain the color you need for the best presentation?

09-23-2006, 09:09 AM
Kyle, I ordered my slides from the co Peggy mentioned, and they were perfect!! They also send you a slide to compare your color with, and this is sent to you digitally also, so you can match online with calibration. It does work!!

As for compression, I don't think you need worry, as size is not the same as compression..you can have a small compression, and your file size still be large...not sure, but you might get some useful info from this thread re file size and compression.


I have just sent digis to a couple of shows with a 500x300ish pixil and they were fine...
Hope this helps,
and btw, the painting is beautiful...you have depicted the rolling of the mts into one another very well, and the feeling of looking down on the lights is great. The colors I see on my monitor are very cohesive looking, and would tell me this is the Blue Ridge any day!!!:thumbsup:


Kathryn Wilson
10-02-2006, 07:45 PM
I want to verbally thank all of you who helped with this problem - I learned how to use the white balance feature on my camera and got a good shot and have ordered slides from iprintfromhom. Now I am anxious to see how they turn out - show deadline is fast approaching!

(thanks Jules, you too, if you are watching)

Bill Foehringer
10-03-2006, 04:52 PM
When I photo ultramarine blue with a flash the blue seems to become energized and almost become reflective so it throws off the value balance. The darks look like holes. What does it look like in bright incandescent with the flash off? What does it look like when you photo it using only daylight studio bulbs or daylight with no flash? It seems its the flash that causes problems for me. My the images I post here are photographed without the flash and either in natural light or with my daylight studio bulbs. (These approximate northlight but with some warmth also.) When I try the flash the blues and greens are too intense. BillF

Kathryn Wilson
10-03-2006, 05:18 PM
Hey Bill, I had the same problem. With a painting that was almost all blues, it certainly looked like a black hole. I tried everything - inside, outside, grey day, sunny day - and all the light fixtures and it was still the flash that was working against me. Because the painting was so dark, the camera wanted to use the flash - but then it all washed out when it did.

Then the good folks here on WC taught me how to use the white balance feature on my camera - read your manual - it's easy enough when you get the settings right. It truly did work wonders for my painting. The only thing I had to do afterwards was to select those dark trees in front and lighten them a bit to show all the greens and reds - that worked like a charm.