View Full Version : Frustrated with digital images

03-03-2008, 03:23 PM
Can anyone offer advice on how to achieve accurate color and light when photographing your work with a digital camera? I would really appreciate the help.
How does anyone get any painting done when you could spend so much time reading the wonderful information on this site? It is great.
Thank you!.

Deborah Secor
03-03-2008, 03:39 PM
You might check in the forum called Computers/Technology for Artists (http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/forumdisplay.php?s=&daysprune=-1&f=36)where it says:
Discussions on how an artist can better use tools like digital cameras, color scanners, personal computers, and the world wide web. Having HTML headaches? Looking for technical help? Stop in!

There's a lot there, I know, although people here will be glad to help out, too...


03-03-2008, 03:58 PM
Have you tried photographing it outdoors? In an area that is well lit but not yet in direct sunlight. For me, that's my front yard, because my house faces north. It is also important that the work be completely vertical and your camera be pointed right at the center of it.

03-03-2008, 04:30 PM
Lucy, join the club of we-who-tear-our-hair-out-in-frustration. ;-) I've tried numerous ways of photographing, and what works best for me, with my camera is:

Two strong halogen lights in my (small) studio, one 150W, the other 300W. Then I have a 100W ordinary bulb (incandescent, I think they are called) with a cool daylight light. Not blue daylight, mind, more like an overcast day. This is the light I shine on my pastel painting, and then I shoot the pic with flash. Several times, different settings. Automatic, works fine, and the little sign of a guy that runs.

And then I "noodle" (Deborah's "technical term") with it in the computer. But not always. I may have to lessen the red, or increase the blue, but usually it comes out fairly OK.

I actually lay the painting flat on my desk, or floor, as that gives me slightly better control (no tripod, alas).

Beware of getting too much blue in the pic when shooting outdoors.

And in the end, it also depend on the colour-bias of your camera. And if your computer screen is colour-calibrated.

Try out different things, you'll find what works for you.
And good luck, you need it!

03-03-2008, 05:18 PM

Try the sites :

Hope this helps.

Kind regards,


03-03-2008, 06:22 PM
If you're using nikon digital camera's setting white balance to "cloudy day" (there's a setting call cloudy day-go figure) is supposed to give the best white balance if you photograph outside.

My experience (taking pictures of pastel swatches out doors not in direct sunlight) has been that helps to take digital pictures when its very clear outside but to avoid mid-day (harsh shadows) or late in the day (too golden or orange of light). Around 2 pm would be good. You don't want to be in direct sun but you want there to be enough light that colors are true and you don't have to use a flash.

You can still figure darks will end up compressed so if you have blacks and browns they'll all look the same. Its helpful too if you're taking pictures of either reds or something very very light to underexpose. Red flares horibbly and whites will end up clipped. You may be able to bring them back with a program like appature or lightbox but if its too much the info will just be gone.

03-03-2008, 08:25 PM

I think it's setting the white balance on your camera. I take my own photos like this, and use 2 500 watt tungsten photo bulbs and that seems to work the best. I place the image in a vertical position, and the tungsten bulbs are angled at about 45 degrees to the middle of the image to illuminate it evenly. (If I remember correctly, I think there was an article a few years ago in the Pastel Journal that had this info.) It also seems to help when I have my image on a mid value masonite board. Sometimes I have to make adjustments with the final image and I try to make sure I have a white spot somewhere where I can have a good reference. Hope this helps.

03-03-2008, 11:37 PM
I find I get best results when using the flash, even though I photograph under full spectrum lights.

03-03-2008, 11:50 PM
Well, you're getting lots of different answers. My best results are outdoors, overcast day.


03-07-2008, 12:05 PM
Definitely it's a white balance issue. If your camera can do it, trying "bracketing" your shot with minor white balance adjustments on either side of what you expect your ideal setting to be. Usually, one of these three shots will be perfect.

03-08-2008, 02:26 AM
It depends on your camera. If you are able to set your white balance yourself it is better. Also you need to calibrate your monitor in order to get accurate colours.

03-09-2008, 09:18 AM
ok, well.... how do you calibrate your monitor and anyone know how to set the white balance on a canon rebel? I'm so technically challenged at times it is sad.

03-09-2008, 01:09 PM
I am right there with you Mary...

Totally challenged when it comes to cameras. I have a HP Photosmart, that has a "capture mode" or camera setting menu that I found "WB" and I can adjust white balance from this. I will try my next pictures adjusting only this three times to see if it improves the pictures any - Thanks Michael.
Do you still have the instruction book Mary- I'm sure you can adjust this on your camera somehow.
I did a search and found this one helpful...http://wetcanvas.com/forums/showthread.php?t=298070&highlight=calibrate+monitor


03-10-2008, 07:34 PM
You can learn to adjust the color using a photo software program such as Photo Shop Elements....

03-11-2008, 12:02 AM
You can learn to adjust the color using a photo software program such as Photo Shop Elements....
True, but I find it best to try and get it right the first time.

If you use an digital SLR, buy a grey card. Could work with point and shoot - not sure though.

My general rule for good photos:

1) use a tripod
2) use lots of lights (either daylight or man made light pointed 45 degrees to the surface to remove and glare)
3) Use a grey card (makes world of difference)
4) take lots of picts by bracketing.

03-11-2008, 01:36 AM
I agree that you should get it right the first time but I think that the reference was made to the colour settings in Photoshop and Photoshop Elements. If you have either of these programs check the help section and it will tell you how to do it. You can also use a calibration program but that is very advanced.

03-11-2008, 11:33 AM
I'm not sure there is an easy and quick way to get the colors just right, but what I have learned to do brings successful results about 99% of the time. Rarely is any tweaking ever needed. A calibrated monitor, in my mind, is pretty essential, and I calibrate my monitor regularly using Colorvision's Spyder2 PRO.

The rest I have learned from a professional photographer who makes 35mm slides of 2D art his specialty. The lighting is provided by two 250W tungsten flood lights on stands. I got my kit here: http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/298508-REG/Impact_401476_Tungsten_2_Flood_Light.html. The artwork is mounted on a flat wall and the lamps are aimed at 45 degree angles toward the artwork so that each lamp lights the nearest side of the artwork. The lamps are about 4 feet from the wall and about 6 feet from each other. See the diagram.
The camera is mounted on a tripod. In order to get the white balance correct, first take a picture of a grey card (available from camera shops). The grey card will have instructions on the back as to how to set the camera to do this. This will give you the correct manual settings for your camera. After a couple test shots to fine tune the camera's settings, you will know exactly where/how to position your artwork and set your camera for reliable photos. It's important to not have any light in the area other than the light provided by the tungsten lamps. I also use a 50mm lens on my digital camera (Canon XTi) which eliminates the need to alter perspective. Oh...and the artwork, the lamp lighting and the camera should all be at about the same height.

This sounds like a lot of work, but once done, you have all the iinformation you need to make accurate digital photos (or slides, if you have a 35mm camera - not digital). I hope this helps some.:)

03-12-2008, 11:06 AM
Judith, I have to thank you for posting this, as it helps me so much as well!!!

For others that have asked, there is a wealth of information on a good photography site called "fredmiranda.com" but I am not sure if I am legal here at WC to advertise another site... ( mod, please excuse me if I did something wrong)

Judith, yes, I wish I'd do things properly like you are doing them, but unfortunatelly I don't have the financial resources to invest in all this equipment... I have Canon 40D that I am using on a monopod and I just wait for a brighter day, put painting on the easel and shoot without flash .
What helped me a lot with white balance was painting the room in white, so that there is no color bias from the environment.

03-12-2008, 12:33 PM
Judith, yes, I wish I'd do things properly like you are doing them, but unfortunatelly I don't have the financial resources to invest in all this equipment... I have Canon 40D that I am using on a monopod and I just wait for a brighter day, put painting on the easel and shoot without flash

Adiro - I think there are many successful ways to do this. :) The best way is...whatever gets the job done in order to give you what you want. I have read a lot about photographing outside and understand that works well also. I only learned about what I posted above because for some competitions, I had to furnish a non-digital 35mm slide and the local company that used to do slides here is no longer in business. So it was a matter of necessity to learn. And since I had the set-up for doing slides, I just switched lenses on my digital to do that also.

Your 40D is an outstanding camera!!! My hubby has the 30D and he would really like to have the 40D. I will have to check out the link you posted too!