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Old 01-31-2020, 12:58 PM
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Art Reproduction Steps over the Next Week

Please wait to post questions until a week passes. I will add different segments each day.

#1) Squaring the camera up to the original;

There are a number of ways to do this. It partly depends on the original's size.
My preferred method is to use a Zigalign mirror system. Check it out
http://www.zig-align.com

This system places one mirror on the copy board and a second mirror on the lens.This mirror is glued into an adapter ring and it has a small hole in the middle and a frosted edge around the perimeter. This frosted edge is reflected in the copy board. When the camera is aligned, repeating centred circles are seen.

I use an [MP4] copy stand and a geared head to aid with alignment but there are a couple of less expensive alternatives. A ball head on a tripod is usable, however, expect multiple tries to achieve good alignment. I find it frustrating but I have used the ball head in a pinch. The difficulty is that one must align both axis's at the same time. When one axis is achieved, it will be disturbed while trying to align the second axis. ETC ETC ETC. A 3 way head is easier to use as one can lock down one axis and not disturb it while adjusting the second axis.
Without the mirrors one can align to a cutting mat that has a printed grid pattern. There are some softwares that allow you to shoot directly into the computer. Sorfortbild is a free example for Nikon and Mac. This is called tethered shooting. There are others for PC.
Tethered capture makes it quick to view the result and gage how well one has squared up the camera to the grid pattern. This works well using an artist easel as the copy board.

Another way is to shoot straight down. If your tripod allows the centre column to be removed, then one can add a three way bubble to help square the camera to the floor. I have used this method with North window light to get captures of pencil drawings. It is a bit fussy but requires few tools. There are a couple of more steps to it. I will cover them in the next few days.
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Last edited by Adamphotoman : 01-31-2020 at 01:01 PM.
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Old 02-01-2020, 10:19 AM
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Re: Art Reproduction Steps over the Next Week

#2) Lighting Options;

There are a number of optional Light Sources that can be used. North light 900's are my favourite. They use HID bulbs [High Intensity Ceramic Discharge Lamps]. They can be found used, however they are still quite expensive. They provide even light with low UV and low infrared heat and they can be used day or night. There are a few other brands available. These also require heavy duty light stands. Research HID lighting. Philips makes some of the best bulbs.

Continous lighting:

The least expensive is the Sun. Ideal is access to large North-lit windows. This gives the most control. Outdoors not so much, where wind, rain, heat and cold are not your friend. A few bounce cards made from clean foam core help to even out this lighting. North daylight provides soft ,directional light that helps to showcase texture. One is restricted to a few short hours especially in winter.

Tungsten and Quartz Halogen are relatively cheap to buy, but not so cheap to use. They are hot. They are inefficient [power bill], but there are cheap reflector type fixtures and lightweight stands available in kits.

CFL bulbs [Compact Fluorescent Light bulbs] have been available for some time now. Since they contain mercury, I wouldn't be buying new ones. There are lots of these bulbs available in 2nd hand stores as folks swap them out for LED's. There are cheap reflector type fixtures and lightweight stands available in kits.

LED lighting has come a long way in a few short years. Prices have dropped significantly, however, well made LED Lighting Banks still have a large price tag. Look for a high CRI [Colour Rendering Index] in the high 80's. These are available in different colour balances, usually referred to as Soft [2000-3000K] / Bright [3000-4500K]/and Daylight [5000-6000K]. My favourite are the Bright Whites as they can be used as work lights to paint with as well as to photograph paintings. It does depend on your studio. If you have soft and hard light coming into the studio, you may be better off with Daylight LED's.
Any of you with carpentry skills can build something which should last for many years. Mid weight stands are available. Work lights are now made with LED bulbs. Again watch for a high CRI. These will continue to become more affordable and they are now being made in many bulb replacement styles.

Pulse Lighting:

Flash or Zenon Pulse lights are available from many manufactures. Paul C Buff makes low powered "Alien Bee" unit. New Digital cameras do not require the amount of light
that film did. The beauty of these is that many light modifiers can be used. Also colour temperature remains fairly constant. These will be fairly expensive but they are a joy to use. If you are a prolific artist these lights will pay for themselves over time.
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Old 02-02-2020, 10:50 AM
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Re: Art Reproduction Steps over the Next Week

#3) Camera, Lens and Filters;

I am not making any Brand Name recommendations. Nowadays folks use everything from cell phones to DSLRs and everything in between. When high quality copy work is the intended use, then I do have some guidelines for making an informed choice:

For quality images a full frame sensor will give the best results. More Megapixels is always better, especially if large prints are to be made. Too many pixels shoved into a cropped sensor or smaller bridge type camera sensor, will perform poorly when compared to the full frame sensor.

A prime lens will out perform most zooms.. Zooms can creep throwing focus out and they usually display some optical distortion.

A DSLR is easier to use than a mirrorless, however mirrorless cameras can give good results. It just takes more time and care when setting up.

A camera and lens that can be set to Manual Mode will give you more control over focus and the ability to make repeatable images with the same exact settings. If one uses auto exposure then the camera will change it's settings as you switch from darker to lighter paintings. I will get into equalizing and profiling in a future post, but it is near impossible to perform these tasks without manual control.

Being able to shoot RAW is a bonus. I always shoot RAW.

A good Polarizing Filter is your friend when copying artwork. Don't skimp on a cheap one. Remember it is part of the optical path. I almost always leave the polarizer on at all times.

Speaking about optics, pixels behave quite differently than film grain. With film one would stop the lens down to a small opening to ensure a sharp image. You shouldn't do that with a digital capture because diffraction will degrade the image. Instead, to get a sharper digital image, one should only stop the lens down 2 or 3 stops. Say you have a 2.8 lens. Then F:5.6 - F:8 would be ideal.

Finally, a Tethered work flow [shooting directly into a computer] allows one to gage focus, exposure, alignment and glare.

For those on a tight budget check out the used market. Prices drop quickly. Indeed, my 6 year old 5K$ camera can be purchased for just over 1K, and it still performs well. If you must use a cell phone or bridge camera then by all means do, just realize that there are better quality alternatives.
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Last edited by Adamphotoman : 02-02-2020 at 11:22 AM.
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Old 02-03-2020, 10:00 AM
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Re: Art Reproduction Steps over the Next Week

#4) Taking the picture;

The time has come to take the picture and fine tune the image. There are a number of fiddly steps. Don't be tempted to omit some of these steps if you want the best out of your copy work. This work flow is fairly straight forward but it will take practice. It is not too difficult - just fussy.

First set up all the gear and roughly compose the image.

Next align the camera. You may need to move the camera a number of times to achieve both alignment and to keep the work in the picture frame. If you are shooting straight down onto the floor, merely move the artwork bit by bit until it is properly framed in the viewfinder. If you are shooting on the wall or artist easel you will need to keep going through the alignment process until the whole art work is framed up in the viewfinder, aligned and in focus.

Set up your lights on both sides of the art at 45° to start . Your lights should be about twice the distance as the art work is wide. This ensures that the art work has sufficient light coverage.

More often I set up the light at roughly 20 - 25° [acute angle I believe] and I aim the lights to the far side of the art to ensure that the leading edges are not too brightly lit. If your work is smooth then this works well. This creates a 2 light source which tends to flatten and to reduce paper or canvas texture.

The 2 light set up is confusing when one wishes to showcase texture. This is because each light throws a highlight and a shadow [2 sets of shadows]. Each light partially cancels out the other lights shadows but some still remain which is confusing to the eye. In this case I set up both lights on one side at 15-20° to create one set of raking directional shadows and highlights.

To help even out the light and to create open shadows a bounce card is used to reflect back a small amount of light onto the far side of the artwork.

If using natural light you might also need to employ a bounce card to reduce and to open up shadows. These shadows will be caused by and exaggerated from all the light coming from one side, or from the top. Make sure the artwork has the natural light raking across from the top or left side.
DO NOT place the work flat to the light. If light falls head onto your art work, your camera rig will be in between the light source and the art work. This will cause shadows to fall onto the art work and the light will cause glare.

Finally adjust the polarizer on the camera to taste. If some glare still persists then large sheets of polarizer may be used on the lights as well. This is called cross polarization and is used to eliminate all the glare. I usually back off the polarizer on the lens to show a wee bit of sheen. When I had a permanent setup I left the polarizers on my lights and sometimes on my camera. It must be noted that LED lights do not play well with cross polarization. Also for those artists using dichroic, metallic and iridescent effects, cross polarization will eliminate those effects. Indeed photographing those effects takes a leap in skill level, but, it can be done. Usually by taking multiple photos. Moving your lights to show up those effects. Then combining parts of the images in photoshop to showcase all of the good parts.

If you have chosen to tether the camera, then you won't disturb the camera while taking your images. This is especially important when combining multiple images.
When you are moving lights around the camera and art work should not be disturbed.

If you are not tethering then set up a self timer or use a cable release.

Use an aperture stopped down 2-3 stops.

Use the lowest ISO that you can.

If you are on a solid camera support you may use a longer shutter speed.

An XRite Color Checker will help you to obtain proper Exposure and White Balance. A clean oversized White Card will be used to obtain even lighting. These two will be covered in the next instalment, but for now I will describe how to make images from these to use when profiling and evening out light falloff.

Use the middle grey to white balance the image [either in a tethered Capture program or in your camera].If you have access to a program similar to Photoshop, then take a sample reading on the colour checker from the white patch. Note: the Colour Checker should be placed close to the middle of the artwork. Adjust exposure to obtain RGB values of 243 243 243. You will make one exposure of the Colour Checker. Do not recompose the shot. You will remove the Colour Checker and make another exposure of the art. Make sure the camera settings remain the same. Finally remove the art and take an image of the White Card. Again make sure all your camera settings and lighting remain exactly the same.

Enough for today!
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Old 02-04-2020, 02:56 AM
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Re: Art Reproduction Steps over the Next Week

#5) Light Falloff Correction;

Achieving perfect and evenly lit paintings is the goal here. Darker contrasty paintings or paintings with a lot of variation in tones may not be problematic, however, works that show plenty of unpainted paper or canvas will definitely show evidence of uneven lighting. Watercolours and pencil drawings come to mind. Also, most lenses allow more light through their centres, and less towards their corners. This optical law is called "Cosine to the Fourth light fall off" and is observed as natural vignetting.

Then again when one lights a painting for texture effects, the leading edge will be brighter than the far edge.

A couple of software options can be used to correct this problem. The first is Equalight made by a colour scientist named Robin Meyers [email protected]
The second that I am aware of is the LCC filter in Capture One Pro.

This is a 2 step process. A clean white card [best slightly out of focus] is first photographed in the exact same conditions as the image of the art work. The software analyzes the brightness of every pixel and then applies that math to the painting copy image file. Presto! The result is a perfectly and evenly lit image.

#6) Colour Correction;

Digital Cameras were never designed as pure scientific tools to accurately copy artworks. Instead they were made to make blue skies, green trees and white clouds look good. As such contrast is ramped up and sensors show colour casts.

To correct for this a Colour Checker is used. I use both the Classic and the SG Charts. An image is made of the colour chart with the exact same camera settings & conditions that the painting copy image was made. Then Equalight or LCC is applied to the Colour chart file. Once that is completed, a software is used to determine how well the sensor copied the colour patches. A camera profile is generated to twist colour back into shape.

Okay folks,
I have outlined the basics. Paint well and then make better images of your artworks!
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Old 02-04-2020, 10:20 AM
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Re: Art Reproduction Steps over the Next Week

Great info. It's going to take me a while, if not forever, to catch up. :-)
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Old 02-15-2020, 07:50 PM
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Re: Art Reproduction Steps over the Next Week

This is very kind of you to take the time a to share all of these details that help guide one through the process you used in the business of Art Reproductions. This is quite a science and you sure sound like you know what you are talking about. Did you enjoy doing this for a living?
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Old 02-16-2020, 10:45 AM
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Re: Art Reproduction Steps over the Next Week

Lorell,
It was good to get my thoughts all in a row. While this loosely covers the work flow there are many more details which are best covered in Camera Work, such as using bean bags to dampen vibration which Daniel Smith talks about in another post. http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/show...readid=1453912

AS always, tools may take pictures but it is the person behind the camera who makes the photograph. Give 10 people the same exact sports car and one will finish first. Most of the group will bunch up around the corner and perhaps one will crash.

I enjoyed the reproduction business because I am wired that way. Perhaps the skill needed most is the one to work with artists. They are a somewhat fragile group that are mostly very particular but they are not necessarily well trained with cameras, software and printers. It could be challenging at times.
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Old 02-16-2020, 04:41 PM
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Re: Art Reproduction Steps over the Next Week

Lorell,
I thought about your question some more. The best thing about photographing art is that I was exposed to some of the best artists and craft persons in Canada. We were able to collect a few pieces of amazing work over the years. So I would have to say it was a very rich environment to live and work in.
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Old 02-29-2020, 04:17 PM
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Re: Art Reproduction Steps over the Next Week

Nobody is asking questions:
But over the next week I will show some images to help explain.

The first image is of a wheeled cart with a heavy piece of countertop attached. An MP4 Polaroid copy stand is affixed to one end of the counter top which I will now refer to as the copy board. I had a machinist turn down a flat surface to which I bolted on a Manfrotto Junior geared head. Then quick release and finally the camera with a Zigalign mirror attached to filter threads.

The second image is a close up of the camera rig.

The third shows the mirror attached to the camera.

Finally the fourth shows what the reflection looks like when the camera is aligned.
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Last edited by Adamphotoman : 02-29-2020 at 04:27 PM.
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Old 04-01-2020, 02:04 PM
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Re: Art Reproduction Steps over the Next Week

Grant, Lots of super neat equipment and techniques here that makes it very interesting and fun for those with the desire to do it to a very high level.

How about showing for comparison an example of an art piece that is reproduced at this high level and compared with one that is done with more basic equipment and software by one knowing the process like yourself? For instance: a decent camera capable of shooting RAW, tripod, Photoshop Elements, calibrated monitor.
I've found some art pieces are more difficult to do that others but practice certainly helps.
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