Take Slides Like a Pro

Using your camera equipment to take professional-quality slides is relatively easy when you follow these directions:

1. Using double-sided tape or tacks, hang or lean your artwork on an empty wall of a comfortably large room or on an easel, keeping it as upright as possible. Try to position the work at eye level or slightly below so you can operate the camera at a comfortable height.

2. Following the camera’s instruction book, load your film and set the light meter for the film’s ISO (film speed).

3. With your lens of choice in place, set your camera on the tripod and attach the cable release into the shutter button. Adjust the camera on the tripod until it’s centered and exactly parallel with the artwork. To determine how far back to set the tripod, look through the camera and move back and forth, focusing each time, until the artwork fits snugly and squarely in the viewfinder with just a small margin on each side.

4. Position one light on each side of the work. The lights should be placed approximately twice the distance to the left and right of the work as compared to the distance from the camera to the work. The center of the lights should be level with the center of the work and the camera lens. If the artwork is tilted back, the lights should be angled down slightly and positioned midway between the level of the camera and the middle of the work.

5. After turning off any other lights in the room and blocking any natural light from windows, adjust each light so the artwork is evenly lit. Make sure not to angle the lights more than 45 degrees. To check your adjustments, hold a white sheet of paper flat against the middle of the artwork. Now place the point of a pencil perpendicular to the paper and look at the shadows. Are they of equal length and equally dark? If not, move the light a little (an assistant is helpful at this point). Continue making minor adjustments until the shadows from the pencil appear identical. Step back and look at the work-the illumination should be even from side to side, corner to corner.

6. After checking to make sure the image is still focused, framed and square, determine your exposure time. Get your gray card and position it flat against the middle of your work. It helps to have someone else hold it while you look through the viewfinder. Set your lens aperture at f/8 or f/11 for the sharpest image possible. Turn your shutter speed ring until the light meter inside the camera indicates a good exposure. Set the shutter speed to match the exposure.

7. Check your focus and alignment again, and if everything looks good, gently press the cable release, taking several shots at this exposure. Then “bracket” a few shots as insurance that you’ve gotten the best exposure. This means taking an extra shot at the next-highest f-stop and then the next slowest from your first setting.

Shoot photos of as many pieces as you can at a time. It’s less work if you group your pieces according to size because you can leave your setup the same until you move to another size of work. If the size changes, you’ll have to move your camera closer or farther away. You may also need to adjust your alignment with the middle of the work. Don’t move the lights unless you must.

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