Insights from Behind the Camera and Turning Photos Into Paintings
Our contributing writers John Hulsey and Ann Trusty of The Artist’s Road wrote a really informative piece about how to get the most out of a photograph of your painting or drawing, and I wanted to share it with you–plus an opportunity to put your “shooter” eye to good use by turning photos into paintings. Enjoy!
All the hard work and unique vision that we pour into our painting and drawing can result in artwork that we are proud of. The next step is to make an accurate photographic record of our art to share with friends, collectors, galleries, and perhaps to enter into juried exhibitions.
The essential component to that sharing process these days is the making of a professional-quality digital recording of our art. We have two choices—pay a hefty fee to have a pro shoot our work, or invest a small amount of money to purchase our own professional equipment and learn how to make these photographic exposures ourselves.
Ann and I have done it both ways and believe that, in the long run, it is far more economical, efficient, and fun to handle the photography ourselves. Here are a few tips we’ve learned along the way.
-Regardless of which brands of lights, stands, and filters you use, it is essential that you purchase a camera with a good-quality glass lens. Every image must first pass through a lens of some kind, so it is far better to get a camera with good optics but perhaps lower megapixels than the reverse! Buying a good used professional camera is a smart way to do this.
-Lighting is essential. I have an Impact Universal Film Holder frame attached to my light stand, along with a Tota-Light and heat shield. I also use a Lexan/polarizing film sandwich I made to fit in the film holder frames. The Linear polarizing film can be purchased in various sizes and cut to fit, if necessary.
-When a Tiffen linear polarizing filter is placed on a camera lens, the filter is rotated to 90-degrees from the orientation of the film in front of the lights (cross-polarization), so the hot-spots and glare on your art will disappear, and the colors will increase in saturation, depth, and fidelity. This is why the circular polarizer often sold for digital cameras won’t work here.
You can really see the difference that polarizing made in these two images of my oil painting, Another Night. On the left, no polarizing, and essentially a useless image. On the right you can see how the spectral highlights (hot spots) vanished, leaving well-balanced, rich tones without the heavy influence of the red-yellow tungsten light spectrum. All that was needed was to crop the image and tweak it a little here and there in Photoshop.
A small investment in the proper filters and lights pays big dividends in the results. With most juried shows relying on the quality of our photographs to decide who will make the first cut, it is imperative that artists get professional with their photography. Without top-notch high-fidelity images to show, there is no way to get a fair assessment of our work. And that is entry-fee money down the drain. So we should do all we can to learn about taking professional quality photos of our art. It is easy and fun as well as rewarding because you can capitalize on all that you learn shooting photos of your own work if and when you decide to make photos into paintings.
In Johannes Vloothuis’ Paint Along 33, you will see how a painting expert turns photos into paintings with a keen photographer’s eye. You will teach yourself how to paint high quality artworks that don’t fall into the traps many inexperience artists run into when using photo references. Paint Along 33 is a live video workshop but you get an all-access pass once you sign up so you can view the workshop whenever you want, as many times as you want. Enjoy!
P.S. Do you have tips on how to use digital photography to create strong images of your artwork? Leave a comment and let us know.