Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Photographing Reflective Paintings

Many of you have seen this painting before. It is 30"x40" gallery wrapped canvas (staple-less) in acrylic. The first layer of paint is black, then I dry brushed a layer of acrylic pearl. The other paint which what poured, dribbled and flung also had a bit pearl acrylic blended in. I call this painting Considering Pearls. You can imagine the difficulty I have had in photographing this surface with all of the reflective paint. The image above was taken without a flash. On my computer it looks pretty good, but it is darker than the actual painting and the colors are not as vibrant. I also hand held my camera which is heavy, so I may not have been as still as I could have.

Now I have a new strong tripod and a flash diffuser. The photograph below was taken in the same location with the same natural light conditions. I used the white diffuser (there are also a green and a yellow) over the flash to spread that burst of light about. Clearly the tripod held the camera more steady than I could. The photograph below is the result:
These came out very different, although I still do not have the lighting right for these reflective paints. The diffuser seems to create a darker edge to these large canvases with that burst of light (although not glaring) towards the middle. The edge of this painting does have a bit more of the black appearing through the pearl, however it is not as pronounced as this shows it.

So an exact image this is not. I think it shows some of the details a lot better, however. Do you have ideas about photographing these highly reflective surfaces? Do you think I need to purchase a very expensive, adjustable flash for my camera or do you think a couple of lamps would do the trick to adjust aside from the camera?

I love working with these reflective products (including the heavy clear glazing), but I feel I do need to be able to photograph them better.

I do highly recommend a good tripod (even if you have a light camera). I also feel I will make very good use of this flash diffuser, although I wish it had of worked better for this particular painting. Maybe it is a matter of the size, so I will keep trying and keep sharing what I learn here. Please let me know your thoughts and suggestions on this subject, though.

I also wanted to let you know I will be doing a very special Conversation soon with Dianne McNaughton from Cape Town, South Africa. She has some beautiful and exciting things to share with us. So stay tuned for an exciting first Conversation of 2009!

20 comments:

~Babs said...

I have trouble photographing NON-reflective paintings, so I sure know nothing about these.
I do know that Idylbrush (Howard) in Wetcanvas has a tutorial about it, and he takes gorgeous photos, and uses reflective paints too. I've not studied it, but I'm sure it's very informative. Good luck, and it's a fun piece!

Kim said...

No, I don't think you have trouble with photographing your work, Babs! I think they look great!

I am going to check out Idylbrush's tutorial...I bet that will help me a lot. I keep thinking it is I am going to have to purchase some of those external lights (at least diffusers are not expensive). Thanks so much for the tip on this tutorial, though.

Thanks Babs...have a fun day!

Love,

Kim

Rachete said...

Splattering isn't easy. Gotta have a good sense of color and space. Great Job!

http://racheteapaintersdiary.blogspot.com/

Kim said...

Thanks Rachete,

Color and space are two things I can do...all those years of doing interiors, you know. I think I am kind of working backwards from the way I worked before. I used to create 2 dimensionally for the realization of my designs 3 dimensionally. Now I think 3 dimensionally and realize in 2 dimensions. :)

Have a Wonderful Day!

Love,

Kim

sukipoet said...

I'll be looking forward to the interview! As for photos, I know nothing. But I do wonder if you tried the other two colors of diffusers just to see what happens. I like the painting alot. Taking it outside wouldnt help?

Kim said...

Hi Suki,

I know you will enjoy the interview. Well, I can't say I agree you know nothing about photographs, since the ones on your blog are absolutely exceptional! You make a good point about trying the other diffusers...I have nothing to loose. I think the technical person (the tiniest bit I have in me) reminded me I didn't want to change the colors all that much, but sometimes you just never know how they might surprise you. Good Point.

I have tried that outside photographing of paintings...it worked great with the light we had in England, but I haven't had such great success with it here. I cannot say why, though. The winter light might just be the thing to try with this one, though. I need to find a good spot for a test.

Thanks Suki!

Love,

Kim

Cris, Artist in Oregon said...

Love how the light brings out the colors better. It has more depth.
I have no clue how to photograph things either. but I do know a good tripod is a must for photograping when doing light studies.

Kim said...

Thanks Cris,

I like how the flash makes the difference, too...you are right, it does have more depth to that photograph and the way the painting actually appears.

You are right, a good tripod is a must. When I was in school I could prop my elbow into my ribs and keep a good steady hand with my SLR camera. This camera is not only heavier, but even with my elbow dug in (harder to do now, too), I can't hold this camera steady...not to mention it is not always the correct level.

Thanks Cris, your good eye is very helpful indeed!

Love,

Kim

Lynette said...

Kim, this is a beautiful painting and I think you did a wonderful job photographing it! I found out that it is very hard, absolutely tricky, to get a good photo of reflective paints.

yvette said...

Kim I'm absolute blond as for making pictures. For me it's just showing an impression of my work. The felt must be touched but helas.I'm looking forward your discussions as they are so full of meaning (I don't think this is english)
luvjoe
yvette

Kim said...

Hello Lynette,

Thanks for your kind words about the painting and the photography. I do feel a lot of frustration and know I will get this to happen in one way or another. Sometimes I think maybe it is one of those things which needs a professional studio (of course my budget doesn't think that would be a helpful solution). You are right, it is down right tricky! I will keep working on it and let you know if I find out any solutions.

Thanks Lynette!

Love,

Kim

Kim said...

Yvette, I an quite sure it is English you are writing! :) Now I love your photography a lot and do not think you are blond at all when it comes to that art form.

You are right to also remind me photography doesn't do justice to any art no matter what the medium. Your felting ABSOLUTELY needs to have the touch to do it justice. I love your work so much.

Yvette, I do hope you are feeling better very soon!

Love,

Kim

Paula said...

I use a lot of reflective paint as well. My husband takes photos for me and has discovered that natural light works well. I'll ask him about his little tricks and pass on any insights. I know photographing art can be a very challenging activity. Good luck.

Kim said...

Hi Paula,

Lucky woman to have someone who can do this photography for you :) My understanding is to find a shaded part in natural sunlight to take these photographs. The top one is sort of that kind of light in it hangs in my sun room towards the back...but maybe that isn't good enough. Maybe I have to actually go outside. I don't know.

Thanks for asking him and thanks for letting me know.

Have a Beautiful Day!

Love,

Kim

marianne said...

Hi Kim,
How about taking your painting outside and take the picture there, I always do that with my big mandala´s . A clear day makes the best pictures.
These reflective paints are the best to admire in real I guess!
hug! >M<

Kim said...

Hi Marianne,

I think I am going to give that a try with this. Right now it is sunny, but not exactly the best conditions for taking a large painting outdoors. You can imagine how quickly the wind can pick up a large canvas and turn it into a kite without a control string.

I think you are right about the best way to see those reflective paints.

Thanks Marianne!

Love,

Kim

Cestandrea said...

Kim, the painting is gorgeous, I cannot remember having seen it! or is it because with your photographic techniques now we can see it better, anyway, it's so lively, in movement, dynamic to no end.
When I photograph bigger paintings which are brillant=reflecting, I go into our bedroom and lay the painting on the floor right under the window. There is never direkt sunlight in this room.
If I use a flash, I incline the camera a little, so that the flash doesn't hit the middle of the surface. If this changes the perspective of the painting, I can arrange this with the "torsion" option in photoshop later.
But if you only incline a litte bit, it should distort the painting.
Lots of pictures necessary often, in order to only one usable...
Thanks so much for sharing these processes!

Have a great weekend
love
Andrea

Kim said...

Andrea,

I think you have found the solution for me...it is in the dark room :) Well, in this case the computer is the dark room! It is the lack of the program I am using! I am trying to use a digital camera like a film camera! Bingo! I need to purchase the right program in order to make this work effectively. I can get the photography right (and have used your technique of 'bouncing the flash' before very successfully), but I do not have the program for righting it once it is on the computer. I suppose I could also purchase a flash attachment so I could bounce the flash in a different way, but then I wouldn't get the benefits of the rest of the program!

Awe, thanks Andrea for your kind words about this painting. I really enjoy doing this kind of work!

You have a great weekend, too!

Love,

Kim

Dianne said...

Another painting that is new to me, I love the colours and its expressive nature, I am really drawn to splattering myself! Andrea seems to have helped with the photography problems. This blogging thing is turning us all into budding photographers so the advice is very welcome!
Love Dianne x x

Kim said...

Hi Dianne, (you are good with catching up here...thank you).

I am finding I do not do enough of this kind of painting. These large ones can be very taxing as I shake and hit these canvases once I have poured the paint on them...let me say it builds arm strength and I find a workout isn't often necessary! LOL

I adore photography, but sometimes forget I am working with a different photographic medium these days. I am always open to other thoughts, too...you are right we learn a lot from each other and I have come to depend on what is shared here.

Thanks Dianne!

Love,

Kim