Monday, 7 February 2011

A low-tech art photography studio

Having drawn a blank at finding high quality, low cost scanning for the Pilgrim's Progress illustrations (£40 a picture being a bit much for a low-budget project!), I decided to photograph them instead. Watercolour paper is a pain in the neck to photograph, as a single source of light, such as the sun, will show up all the texture of it. So I adapted an idea I read on the internet:

You will need:
  • One camera (obviously)
  • A tripod (or something to sit it on), and some books/magazines if the legs aren't quite the right length (Broons books are ideal)
  • Two 500W work lights. You will need to take the metal grilles off the front, or you'll get a grid pattern projected on your pictures. 500W lights get very hot. Be careful!
  • Two 500W daylight bulbs for the lights, if possible*. As far as I know you can only get them in Australia. 
  • An old broken clothes airer that was literally on its way to the bin
  • Four clothes pegs
  • A photographer's grey card
Please imagine the camera on top of the tripod - obviously I couldn't take a photo of the camera with the camera.
  • Set the lights up at 45 degrees to the picture, and at the same height as the middle of the picture.
  • Set the camera up in the centre, again at the same height as the picture.
  • Switch the lights on, and set the white balance on the camera.
  • Take the photos. You'll have to zoom in to fill the picture - that is better than getting closer, as there's less distortion. Strangely, I found the 'automatic' setting better than manual. 
Is the quality as good as professional photography or top-quality scanning? No
Is the quality good enough? Yes - if you do some tweaking on the computer afterwards. 

*If you can't get daylight bulbs, you'll have to block out all daylight to the room, and just use the lights, because it is a very different colour of light.

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