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The December Monthly Project

For December's monthly project, Tom Persinger is joining us again to examine the many ways short exposures can be used to capture motion. Please add your photo to the thread and enjoy the...

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Lighting for flat art

Norman Morman , Nov 12, 2006; 12:10 p.m.

What is the best light source for photographing flat art (paintings, drawings, small rugs and fabrics) that range from around 10 inches to 30 inches in diameter? How many lights are best, and what is the power needed?

I will be using a 35mm camera with 100 ASA film and a 50mm lens.


David Gillespie , Nov 12, 2006; 12:19 p.m.

There are lots of answers, but can you give us some idea of the equipment you have and a budget for those items you may need? There are copy stands with lights that can range into the thousands of dollars. You didn't mention the end result you are attempting, record keeping,archiving, presentations, duplication... Some delicate items or those of great value do not need to be subjected to the intense light of typical studio equipment. Often a pair of soft boxes and a longer exposure is all that is needed. Help us help you with some more details.

Norman Morman , Nov 12, 2006; 12:28 p.m.

The main purpose of the project is to produce 35mm slides of an artist's portfolio (which in turn will be scanned and printed on 8.5 x 11 inch paper). A secondary purpose would be archiving for future use.

Currently, I do not have any lighting equipment.

I have an option to rent any equipment that I may not be using frequently.

Thanks for your help!

Norman Morman , Nov 12, 2006; 12:29 p.m.

Oh, and the art work can withstand studio lightling.

Michael Mowery - New York City, NY , Nov 12, 2006; 06:54 p.m.

any flash unit will be fine. Set them up 45 degrees to the artwork. The 50mm lense might be a little wide for the smaller items, you may want to get a macro lense.

Norman Morman , Nov 12, 2006; 09:10 p.m.

What would work better, umbrella or diffuser?

Michael Mowery - New York City, NY , Nov 13, 2006; 01:16 a.m.

a harder light would be better to show all your detail and give it a punch. You can use just the reflectors that come with your strobes or a pair of small umbrellas.

Moe Ross , Nov 17, 2006; 06:53 a.m.

I work as an Art Photographer and I teach lighting in New York City . With that said, this is my recommendation... I always recommend that you use light that you can see (hot lights) that way you can see any problems (specular high lights flair, etc.). You will need to have some sort of diffusion, most art looks best with a mix of light (hard and Soft). Copy stands are far too limiting and the lights are too close. Remember to turn the lights off when not exposing. Hot lights can hurt the art. Start with a copy lighting scenero and go from there. Bounce cards are very helpful. A camera black out card is very helpful, or the use of flags to keep the light off you and the camera.

best of luck. Moe

Michael Mowery - New York City, NY , Nov 22, 2006; 02:40 a.m.

now we are in the digital age of instant images so the hot light recomendation does not really matter, not to mention a bad investment choice unless you are going to specialize in the use of hotlights.

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