Photographing Works of Art: Controlling the Light (2)

Author: Carl Shortt, Jr.
This is part three of Carl Shortt’s tips for artists taking good images of their own artwork.  See previous posts about the quality of light in Part 1 and Part 2 and suggestions for photographing two-dimensional work here

3D Work: Basic needs
3D work should be photographed against a background that is neutral or produces a pleasing contrast with the dominant color of the work. The background should also help clearly show the contour or edges of the work.
Sculpture by Robert Adams, with distracting background
Sculpture by Robert Adams with neutral background
If possible, avoid natural settings unless it is an essential part of the work as it might be in an installation or sculpture.
3D lighting location.
The best photographs are produced with diffused lighting. Light can be diffused in a number of ways: 1. bouncing it from an inexpensive 2” x 2’ or larger white foam core board mounted to an adjustable stand, by shining light through a light tent (see resources at the end for an easy to make DYI Light Tent, 3. or a bed sheet draped over a homemade structure. Look at the online resources listed at the end for lots of lighting ideas.

Lighting 3D work requires one main light or key light and a secondary or fill light to effectively show the shape and texture in the photo image. As with 2D lighting, the illumination should be accomplished with diffused light. After the art work is placed against the correct background required to enhance the work, set up the key light at an angle that will give the best lighting and shadows for the presentation of the object. This is usually from the high left side, even towards the back of the object so that the contour of the object is well presented. The fill light should have about one-third the intensity of the key light. Set up the fill light opposite of the key light at a distance that best fills in some of the shadows. (Fill lighting can be accomplished by moving the fill light source away from the subject or perhaps by bouncing light from the main light onto the subject with a white foam core sheet used as a reflector.)
Shortt’s sculpture in daylight
Shortt’s sculpture with controlled lighting sources
Taking the Picture
Once the lighting is set up, make a manual white balance reading with your camera (follow the unique instructions that came with your camera).

Select a low ISO setting of 100 or 200 for increased quality and lower noise

Exposure times may be 1 second or longer, so mount the camera on a steady tripod.

Position the camera/tripod a comfortable distance from the art work (but as close as can be reasonably accomplished) such that the lens is level with, square to and in the middle of the art to be photographed. Zoom in only as much as necessary to nearly completely fill the camera’s frame with the image. Including a portion of the cast shadow can add a sense of depth to the final image.

Triggering the camera to take a long exposure is best accomplished with a remote cable release or by use of the cameras built in self-timer. Merely triggering the camera by pushing the “take” button could easily introduce camera shake and result in a poor picture.

Take several shots. Digital images are captured for free so take several shots of each piece, changing light locations and bracketing exposure on both sides of the camera’s automatic selection. Darker toned objects will usually require increased exposure; more reflective subjects require less.

You could see Shortt’s demonstration in action since he is leading the next Artist Survival Kit workshop, “Oh, Snap! Documenting Your Work in Photos,” on February 5 at the Oklahoma City Community College Art Department. Prior to the workshop, time slots will be available for artists to sign up to have their work photographed. More details can be found here:www.ArtistSurvivalKit.org
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Photographing Works of Art: Controlling the Light (1)

Author: Carl Shortt, Jr.
This is part three of Carl Shortt’s tips for artists taking good images of their own artwork.  See previous posts about the quality of light in Part 1 and Part 2

The list of items needed to photograph two-dimensional art varies a little from that needed to take quality photos of three-dimensional work, which will be in a following blog post:
Lighting
Lighting can be accomplished with either natural or artificial light. In either case, all other light sources should be eliminated or reduced as much as possible in order to avoid the introduction of unwanted color distortion. In either case, always turn off the camera’s internal flash unit.

Natural light is free but much more difficult to control (time of day, direction, cloudy or bright, raining or night). Therefore, this presentation is limited to the use of artificial light sources.

It is my opinion that a continuous light source is easier to master by the amateur photographer and also less expensive than is a flash set up. Among the least expensive of these is a standard photoflood reflector fixture with a 250-watt 3200k medium screw-base quartz halogen lamp installed. A clip on work light fixtures and standard halogen bulb can also be used. Two lights are necessary and an investment in telescoping light stands will make set up quite easy and flexible.
2D Work
The use of a neutral background is necessary when photographing 2D work with 35MM film as the work being photographed is rarely the same rectangle shape as the 35MM film frame.

Digital editing now makes it quite easy to eliminate all but the image of the featured art work. Thus all that is really needed is a steady support (a wall or easel) that can hold the art level and at a convenient height. 
Reflections, difficult to avoid even with careful lighting
Flash glare, hard to avoid
2D work should be photographed unframed and without a mat, if possible, as both may cast a shadow on the work. Glass over a water color painting, for example, will reflect objects in front of it (including the camera person!) and it has a tendency to cast a colored haze that will distort the true colors of the work.

If you must shoot work already under glass, use a polarizing filter to reduce glare and reflection. Reflections may also be reduced by the use of a large black card, which has a hole in the center the size of the camera’s lens. Place the card over the lens so that all is hidden from reflective view except for the lens itself. In this way, only the black card will be reflected in the glass.  NOTE the use of a polarizing filter will reduce the amount of light reaching the camera’s image capture devise and, therefore, increased exposure compensation must be made.
Lori Oden’s work on paper, photographed without glass
Position lights at 45 degrees on either side and at the same level as the art work. If reflections are an issue, move as far away from the art work as possible and zoom in with your lens. But remember, it is far better to photograph the work before it is put behind glass!!

2D lighting location.
Lighting 2D work requires a light (diffused is best) falling evenly across the picture’s plane. This is accomplished with two artificial lights by arranging them at 45 degrees to the work (one left side, one right side) to points equal distant from the work. The arrangement is not quite that simple as the art work should not be illuminated by shining the lights directly on them, rather, each light should diffused in some way such as being aimed away from the art work and into a reflective surface such as a 2” X 2” white foam core board. The white board is then arranged such that the reflected (diffused) light then illuminates the art to be photographed. (the light bulbs get hot, don’t touch them or allow the foam board to get to close to them either!)

As an alternative, a tent of translucent material could be used or the lights could be aimed through a large panel of translucent material. See resource material at the end for DYI Light Tent ideas.

Check whether the light falls evenly over the whole object by touching the end of a pencil to the object. The resulting two shadows indicate even lighting if they are equal in both shape and intensity. 
Taking the picture.
Once the lighting is set up, make a manual white balance reading with your camera (follow the unique instructions that came with your camera).

Select a low ISO setting of 100 or 200 for increased quality and lower noise.  Exposure times may be 1 second or longer, so mount the camera on a steady tripod.

Position the camera/tripod a comfortable distance from the art work such that the lens is level with, square to and in the middle of the art to be photographed. Easels hold art work at a slight angle so match the camera angle to the easel’s angle to achieve the “square to’ camera attitude.

With the zoom set at about midway, position the camera/tripod as close to the art work as practical and then adjust the zoom to completely fill the camera’s frame with the image to be photographed.

Triggering the camera to take a long exposure is best accomplished with a remote cable release or by use of the cameras built in self-timer. Merely triggering the camera by pushing the “take” button could easily introduce camera shake and result in a poor picture.
Take several shots. Digital images are captured for free so take several shots of each piece, bracketing exposure on both sides of the camera’s automatic selection. Darker toned art will usually require increased exposure; more reflective subjects require less.
You can see Shortt’s demonstration in action since he is leading the next Artist Survival Kit workshop, “Oh, Snap! Documenting Your Work in Photos,” on February 5 at the Oklahoma City Community College Art Department. Prior to the workshop, time slots will be available for artists to sign up to have their work photographed. More details can be found here:www.ArtistSurvivalKit.org

A Tribute to Dixie Erickson, Norman Artist

Dixie – A Faithful Friend
January 6, 1936- January 7, 2011 
By Betty Wood

How does one condense 20+ years of life and friendship? Dixie and I were in graduate school at OU at the same time. In 1992, we had our final Master’s thesis exhibit, along with three others. We then shared a studio for over 20 years with Corazon Watkins and other artists.


Dixie would go there daily to The Studio at 102B, to create her art- – a dedicated, gifted artist. She was one of the most talented, yet modest art I know- – often winning prizes and ribbons for her work. It takes a lot of courage to be an artist- – Dixie had that courage.

Dixie Erickson, Upstairs, Downstairs,Oil on Canvas, 48″x36″

Her life-long dedication to the arts is evidenced in her immersion, for many years, as an Artist-in Residence for the Oklahoma State Arts Council and Norman Arts Council. She also taught drawing and art history at the collegiate level at Rose State and Oklahoma City Community College.  As if this were not enough, she always continued her artistic pursuits. She shared her talent and knowledge with so many individuals through the years.


In 2000, a group of artists formed the 529 Group. Dixie designed a logo for us as well as our philosophy for exhibiting together.  She has remained as the leader of the organization since inception.  Due to her dedication, 529, as a group, has exhibited in numerous regional venues. 529 will miss her leadership. 

There are so many stories to be shared, but one that comes to mind is when she and I almost froze in downtown Norman on Main Street. We wer assisting a group of at-risk students form the Firehouse Art Center in painting a mural for a bank on an outside window.  Don’t think I have ever been so cold! This was just one of several artistic situations with which she and I would get involved.

On a personal level, there were years of conversations about life, family and art. We attended countless openings and art exhibits in which we participated or had an interest. Her husband, Neil, would patiently drive us to many of these events. In general, we encouraged each other’s life or art and interests—whatever it happened to be at the time.  
Dixie Erickson, Need Care,Photocopy, lace, embroidery, oil, 24″x24″ 


She was an intellectual whose quiet, gentle nature always was nurturing and encouraging others in their pursuits. It’s difficult to put into words the meaning of her friendship to me and all the many lives she touched.

She will be sorely missed. God needed a wonderful artist, so Dixie, keep painting, you’re so good at it. 


See more of Dixie’s artwork here.

Open Letter to the Young Artists of Oklahoma

Guest Author: romy owens
Dear Oklahoma artist under age 30 (specifically those of you who are currently college students),

With the deadline for OVAC’s Momentum: Art Doesn’t Stand Still OKC drawing near, February 7 with online digital submissions as the method of entry, I desperately want to encourage you to submit work for this exhibit featuring the best young emerging artists in Oklahoma.

I recently mentioned this deadline to an art major from a local university, as I was suggesting that she enter. Her response was threefold: money is tight, the process seems difficult and she is too busy.
romy owens discusses artists’ careers with
David Holland at an ASK workshop.
 

Excuse me? Even thinking about this conversation again makes my stomach curl.

Please allow me to share with you what I shared with her, and please know that I don’t care if you find this message patronizing. Truly, I have your best interest at heart.

Showing up is the most important thing.
So, for all you young artists out there who think it is too expensive or too difficult, or you’re too busy to enter the hands down best Oklahoma exhibit that is SPECIFICALLY DESIGNED to give you practical art experience, if this is really really really how you feel about it, if you think these statements about time, money and ease apply to you and your life and you can’t manage to submit artwork for one or more of the above listed reasons, either your priorities need to be shifted or, if your priorities can’t be shifted, you need to change your major. Immediately.

Art is hard. Making art isn’t the hard part, but the profession of it is. Unless you happen to be independently wealthy, money is always tight. Despite your amazing talent, rejection is tough and 100% inevitable. And there is NEVER ENOUGH TIME. It’s not a career for the weak-of-heart or for those who can’t be motivated to take advantage of opportunities that are readily provided. 

How do I know? I’m a full time artist. It’s a tough career choice. I’m not being bragadocious like I’m some kind of successful role model. I’m being candid because put down the Wii remote, or the beer, or the TV remote, or the phone and get off your ass and enter your art in exhibits already!

And right now, while you are in college, this is when it is the easiest. It will never be easier than it is right now. Never. It only gets harder. Well, until you are über successful and sought after the Whitney for their Biennial, but even that won’t be easy. I vaguely remember some kind of bleak statistic about 5% of art students actually having a career in art after graduation. So even if you have 18 credit hours this semester and a full time job at Taco Bueno and a newborn baby, a career in art will never be easier than it is right now while you are in school.

So, please enter Momentum. I sincerely hope you will. I know there are many many people who attend Momentum looking forward to seeing the emerging talent. It’s exciting. And we all want to see your fantastic art.

But if you can’t be bothered, go visit your advisor tomorrow, and see about pursuing a career in a field that is always hiring and requires less personal initiative.

Happy arting.

romy owens spends most of her time taking photos and sewing them together. She is a past Momentum Emerging Curator and committee member. You can read more about her in this profile or her website www.romyowens.com or see her interviewed in this video.

Incredible, last minute artist opportunity: 5 free nights at Big Cedar

The Oklahoma Visual Arts Coalition has a last minute opportunity for an Oklahoma artist. Because of an anonymous donation, we can offer:
5 free nights in cabin at the amazing Big Cedar resort in Ridgedale, MO
Available Sunday, January 31, 4 pm until Friday, February 5, 10 am.
www.big-cedar.com or see similar cabins here.
2 bedroom/2 bath cabin with full kitchen, deck, wood burning fireplace, official max occupancy 6

Eligibility:
>must be a visual artist living in Oklahoma.
>must be a Facebook fan or Twitter follower of the Oklahoma Visual Arts Coalition.
The recipient only would have to pay for the approximately $5 daily resort fee and their own transportation and food.

To apply, by Monday, January 24 at noon:  
>Submit less than 100 words explaining how five free nights in an Ozark cabin could benefit your artistic practice right now.
>Confirm that you understand by applying you are committing to using the cabin during that time if you receive the award.
Recipient artists will be notified by Tuesday, January 25 at 5 pm and must write a blog post upon their return. 

Plot points from @OVAC Twitter Feed:

Behind the Art Scenes:                       
Tulsa World editorial grapples with arguments against OK’s percent for public art program, comes out in favor http://ow.ly/3Hgcq
Sad to hear about passing of Okie artist DJ Lafon. He mentored many & remained prolific, profound throughout his lifehttp://ow.ly/3GFmp
“Should I work for free?” Hilarious flow chart for creatives to decide about free work ‘offers’ http://ow.ly/3FXHq via @the99percent
“your work… needs to exist in the world” advice for graduating art students from new fave artist blogger Dawoud Beyhttp://ow.ly/3FMhS
fascinating study on artists as philanthropists– examining artist-endowed foundations http://ow.ly/3CFFQ
Opportunities for artists & volunteers:
national juried show based in OK, OK Art Guild’s 2011 Friendly w/ Feb deadline http://ow.ly/3vduY
RT @tashadoestulsa: Here comes the annual 24 Hour Video Race with Living Arts of Tulsa! You participating? http://bit.ly/h5phVO
Fellowship for Native American artists at the Vermont Studio Center, Feb deadline http://ow.ly/3DfRD
new initiative to fund social justice documentaries from Ford Foundation, $50M to start http://ow.ly/3GFxu
call for entries for SHIFT, VSA juried exhib of disabled artists in Washington DC , free 3/11 deadline http://ow.ly/3HW9k 
Okie-specific public art opportunity for $23,000 commission ,http://ow.ly/3CFXS
Artist festival opportunity RT @OKArtsCouncil: Tulsa’s Mayfest seeking visual and performing artists: http://bit.ly/gNvwFn
free artist marketing podcast from @americans4arts National Arts Marketing Project http://ow.ly/3Bcp1
OVAC News:
PUMPED Alyson Stanfield presenting here in fall!! RT @abstanfield: Psyched! Working with @ovac at fall conference in Tulsa October 26-27
another intern just called to report she got an awesome arts job! Yay for past interns’ successes!
Did you know we have a speaker’s bureau with fab art & business of art topics? http://ow.ly/1rZUOj
New sculpture installed outside Chickasha, 2nd done for Public Art Mentorship by Eric Wright http://ow.ly/i/7905
New new artist resources page. Starting, growing or revamping your artistic practice? Check our our tips http://ow.ly/3DSQe
Need quality images to submit or document your artwork? We’re offering affordable photo sessions Feb 5 in OKC http://ow.ly/3GLgy
You are first to know– new feature on our artists’ virtual gallery– you can see who most recently updated their work. http://ow.ly/3yiD5
Want to see some art this weekend? Check our Gallery Guide in Art Focus for exhibitions in museums & galleries http://ow.ly/3DZan
Want to see more tips and links like these? Follow us on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ovac.

Philosopher’s Recommended Reading List on Contemporary Art

Our magazine, Art Focus Oklahoma, highlights Oklahoma artists and art activities in our state.  The Oklahoma Visual Arts Coalition is dedicated to stimulating insight into and providing current information about the visual arts in Oklahoma.  At the same time, we hope to build understanding more about how art is viewed, studied, and conceived of in the broader field. 


Below are recommended readings from this profile of Sherri Irvin, Ph.D., an Associate Professor in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Oklahoma (OU). The profile highlights Irvin’s studies and is written by independent curator Shannon Fitzgerald. Many of Irvin’s own published articles and paper can be downloaded from her faculty website: http://www.ou.edu/ouphil/faculty/irvin/irvin.html


Dr. Irvin Recommends:

The Contingent Object of Contemporary ArtBuskirk, Martha, The Contingent Object of Contemporary Art, MIT, 2005. 







The Philosophy of Art (Foundations of the Philosophy of the Arts)
Stephen Davies, The Philosophy of Art, Blackwell, 2006.  









A Philosophy of Computer ArtDominic McIver Lopes, A Philosophy of Computer Art, Routledge, 2009.









Who's Afraid of Conceptual Art?Peter Goldie and Elisabeth Schellekens, Who’s Afraid of Conceptual Art?, Routledge, 2010. 







Philosophy and Conceptual Art
Peter Goldie and Elisabeth Schellekens (eds.), Philosophy and Conceptual Art, Oxford, 2007.