Shoot: Art Work Basics


Tabletop Photography Fundamentals


Lesson Info

Shoot: Art Work Basics

What we're gonna do here is we're gonna set up a basic art photographing art little studio here we have little small pieces of art. I have them back here, we have to to start with there by tina jet one of this one's by tina jet so we'll put this one down here for now, this one's by tina jet, and we're goingto get it mounted up here. One of the things that's super important about shooting artwork is that it is level implement because when you are square, when you shoot this in a camera, if it is not square, when you go to crop into it because you're not going to shoot it to the edge, you going to shoot the whole frame and all around it when you go to crop into it, if it's like this or it's crooked like this it's impossible to fix, and then that kind of aberration is going to kind of change the way the art looks, and it doesn't really look that nice. So we built this little thing, which I asked them to make for me, which is sits completely square and got a little stud there that we can h...

ang the artwork on and it's white, so it's not going to interfere, and then we have little level somewhere, don't we? Yeah, yeah, yeah super important tool in a photo studio not just for this kind of stuff but also your camera sometimes you want to make sure when you shooting an overhead uh so I put this on top and I make sure I got a perfectly level okay? So that's that then we take these little white cards and make these wings so I want to kind of have this kind of growing out in this direction from behind and then the lighting is pretty simple for shooting artwork you want assemble your lighting in a crisscross pattern so everything that we're doing here is is organized in a way so that the light is evenly distributed on all parts of the artwork so it's important to understand that balance is really important in this you want the art work to speak for itself? You don't want to enhance this in any way or detract from it the same thing with photo shop with this when I photograph artwork for a client which has happened in just very recently um I was so tempted to play with the color or the contrast and pump it up or whatever, but the idea is you can so you got to just keep it clean and light and let the work speak for itself because then what you're doing is you're putting your spin on somebody else's art and that's not really what you want to do with artwork uh this is twenty eight seventy please andrew yes when you are doing your post processing do you have your products with you in the studio like artwork like those products so you're able to view them on match them appropriately sometimes I mean sometimes it has to go back to where it came from like the artwork that I shot recently was a collection of cuban and south american art that we were sending to a museum in mexico city and they wanted to see it clean they just wanted so I got but I didn't get a chance to like be with the artwork because it was kind of expensive stuff so I had to photograph it and then go back to the studio and work so I just had to kind of trust that the lighting I had was was pretty clean thank you it would've been nice to have it there because I might not have let it go that's really nice these bulbs take a little bit to warm up to you which is something I didn't mention before the compact fluorescents will take a little bit time so you want to let them warm up to full power before you start to shoot because otherwise you'll notice that they'll change how we doing on meter okay so we're going to also want to shoot this at a hum a small aperture because you want to want to catch the detail so again, this whole set up is that's pretty much it I mean, obviously if you're shooting artwork that's the size of a room this is a whole different thing and you have to use different lighting as well, but the basic set up is the same trigger release that the basic set up is the same and this any study lighting that you use can be the voice from behind the artwork any lighting that you're going to use for this will be set up in the same configuration so if we're using we're shooting something much bigger we're going to use you have to use more powerful lighting so this this kind of our little d I y plus set up here we'll work really well for this, but once the artwork it's bigger and the whole setup gets bigger than the lighting has to get more powerful that's when we're moving into a chem eyes and for nails and the kind of things that can throw big light on the subject how does it change for that's behind glass it's important this set up is actually designed for that as well because the crisscross effect of the lighting will balance out the flares and that the white wings also balances out the flares because it doesn't necessarily have to be under glass it could just be oil paint an oil painting reflects light a little different than water color obviously that's flatter but this kind of technique is something I think it's fairly standard and how to set up artwork photographs I've photographed older artwork in both ways um both under glass high shine uh, oil painting and acrylic and also things like this that are matt and flat like the results of fairly similar I mean, there may be a little tweaking to go with a little bit of but this is why this is kind of done this way and you could see, like mathematically how the physics of it kind of work because you got this kind of thing and in light here is catching that one and light here is catching that one and it's pushing the light across in either direction to be level with the yes, the light should be level with the middle of the artwork, so its again a cz balance is possible and if you don't I'm aiming the light at that board, okay? So it's kind of sweeping across that way and I'm going to do the same thing with this we'll see how and you could you could see it, you could see how clean it is. I mean it's pretty clean we got a tiny bit of shadow going on on that side, which we can manage a little bit by we're not as worried about what's happening off the artwork because that's going to get cropped out we want to really worry about what's acting what's all the way to the edge of the frame these air about at full power now and you could tell because they a little bit sharper to your eyes would you try to eliminate those shadows? I could see yeah that's what I was just saying is I wouldn't worry about it as much because I could also shoot this against black and then that wouldn't be there, but it doesn't matter because when you're shooting artwork, you going crop in all the way to the edge that's why it has to be super square so that you can get a perfect crop on it how we doing way so it was in a frame you would still crop all the way to the outside of the frame you wouldn't leave any of the background uh probably depending on you know I could if I would I might use black in that in that way that especially if it's a really attractive frame because you want to have the contrast but this being not framed it's not as important I like shooting artwork against black a good portion of what I've shot has been shot against black felt, you know, silk or satin off whatever this velvet mark three yes, it has a level inside it inside the camera d is that or do you just use the hand you know I don't necessarily use the level in the camera I don't know I just never got used to it in my work flow so when they added it into you know this is like my fourth generation of digital cameras right try to do it but we can we could try it yeah this this well there it is it's pretty close pretty the iphones having my phone doesn't have a yeah it's actually pretty cool okay let's give it a shot not uh what I s so do you want to shoot at eight? Oh, no you shoot it we should have one hundred I think we should be at um eight I think it would be like that that's kind of a great question we have really talked about the last couple days is I s oh yes as low as possible for you I will always great because you're you're you know when you're talking about a digital file um the higher the number, the more grainy it could possibly get now off on old school and that I'm still not used to the fact that these cameras can handle like up to sixty, four hundred eso comfortably in certain circumstances I'm still going as low as possible all the time because that's the way I like it thank you see if the others working it's working wait coming up that's what chicken way go first shot we're gonna bracket that go a little higher higher a little lower but as you could see that's really nice and square and that could be cropped really comfortably and if I mean I'm not sure you would ever have to worry about that little shadow on the edge but like I said all we would have to do is switch out the black and that disappears I like I would actually like this if it was against black I think it would make the artwork stand out a little bit more um but for this purpose I wanted to just show the basic set up and the fact that the white wings are the thing that kind of helps push that kind of criss cross lighting across the artwork really nice and evenly so take another one so near it is that was bracketed a little bit lower so I think it's good to do a little under exposure it's good to do a little under exposure of digital photography particularly when there's a lot of whites and yellows and things because that's the thing that gets lost it and I know I said that yesterday but that's a pretty nice even clean image and we can kind of comfortably bring the exposure up a little bit when we're before we would deliver this uh to a client or how posted on our website but without changing the color profile and keeping that pretty true true to form. So any questions on this so far? Yes, we see a shot without the other wings without the wings sure makes that much of a difference in this scenario could we see those side by side when we, uh after we pull the wings out it's going to be really subtle but we'll see way aquino's flying in here so it would so the one on the right without the wings, the blues or a little bit actually a little bit deeper so that would what that tells me is that maybe even we were probably even a little tiny bit over exposed with the wings so that would mean right so that's it from the way we're looking at it. This is actually calibrated for the web so it's not the same but I think ultimately what's there this method is more consistent because sometimes you're gonna have stuff that much darker so let's try we have another piece here that's a little bit darker when we could try that one too this one this one is by ursula markgraf we have one more question if that's okay this's directly from the artist herself so this is the scene a jet okay, so when she sent in her her problems her biggest problem with product photography seems to be brightness not enough and white balance white balance seems to get tricky for me when objects have different colors that change the balance from item two item and shot two shot I have a basic understanding but can never seem to get it right as I'm shooting the piece or even in post processing okay, since before you moved on since this's directly from tina well, I would then encourage her first off to learn how to do a custom white balance on her camera because if it is jumping like that from product product, she might want to do individual white balance correction where she might be in order weight balance and write the items going to change the way balance that's right? So that's probably how she shooting she's probably shooting an auto the way john just said, so I think it's is that what you just turn off the white balance balance too? The lights that you're using right? Because we're going from this light blue to a dark blue that's probably going to make it more yellow to the next one if we're in automatic. If we had a red piece of art here it is camera's going to compensate to make it to blue and it sounds like that's what's happening to her right each item is affecting the color, but if you said a specific color white balance in the camera, then it's not going to change when you subject you ever use a white car great card to make sure that you keep proper color balance? Yeah, absolutely you could shoot a white card or I would you should use a great card white card would be more video, but I would shoot a great card to get that white balance correction I mean, I'm comfortable knowing that when I shoot my a w b, I can correct it in post because I'm never that far off, but sometimes people don't feel comfortable in postproduction changing those kind of settings and particularly in artwork you might be better served what john just said is to do it individually for each piece so that you would not have to worry about altering the colors of the off the artwork itself. But if we know this fluorescent is forty eight hundred but we never said it to a specific held in forty eight hundred and then you change the artwork it's not going to affect the color balance if it's an auto red or yellow piece is going to make the image bluer blue piece is going to make the image more yellow because the cameras trying to come to a standard gray tone and yeah, we know and we know these lights right now are about forty five yeah, so we're in a consistent light balance so that even if we had to use a slider a little bit in post production it's going to be consistent throughout each image? Okay, so this one here, like I said, we'll move onto a different one by marcelo markgraf and it says reach for the stars this is interesting and we're going to do something different with this formal photograph it fully, but there is a very tiny detail in here there's a lace pattern in the dress and there's print like page from a book that has been deca pa ged or kind of superimposed underneath and painted over so it's a really nice little detail, plus there's texture on relief on this because it kind of reach is off. They're these little stars, so they're multiple textures on here that would also need to be photographed. So this is a good one to kind of work with so let's get the level back here. Can you have the hundred millimeter ready? Yeah, thanks. And we got this nice and level and we can also double check with what we did before with the camera. It's also much better to be hanging artwork off a wire in the back rather than just this one stud, because that pivot point kind of gets it a little bit harder to keep it level the's are these we didn't want to kind of screw into the frames or anything but that's some I would suggest that which was thea john what's that which was the one that you used for the level that level thing but it's the info button on here two times other is okay so as you could see were pretty well squared off right and change camera settings on this yet and the way it looks in camera I'm really comfortable with that exposure the side panels those wings uh you necessarily mean maybe it depends on what if I really want to kind of push a little bit more in that direction but I think that once you're set up it should be okay because you could see that the art itself is well balanced throughout so we want to have that nice clean light across the whole thing I think I can and I like what we have blues are nice and blue and we can't really see that detail yet. So this is where this is important and photographing artwork for two reasons one sometimes we have things like this second thing is what like what my what I did recently with that uh cuban artwork was the signatures are really important, so being able to get really close and taking a really detailed image off the photo of the signature is important for anybody who might be appraising artwork, so I also people who buy artwork I want to know that it's signed it's signed artwork ultimately is more valuable down the road so if you're selling your artwork and it's the signature isn't, um a parent sometimes maybe on the backside you would might want a photograph sometimes people put index cards or some other kind of ah evidence of provenance when it comes to artwork on the back so you want to be um you want to be involved in being able to capture that so that somebody could look at it appropriately yeah, we definitely gotta get closer is where we risk that lens flare problem when we're getting out pretty much in front of the lighting in a little bit we might want to kind of maybe even bring the lighting up and over a little bit because now we're going to focus on small details using a macro lens one hundred millimeter macro lens and we're going to get as close as possible to the detail in her dress in the figures dress and we don't we can also you know, as long as we get three quarters of the frame filled with the detail, we can zoom in a little bit I mean, I know I said yesterday I would prefer not to crop because we lose a little resolution but something this small it's going to be okay so that's important, you could see that texture in that detail underneath the dress in here see that's that's an important kind of concept in photographing artwork like this this is a really, really small piece and using a macro lens to get really close and and show the details important on the other piece of detail that's in this is that those most stars um and I might want just get up a little closer and be ableto take a photo that shows both of those elements so we have kind of three detail elements that are important and you think you can kind of see how those come off one of the things you might want to try with this is to kind of swing to an angle to see how it might be coming up off the coming off the page and I'm just doing this to me from my eyes, not for any get on the set, right? So you can kind of see that we got that sparkle and you've got to see that we have that relief coming off so it's important to kind of capture those details, I think that's probably a little bit I mean, the exposure is still pretty good, but I would bracket one more given another third just to have the opportunity you have it a little underexposed, so piece of artwork would you use the light meter across it to make sure that you're getting flat lighting the light meter? Would you meet her like each end of a large piece? Oh yeah, absolutely yeah, because that's a much, much tougher, more difficult thing to do with you because you might need multiple light sources more than this you might need to bank to bank lights on either side crisscross think that might be important to do because you know the bigger thing anything get c and I think that conceptually it's all the same whether you're lighting something this big in a light tent or you're lighting an entire room your concepts of the same it's just that it gets more and more complicated when you win involved more and more size space light sources everything gets a little bit more complicated but try to remember that it obviously is this it's the same general concept so that's why studios are painted white just like that big white tent right? Because like bing bing bing bing bing all over the place so all right, so let's talk about some questions and we have a few minutes to go here and we can answer a few questions about what we just did turn these lights off a bit so just start off with as you change and sort of going on what bob was saying but from a lighting standpoint as you start shooting bigger and bigger and bigger work how much will you add more lights or you just bring your lights back? Depends on power I mean, if I have more powerful enough lights and that can use a single light source to do it. I would, but then it becomes something like almost like a like when you photograph cars, right? Where? Just, you know, you talk about getting back, adding more and more lights in the same vein so you might want to stack your lights. You know where I have a highlight and a low light and a highlight and a low light for a really big piece of artwork. So in the same general configuration, except we have more lighting, throwing more power in, um, or even imbalanced way. So if this was, you know, is biggest. This panel in the wall here, you know, like this here. If I was photographing that was a piece of artwork and was hanging on a wall, I might use four lights for that, too, on the top two on the bottom. And I would kind of angle them in a way so that everything is kind of criss crossing like that again, using your wings, keeping, you know, whatever your surfaces and nice and square all the same principles. But definitely I would try to use more lighting if I if I had a bigger piece on more power. Relating obviously so we're just kind of a follow up question on that from patricia walker does the color of the wings matter so if you were to shoot the pictures on black would you still use wait wings to assist with the light bouncing in the crispy because the wings air just for reflecting light okay, yeah, absolutely we have some more oh yeah really, really great questions from scott crumb what if the artwork is framed and has glass on it and you cannot remove it from the frame what's your solution that I think the solution is the same that's what this is designed for its designed to reduce the flares so I photographed it both ways so I think that this this general concept of the way the lighting is crisscrossing he's helping to balance out those things like flares and softening your light if you have tio we're using these kind of bare fluorescence we're getting good results but the reality is you might want to soften the light too and use umbrellas the way we can show you how that might look waken put these umbrellas on if these were more powerful lights and we wanted teo diffuse it a little bit more then we were I would do this reverse the lighting and put the umbrella is on and this again would lessen your incidents of reflecting and shadows oh you gotta you gotta spin it okay? Okay hold on, andrew while you're doing that we can you reiterate the polarizer question from yesterday because we have some more questions about that as far as you using one for situations like this I don't normally use polarising polarizing filters indoors when I'm controlling light this way, the only times I use them is when I'm shooting video outdoors and really, really high son bright, bright, bright sunshine because it's so hard to manage shadows and it's also really hard to manage color in no scenario so that's kind of the only times I used them I don't necessarily use them indoors when I'm shooting studio work we could take a shot like this too, with these and see, but these aren't really super powerful to be to be umbrella ring this way could we try it with that framed glass picture? Absolutely do something job way might have the meter differently here considerably different liang challenge accepted get the level from that way a few minutes see if you can get this going do you want do without the umbrellas just so we'll be bright enough let's try it with it we'll just pushed up s o okay, I'm not getting in flares here looks good way get this umbrella in place so I'm going to try to get square is possible here hoops um okay, um we're gonna have to increase our s o considerably to accommodate this I'll start at four hundred and see if that helps. Okay, I'm square though but I want to just back up I want this this is just for the general concept of what we're trying to accomplish here and okay did we see it? Is the feather working did you come up now? It didn't collect it there it is sea glass no flares whoa! Way! So there's the answer to the question how much do we pay her to ask for that way made that simple adjustment use the umbrella soften the light a little bit the same general set up on a highly reflective piece of glass and it worked perfectly so again the physics of this is what makes it work right? So did the umbrella is also soften the shadows noticed. Yeah, probably yeah, I think those bare bulbs are you know, we're trying to get maximum power shooting one hundred so but the reality is this is probably a better setup if we had a little bit more powerful using h m eyes in this situation most definitely be using umbrellas or soft boxes soften that light and then the shadows disappear so something on the wall and you couldn't put the wings there is this the setup you would use? I still would use that because I've done it on next yeah, you can you know you could use just just we could show you watch I mean, we have the lights this is, um I got it right here if this is on the wall and you can kind of do this you know, just do that and then you have the same situation so you know, it's um this is probably the most easily reproducible set up that we're going to do for anything in the three days that we're together because this is like kind of that tried and true method that it just works so and when you start shooting three dimensional artwork that's where you have to start to play with shadows and that's where we start talking about still like photography like we were doing yesterday on dh that's where that light ten might come back into play if you're shooting sculpture to create that wrap around like to make sure that you're getting every aspect of it that's important it's you could use the same setup, but you might have to fill and you wouldn't be flat against the wall it would be sitting on a pedestal of sitting on a light table so absolutely our last question is from d m s photo hey andreu let's say the artist wanted to use the images for reproductions specifically the ursula piece that had the textures and embellishments what would you do I don't know. I'm not quite sure. I think the question is like, they wantto reprint the picture over and over again. Oh, I see. What would I do differently? I don't think I would do anything differently, because I think that, you know, however you could, I think you would have to photograph the details really carefully, like we did on dh show the, you know, the the height of which maybe I would shoot it completely sideways to show how far out that that little star comes off. But I think it was all would also take if artists was trying to do reproductions on that. I think her specs on it or his specs on it would be important to give to the manufacturer, too, and we could photograph it and show it. But I think scale and size or something that would need to be determined by the artist as well.

Class Description

You don’t need a studio to take professional-grade product and still life photographs! All you need is a simple tabletop lighting setup. In this course, award-winning food photographer Andrew Scrivani will show you how to create and tailor your own table top lighting setup — on any budget. Whether you’re a beginning photographer looking to master lighting or a professional photographer eager to expand your services, this course will give you a candid, comprehensive playbook for tabletop lighting.

Tabletop photography transforms a single surface into a small-scale studio. Andrew, a regular contributor to The New York Times, will show you how to create and then optimize your lighting setup for your needs — using everything from the latest gear to household items. Andrew will cover metering and bounce cards, working with strobes and soft boxes, LED lighting, and tips for shooting glassware and other tricky products.

By the end of this course, you will know how to set up and adjust your very own tabletop studio — and how to use that small-scale studio to expand your services, improve your photography, and market your business.


a Creativelive Student

I was pleased to see real life situations and set ups, their work arounds and the little fiddly things all commercial/product photographers go through to produce a viable shot. Unlike some of the other reviews, the "oops, it didn't work, let's try this instead" was totally real world and believable. So many times on other teaching venues, the shot is already set up and perfected before the instruction begins. It was extremely helpful to watch the processes that were involved in producing the correct captures. I was impressed with the humor and teaching style as well, especially for the time constraints in a classroom setting. The student set-ups and critiques were valuable and spot on without being negative in any way. All-in-all this was one of the best classes I've viewed at Creative Live. I just wish I could have had three more days and to have been there in person for the one-on-one instruction.

Aly Cupcakezz

I really liked how things were experimented. Instead of just giving do x, y, z. It shows you how to correct issues as they come up, and how to enhance your photography This gives you a guided idea of all the things you can play with to perfect your product photography image. You really learn how to fix the image problems as they appear in front of you. A very realistic way to create your own personal lighting setup for your product photos for your own studio space. Excellent fundamentals class for new photographers or small businesses attempting to do their own product photography. Thank you!

Sunil Sinha

very nice table top