How to photograph paintings/art (behind glass)

Last night was the final session of the Colour II course I've been doing at the Brisbane College of Photography and Art.

It's been a great 8-week course, and last night we learnt how to photograph art - specifically framed pictures or photos behind glass.

Shooting art behind glass would typically throw up the challenges of either the final picture not being well lit; or, the final image showing glare from the glass; or the photographer's reflection showing up in the image; or, when using flash, having that white spot in the image....you could theoretically use a polariser to cut down the glare, but it would darken the image and potentially do funky things to the colours in the painting.

So - the solution was to cross-light the picture (hung against a dark, non-reflective black cloth - as per the first shot). We used the College's studio, with the set up shown below. Two Elinchrom studio lights diffused with soft boxes were placed at about 30 degree angles to the painting. Both lights pointed to the centre of the painting. We later triggered these lights with our (on-camera) flash acting as the master flash.

Dave, our tutor stuck a grey card under the frame (as per the second shot) - when we took a test shot, we included the card in the frame, so we could colour correct using the White Balance tool in Photoshop.

We used a flash/light meter to give us the reading of the light as it hit the painting, and the final settings for my camera ended up being ISO 100, Shutter Speed of 1/200 and f/8.0.

Then it was a case of filling the (camera) frame with the painting, and shooting it straight on at the centre of the painting. Shot 3 is my final shot - with no detectable glare from or reflections in the glass.

So while this set up is not necessarily going to work for shots in a museum (unless you can be bothered - and get permission - to lug studio lights around), it's definitely do-able with my little studio set up. There were a few other nifty hints about how to ensure you completely remove any glare or reflections in this scenario - but you'll have to check out the course to see that in action :)


Two studio lights are positioned at about 30 degrees from the painting.
The flashes were triggered by an LED light sensor.

A white balance card is stuck under the frame to take a test shot, which can
then be used to colour correct with the White Balance tool in Photoshop.

Voila! The finished shot, cropped and with no reflections in the glass.

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