Oil Painting Photography

I friend of mine, Sarah, is a very talented painter. She asked me whether I could take photo of her painting to build a catalog.

Then, I started to read on internet about photography painting. It was described as challenging, but the general opinion was:

– 2 strobes (without umbrella and softbox) at 45′ from the painting

– Polarized filter on the lens

– Polarized gel for the strobe

For the moment, I have not succeed to find Polarized gel for the strobe, so I tried without.

When Sarah brought me her paintings, I got a bit worried. Two of the paintings were covered by glass; normal glass, not polarized.

And last but not least, all the paintings were framed!!!

She could not have done worse, according to web feedback on art photography.

This is what I did:

1- Place painting on a tripod

2- Camera right in the middle of the painting. The axis of the camera perpendicular to the painting.

3- Two strokes elinchrom RX600:

– at 3 feets / 45′ of the painting

– at 2 feets from the camera

By the way, I am very happy with my brand new Elinchrom Monolight Style 600RX; they changed my photographer life!!!

4- Use your flashmeter (ball in because the painting is flat).

5- Put your camera in manual mode and enter exactly what your flashmeter is giving you for the shutter speed and the aperture.

Do not forget!!! (because I always do it), the ISO of your flashmeter must always be equal to the ISO of your camera.

6- Secret recipe … you will have to discover it by yourself


The result is perfect for the framed water painting with the glass in front. The framed oil painting is a bit more challenging. The problem come from the frame, but I know now what to do to make it better next time…

Instead of 2 strobes, I will have to use 4 strobes. one from the bottom, and one from the top at 45′ as well.

Painter: Sarah Santiago



3 Responses to “Oil Painting Photography”

  1. 1 Santiago
    November 18, 2008 at 12:34 am

    Thanks for trying. Good job (well done). I have got some queries though – about the pictures taken…will talk later. Cheers.

  2. November 26, 2008 at 3:01 pm

    Hey Gerald, my understanding from above is that pictures without frames would have been easier to photograph – is this correct? I think you have done quite a good job and understand what you say but sometimes very technical lah your writing. Finally, are you willing to come to Miri for a phot shoot?

  3. 3 geraldblondel
    November 26, 2008 at 5:08 pm

    Nil: Yes correct, it’s easier without frame. Painting is supposed to be flat. But the frame is not flat, so it creates some lighting disturbance.
    Very Technical? sorrylah it’s for professional mah… 😉
    Coming to Miri? yes, but we can do it only when you will be back from Europe.

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