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I take back everything I said

I thought I had the hang of taking photos of my oil paintings but now, I am sadly mistaken.  I got a fancy new DSLR Nikon and at first, it was great, I think I have adjusted settings so much that I have thoroughly screwed it all up.  My most current photos of work are terrible.  Even my husband saw my screen with a photo and said "that picture is horrible!" "your painting looks much better than that in person"  "what did you do".  So frustrating.  I don't even know how to ask for help because I have spent hours reading and watching Nikon instructional videos.  I've read everything here about photographing work several times. I give up.  I'm no photographer.


  • Does it have an "auto" setting?
  • A number of us here with great skill cannot capture the honest truth of our work for posting and came to settle for the next best thing as the very best that we can do. Some of us have busted ourselves over it, still can't do! But accompanied with programs such as Photoshop and Lightroom things a little better but still not quite right. I hope this helps. (otherwise it's a very frustrating business)
  • SummerSummer -
    edited September 2017
    @Julianna I'm always surprised when I hear professional photographers admit that this how they felt about their own work and skill in the beginning.  That they almost gave up.  Cameras aren't perfect, much to my surprise, and I found that aggravating.  I cheated and learned how to use the automatic settings first, before manual, and even then the photographs were terrible.  So much so that with the help of David Carder I learned to shoot in raw to get much better results.  Surprisingly, learning the automatic settings did teach me how to handle a camera like how to push the important buttons without looking.  Which settings were important.  I had to get over my shyness reading the manual, actually hatred is a better word.  All I can advise is to take a basic course.  Get a dozen accessories.  Take all the time you need.  Watch YouTube videos in your spare time to get the feel of life as a photographer.  Read articles online that won't make sense but pick out the things that will reinforce what you already know until you say: "Hey, I remember that!"  "Hey, I know that!"  and realize that learning about photography is for the rest of your life if done well.  I found both levels I and II of Ken Schultz online courses helpful.  But I'm not recommending this for you because he uses Nikon, Canon and other cameras interchangeably.  I downloaded everything to my computer.  But I would recommend an ongoing course of some type of your choosing, either physical or online.  Hope this helps.  Summer 
  • @PaulB   yes, thank goodness because that is what I am using.  Nothing like buying an expensive camera to just go to auto.  It's not like I need photos for professional prints or anything but it is ridiculous.  If I ever need a perfect photo of one of my oil paintings, I'll go to my neighbor down the street and pay him (he's a professional photographer).  I could have bought a really nice outfit for what I paid for this stupid Nikon Raw taking DSLR whatever camera.

  • @PaulB that is a genius idea.  He actually teaches photography at Stanford so it will be an hour well spent.  I will phone him this evening.  
  • @Julianna I actually don't have idea about exactly what problems you are facing. I can talk about the problems that I am facing. I guess your problem could be with the light that you have. You need to find one bright area where you live, one particular time of the day (usually sunny morning or sunny evening). Take your photo according to Mark's instruction. when you are posting photos try to understand if that is the level of brightness or darkness you want on computer's normal screen set-up.

    Also, buy a tripod for camera. Hands shake a lot.
  • MeganSMeganS -
    edited September 2017
    Here is the gist of what I do. I have 4-5 5000K lights shining down at a slight angle. Lower your canvas as to not get glare on the upper half of the painting. You can also tilt your canvas more than 90 degrees. Set ISO at 500-700. Use a tripod. Adjust aperture and shutter speed to what you like. You'll find out what you like or don't. Use a tripod and if you have a remote, use that, too. Set your white balance to 5000K. Take photos with it underexposed. This will leave the integrity of the light areas. If you have a program like photoshop, you can flip your painting around as to get more equal lighting on it. (Take photos of your painting upside down.) In lightroom, I adjust for the increased contrast my camera takes and for the noise level. (I adjust everything else too, but those come to mind as the main ones.) I try to look at the painting while adjusting the painting on my screen. When I feel like it's as close to the original as I can, I put the exposure up two increments to adjust for my screen brightness. I've found over time that my Nikon photos are underexposed. I use dropbox to add Nikon photos to my instragram. 
  • I only have an instant camera, 35MM You set the ISO by using different film.  It's not very good and it is old but it works in fire situations and is waterproof so floods don't bother it either. Best of all I get two prints for the price of one.
  • Thank you all for these magnificent tips!  I shall carry on with my stupid, expensive, complicated camera :).  I went to 2 museums today in San Francisco and had it on auto (no flash) and half are blurry because the shutter stayed open way too long.  Some photos are fantastic.  My girlfriend's iPhone took perfect pictures every single time.    sigh....

    can you guess this exhibit - self portrait at 23 (I love how he scrapes back paint)

    his brushes and cigarette

  • SummerSummer -
    edited September 2017
    I'm sorry @Julianna, but your paintings are much better than these.
  • @Summer !  I wish!!!  These were photos I took at the Edvard Munch exhibit in San Francisco - I just could not believe how destructive he was to his canvas with all the scraping and then also the building up of oil color in some places - he must have been a psychiatrist's dream - my girlfriend went with me and said "he seemed disturbed in his long life".  I had my camera and had to adjust from RAW because the photos were blurry so I put is on regular jpeg when I took these photos at the museum.  I have about a hundred but was rather pleased with how my camera picked up on the details = I did get in trouble taking the photo of his cigarette because my camera was closer than the 18 inches allowed.  I have to say, although I didn't think the photos would be good while I was there, I was pleased with my cameras performance when I got home.  I'm still learning and waiting for my lesson from my neighbor.

  • @Summer   P.S.  I cannot believe you found that eyeball!!!!  I never saw it and even researched to see if it was mentioned - even the exhibit book I purchased with great detail about each painting did not mention that eyeball in that painting!  There was mention that he often reused canvases for economic reasons so with him being only 23 at the time of that self portrait, one could imagine that he used that canvas several times.  
  • SummerSummer -
    edited September 2017
    @Julianna Thanks for sharing these images from the Edvard Munch exhibit in San Francisco.  Before seeing these that you posted, I could only recall "The Scream" and the dozens of parodies of his painting by other artists. Interesting to see these and that your camera has been cooperating occasionally.  Over a hundred--wow!  I'll try to add the original image of "The Scream" for the members who may not know what we're talking about. Summer

  • @Julianna, i,would like to suggest that your monitor be calibrated before you edit, or view any photos. ..
    Here’s a site with lots of great info and it has a forum as well.
  • @some   oh my goodness gracious.  it just gets more and more complicated.  I'm certain that my screen is completely off kilter =  now, I feel like that character in the scream painting  :).  Thank you for the insight I had not considered.
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