Wednesday, April 30, 2008

An Alternative to Digitally Photographing Your Painting

As I have mentioned several times before, for years I have been photographing my paintings as they are completed. The goal is to have good documentation, particularly of sold paintings. Also, I need to have something to submit to shows, or maybe, reproduce as a print for sale.

At first I tried to photograph the paintings myself. Sometimes it went well. Other times the results were marginal. So soon I started to send them to a local photographer who specializes in photographing paintings.

Typically I asked him to produce half a dozen 35 mm slides from each painting. If I thought a specific painting was particularly good, in addition I would order a 3 x 5 inch transparency. The downside was a week or more delay in being able to show my newest paintings.

A few years ago, many shows began accepting digital images as well as slides. Even before then I needed digital images for submitting to online galleries, as well as for my own website.

At first, I started shooting the paintings myself with my digital camera, with the usual spotty results. But in most cases I was able to post process in my computer to improve the digital image. This was in addition to having the usual slides made.

Then my photographer began to offer shooting digital images with his 10 megapixel camera. My camera was only 5 megapixels. Plus I was still having my image quality troubles. Very soon I decided to give up having the 35 mm slides all together.

Over the years, I have accumulated a large library of 35 mm slides, and quite a few 3 x 5 transparancies. A year or so ago I invested in a quality scanner with high scan resolution to turn my slides and transparencies into great digital images. But scanning slides is a lot of work. So far I have scanned only a few slides of my older paintings.

With the recent rapid development and rea
dy availability of inexpensive high qality online print making services, such as, the need for me to have available very high resolution digital images of my paintings has increased. My photographer is able to scan my paintings with a very high resolution scanning camera, but only at a high price, as well as an extended waiting time while he doctors the scanning process and the finished image.

For paintings smaller than 8-1/2 x 14 inch I can scan them directly on my own scanner. I have done this successfully for several 8 x 10 portraits.

But there is a simple way to do the same thing for larger paintings.

For several years I have been using Adobe's Photoshop Elements computer program to adjust my digital images. This software has a Panorama feature which allows several digital images to be stitched together to creat a larger image. I have used this several times to join photographs taken with my digital camera. But until recently, the process was a little clumsy and the results were often not perfect.

The larger, much more expensive Adobe Photoshop program has the same feature, works in a different way, and produces much better results. Fortunately, recently Adobe upgraded Photoshop Elements to version 6 and includes what appears to be the same software for the Panorama process as in their more expensive Photoshop.

Having recently upgraded my Photoshop Elements, I have used this improved software to process on several of my larger paintings with great success. Here are two examples:

The first painting "Sharing Memories" 20 x 16 inches, required six scans. The second painting "Mariachi" 12 x 24 inches, required four scans. It is necessary to overlap each scan by at least 30 percent to get a good knit.

I set the scans at 400 dpi – quite enough for good print reproduction at more than full size. The resulting files are large 400 Kb. or larger. But on my 1.6 Ghz iMac with 2 Gbt of RAM the knitting together step only takes about five minuets. After the Panorama process has knitted the individual scan files into a composite image, it has to be cropped to get rid of the edges. This slightly reduces the archive file.

The resulting file forms the starting point for a "Collection" folder for each painting. As I generate smaller specialized files (for website images, or publicity purposes, etc.) they end up in this folder. The folder of all my collections (about 350 folders, each for an individual painting) is backed up automatically each night.

If you want to try it yourself and do not have the newest Photoshop Elements, you may download for 30 days free
the full Photoshop CS3, and tryout the same Panorama feature. I did this myself before buying the latest Photoshop Elements upgrade. Enjoy!

1 comment:

  1. I am an intaglio printmaker living in rural Ontario, Canada and have been taking photos of my artwork with a Canon Digital Elph 5 megapixel with varying results. Your article on scanning interests me very much. Could you please let me know what make and model of scanner you have so that I can save myself the time and trouble of trying to select the right one when shopping please. I have Photoshop CS2 and will look for the Panorama process. Thanks very much, Heather.


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