A good percentage of the photographic work I do involves documenting an artist's, craftsman's or architect's work. It brings me to studios, cool buildings , businesses and if I am lucky a really great museum show from time to time. They all present different challenges to overcome. Lighting to accurately show color or volume can be a challenge, and when lights are present with reflective objects glare is always an issue. Sometimes, as important as the equipment I bring along to light can be, the equipment to block and take away light is even more. Most importantly some kind of high quality polarizing has to be done. Polarizers are filters that restrict light waves to one direction. They are very useful for removing haze. Fine art photographers most often use a circular polarizer on the cameras lens along with separate polarizers for the lights. As the circular polarizer is "tuned in" the glare and haze disappears from view. Almost any time I am shooting paintings I am using a high quality polarizer, otherwise there is a fine gray haze present that kills the colors vibrancy. There are few applications where color has to be more perfect than documenting priceless works of art.
So, recently my good friend and super talented artist Christian Kanienberg was commissioned to create some very authentic looking wood and build a display case that resembled ancient planks of wood from Midas' tomb. All of the wood had to mimic perfectly the color and texture of wood exhumed from an ancient Egyptian tomb. The project was to be installed in an exhibition based on excavating Midas's tomb. I was called because Christian needed to document his work to include in his portfolio of musuem displays.
It really is amazing work that is accurate down to the details, he even painstakingly reproduced the rust from decaying nails. The sides in the display are trompe l'oeil painting that is hard to distinguish from the wood just inches away. I brought in some supplemental lighting to soften some of the hard shadows and make everything read well to the camera. Often the challenge is to make the exhibit appear as it did to the naked eye. Modern cameras are great but have a long way to go to approximate the human eye. So a little bit of massaging the light is sometimes required to get everything looking its best. It is interesting as well to notice how well the exhibition designers craft the space to keep you moving through the exhibit, to convey a bunch of information in a fascinating. What could be a confusing mess is designed to draw you into the space and around the exhibit so I take my time and make sure to capture the functionality of the architecture.
Photographing artwork has been a part of my business for more than 20 years. I started by documenting my own paintings. I had a color darkroom and would work with large format 4x5 sheet film to get very high resolution images for print. Over the years as digital has caught up and the functionality of the cameras has improved with tilt shift lenses I made the switch. Along the way I picked up a lot of artist friends as clients. They appreciated my perfectionism when it came to reproducing artwork. I knew what it was like to get work photographed and get less than great results, so I refined my technique and applied my painters sensitivity to light and contrast to my copy work. Over the years I have reproduced thousands of artworks for major museums, auction houses, publishers, books, catalogs, magazines, you name it. Anywhere the absolute best quality is needed.
You can find Christian at www.wishpainting.com
And if you would like to see some of my architectural photography take a look at my portfolio here.
As always if you have an architectural or design project or artwork that you need great photography for, let me know I would be glad to provide a free quote.