Westminster fountain at sunset

by Jorge Córdoba

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I'm trying to sell a picture of a piece of artwork for charity, and I'd like to photograph it. It's in a glass frame with lots of glare. Any ideas of what I can to to photograph it to look the absolute best? Thanks!

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Just to let you know, the paintings are Divinely Fair by Henry Thomas Shafer (1893), a frame glicee print 26x40, and Bougainvilea Archway by Joyce Birkenstock, a frame poster print 18x24. The charity is Boy Scouts of America. Contact me at ben@pearsonartphoto.com if you're interested. –  PearsonArtPhoto Jan 8 '11 at 19:49
Well, it looks like Matt and I are giving the same answer... Well, at least they stand a good change of being correct. By the way, you may want to look for a book called "Light: Science and Magic" as it describes all sorts of lighting including this one. –  John Cavan Jan 8 '11 at 19:54
you beat me by three minutes, I'll leave mine up as I'm quite proud of how well (at least for me) that five minute diagram came out, there's a reason I'm a photographer not an artist! –  Matt Grum Jan 8 '11 at 20:18
@Matt - You're a much better artist than me! Which is why I write software. :) –  John Cavan Jan 8 '11 at 20:39

2 Answers 2

up vote 15 down vote accepted

When it comes to glass it's all about lighting direction.

You want to make sure that when you look at the picture through the camera neither the reflection of the lightsource or anything lit by your lightsource is visible.

Hold up, I'll draw a diagram:

Glass and other shiny objects reflect light back in one direction (like a ball bouncing off a wall). The painting, which is diffuse reflects some light this way, and reflects some light back in every direction.

In the setup above, the light from a directional source hits the glass and carries on, missing the camera, thus the glass isn't visible! The same light hits the painting and some of it does get reflected into the camera so the painting does show up.

The important thing is to use a directional source, as it's possible for light from your lightsource to bounce of a white wall, and hit the glass at an angle that does go down the lens, and this shows up as flare.

This often happens when you have a white wall behind the camera, as in the above example.

The moral of the story is to make sure you can't see the reflection of the lightsource in the glass when stood behind the camera, and try to limit what the light hits (ideally it should hit nothing but the painting). You can make any lightsource directional by placing opaque objects around it to block the light in certain directions.

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That's what I would have guessed, but it's nice to have it confirmed. Will probably have to wait until it's a bit darker so I have more controlled light, there's just too much light in the day... –  PearsonArtPhoto Jan 8 '11 at 20:18
Well put, and I always love your diagrams. What did you use to make this one? –  Tom Jan 8 '11 at 22:01
Could a polarizing filter help? It probably wouldn't be as effective on its own compared to controlled lightning, but as an addition? –  koiyu Jan 9 '11 at 1:52
@koiyu - Yes, the polarizer can help to a point, but only with the polarized reflected light. Even with that, however, you will get glare if you don't consider the angle of the rest of your light. –  John Cavan Jan 9 '11 at 2:02

The key to photographing this is about the angle of light(s) used to illuminate the surface of the art. It's all about angles and reflection and it's probably easier to illustrate this (pardon my poor Coreldraw skills).

alt text

The dotted lines connecting the camera show the angles of direct reflection, so if the lighting is inside those lines, the glare will be very evident. What you need is diffuse reflection and to get that, you need to have the light outside those lines, to one side, but preferrably both.

Sorry, the reflection lines in the far sides of the camera are a bit faint...

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