I have been posed the following question in one of my assignments. I would like to get some feedback on my answer, and possible some suggestions :).

"A large art gallery has hired you to photograph every individual framed painting in the gallery for an upcoming exhibition. They require colour accurate copies of the artwork for use in a catalogue."

And this is my response to the question.

Chosen Equipment: Transportable studio flash gear, Tripod, 20mm lens, 135mm lens

Explanation: Given that the art gallery is going to use colour accurate copies of the artwork for use in a catalogue, a transportable studio flash gear is important so that the correct exposure is achieved, so as to not darken or lighten to much the colours of the artwork. The tripod is needed so as to minimise the amount rotatation adjustment in post production and to get proper dimensions of the artwork. Preferably the camera on the tripod should be adjusted in such a way that the sensor is parallel to the artwork. As for lens choices, i would choose the 20mm and the 135mm prime lenses. The 20mm, just in case there are some very wide paintings so that they can fit on frame and the 135mm so that the painting can be easily framed from a distance. DOF should not be an issue here since, these are catalouge shots.

What do you guys think?

  • \$\begingroup\$ 20mm is probably a bad choice for this, but I've figured that if the room where the artwork is, is very small. Then a 20mm would serve the purpose. \$\endgroup\$
    – Penumbra84
    Jun 12, 2012 at 11:41
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ possible duplicate of How do I best take pictures of paintings? \$\endgroup\$
    – mattdm
    Jun 12, 2012 at 12:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ With the tripod I suggest using a remote shutter release also. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 3, 2013 at 16:53

5 Answers 5

  1. A flexible tripod with a level from a good brand
  2. A platform with two/three steps for shooting the artwork from an appropriate level (you may need, sometime)
  3. Consult the curator whether they will allow you to use a flash or not. Because in some art studios, it's strictly forbidden to use flash during taking a photo. If they allow using flash, get a ETTL flash (430 Ex II/580 Ex II for Canon is a good one) for correctly exposing the shots at ease.
  4. As you will have tripod, you will not suffer from the risk of shaking or low-light. So get a good lens which will give you better color contrast and sharpness. If you are using Canon, go for EF 17-40 f/4L or 24-70 f/2.8 L
  5. If they use glass in front of those artworks, a CPL filter will be very very handy to avoid reflections of any kind on those glasses.
  6. A reflector may be useful in some cases, buy/rent only if you have some bucks left.

Last, always shoot in raw for such types of works which you will save your time to correct the white balance during post processing. Try shooting in full frame to get better dynamic range and color than crops.

Good luck :)

  • \$\begingroup\$ The problem with using E-TTL mixed with ambient lighting is that the ratio between the flash and ambient can vary from one subject (piece of art) to the next, as well as brightness if some paintings are darker and other paintings are lighter overall. It's generally best to use manual settings for both camera and lighting so that each piece is captured as identically as possible. This also makes the processing workflow much easier. Calibrate with a color checker or other tool once and then apply the same profile to all of the different photos. \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Jun 23, 2020 at 15:55

I shoot artwork regularly with my Nikon D300, i use a Nikon 50mm 1.4f on arounf 10f, 2x studio flashes, a tripod, and a colour chart.

mount the artwork directly in front of the camera, 90 degrees in all directions.

always shoot raw, and use a circular polarising filter.

IF the artwork is oil, you may need to experiment with flash/ light positioning to avoid reflections off the shiney areas.


If you can use flash, get polarizing film for your flashes. Use a polarizer on your camera lens. This combination will allow you to evenly light the artwork and then "dial out" the reflections off the artwork.


Since this is a homework question I prefer not to give a direct answer (especially as there is a near duplicate), but as I read it, the task set is "what is the best way that you can think of to do this". It is not "what is the bare minimum/cheapest way to do this" On that basis, these are some questions you may want to ask yourself about the answer given...

Were you not going to bring a camera? While specific models are inappropriate for a learning environment, what type would you bring considering that accuracy and resolution are likely to be your primary goals. (Hint: DSLR is not the only kind of camera; something else may be more appropriate.)

How are you going to maintain the requirement for colour accuracy?

You've specified a portable studio flash kit, should you be more specific? How many heads, how powerful and will you need light modifiers?

How will you handle unwanted reflections from your own lighting? (Note: CPLs can alter colours in some media and how will they work with flashes. There's another method that you may need to consider and a type of lens dedicated to the task.) What about light from other sources?

Using primes is a good idea from the image quality point of view. But are 20mm and 135mm the right primes to use? (Hint: there is a commonly used length which naturally offers exceptionally low distortion - should you include that too?)

While DOF is not an issue, sharpness is. Is there a factor of your lenses which needs to be considered?

Are there other pieces of equipment that would help you ensure that you've captured the image correctly (after bringing in and setting up all that studio flash gear?) before you move to the next piece?

All that equipment doesn't move by itself — will you be able to do it alone? And if you could, should you?


The best way to photograph a painting is,use the longest prime or top quality soon lens you have.Use flash or better still tungsten floods,do not use umbrellas as they cause can flare on the painting.Make sure you place a grey card to help colour matching.Angle your light at a wider angle than 45 degrees.Also make sure there is no mixed lighting.A tripod is a must.If your aim is print,the you have to make sure you have a well sorted colour management system.One more point a lens such as aF1.4 may not be as good as a F2.8.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Unless I'm mistaken, the other answers already mentioned all of that. Which information/solution are you trying to add ? \$\endgroup\$
    – Olivier
    May 16, 2016 at 17:46

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.