What are your thoughts and experience with shooting two-dimensional artwork with a Canon T2i, and will the standard lens be OK for this purpose? Or should I upgrade to the zoom lens package to save with having to move the camera distance all the time?

Short of a proper large format image scanning system I've heard the Canon EOS 5D Mark II with its 22mp imaging is the next-best photo option to capture Giclée quality prints. But that camera is out of my budget and renting one for just a week in my location will cost as much as this T2i!

so I'm wondering your thought on using this T2i for top quality reproductions? This is for hundreds of artworks, mostly prints up to 24"x30", and oil paintings on canvas and board up to 30"x40". So no super large works, but large enough..

The other matter is that really we don't plan to make Giclée prints. We just really need to archive a lifetime's worth of works at the highest feasible quality, and do so as economically as possible. If they may be used to make reproductions too, great. It's a fine line between the budget and getting adequate quality.

Taking aside the fact that proper glicee prints need to be compared and color matched to the original, etc. I realize that we'll not be able to quite get the quality on every image that would be ideal. Not to mention issues with lighting, tripod/camera table set up, etc. But if the eventual setup can do a consistent and adequate job, that should suffice. At least it should be many times better than the standard digicam shots we have now!

Also if you have any thoughts or links that you recomend on photographing artwork please let me know. The camera is just one part of the set-up


4 Answers 4


That is a good camera but you really should get a macro lens. This will give you two advantages
1. a flat field with minimal distortion (important for photographing documents)
2. high resolution to get good quality images.

Other important issues
1. Use a good, sturdy tripod.
2. Pay a lot of attention to lighting, this may be your most important issue.
3. Good colour calibration is vital, so shoot in RAW and tweak your RAW conversion profile.

While I like Matt Grum's suggestion to make panoramic reproductions, I suspect it will be far too time consuming if you must photograph hundreds of artwork.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Yes I need to light in a way that is consistent and without glare. For the web in the past I even found a way to photograph works under glass by taken the photo askew and then straightening it with software. But I'll never get away with anything like that here. I had planned to get a basic studio lighting kit and experiment. \$\endgroup\$
    – kelly
    Commented Jan 7, 2011 at 18:16

Your best bet for high quality images on a budget is to shoot several images of each canvass and have some panorama software assemble the images automatically on your PC.

This will quickly turn your 18 megapixel images into 50+ megapixel images worthy of a medium format DSLR. You'll also be able to get away with the kit lens if you have enough light. If shooting indoors a sturdy tripod will be a must to overcome camera shake.

As long as the canvas you're photographing is flat the software should have no problem assembling the images, though lots of overlap between images will help.

Have a look at this question for suggestions on panorama assembling software:

Which tools are good for creating panoramas/stitching multiple photos?

If you have photoshop CS3+ I've found the built in panorama assembly tool to work fine for what I've done previously.

Other than that general tips for this sort of thing would be to shoot in aperture priority mode, use a small aperture (e.g. f/8) for maximum sharpness and DOF, a low ISO e.g. 100 and a tripod to steady the camera. Shooting Raw and setting your camera to Adove RGB will allow you to capture the greatest amount of colour information and give you latitude for correcting brightness or any other problems due to uneven lighting.

  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ +1 - I might also suggest a book like "Light: Science and Magic" which has some very good information on lighting such things as art work. \$\endgroup\$
    – Joanne C
    Commented Jan 6, 2011 at 20:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ +1 but I don't think I'd encourage using aRGB without a color-calibrated setup and awareness of the issues with display. (Although, since you suggest shooting in RAW, it's easy to change after the fact.) \$\endgroup\$
    – mattdm
    Commented Jan 7, 2011 at 3:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ Some great ideas. Thanks very much Matt. I don't think I've have to use pano for the small items, but that will certainly allow me to get the detail in the lager ones. I'm not sure it's related but there's an app on the iPhone that takes 6 pictures at once and then somehow blends them together to try an capture a higher resolution and clarity. For some reason that came to mind with the auto-stiching. \$\endgroup\$
    – kelly
    Commented Jan 7, 2011 at 18:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ Also I know I have to have it completely parallel so I thought about building a camera table. That will save me having to center and parallel the to the art work. I'd simply have to center to artwork to a point on the table. It sounds easier but not sure it's cost effective in setup. \$\endgroup\$
    – kelly
    Commented Jan 7, 2011 at 18:12

Another consideration is lighting. Traditionally you would use studio strobes set at 45 degree angles from the artwork with polarizing filters on both the lens and strobes, the polarizing filters should be adjusted to reduce the glare on the artwork (might require some testing).

For the lens, some people prefer to use macro lenses as they are adjusted well for focusing short of infinity and should have smaller amounts of distortion than other lenses.

Here is a good overview of one person's tests of different setups:


  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for the link. I still have a lot of research to do! Yeah many of the artworks have a thin coat of protective varnish. It's a matte finish but still can pick up light in the individual dimples of the canvas, or even whole areas if the lighting is too focused. (I'm referring to my experience with basic digicam shots). Hopefully once the lighting set up is sorted though it will work across the board for the different 2D media. My fear is having to do a separate setup entirely for each media/size, etc... \$\endgroup\$
    – kelly
    Commented Jan 7, 2011 at 18:20

Generally, I think this camera should satisfy your needs, especially when you shoot pano as @Matt proposed.

The more critical part here is the lens. The kit lens has a certain distortion at both the wide-angle and the tele end. You should remove this distortion during post-processing (in Lightroom e.g. this is a one-click process as lens profiles are included).
With a prime lens, you would not have this problem and probably an overall better image quality (especially sharpness could increase, I'm not sure how good the kit lens is at 18mp).

  • \$\begingroup\$ My limited experience in this was seeing fish-eye or pincushion effect with digicame shots. I found ways to straiten them in software but the easiest way for the web was simply to take picture with much larger borders and crop down; with the lens distortion being limited to the edges. However here that would severely limit the advantages of a high resolution image. So a macro lens is definitely something to think about. \$\endgroup\$
    – kelly
    Commented Jan 7, 2011 at 18:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ Removing lens destortion from a Canon lens should be much easier than with the proprietary lens of a compact camera. Canon offers lens profiles for all of their lenses that you can just apply in Photoshop or Lightroom (or maybe in other apps, too?) and immediately, all distortion, vignetting a.s.o. is gone. Of course you're right about the resolution - but rest assured that this will definitely be better than with a compact camera in every case. \$\endgroup\$
    – eflorico
    Commented Jan 8, 2011 at 2:02

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