Last week I was searching for a solution to having too much texture and glare in the photos I had been taking of my paintings. I have a small studio and the lights need to be rather close to the work. A gentleman at the camera store suggested I put cheesecloth in front of the lights to help soften the lights. Here are results from some experiments I did with lighting my images while taking photos.
Each set of images was taken once under similar conditions except one with cheesecloth in front of the light, one without cheesecloth. The lights were tungsten lamps. I retouched each image in Photoshop by only increasing the contrast the same amount for each image:+27.
The first two images are with the lights at about 60 degrees in front of the painting. The first is with cheesecloth in front of the lights, the second is without cheesecloth. Although it is hard to tell from these web-images, I feel the one with cheesecloth is slightly more accurate with color. But there still are highlights and glare on the texture of the canvas.
With this second set of images, I moved the lights more to the side of the painting - about 45 degrees to the sides. This removed much of the glare. Again, I found that the image on the left, with the cheesecloth in front of the lights produced a more accurate color and tone to the painting. It is hard to tell in these web images, but the one on the left has more grey in the whites. The one on the right has a little more yellow in the whites and the background is too reddish.
This third set of images shows what happens when I move in more closely to shoot my images. The one on the left is with cheesecloth in front of the lights. The right without cheesecloth. As I move in closer, even with the lights at 45 degrees. more glare happens. I also have to add more contrast as they are more washed out than the shots from farther away. Again, the one with cheesecloth provides slightly more accurate color and contrast.
These last two images are of close-ups taken with a x2 magnifying lens. Again, the left is with cheesecloth in front of the lights, the right without. Again color is better, but there is still some glare as I get closer to the painting to shoot.
So, in conclusion, I found that adding the cheesecloth in front of the lights created more accurate color and warmth/coolness to the images. I found that making sure the lights are at 45 degrees from the painting instead of more in front of the painting cuts down on glare dramatically. I also found that the images look the best when taken from a medium distance (3 feet) instead of taking extreme close-up shots from a few inches away. The most accurate image of all of these is the third image on the page. I will be shooting images of my paintings with that configuration from now on.