A Short Course Book
Digital Desktop Studio Photography
The Complete Guide To Lighting and Photographing Small Objects with your Digital Camera

Case Study—Object Behind Glass

Tiffen makes a great copy stand that takes up no storage space at all. Courtesy of Tiffen.
Once artwork has been framed it can be time-consuming to remove it to be photographed. If the absolute best result is required, the necessary time and trouble should be taken. However, for many purposes, you can shoot through the glass and get good results.

The Assignment

The assignment is to photograph a piece of framed art without removing it from the frame. It's expected that reflections from the glass will be the major problem.

1. Composition

The camera and art have to be perfectly parallel to avoid keystoning, however we can't place the art flat on a table because we will be shooting through a hole cut in a large piece of dark cardboard. When we take the picture, the only refections in the glass will be those from the dark cardboard we are shooting through. The only way to support the cardboard is to have it stand vertically, so the art must also be vertical.

2. Lighting

To get the most even light possible, two Smith-Victor lights are placed some distance back and shining on the framed art at a 45 degree angle.

3. Camera Settings

To check exposure, we first placed a gray card where the art will be placed. With the camera set on manual exposure we took a picture and then checked the histogram to see if middle gray fell in the middle of the range. We used the same exposure to photograph the artwork, checking that the white areas stayed white. Since the frame and art are black and white, the white balance setting isn't critical. Since it's flat art, depth of field isn't very important so a large aperture can be used.

The setup shows how the art is lit from both sides at about a 45 degree angle to avoid reflections from the lights. A hole has been cut in a piece of dark cardboard for the camera lens to shoot through. This makes it possible to take the photo without having the camera and room reflected in the glass.

The final image works well. The deep frame has cast a shadow, but that can be cropped out if you don't like it. Photo courtesy of Andrew Xenios.

Without the black cardboard, the photographer is reflected in the glass. Photo courtesy of Andrew Xenios.

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