Most people consider shooting photographs as a way to record the events in their lives. But photography has a practical purpose--it's a way to keep records of your household inventory and artwork.
Shooting these photographic records can be accomplished simply with a flash and a camera, or elaborately with multiple lights and a large format camera on a tripod.
Nora M. Sharpe of Costa Mesa recently asked about art: "I am a ceramic artist and keep a record of my work with slides and photographs. I also use slides and photographs to send to galleries and enter competitions. I have had some work photographed by a professional photographer but would like to do the work myself, although I have developing done by a local photo lab.
"How can I make the light more dramatic? Should one use contrasting paper in the backgrounds? If you use a dark object against white paper, how do you take the reflective light into consideration; just by the light meter?"
There's little doubt that shooting quality copy photographs of your artwork can be the difference between winning or losing a competition, since your effort may be judged on the quality of a 35-millimeter slide. Also, sending your original artwork would be too cumbersome to transport or mail.
The key is to set up a system for photographing your work and then staying with it.
With flat artwork, which includes paintings, lithographs and drawings, it's necessary to ensure that the subject is evenly illuminated. Shooting it in the shade or with two lights from two sides at a 45-degree angle works well.
You should stay away from bright sun for copying work. The glare and reflections make it a difficult light source to control. Using one light directed from the camera isn't recommended because of the reflection it will cause.
Shooting three-dimensional objects is more difficult because you need additional lighting techniques to give the object its form. Also, the background is very important. Stay away from distracting patterns--brick and stucco walls or old fences. They won't do justice to your work.
Consider buying a roll of backdrop paper from your local camera store. The colors and reflective surface can vary, allowing you the opportunity to use your imagination. Those with multiple lighting setups can change the color of the backdrop by using colored gels over the light directed at the background. This will give variety without the need to change rolls of background paper.
Use a background of contrasting colors to make your work stand out. Loud colors are not advised unless they are suited to the art.
A tripod is essential. It will enable your to use a slow shutter speed and an f-stop of f/11, f/16 or f/22 that will produce great depth of field, keeping your work in focus.
If you're using a setup in the shade, your light will be flat and very low in contrast. For most situations, this is the easiest method. But to produce dramatic results, use multiple lighting setups. A simple place to start is with one light at a 45-degree angle and another light with half the power directed from the other side.
Next, move the lights to vary the shadows and highlight areas. Experimentation is a must. Since each piece of artwork is an original, you should try to light it in a unique way. Make notes as you work and take an extra shot of each setup so you can have record of how you did it.
Get the proper exposure by moving in close to obtain an accurate meter reading of the reflected light from your subject. This is critical, especially if your background is black or white. Bracketing your exposure will be your best insurance for proper exposure.
If you're shooting in the shade, you may find it necessary to use a filter to correct the bluish cast. Select an 81A or 81B filter to avoid the problem. If you choose to light your subject with tungsten light and are shooting transparencies (slides), select film designed for this light.
Exhibitions: Color Cibachrome landscape photographs by Clinton Smith are on exhibit at the Susan Spiritus Gallery in Costa Mesa until Jan. 28. The work features images from throughout the United States. The gallery is in Crystal Court at South Costa Plaza. The hours are 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays and noon to 5 p.m. Sundays.
Admission is free. For more information, call: (714) 549-7550.
"Tijuana Sunday," a collection of bullfight photographs by Leigh Wiener, will be exhibited at Rizzoli's International Bookstore & Gallery at South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa throughout February. The images were shot on assignment for Life magazine in 1962. The bookstore hours are 10 a.m to 9 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays and noon to 5 p.m Sundays. Admission is free. For more information, call (714) 957-3331.