Thursday, November 12, 2009

scanning vs. photographing artwork

While looking for images that combine steampunk with Bob Ross (a mighty challenge) for my last post I happened across this image of a steampunk guitar. (There are a few out there. Here's another one I like.) Then yesterday I took Coco out for a little Remembrance Day run and had the stupidity to try and keep running after I felt twinges in my lower back. Needless to say, I'm grounded today -- and feeling elderly -- so thought I'd carpe diem and do a drawing of the guitar while it was still fresh in my mind.

It's the best kind of day for photographing artwork outdoors (i.e. high, light cloud cover) so thought I'd also conduct a little experiment (all the while hobbling around all hunched over like a geriatric mad scientist). The drawings I do on black paper are hard to scan as a black support deadens colours, so they need a little reflection to get the full effect, but since a lot of them are tiny (4" x 4") they are too small to photograph. Getting the right focal length is a challenge with the smaller ones anyway as any distortion is highly magnified. My larger drawings, however, don't fit the scanning bed so I do photograph them (I use a Nikon D70), and find that a focal length of about 70mm creates the least amount of edge-to-edge distortion. And the advantage with photography, of course, is that the reflective parts of the surface are shown to full advantage.

The image portion of this drawing is about 9" x 7" -- just small enough to scan but also large enough to try photographing. Since I couldn't do much of anything else today, why not try both and see which works better?



I'll leave it to you to decide which is the better image. What I did learn was this: the current settings on my scanner mean that I get truer colour balance from photographing. At first I thought it might be caused by my Photoshop settings, but since I use Photoshop to crop and improve both my scanned and photographed artwork, I guess not! I found it necessary to crop, add contrast and sharpen the top (photographed) image only slightly. The bottom (scanned) image required extensive colour correction and to get the reflected effect I had to bump up the contrast enormously, which detracted from the crispness/resolution of the image.

I will continue scanning small and photographing large, but this experiment has taught me that I have slightly better results (i.e. it's less work and I get a better quality image for the size) with a photographed image than a scanned image, and if I can get the edge distortion under control then photographing my work is my better option ... until I get that $3000 scanner that is!


Blogger Ponita in Real Life said...

Quite the difference! What do the untweaked images look like?

Very cool guitar, by the way.

Your best bet for your back is to see a physiotherapist asap... Makes a world of difference... and I speak from extensive experience!

Hope you feel better very soon, Andrea!

13/11/09 6:32 a.m.  
Blogger Ellen said...

Is your back feeling any better? Nice drawing. Good to know about the focal length. I've yet to play enough with mine to figure it out. The whole experiment makes a scanner a bit obsolete, doesn't it. Good you got out yesterday to take pictures, the wind in raving outside my house now and I heard mention of SNOW in our pocket of the world. ick.

13/11/09 9:36 a.m.  
Blogger andrea said...

Ponita: The uncorrected image was very magenta with very little contrast between image and background. (BTW this started happening about 2 years ago and a musculoskeletal specialist advised me against exercises that twist my torso so I quit doing them and it has helped -- until now. It's something soft tissue between hip and lower back and it has never been quite right since. Maybe I should bite the bullet and see a physio. If only it didn't cost so much!)

Ellen: Worse actually. I stupidly overdid it yesterday and am paying today. Maybe now's a good time for my internet break...

13/11/09 3:31 p.m.  
Blogger Costescu said...

Oh no, I hope your back is better today, hard to keep a good artist down ;)

Thanks for all the info, I keep saying I am going to get my scanning/photo situtation resolved...hmmm.

I will have to try you photo tips as unfortunately I don't have an extra $3000 lieing around either ;) Based on your experiement though, may not be needed, just some due diligence, I hate that part!

14/11/09 8:42 a.m.  
Blogger Sling said...

I take my saved images from my Nikon Coolpix SanDisk directly into Photoshop,and tweak them gently into into submission..The results are quite appealing. :)

14/11/09 9:51 p.m.  
Blogger Caroline said...

Good experiment - looks much better photographed.

16/11/09 1:01 a.m.  
Blogger andrea said...

Tracey: It always helps to have a good camera -- for *so* many reasons!

Sling: I keep forgetting that you can do that in Photoshop. (I haven't learend how.) On the press page of my website there's an article in which the editor took the oblique images of the canvas on an easel at various stages and made them square. Magic!

Caro: Agreed.

16/11/09 7:56 p.m.  
Blogger Artists of Todos Santos said...

Interesting experiment. You may want to look at getting a macro lens for your small work - minimal distortion, micro contrast and you can get close. But photographing art - particularly with shiny parts - is HARD!

18/11/09 6:54 a.m.  
Blogger Kelly said...

I'm sorry you hurt your back, but very glad you're feeling better already. I hope that trend continues. Good that you rested.

21/11/09 12:38 p.m.  

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