It's easy to avoid unwanted reflections in a high gloss surface like epoxy resin if you understand what causes them. Geoff walks us through how to troubleshoot your workspace, set up your camera, lights, and how to use photo editing software to capture the truest representation of your artwork.
What You'll Need:
- a shooting environment large enough to space out your lights and tripod and allows for controlled lighting ( curtains to block daylight etc )
- a solid coloured wall to shoot against
- 2 identical, bright copy lights ( you can use model lights from strobes, video lights, work lights etc. )
- black fabric for blocking out light
- computer with photo editing software such as Photoshop ( optional )
1. Set Up Your Artwork:
Hang your artwork on a wall, preferably on a solid coloured background. It's always a good idea to start with your largest item first to set the parameters for the amount of space you'll need.
💡TIP: You can lean your artwork against the wall, as long as the angle stays parallel to the camera. If the artwork isn't parallel, you can end up getting distorted angles in your shot, making your artwork look like a trapezoid instead of a rectangle, for example.
2. Set Your Camera Up On A Tripod:
Make shooting much easier by keeping the camera locked in one position at all times. Position the tripod so that the camera lens is straight on and centred in the middle of the artwork at an exactly parallel angle. If your camera lens is off to the side or is at a different angle than the artwork, you may create a perspective problem that can distort the shape.
Fill the frame of your camera with your artwork to ensure your image has good resolution and doesn't require a lot of cropping in post-production. Move the camera closer or further away or adjust the zoom until the frame is filled.
For ease of use in post production, you can tether the camera up to computer editing software while you're shooting.
💡TIP: You can fix some issues in post production, but it's always best to capture a shot that's as straight as possible right from the start.
3. Work In A Controlled Light Environment:
The best environment for shooting is an environment with controlled light sources, especially when you're shooting a high gloss surface like resin. Taking photos in a space with both studio lights and ambient light ( such as daylight coming through the windows ) can create significant glare and uneven lighting. These can be obvious in your final shot and difficult to correct after the fact.
Be particularly mindful of windows: they are the biggest source of light and reflections. If a window is behind your camera, you may need to turn your whole set around and shoot against a different wall so that window is no longer behind you.
💡TIP: Close window blinds and adjust ceiling/room lights as necessary in order to control all the light hitting your artwork
4. Proper Lighting Set Up:
When photographing a reflective surface like resin, you should never use the camera's flash or light it from the same angle as the camera or you'll end up with light bouncing right back at you ( much like the hot spot you'd get from a flash camera in a mirror. ) To get an equal, even wash of light that won't create reflections or shadows on your artwork, Geoff recommends placing two identical copy lights, set at about 45 degrees, on either side of your artwork.
You can use a variety of lights such as model lights from strobes, video lights, even work lights, but best practice is to use the brightest lights you can to provide even, flat lighting and two of the exact same lights to ensure they don't cast different amounts of light or different colours of light. You can use soft boxes but they tend to cast a bigger wash of light that can bounce off of other things in the room, creating even more reflections to deal with.
The diagram below shows a good, basic set up for photographing resin art.
- The camera is positioned front and centre with the artwork.
- The lighting comes from two identical lights, spaced equally from the camera and at a 45 degree angle from the artwork to provide even light without reflections.
5. Test Your Shadows With The Pencil Trick:
Use Geoff's simple pencil test to ensure the two side lights are evenly spaced: hold a pencil up against the wall ( centred with your artwork ) to see if shadows are even. If one shadow is darker, move the the corresponding light back and test again. When the shadows are identical, you know your lighting is even and you can move on to adjusting your camera settings.
6. Adjust Your Camera's Exposure And Colour Balance:
Two key settings to be aware of are exposure and colour balance.
Exposure determines the image's lightness and darkness and can be controlled by adjusting the shutter speed and aperture. To change the exposure, adjust the camera's shutter speed and aperture settings to find the point where the image looks true.
Balance refers to how warm or cool the colours in your image will look and is determined by the light source in your room. Balance is why it's important to have only one controllable light source in your shooting space: daylight from an open window will provide a very different light than studio lights and the two lights mixed together make it tricky to adjust for. To find the appropriate setting, look under White Balance on your camera, go through the presets and see which one gives you the truest representation of your artwork.
Even the most basic point and shoot camera offers a menu of settings in order to make simple adjustments. Every camera is different, however, so familiarize yourself with the instructions to learn how to make easy corrections on your camera.
7. Adjust Lights And Resin Art For Reflections:
Your darkest piece of artwork is the best place to start as it's the most accurate indication of reflections. Remember, a couple of reflections are a good way to show off ArtResin's glossy surface. What you want to do is examine your artwork, determining the source of glare and hotspots and find a way to minimize them by shading or moving unwanted lights. This may include:
- adjust the position of your side lights
- closing curtains
- turning ceiling lights off or adjusting other lights in the room so they don't bounce light off of the tripod or other items in the room
- using black fabric to further block light
Make adjustments and take a few test shots. Once you're happy with what you see, you're ready to shoot!
💡TIP: If you notice edge reflections, especially if your artwork has curved edges, they may be caused by the copy lights. Hang your artwork on one corner so that it sits on a 45 degree angle to see if it minimizes them or removes them to the corners. Remember to tilt your camera to match your artwork correspondingly so that you have a straight picture once again
8. Edit Your Shot With Photo Software:
Once you've taken your shot and made sure you have a crisp, evenly lit image with no reflections, good colour balance and exposure, you may now use photo manipulating software such as Photoshop in order to:
- clean up any issues such as scratches or smudges on your artwork
- check for colour accuracy or to saturate, adjust or change colour
- adjust exposure
- adjust sharpness or selective focus
- edit photos, change the background or to apply filters
- minimize file size
You may find that your lights have cast some shadows. Here are three quick ways to deal with them in post:
1) You can crop the image right to the edges of your artwork:
2) You can cut out the image ( close cut it ) and set it on a white background:
3) Taking your close cut image from step 2, add a duplicate layer and add a drop shadow ( found in the list of options in Photoshop. )
Shoot Small Resin Artwork On The Floor With Your Phone:
A good option for photographing a small piece of artwork is to place it on the floor and shoot directly from overhead. You can use the same lighting set up as you would for work hung on the wall, adjusting the lights as necessary. If your tripod allows for it, mount your camera on the centre column that tilts 90 degrees over your piece for a bird's eye view. Alternatively, stand over your piece ( or stand on a chair ) and use your phone's camera.
💡TIP: When shooting an item on the floor, make sure you shoot directly overhead so that the image remains square in the frame and doesn't get distorted.
A Few Photo Tips To Remember:
- Try out the standard copy lighting set up Geoff George recommends and see if it works for you.
- Make sure each of your lights are identical and placed at the same distance from the artwork and the camera to create an even wash of light. Adjust lights as necessary to reduce glare and hotspots.
- Use the pencil test to ensure that your copy lights are even.
- Remember, a little reflection is ok so to show off epoxy resin's shiny finish.
- Control the lighting by eliminating all other sources of light, including daylight from windows, ceiling lights and table lamps. Use black fabric to block out light.
- Align your camera so that it's perfectly centred with your artwork and at an exactly parallel angle.
- Use post production photo editing software such as Photoshop for final edits and tweaks to colour, light, cropping etc.
You've put in time and effort to create a beautiful piece of art so it's worth the same time and effort to capture beautiful photos of it! Great images of your resin art can make a big difference in your marketing and sales. It may take a little time to learn, but once you can troubleshoot the issues to get a look you're happy with, taking great photographs of your resin art is relatively easy.
Check out our blog on How to Use ArtResin.