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Basic Lighting Diagram to Photograph
Flat Art or 3D Objects

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Basic Lighting Diagram to Photograph Flat Art or 3D Objects

This is just a guideline or starting point for those of you who want to photograph your own artwork. Two lights positioned at 45 degree angles to the object or painting gives even light over the entire subject. This also works with shooting flat art on the floor and using a right angle arm on a tripod to shoot straight down. The light source should be soft. Bounced into large white umbrellas as an example, and set up to give an even spread over the entire subject. I use 48 inch white umbrellas to photograph objects as small as an inch or two in size. Digital advantage over shooting film are immediate feedback and access to the images. You should be able to see hot spots on the object and then move the lights to correct for it. The best images are done in camera with as little post processing as possible. It's best to leave a little room around the image and do the straightening and cropping afterwards in Photoshop when the image is color corrected.
Backgrounds should be neutral and have no color for jury images. Black, white, gray or a graduated background with a combination of those same neutral tones works best.
Optional would be to use a white reflector under and in front to bounce fill light onto the bottom of a 3D object. Additionally sometimes an additional light or reflector positioned above and slightly behind the object will give it rim lighting which will help separate it from the background.

Basic Lighting Diagram to Show Texture and Dimension on Flat Art or 2D Mixed Media

Position of lights can be reversed if necessary. The light closest to the subject causes shadows in the texture which gives the object a three dimensional feel when the image is viewed. As in the above description, be careful of hot spots and reposition the lights while shooting if necessary.

An example of monolights (self contained lights and power supply) bounced into white umbrellas. A popular brand of these flash units is Alien Bees.

Tips on Photographing Your Own Art

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