Struggling With Photographing an Oil Painting

Every session I follow the same process after I finish painting and it mostly consists of me struggling with photographing my wet painting and removing glare.

I don’t have any expensive equipment. I just use my iPhone and a lamp clipped to a student easel. I then proceed to take a ton of photos at different angles with different exposures. Here I’m hoping to capture a few with little glare and in focus.

Struggling With Photographing an Oil Painting, all photos
All photos of session

Then I pull all the photos into Photoshop and select the few that I think will work. I select one photo for a detail shot, a photo with a setup shot (which I forgot to take this time),  a photo of the full painting straight on, and a photo of the full painting taken at an angle.

Struggling With Photographing an Oil Painting, close angle
Close up taken at an angle

Above is the original closeup photo that was taken at an angle. Later I pull it into Photoshop and distort it back to it’s original shape.

Struggling With Photographing an Oil Painting, full straight
Full painting taken straight on

Above is the original photo of the full painting taken as straight on as I can get it. You can see the massive amounts of glare that is produced when taking the photo straight on.

Struggling With Photographing an Oil Painting, full angle
Full painting taken at an angle

Above is the original photo of the full painting taken at an extreme angle so that the glare goes away.

Struggling With Photographing an Oil Painting, distorting
Distorting overlay in Photoshop

I pull both images into Photoshop. The straight on photo of the painting is used as a guide to distort the photo taken at an angle. All I do is paste the angled photo over the one with all the glare, change it’s opacity to 50% then distort it and match up the corners. What I’m left with is a photo that has no glare and is at the correct angle. You can see the difference below.

Struggling With Photographing an Oil Painting, before
Before distortion overlay in Photoshop
Struggling With Photographing an Oil Painting, after
After distortion overlay in Photoshop
Struggling With Photographing an Oil Painting, full
Full

This is the full photo that is produced after this process. Sometimes the photos come out blurry due to the distortion. The key is trying to remove as much glare as possible when taking the angled photo while at the same time not taking the photo at too an extreme of angle.

I keep trying to improve this process but honestly I haven’t found anything better. I know that once these paintings are dry and I add a coat of varnish over them that it is easier to get a good photo without any glare so I just deal with this for my daily posts.

If anyone has any tips on how to do this better let me know, I would like to hear it.

8 thoughts on “Struggling With Photographing an Oil Painting

      1. Nah, it can be done on the cheap. 🙂 You’ll just need another lamp. Have the two lamps in front of the easel/wall at ~45 degree angles from the front of the canvas, and the camera centered on the canvas. Moving the two lamps around and moving the camera back and forth takes fiddling, but it does the job in most cases.

  1. Hey Chris, you’ll need to use a cross polarizing method. I’ve professionally photographed oil paintings for copy work. Contact me I can give you instructions.

Leave a Reply