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I recently rushed in and took a couple hundred shots of artwork with my Canon rebel T3i (18mp)... just natural light, no flash... not thrilled with results.

RICKscrib.com

If I was to spend some $, and I don't mean over $200, what could I have bought to do a better job? I do have a medium size photo tent that will accommodate all but my larger pieces, but no external lighting apparatus. 

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Depends on what the pictures look like and what your medium is. The pictures may be adequate but need some editing. Can't tell without seeing the images.

Larry Berman
http://BermanGraphics.com
412-401-8100

Hello;

Sunlight should be one of the better "lighting systems" you can use... However, time of day, (and cloud cover) is important... Never shoot in the middle of the day, (always morning and afternoon,) and make sure sunlight is NOT too harsh. (Sometimes a bit of cloud cover over the sun makes a good "light filter...")

Before spending a lot of money, do some test... Using a digital camera, you can get INSTANT feedback on how the shot came out...(PLUS not spending money on film!!!)

You can shoot "bigger all around" the image, then crop in Photoshop...

As a photographer, I do some shots for local artists for no real charge other maybe than a bottle of good scotch or something.  I even do it at local markets I'm at when there is a lull period just for something else to do. Maybe you can find someone in your area that will do the same. 

it's not your camera's fault. I use a Canon T1i to shoot all my art. I have also used the T3i, which is better. But even at the best settings and perfect direct sunlight angle I MUST edit in Photoshop. This is because paintings do not have the kind of brightness ranges the camera expects in normal shooting. NOT the camera's fault. Generally I pick the best exposure (always take at least 3 levels) and then adjust levels further in Photoshop (command-L). Click "auto" to see what Photoshop thinks and go from there.

You can see the results on my website, davidhoornstra.com (old address, davidclassicdesign.com).  

Further adjustments may be needed if your work has high, glossy impasto, which will make bright highlights that can really skew the readings for both your camera and for Photoshop. Direct sunlight, which I prefer for its ability to show dark but saturated color, increases that effect. You can reduce this problem by using a Polaroid filter which lets you adjust surface reflectivity effects.

A good alternative is a pair of bright daylight-color LED lamps, one on either side of the art to cancel impasto shadows. This also means consistent shots and consequently a routine editing process. 

Without getting into explanations of the exposure triangle.

Simply put, you do not need a lot of light.

It is the combination of available light and time of exposure.

Adjust the ISO to the lowest setting available.

You can adjust the aperture for the depth of filed needed.

As you have stationary objects, you can take as long an exposure as necessary.

Using bulbs, as a previous poster stated, will be helpful to control the shadow content as well as the K range of light you feel will show off your work the best.

For long exposures you can use the self timer to trigger the shot without shaking the camera by hand. 

Use a tripod and let the light soak in.

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