Photographing Works of Art

Colour Managed Photograph of a Work of Art
Colour Managed Photograph of a Work of Art

When photographing an artists work of art it is important that the capture is optimized to ensure the integrity of the work whilst maximising the detail of the original. This can only be done by optimising the entire capture process.

To optimize the capture system the following criteria needs to be reviewed:

  • Ensure the maximum Modulation Transfer Function (MTF) is used to extract maximum detail.
  • Ensure your optical system is optimised for the lighting system that is used. Not all lighting systems are the same and in general the more you pay the better the system. This doesn’t mean a cheaper system cannot be used, just that a little more care maybe required to get the best results.
  • Ensure the signal to noise ratio of the system is set to give maximum detail. This usually just means setting the lowest ISO value on the camera.
  • There is a means to manage and understand the colour of the image to those without access to the original art work. At a base level this can mean just having a known colour chart within the image plane as a reference.
  • Make sure the image colour space is suitable for the uses you want the files to be used for in the future. Most monitors are sRGB but the print industry like Adobe RGB. There are other spaces that could also be suitable and some that are much larger but you would need to decide whether these are suitable for you.
  • Capture the work at an identical tone to the original. This means if your original is dark and with little contrast the captured image reflects that. If for output purposes this doesn’t reproduce well later then you can always tweak the image to your satisfaction although this would be best done in a separate layer of the image file to preserve the integrity of the original capture.

John Bartlett – London Sublime

Had an enjoyable morning, last Friday, photographing John’s installation piece and discussing West Ham United (amongst other things) at his exhibition,”London Sublime” at the Guildhall Art Gallery so I thought I’d put up a few pictures from the opening night.

The exhibition finishes this week so if you’re interested you haven’t got long to have a look.

The Guildhall Art Gallery, Gresham Street, London EC2V 7HH.



Jupiter and the Moon close together on 28th November 2012.

If you missed it or didn’t know about it, Jupiter could be easily seen to the left of the moon last night so here are a couple of pictures to look at.

AHFAP 2012 Quick Review

It was interesting to listen to Alan Newman’s presentation at the Association for Historical and Fine Art Photography conference last week announcing that images of works of art from the National Gallery Washington in the public domain can now be downloaded and used for free for any use in future. He reported that the economic model of charging for images no longer works and that newer revenue streams are now being explored.

This presentation was then followed by James Davis of Google Art demonstrating how Google is attempting to bring together a single point of entry to exploration of the cultural heritage and archive sectors.

It appears that if you follow the thread of the combination of these two presentations photographers and cultural institutions may need to rethink their future financial models.

AHFAP Membership and Conference 2012

I’ve just organized my membership for the Association of Historical and Fine Art Photography for another year and booked a place at their annual conference taking place at the Dulwich Picture Gallery on 19th November 2012.

I’m particularly looking forward to having a chat with Alan Newman from the National Gallery of Art, Washington, regarding giga pixel and hyperspectral imaging.

I know the National Gallery of Art were looking seriously at undertaking more giga pixel imaging so I’m quite keen to pick his brains about their experiences, and compare it with my experiences of producing the giga pixel image for the artist Ralph Heimans Diamond Jubilee portrait of HRH the Queen.

The full days events for the conference are:

9.15 am – Registration and coffee
10.00 am – Welcome, introduction and house-keeping
10.10 am – Dulwich Picture Gallery
10.20 am – Annette King  from the  Tate Gallery will speak on a project to x-ray some of the gallery’s paintings by Picasso
10.50 am – James Davis from Google talks about Google Art
11.20 am – Alan Newman of the National Gallery of Art Washington DC will talk about their free image download service
11.50 am – ‘Terry Dennett, 60  years in photography’, a presentation and short video

12.30 pm – Lunch

2.00 pm – James Stevenson talks about the life and work of photographer Claude Cahun
2.45 pm – Sophie Gordon from the Royal Collection will speak on the collection’s extensive photographic archive
3. 30 pm – Dave Baker, an urban guerrilla photographer, will speak about his recent visit to Chernobyl

4.20 pm – Association Annual General Meeting


Hello world!

Welcome to the Colin White Photography and Digital Imaging blog. I hope to keep this blog going as an aid to all those photographers working within, or related to, the cultural heritage sector. I can’t guarantee this will be an extensive blog but will try to put forward information when I can make it available.

In the meantime have fun and I hope to be putting information up soon.


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