A Few Basic Guidelines:
- Lighting should be soft and even. If you don't have access to a photographic studio, daylight on a cloudy day will be soft and give you the best color balance. If there's not a cloud in the sky, work indoors in a room lit from the north so that there's no direct, hard sunlight which will cast hard shadows and may give a blue cast to the images. Outside, work in the shadow of a building, or anywhere where the sun does not fall directly onto the artwork.
- Ideally provide us with a correctly exposed 'colour checker chart' and/or include a grey scale or 18% gray card within the image area, which will greatly enhance our ability to achieve correct color matching. (These items can be bought from professional camera stores or more likely these days, online.)
- Support the artwork against a plain background, black is ideal because it doesn't reflect back any light, and this will make editing the image easier on the computer. How you support the artwork will depend on what it is and what you have available. A flat wall is good for work on paper, a painting easel for work on canvas or board.
- Use as high a MegaPixel camera as you can. If yours is less than 18MB consider borrowing or hiring something better. Nothing else will more directly affect the maximum size of the enlargements that you'll be able to have made, although the quality of the lenses can be significant.
- Use a tripod. Period.
- If you have a cable release it will eliminate any vibration resulting from pressing the shutter release, if not you can use the camera's 'self-timer' to achieve the same result.
- The picture (subject) and the camera back must be exactly vertical and parallel. Use a spirit level to check and adjust.
- Use the optimal f-stop for the lens, this is the f-stop that gives the sharpest result from corner to corner, often f-11. If you do not know what that is, experiment by bracketing exposures and then study the results on your monitor at 100/200%, or better still print the results at a decent enlargement. You don't need to print the whole image, a strip through the middle from corner to corner will suffice. (If you haven't got time for all that, just use f-11.)
- Fill as much of the viewfinder/LCD screen with the subject as possible so as to take advantage of as many pixels as you camera can give you, with the following caveat: If your lens has a fall-off of sharpness into the corners a compromise must be sought.
- Focus manually, don't trust auto-focus which isn't meant for subjects which are all in a single plane of focus and auto-focus can be confused by large expanses of white paper. But here again I advise you to experiment and check your initial results on a monitor. If your eyesight isn't good auto-focus might work better for you! If you wear glasses you must take them off when using a viewfinder or you won't see all of the image area. (If this is a problem, most camera manufacturers can supply corrective lenses for viewfinders.)
- For optimum quality shoot in RAW. You can either send us your RAW files in which case we need a reference against which we can adjust the images (see 2. above) or your digital image files should be saved as Tiffs with the correct ICC colour space for maximum colour gamut, Adobe RGB.
35mm digital images will usually require at least some enhancement in PhotoShop (it can be up to an hour's work if we do it) to result in a presentable fine art print up to about 36"x24". This skilled work involves, for example, the the separation/lifting of shadow tones, removal of digital fringing, the elimination of colour noise and pixelation and sharpening the fine detail. (Read more about image optimization.) Whilst the final image cannot be compared to those achieved with a Better Light Scanning Back, our many clients who have taken this route have always been delighted with the results we've been able to produce from their image files.