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How to Photograph Framed Art

October 29, 2014 3 min read

PROJECT: How to Photograph Framed Art

A customer who produces documentary films with rich archive content asked us to image 26 antique black and white framed photographs. Some of these subjects were collages including mixed size images. She needed high resolution JPEG images so that she could pan and zoom the stills in the production of the film.

image-sample (26)-300h Pamela Page Repro (6)-300h Pamela Page Repro (23)-300h

The photographs ranged in size from a few inches to 8×10″, and all of them were framed in glass. The equipment setup shown here is the ALZO solution to imaging framed art or photos.

  1. The equipment includes:
  2. Two ALZO 600 lights with Video-Lux daylight CFL bulbs
  3. An ALZO Micro-Boom used as a horizontal camera support
  4. A black Foam core mask with a lens hole cut out in the center
  5. An ALZO Super Clamp attached to an ALZO Gaffer Grip that clamps to the micro boom and holds the foam core mask in front of the camera.
  6. An ALZO Background Light Stand with a tray to support the subject photograph under the camera


The black foam core mask is important as it prevents reflections on the glass covering the subject from distorting the image. The dimensions of the mask need to be at least three times as large as the maximum width and height of the subject when using a normal focal length lens. Also, we lined the inside of the lens cut-out hole with black gaffers tape to prevent a white ring reflection that would have been caused by the highly reflective white foam core inside the hole.


Black foamcore mask with cut-out hole

Black foamcore mask with cut-out hole

Using the background light stand to support the subject allowed us to easily adjust the distance between the subject and the camera. When we shot the very small subjects, we raised the background stand with tray to bring the subject closer to the camera. For the larger subjects, we could lower the background stand or remove it and place the subject on the floor. We could not bring the very small subjects too close to the camera, as this would prevent proper illumination; they were positioned about one foot from the camera, and we extended the camera zoom and added a +4 close-up lens to the camera.

We used a glass cleaner and paper towels on each piece, and we found that the glass was coated with a thin brown film, probably from years of cigarette smoke accumulation. We knew that any dirt on the glass could cause focus and contrast problems.

As usual, the budget for this project was micro so we needed an equipment arrangement that would allow us to position the 26 subject photos quickly, and then use camera settings that would guarantee perfect focus and super sharp images without spending time tweaking the camera settings. We selected our LUMIX DMC FZ-200 camera because we were comfortable with the accurate focus and color rendering ability, and we needed a bright articulating LCD display. We used the 10 second delay timer on each exposure to assure that the camera was rock stable when the shutter fired.

There are three very important parts of this reproduction setup:

  1. The Black Foam core Mask to prevent reflections on the subject glass
  2. The adjustable height background light stand to allow for subject height adjustment
  3. A camera with a powerful zoom lens and an articulating LCD display so that we could easily view the subject framing as we positioned the subject under the camera

After we did some trial images and checked them on a computer for sharpness and color, we proceeded with shooting all 26 images. The total production shoot took less than one hour and our customer was very satisfied with the images.


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