Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Scanner or Camera?

A Work in Progress
Copyright Laura Hardie 2009

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about photographing and/or scanning artwork trying to decipher which method gives the best result. I’m assuming this would be a matter of opinion amongst artists with arguments for and against both. I personally always scan my drawings simply because I’m not very good with the camera, get lost when it comes to setting the right exposure and get better results with my scanner – although, as explained in my last post, I’ve never been totally happy with the finished images, despite playing around with them in Photoshop.

As it is about time I stop moaning about this and doing something about it I thought (to avoid personally emailing you all:)) I would start with a poll on my blog to see what your preferred method is. I’m interested to know how you get good images of your artwork - the kind that you would be happy using for such things as prints to sell, for use on marketing materials, website or for entries into exhibitions. In other words, good, clear images that remain true (as possible) to the original.

I’ll leave the poll running for a fortnight in the hope of getting as many replies as possible and hope you will participate. I also welcome any comments you might have on the subject.

The image in todays post is what I am currently working on. I’m really excited about this drawing as, although not my first horse, it is my first to commission. Here’s hoping it leads to more. This is the first stage and I should have another update soon.


Christina Langman said...

Hi Laura,

I have a little desktop scanner that I scan my works in progress, and then tweak them in Photoshop, often tedious and with not perfect results. However, for my final images that I release in limited edition prints, I have a fellow artist here in Regina that has a professional print set-up, with a $3000 scanner that is absolutely amazing. The results are often so impressive, that when all framed up, the prints don't differ from the original at all. I then use these scanned professional images and resize them appropriately for web and blog use. Ultimately, my experience photographing my art for use in WIPs and such has been dismal at best, but sometimes with the bigger pieces I have to resort to it. My advice would be to perhaps try using a tripod, left set-up in the same spot, pointed at a wall that you can tape or stick the picture to each time you want to capture a shot. That way, your photoshop work will be limited to the same adjustments each time (levels, crop, etc.) for consistency.

Hope this has helped at least a little bit! :) I know it's a big problem, that I struggle with often. Best of luck - your blog is great and I love seeing your works in progress! :)

Christina Langman

Tracy Hall: said...

I suspect you'll get a different answer from everyone, Laura :)

As you know, I scan, tweak in PS and when I've finished you really can't tell them from the original. I do it myself as I get better results (in my experience). No one cares more about how it turns out than you do! But it does take time and patience to learn the route - and drawings are harder than paintings.

Try a test in each and see which works best for you with your set up.

Grahame Butler said...

Hi Laura, I stopped using a scanner as I found it bleached out all the tones, and increased the amount of work needed in PS, my wife bought me a new Canon D450 camera at Christmas, I set this to the portrait setting, which stops the flash from firing and then make sure the programme is set to monochrome, I have found that this gives pretty close results to the original drawing, I do adjust the levels in PS but only slightly, the more white paper showing in the drawing the more work needed in PS.

Teresa Mallen said...

Congratulations on your commission Laura! Terrific news. Sorry I can't share helpful hints on getting a great image. I struggle in this area too. I look forward to gleaning wisdom from your readers. :-)

Jennifer Rose said...

I scan most of my art at home and then mess around with it in Photoshop and piece the scans together. For bigger pieces that would not fit anyway onto my scanner I take them to a print place to get scanned, but still have to adjust the scan to make it look like the piece of art. I wish I had a bigger scanner that would fit work bigger then 11x14 but they are not cheap.

Laura said...

Hi Christina, Great to hear from you:)I'm hoping to avoid having to take my drawings to a professional scanner or photographer due to the cost which I have found to be VERY expensive. I also know many artists who do it themselves and get brilliant results, Tracy Hall being one, so know it can be done.

I do however have my camera and tripod ready - just need to play around a bit to get the right exposure:)

Laura said...

Hi Tracy, Having seen one of your prints I know getting good results at home can be done and I'd much rather do it this way - I am such a perfectionist though and wonder if I'll ever be happy:)

Couldn't agree more with you in that a drawing is more difficult to scan than a painting, especially ones where a lot of the white paper is showing.

Hi Grahame, That's interesting what you have to say about scanned images as I too feel this with my graphite pencil drawings. A lot of the lighter pencil strokes are often lost with the result that the scanned image never looks as detailed as the original. Not sure if it is the best word to describe it but I always think the scanned image isn't as 'sharp' as the original.

This is why I want to see what results I can get from my camera and if it cuts back on the amount of work needed in Photoshop then it can only be good:)

Thank you Teresa:) My hope is that other artists will learn from my journey and there has been some great advice from others so far that I'm glad I started it. I WILL persevere and get that perfect image:-D

Hi Jennifer, Yes that can be frustrating when the drawing is too big for the scanner and then having to stitch scans together in Photoshop. I went through a stage of considering purchasing an A3 sized scanner but at a cost of over £1000 I couldn't do it. I'd have expected it to 'live' forever at that price and wouldn't have coped if it no longer worked properly:-D

I do think a lot of the work in getting a good image is down to Photoshop (unfortunately) whether you scan or take a photo of the original. My wish is that a Photoshop expert will knock on my door one day and show me how easy it actually is to work the programme - I can but dream:)