How do you photograph artwork in a glass picture frame?

  • I'm trying to sell a picture of a piece of artwork for charity, and I'd like to photograph it. It's in a glass frame with lots of glare. Any ideas of what I can to to photograph it to look the absolute best? Thanks!

    Well, it looks like Matt and I are giving the same answer... Well, at least they stand a good change of being correct. By the way, you may want to look for a book called "Light: Science and Magic" as it describes all sorts of lighting including this one.

    you beat me by three minutes, I'll leave mine up as I'm quite proud of how well (at least for me) that five minute diagram came out, there's a reason I'm a photographer not an artist!

    @Matt - You're a much better artist than me! Which is why I write software. :)

    What about a polarizing filter, I think that should work too.

  • Matt Grum

    Matt Grum Correct answer

    10 years ago

    When it comes to glass it's all about lighting direction.

    You want to make sure that when you look at the picture through the camera neither the reflection of the lightsource or anything lit by your lightsource is visible.

    Hold up, I'll draw a diagram:

    Glass and other shiny objects reflect light back in one direction (like a ball bouncing off a wall). The painting, which is diffuse reflects some light this way, and reflects some light back in every direction.

    In the setup above, the light from a directional source hits the glass and carries on, missing the camera, thus the glass isn't visible! The same light hits the painting and some of it does get reflected into the camera so the painting does show up.

    The important thing is to use a directional source, as it's possible for light from your lightsource to bounce of a white wall, and hit the glass at an angle that does go down the lens, and this shows up as flare.

    This often happens when you have a white wall behind the camera, as in the above example.

    The moral of the story is to make sure you can't see the reflection of the lightsource in the glass when stood behind the camera, and try to limit what the light hits (ideally it should hit nothing but the painting). You can make any lightsource directional by placing opaque objects around it to block the light in certain directions.

    That's what I would have guessed, but it's nice to have it confirmed. Will probably have to wait until it's a bit darker so I have more controlled light, there's just too much light in the day...

    Well put, and I always love your diagrams. What did you use to make this one?

    Could a polarizing filter help? It probably wouldn't be as effective on its own compared to controlled lightning, but as an addition?

    @koiyu - Yes, the polarizer can help to a point, but only with the polarized reflected light. Even with that, however, you will get glare if you don't consider the angle of the rest of your light.

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Content dated before 7/24/2021 11:53 AM