My Art Reproduction Photography Challenge

I love a challenge. It’s something that gets my brain cells fired up. Yesterday presented such a challenge.

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Me, with my portable setup, shooting some beautiful art.

I volunteered for an art reproduction day at The Artists Network, in Toronto, assigned to shoot the works of some Toronto based artists, each of whom presented me with a variety of art pieces. I was joined by a few other photographers, including Lori Ryerson, who was keeping things on track, Jessica Lin, my fellow shooter for the day, and Lynn Leonard, who was helping Jessica Lin keep her sessions go smoothly. Barb Lewis, Donald Bray and David Johns were also volunteering their time to help make this a great shoot

The first was a set of really cool stencils, by Loretta Faveri, that were bent to create interesting reliefs. First, I decided to capture them with lighting that pretty much eliminated all of the shadows. The challenge presented itself when I wanted to create a second set of images, showing shadows of the relief pieces. In order to do so, I used a single point light at a variety of angles. I had Donald move the light so that the shadows created different patterns against the bottom surface. I kept imagining how these would show under different types of lighting in their natural environment and how they could even act as a funky kind of sundial.

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All in all, the first set was pretty straightforward. I was able to create a nice variety of images and showcased the artwork quite well.


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Before photo of Susan’s piece.

Next up was the toughest session. The artist, Susan Aaron, used a variety of media, including glitter, foils, thread and acrylic paint. How could I show the shininess of the reflective foil material and glitter, while still showing the overall colour balance of the rest of the piece? Some elements of Susan’s art only shows when the light hits it at certain angles, which adds visual interest to the work. It also makes for challenging lighting scenarios.The last piece in the set got me moving the lights constantly to show different reflections that would be in the final image.

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Final Version of Susan’s piece

I knew that I would be deconstructing different parts of individual photos, in order to showcase the piece in its best light in a final, composited image, from a number of bits and pieces utilizing different lighting angles and locations.

If you were thinking, well… you shouldn’t do that, here are some things to consider. The reflective surfaces will catch the light when you’re moving around it, observing how it plays on the various surfaces. If the light is not reflecting in a way that you can see its effect, you move around to the proper angle. Once you’ve found the sweet spots, you can move around to see the how the light plays with the piece. This is not possible in a static image. The best way to create the effect, in my opinion, is to add some light reflections. Because the intensity of the light at required to illuminate the foil, the rest of the piece is darkened. In order to create a balance, it’s sometimes best to pick and choose which parts of the image to include.

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Over the shoulder photo of me working with Susan’s artwork. You can see the effect that the modelling lights have on the reflective surface. Jessica Lin’s camera setup is awaiting her next artist.

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Colorchecker Passport is in front of Loretta’s art, so that we can calibrate the colour temperature and exposure settings.

Throughout the process I used a Colorchecker Passport, to ensure the proper white balance and colour accuracy. While the final print file should be hard proofed (comparing an actual print to the artwork and recording the print driver settings), the results are very accurate, and very detailed.


I love this kind of shooting. It’s a balance of technique, artistry, communication and teamwork. The room was full of highly skilled creative people who all worked in harmony to help artists show their work to the world.

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Thanks to everyone who helped this day go smoothly, and to the wonderful artists who trusted me to photograph their work.


Are you an artist who wants high quality images of your work? If so, please get in touch. I’d love to set up a session for you. I can come to you, with my portable setup, but feel most at home in my own studio, in Barrie, Ontario. Because everything is ready to go, we can maximize the time that we spend shooting. There is much less time spent setting up and tearing down equipment, which translates to more time with your art in front of the camera.

For more information please get in touch with me through my website at www.iangmcintosh.com.

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