Photographing Paintings for Reproduction

In this class, Karl is commissioned to photograph two paintings for artist Louise Lawton.

Photographing the two pieces, one being a large monochromatic piece and the other a smaller colored image of a young girl, Karl explains how to overcome common challenges associated with photographing paintings.

From the basics of how to position the painting to more complex elements such as light ratios and lens choice, you’ll learn all you need to know to photograph paintings, including how to minimize lens distortion, reduce reflections on lacquered surfaces, set up your lights and ensure true colour accuracy.

In this class:

  • Product photography: How to photograph artwork
  • Lighting setups for photographing paintings
  • Lens selection for photographing paintings
  • How to avoid reflections in shiny or lacquered surfaces
  • Where to focus when photographing a painting
  • How to achieve color accurate images

Questions? Please post them in the comments section below.


  1. SirFrogsworth

    Are paintings typically photographed rather than using a high end scanner? If so, why would that be preferable?

    1. Hi, yes because a scanner creates a very flat result as the lighting is totally frontal and therefore removes any feeling of texture or three dimensionality. Also some paintings are too big for scanners.

  2. Hi Karl, thanks for this class. Very helpful, indeed.
    I’ve heard some photographers use polarise filters on the lens and both flashes to remove reflections.
    Is this expense worthwhile?

      1. Hi Karl, I viewed the angles of incidence and reflection class. It was very helpful and informative. Thanks for recommending it. I also watched your live class on polarising filters. Again, very helpful. Now I can’t wait to see your new classes regarding highly reflective paintings. I followed many photography courses overs the years and I’m glad to say that yours have greater breadth and depth. Thanks again,

  3. Stephan Jarvis

    Hi Karl. I’m going to be doing this for the first time this weekend for a client, so this was very useful information. Thank you! Quick question, how did you get all the grey cards to display in one shot at 22:03?

    1. Hi, they weren’t all there, our video editor just did this to make it easier for people to understand what I was talking about rather than flicking back and forth to each of the four shots.

  4. Hello Karl
    I really enjoyed this class but could you please tell me why you used P70’s instead of softboxes. I appreciate your help in all these matters
    Many thanks
    Michael Hogan

  5. Hello Karl and team, question about modifiers, I will have to shoot in a tiny space where the paintings are located, so I cannot move the lights that far. You mentioned a para (and that is not an option right now), is it a strip box or softbox recommended or p70 is still the best option?

  6. and looks like I had a brainfart when typing so one sentence is very odd… it should read:

    “By using video lights (no idea of CRI but should be somewhere around 96 maybe) I can look at the product under the same light the picture is taken”

  7. Hi Karl & team!

    Question about color accuracy. I’ve been struggling with this for a while now, I simply cannot match the colors of my product e.g. painting with the colors shown on my monitor.


    1) color calibrated my monitor with proper tools to the proper ambient kelvin temperature in my studio(roughly 5500k in this case)
    2) color calibrated my lens+camera body with a color checker passport with a custom ICC profile with the same ambient lighting
    3) taken a proper WB measurement from the color checker passport
    4) taken a test shot with the ambient light so that the picture on the monitor and the product in my hand are both looked at under the same lighting (no mixed lighting, all pure 5500k lights)

    The reason I talk about ambient light is that the modelling lights are roughly 2800k while flash is around 5400k give or take. So this might affect our eyes when looking at the product in real life vs. looking at one on the monitor. I have the same issue when comparing a shot taken with flash and no ambient light.

    so my question is….wth is wrong when after all these steps I’m still seeing a clear tint difference between the product in my hand and the product photo on the monitor. I COULD edit the photo to look like the product in my hand, but I’m afraid I’ll make things worse.

    The images are goin mainly for web use, so I KNOW that the colors will be all over the place when people look at them on different monitors. However, I want to solve this issue for myself.


    1. Also the monitor itself is a Asus Proart monitor with 99,5% adobe rgb coverage.

    2. Hi Antti, my answers in relation to your numbers:
      1. Which monitor? Maybe it’s not good enough is my first question.
      2. OK sounds as if this would be appropriate but are you sure your lighting matches, you mentioned ambient light, I wouldn’t be using ambient light to capture reproductions
      3. Good
      4. Yes but if this isn’t studio flash you are using how good is the CRI of the lights, are they LED, HMI? If you are doing this with LED what other light is in the room, do you have a completely black room with these lights off?
      5. OK so it is flash based on your last comment, why do mention ambient light? Turn the modelling lights off or check that without the flash trigger on but using the same camera settings that your camera is not picking up any light at all. Once you have confirmed these details we can move on to the next step of checking.

      1. Hi Karl!

        Sorry it took ages to respond to this.

        Reason why I mentioned ambient light was because I did these calibrations twice. Once for flash photography and a second time with just Aputure video lights. As with flash photography I’m not looking at the physical product under flash lighting but ambient (which affects our perception of color). By using video lights (no idea of CRI but should be somewhere around 96 maybe, otherwise the studio was completely blacked out, so no light pollution. Around f9 1/200s shutter iso 100 there was pretty much no ambient getting into the from the modelling lights either…So yeah, I’m at a complete loss with this one.

        1. Hi, yes well that is confusing. If you tested a shot without your flash trigger and the modelling lights on and the image was black then you would have no light pollution from ambient or your modelling lights. The LED aputure lights are a good CRI so would have given similar colour to flash.

          1. Ok so I spent a few hours troubleshooting this. For now what solved it was to calibrate the monitor to 6500k sRGB. Even tho the ambient was 5500ish K with the Aputure lights the screen just looked too warm even to my eye. 6500k seemed to give far more accurate colors.

            I’ll need to test calibrating the monitor to Adobe RGB or DCI-P3 and see if that get even better results with that.

            Cheers and happy holidays to you all!

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