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AAARRRGGG! Getting photo to look as closely as possible to real art


I can tell the difference in these two images when I compare them side by side. But I still love them both and am drawn to the painting regardless of the subtle variations in color. I’ll bet the original is fantastic!

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Thank you Marilyn! It is one of my faves. :slight_smile:

Hi @Thierry_Monter, Wow, I will try this today. And will that give me the color profile to be embedded? So the proper colors come out at the printer? Or do I need the printer’s color profile?

Hello Sunny,

It will only correct the color balance in Photoshop.

The color profile is a totally diferent thing :smile:

  • first you have to determine a profile for your picture
  • then to manage your printer settings so it will use this same color profile…
  • third to have a calibrated monitor (so you see real colors on it…)
    and then to hope that the print will match what you have seen on your computer… small differences on each stage can add up and the final result could be VERY different from the original… But you have more chances to have a correct result.


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Apologies for chiming in so late. I have a lot of experience with this subject having a career as a graphic designer for 30+ years. I assume the photos of your paintings are excellent [high resolution, sharp lens, wide dynamic range [bits per pixel], evenly lit, white balanced, etc]. If not, your images will be problematic right from the start. Laptop & mobile device screens should never be used for color correction or to photograph your work with. Pick your best monitor that is not a CRT and calibrate it. Also, it would be extremely helpful to have Adobe Photoshop or Lightroom or Apple’s Aperture software. If you do, then you can assign a Color Profile to the image. This will embed code in the file that display monitors can read which helps to get homogeneous color accuracy across different screens and applications.

The calibration device you mentioned is overkill in my opinion. Unless you’re doing work that needs 4+ color (CMYK) ink process printing or very high-end digital prints like Giclée it isn’t worth it. If you have a fairly new LED or LCD monitor with high resolution and a wide color gamut & contrast ratio, obtaining decent color accuracy shouldn’t be problematic. That being said, it will be accurate only on your screen. It will not look exactly the same somewhere else. Research the specifications that Cafe Press requires. They should say something about what color profile to use, resolution, file type, etc. If your paintings are only for the screen (like here on DPW) then sRGB is the color profile to use.

Hope this helps.

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Some good advice, except for “you problem has no solution”. If that were the case no one would be successful in getting color accuracy, and there are too many success stories that have discovered solutions.

Well, I sent the Spyder calibrator back. It made the screen green so either it didn’t work or I am an idiot. I’m going with, it didn’t work.

I am thoroughly over my head and am throwing in the towel. I will try the RT art printers, by sending them the actual piece just to see how that works out. I don’t have anything really worth printing. I did just want some cute items from Cafe Press but have given that up as well. I am sad about that but I do appreciate all of the good advice. I find that I am just not up to the task.

Thanks again!

Thanks Thierry, for your help.
The gray card seems like a great solution for color correction.

I’ve got another issue though: even though I use a light diffuser, I still get reflections on parts of my paintings, depending on the direction of the light source and the brushstrokes, especially when the painting is still wet. I usually wait a few days to photograph it, but this doesn’t always help. While sometimes it’s nice to have a bit of reflection on the brushstrokes, for portfolio presentation it’s more common to not show the thickness of the brushstrokes too prominently.

I don’t use flash but decrease the shutter speed and have my camera mounted on a tripod.
I use a diffuser (white umbrella) to diffuse the light I’m using.
The light is put on an angle (I don’t have room for a 2-light setup in my studio).

Do you have any other tips on reducing reflections?

Use a polarizing filter. Covered in the article I posted.

Thanks Connie.
He does mention a polarizer filter is essential.
I didn’t have one yet, but I just ordered one for the lens I usually use to photograph my work.
Thnaks a lot for your help.

A polarizing filter can work to remove reflections. However, it also reduces the f-stop (light coming through the lens), so you really need a tripod and possibly bracket multiple exposures. If possible, always shoot in RAW format to adjust color and tones.

Hi Johan

A polarizing filter could help, but it’s not the best solution. Ideally, you need 2 lights put at 45°. This kind of lighting will help to remove reflections. The best solution it’s still undirect light => using a lightbox is the best solution. You can find cheap ones on the web or better, DIY solutions.


Hey Rafael and Thierry,

thanks a lot for your help.
I’ve been playing with the polarizing filter and it does help a lot, but not for all paintings I tried photographing.
I noticed it’s indeed reducing the incoming light into the lens, so it does force me to use slower shutter speed, but that’s ok as I got a good tripod. I have one umbrella to diffuse the light. I will consider getting a 2nd one but I’d have to reorganise my studio as it’s quite small.

I also noticed that when photographing my children, for example, this polarizing filter really helps in reducing the excessive highlights (as in white shapes) on shiny objects like chairs etc, so I’m really happy with this purchase.
I’ll continue to play as it’s fun to learn these kind of things.
Thanks again for your help!

Edit: forgot to mention that I now use a gray card as well to improve colors on my photographs.
Works like a charm with photoshop so I can advise anyone to use it too!

Sunny, I think your images look really good! The one thing I notice when I look at all the thumbnails on DPW is that the paintings with (1) a lot of contrast and (2) a lot of bright color attract attention. If the values are too close together in the thumbnail, I just move on. I’ve also noticed a square format painting looks better as a thumbnail because of the aspect ratio – it fits better in the small space. I don’t have a fancy camera – just a Cannon pocket camera, but I take my photos outdoors on the patio (in the shade). I find that gets the best results for color. Since I can’t control the monitor used to view my paintings, I try to work on what I can control.

Wow, great information, thanks for sharing.

Getting true color reproduction is a challenge.

As far as getting true color on a computer screen I think of it as going to a retail store and looking at a wall full of TV screens each one will have slightly different hues. Trying to control something you have limited control over can be frustrating.

Printing is another beast. If you want true color for your final output it can be done with some thought and effort and $$.

All the suggestions above a great, very helpful.

thank you stevie! I’ve taken to just using the iphone and ramping saturation slightly.

I used to use the scanner from my printer for getting a good likeness but have found a way to change my studio lighting and use my camera indoors. See another thread on studio lighting for this:

I read about a cheap “lightbox”. Buy a deep, see through storage container (think Walmart), a large piece of foamcore to reflect light, place a sturdy, large sheet of watercolor or pallet paper inside the box, place your painting inside the box, in front of the paper (assuming it’s a small painting). Use a tripod…and shoot!
sorry for the length of this post. :blush:

Ahh thank you so much that finally worked for my photos on this gallery website. Before there would be what I would describe as a colour cast over the images. Glad I finally sorted it!

I wish I could do hyper real painting but I don’t think that is in the cards for me.