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What's A Good Digital Camera For Taking Pics Of Paintings

Posted by: Roz Abellera on 02/08/2013 - 10:31 PM

Recommend me a cheap but good quality camera for taking pictures of paintings. I'm not looking for anything too pricey, I'm kind of on a budget.


Oldest Reply

Posted by: Dan Carmichael on 02/09/2013 - 2:54 AM

What is that budget?


Posted by: Mary Ellen Anderson on 02/09/2013 - 3:15 AM

I also have this question Dan. Have nikon AF lenses but no digital body (35mm is F4).
What body would you recommend for the following budgets: $1000, 2000, 3000


Posted by: John Ayo on 02/09/2013 - 3:21 AM

On an ongoing basis or just a single batch of works?

If the latter, you might look into renting a better rig than you could afford to buy. (Bonus: you wouldn't be locked into 2013 tech until you can afford an upgrade.)

Alternately, you could buy an affordable camera for initial shots (and other uses) and periodically rent a high-quality rig to upgrade your shots en masse.

Just a thought.


Posted by: John Ayo on 02/09/2013 - 3:24 AM

Also, depending on the size and medium of your paintings, you may well get much better results from a relatively (to a camera that would give the same results) inexpensive flatbed scanner.

Update: Just took a peek at your gallery. Those pencil drawings could definitely be scanned, and would come out much better, with the paper texture and tack-sharp lines. (Scanners these days could probably bring out the larger grains of graphite and fibers in the paper.)


Posted by: Judy Kay on 02/09/2013 - 7:25 AM

This camera got a rave review from cnet : priced from $439.00 - 539.00


Posted by: Margaret Saheed on 02/09/2013 - 7:36 AM

I photograph my small paintings, and take all my other photographs with a Panasonic Lumix (an earlier model to the one Judy mentions above - DMC FZ40) and get excellent results.


Posted by: Mary Ellen Anderson on 02/09/2013 - 4:21 PM

Would you guys take a peek at my gallery and tell me if scanning would be better? These were taken with a nikon d800e I believe. I range in brush technique so much (totally smooth to heavy knife/fine detail - often paint with toothpicks), work in oils, glazing... you name it. If it causes an issue I've got it going. Thanks.


Posted by: Joseph Baril on 02/09/2013 - 5:36 PM

Gopro cameras.


Posted by: Catherine Howard on 02/09/2013 - 5:43 PM

Definitely an Epson Flatbed scanner is by far the best for paintings... easier and more accurate for artwork. I was just given an older one... 48bit... which is awesome for picking up accurate colour and the depth of the layers... and they are not expensive! If anyone wants to know the process that I do .... I would be happy to reprint the (long) tutorial that I put on Painterly Fine Art discussion.


Posted by: Roz Abellera on 02/09/2013 - 9:37 PM

Yes Catherine please reprint it. Also what model # of scanner is that Epson that you use, I'm very interested.

Thank you to everybody for your recommendations, a lot of great info!


Posted by: Catherine Howard on 02/09/2013 - 9:56 PM

Okay... the following may sound complicated but it really isn't once you have done it a few times.. and a scanned image will always be better than a photo of the artwork. I scan directly into Photoshop 7 and am using their photostitch program but am hoping to buy the Epson stitching software, which will make the process almost foolproof. Any flatbed scanner will do the job, even a small 8 1/2 X 11 one.. but the larger the bit size the better. I have a 48 bit scanner which in effect penetrates the layers of paint and picks up all the fine detail. It is very important to scan at a minimum of 300dpi but not to increase the scanned size of the image ..ever! After stitching the image together... and still in photoshop... I look at the actual pixels to ensure that there are no seams or pixels showing from the stitching and also to check all the edges in order to crop as closely as possible. If anyone has any questions, I will be more than happy to answer them... if I can... so fire away!

How to Scan Artwork With A Flatbed Scanner
You need a flat bed scanner installed and connected to a computer system.
Before use, carefully clean the scanner glass with a damp cloth or glass cleaner and dry.
Put the print face down on the glass. Ensure that the actual print area is parallel to the edges of the scanner.
Start the scanner software. On some scanners there is a scan button, or there may be an import function on your images processing software, or a separate scanner program.
If your scanner software does not automatically run a preview, do so (unless you are using VueScan - see tips.)
If your picture is skewed, line it up better and repeat the preview.
On the preview, use the mouse to outline the desired scan area.
If you are going to use Photoshop (or other image manipulation), scan all images as 'millions of colours'. Otherwise use this for colour and grey scale for black and white.
Adjust the scanner resolution to give an appropriate file size in pixels. For printing, scan to get 300 pixels per inch of final print size. For web, create a scan with largest side around 900 pixels.
Try the auto-exposure button if there is one in the software, then adjust brightness and contrast if needed. On some scanners, resetting to default will give good results.
For colour pictures, set any colour controls to the default values unless you are scanning direct to a printer.
If your scanner has a setting that allows you to improve shadow separation, use it.
Scan the images, saving in TIFF, BMP or PCX, but not as JPEG.
See the related 'How to's' for what to do with your scan next.

Always set the size measurement on the software to read in pixels when making a scan, unless you are scanning direct to a printer.
Third-party scanning software may produce better results than that supplied by the scanner manufacturer.
Never scan at a higher resolution than the actual optical resolution of your scanner. Never use any 'sharpen' command in the scanner software.

Scanning Work Larger Than Your Scanner
Take the cover off the scanner
Place painting face down on scanner.
Scan in the first quarter at at least 300dpi, preferably higher, taking great care to align the artwork squarely.
Continue to scan all 4 quarters with exactly the same settings and again, taking great care to align the artwork squarely.
Open each of the quarters of the painting in Photoshop.
To remove any canvas pattern etc. optionally: Apply Filter -> Blur -> Gaussian blur, have the radius at between 5 - 10 pixels
If you scanned at more than 300dpi, reduce each quarter to 25%

Go to Image Go to Image Size - the window will look like this (Note: Make sure that Constrain - Proportions box is checked:

Image Window
Change inches to percentage by pressing the triangle next to the word inches.
Change Width to read 25% (when the Proportions box is checked, both the width and height will be reduced by 25%.
Press OK.

Make each of the quarters 25%.
If necessary, go to Image - Rotate - and select the correct number of degrees so that it will be right side up.
Now it is time to put your painting together. Go to Image - Canvas Size - Change the width to 5 inches and the height to 6 inches. This will give you enough room to assemble the painting.
Next, add 3 more layers to the image, one for each of the quarters. Make sure the Layers Palette is open.
If it isn't, go to "Window - Palettes - Show Layers" to open it.
Press the triangle until the menu pops out and choose New Layer.

Using the Marquee tool, move the Bottom Left Side of the painting to the bottom left side of the screen.
Copy each of the remaining quarters and paste it into its own layer in your assembled image file.
You can now move around each of the quarters until they all match up with each other by selecting the layer that it is on and using the Move Tool (Hint: You can use the arrow keys

to move each section by a very small amount).
When you are happy that all the quarters line up, go back to the Layers Paletter and Press the triangle again. This time choose "Flatten Image" and your quarters will now be pasted together.

At this point, you can handle this image like any others you have edited, however you might need to trim it a little, sharpen it, adjust the colors, change the size to fit your web page, etc.

Which Scanner To Buy

Scanner technology is improving all the time, so it's difficult to keep current with recommendations. Apart from following recommendations, the main factors to consider are the optical resolution and Bit Depth, but any new scanner is likely to be able to produce acceptable results.


Posted by: Leah Saulnier The Painting Maniac on 02/09/2013 - 9:58 PM

we use a Canon Rebel 18meg


Posted by: Catherine Howard on 02/09/2013 - 9:58 PM

Any of the Epson Photo Perfection models will work fine... and should be under $200.00 ... legal size and at least 48bit is best.


Posted by: Catherine Howard on 02/09/2013 - 10:01 PM

Two small corrections to the above... I do as little manipulation to the actual scan as possible and I don't know why they said to not do jpeg... mine are all scanned in jpeg.


Posted by: Mary Ellen Anderson on 02/09/2013 - 10:56 PM

Here is the link to the epson scanners Catherine suggest. Catherine with oil paints, and heavy texture is there a recommended model for me?


Posted by: Catherine Howard on 02/10/2013 - 12:08 AM

@ Mary Ellen.... I meant to tell you that if you look at my latest painting... Moon Rise Love Song ... in the green box... a lot of it was done with a knife... heavy texture, and it came out perfectly with my old Epson... you can really see the texture and the depth of colour elsewhere. Any Epson Photo Perfection will work fine... just keep in mind the specs. of minimum 48 bit and preferably legal size.

Photography Prints


Posted by: Jamie Frier on 02/10/2013 - 12:53 AM

This is going to sound like a really dumb question, but here goes. Can you use a scanner without using Photoshop or any other complicated photo software and still get good results? I really struggle getting good images with my Nikon Coolpix 14 megapixal camera. I'm not a photographer and don't want to spend a lot of money on a new camera. I'm pretty much a 'point and shoot' person (which is probably why I don't get the results I want). Am desperately looking for an alternative to my camera.


Posted by: EricaMaxine Price on 02/10/2013 - 1:00 AM

I've bought a few cameras from ebay, never had a problem. Buy from someone who has sold quite a bit.

Pretty great prices!


Posted by: Jamie Frier on 02/10/2013 - 1:06 AM

Also, are 'flatbed scanners' the same as the scanner I use on my printer (Epson Stylus NX515)?


Posted by: John Ayo on 02/10/2013 - 6:13 AM

Every time a jpeg is saved, an angel cries there is at least a little loss of detail, which is cumulative if you save more than once (and that includes the initial scan if scanning to a file to be subsequently opened by your image editing software.) When saving intermediate/working copies use a lossless format such as tiff or, probably, your image editing software's native format, and save jpg for the final published copy if jpg is what's called for.

Tip: when cleaning your scanner with glass cleaner, spray it on the cloth, not the glass. (Even if the cleaner doesn't leak inside and damage the electronics or leave residue on the optics, some could seep in between the glass and housing to be later soaked up by the edges of your art.)

Also, if you wish to make prints available larger than the original art, scan them at higher resolution, such as 600dpi to print at twice the size.

Also consider scanning at the highest physical resolution available to future-proof your image against improving printing & display technologies. You can always downsize or compress to fit into upload file size restrictions etc., and will still have the higher-resolution scan available later for upgrades, even if you sell or lose the original.


Posted by: Catherine Howard on 02/10/2013 - 10:32 AM

All good advice, John... and I realized afterwards that the original scan is in tiff, sorry for the confusion. I would love to scan at much higher resolutions, however my computer can't handle it! I need a much better computer now to go with my awesome scanner. Sighhhh


Posted by: Bradford Martin on 02/10/2013 - 11:16 AM

Question about scanning. Wouldn't an auto stitching program work as well or better for large images?


Posted by: Roz Abellera on 02/10/2013 - 1:27 PM

Thank you Catherine. I am now seriously considering scanning rather than buying a new digital camera.


Posted by: Catherine Howard on 02/10/2013 - 1:37 PM

@Bradford... after the larger paintings are scanned into the computer, usually in 4 pieces, it is pretty much an auto process for stitching.
@ Roz... if you go ahead with the scanner idea and have any questions, please feel free to contact me... it has been quite a learning curve for me also, but I am very, very happy with the results. I certainly don't have all the answers on scanning but if I don't know, will try and give you some sites that will help.


Posted by: Mary Ellen Anderson on 02/10/2013 - 2:23 PM

Catherine, I want to try this so will get a scanner ordered; but one more question.
You said " I would love to scan at much higher resolutions, however my computer can't handle it! ". What computer limitation is this, memory, hrd drive size? Your images look wonderful, what resolution are they effectively.
Basically, besides the scanner what do we need for our heavily textured art? I did just get a monitor calibrator and that equipment also should be in our tool kit.


Posted by: John Ayo on 02/11/2013 - 8:46 AM

@Catherine: If high-resolution gives your computer fits, but it handles lower resolutions fine, you may just need more memory (RAM). That's usually much cheaper than a new computer, unless you have a very old computer with a memory type not much called for these days and harder to come by.


Posted by: Catherine Howard on 02/11/2013 - 10:35 AM

Thanks again, John... that is what I was thinking of doing... cause I love my laptop...and it is a really good one.

@Mary-Ellen...see John's answer it is memory... but as he said, that is easily fixed.. right now, most of my work is scanned at 300 and the resolution is great... but I would like to try it higher. Hopefully, you have photoshop or something comparable to scan your painting into and stitch there. There is a ton of info here in various discussions about calibrating your computer and epson has some interesting software...some of the scanners come with it. I haven't had a problem with colours not being correct.. I usually print a hard copy for my portfolio and also do my own printing for cards and matted prints ... not a totally accurate test, mind you, because the material you are printing on changes the colour dramatically sometimes.


Posted by: Ken Krug on 02/11/2013 - 11:27 AM

So, what is your budget?


Posted by: Ben Kotyuk on 02/11/2013 - 4:12 PM

I have a Nikon D3100 but I found it has more to do with the lens. A short lens will curve the edges, I use a 200mm telephoto Lens and shoot from across the room at a slow speed to burn in the entire piece. I have to be careful not to shoot through the medium. I looked into large flatbed scanners, they cost way more than a really good camera. I've been working in pastel so I can't use a scanner any way.


Posted by: Roz Abellera on 02/11/2013 - 6:37 PM

To answer the ones asking what my budget is it's $350 and under, but now I'm looking into the scanner option. Thanks everyone :)


Posted by: John Ayo on 02/13/2013 - 8:50 AM

Here's a free open-source stitcher, available for Windows & Mac, that gets good reviews: Hugin
Be sure to check out the gallery


Posted by: Judy Kay on 02/14/2013 - 7:24 AM

I am curious...I have a HP Photosmart 5520 printer with a scan option...the scan size is 8 1/2 by 11" What is the largest painting I could scan and use one of the stitch programs...or is this printer not really designed for that purpose? I primarily have 16x20 and 12x16 paintings...


Posted by: John Ayo on 02/14/2013 - 9:36 AM

It depends on how big a picture you could physically achieve coverage, which will depend on which way the cover opens, The cover, unless it's removable (probably not) will limit how you can position your art on the scanner. If the hinge is along the short side, you could scan sections of up to 22" or so (Double the length, plus however much clearance the hinge gives you) in one dimension, with the other dimension being limited to how many subsections your stitching software can handle. That's if you're unwilling or unable to fold or roll the painting.

Otherwise, you could also roll up the painting as you go, allowing you to potentially scan VERY large works. So long as rolling it face-out won't damage it.


Posted by: Jamie Frier on 02/14/2013 - 1:54 PM

I wondered the same thing about my Epson NX515 printer/scanner. So, I scanned an 8x10 just to see what the quality would be. Not so good. After reading this thread and constantly struggling with good image quality from my Nikon Coolpix 4100, I bought an Epson Perfection V37 flat bed scanner for $74 from Amazon. I downloaded the free Microsoft Image Composite software (

The cover rotates 180 degrees, so it's flat and I was able to scan a 24x30 painting in nine sections. The software magically stitched it all together very quickly. In my opinion, the quality is great. It's 10 times better than the image I had taken with my camera. I'm now in the process of scanning all the paintings I still have in my possession. I hope my 'image problem' emails I get from Dawn with every sale is now a thing of the past.

Photography Prints


Posted by: Roz Abellera on 02/14/2013 - 3:45 PM

Thanks Jamie for that useful information. I think a scanner is the way to go for me.


This discussion is closed.