Photographing Artwork


A picture in a picture, or better yet a photo from a picture. It sounds simple yet can be intriguing to find suitable subjects from another picture . More specifically from paintings or any printed material. The objective is to find a suitable subject, scene or any other element that will be a good photographic composition which is found within a piece of art.

If you want a clearer sample of what this theme involves pretend that you visit the Sistine Chapel in Rome or see a beautiful stained glass panel at your local church. You notice a portion detail of a much larger painting that you find interesting and appealing, you focus on just that small portion and snap the shot. This is the essence of this theme.

Selecting the right part is difficult enough not to mention that you may not be able to record the image anyway but this will be largely dependent on the painting's location such as those found in museums. Yet there are a large number of paintings that are found in public places, in friend's houses, malls, at work, stores, your own house and so on.

Bear in mind that we are not referring to the act of interposing an old photograph into a new scene and photographing the new composition which includes both images and it is usually used to compare how things were as to how they are. This is a different technique.

Once you locate a painting that appeals to you or one in which you see a potential image, then carefully select the aspects of that painting that you wish to record and compose your photograph. You are not to reproduce the complete painting with your photography, that would be something else like for a museum purpose in restoration efforts. Your topic is to find a subject inside of a subject.

Let's say that you come upon a painting that has images of a mountain, with nice tall green trees and beautiful river and some deer quietly grazing in the foreground. You decide that the deer will make up your subject and that is what you will record with your photos.

You will need a lens that allows you to get in close, a diffuser for you flash and probably a tripod. If the painting is enclosed within glass then the best alternative is to either take the painting put the lens very close to the glass or take the glass cover off and being very careful not to capture reflections, thus you will not be using a flash unit or any other light source other than ambient light.

You will also need to be observant of your angle. Off course all of this can be avoided by photographing a painting not enclosed in glass. This projects serves two main purposes; the first is that it allows you to expand your photographic prowess, develops your techniques and lets you continue taking photos. The second is that it gives you the opportunity of gaining first hand experience of what happens in a museum when the staff wants to record pieces for reference, restoration or insurance.

It also opens the door for future work within the museum industry, the art gallery world and many other art related arenas. As a free lancer just taking photos you get to experiment and you decide on what is worth photographing. In a formal business setting the work becomes rather redundant but nevertheless you must continue to do so to the best of your abilities and your images must be top notch 100% of the time all of the time.

You can also conduct this project by seeking our interesting billboards, advertising and any other medium where there is a scene within a scene. One thing to always keep in mind, if you photograph paintings, even small portions of the painting, they can be protected under copyright, if the scene from the scene allows for the complete work to be recognized by your small capture. This is not so for any advertising which is in public view such as billboards, in fact most companies will welcome the extra publicity.

Nevertheless you need to be aware of what you photograph and your purpose for photographing it. If you are geared towards submitting to photographic stock houses, publications or such, then you may want to consider not recording paintings.

Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0
Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0 | Source
Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0
Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0 | Source

You may want to submit your images to greeting card publishers and to other general photographic publications as well as to art world publications or you can also sell the images as individual pieces of art but keeping the aforementioned caveats in perspective.

A variation is to photograph these scenes within a scene in macro and it follows the same concept as when doing abstract where they would become a study of texture and painting techniques unless off course they are from an advertisement or billboard. However, it is always a good idea to seek permission to use even small portions of the image from its creator and to include the source of the work.

Even if you do not submit these images to any commercial source they are a good subject to use as part of a professional portfolio since it allows buyers and publishers to see your range of work and to evaluate your work on many levels and your understanding and handling of technical issues.

All of this can off course be done digitally such as cropping an image. If you cannot record a portion of your subject then record its entirety and crop later. Remember that the portion that you crop, once it is enlarged will lose details and will never be as sharp as the original from where it was taken. They become the same as a second generation image.

Andy Warhol was very successful in taking such simple subjects like the Campbell soup can and turning them into iconic post modern works of art. Approach your photo work with the same principle in mind.

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Phoebe Pike 5 years ago

Very fascinating hub. I love reading informative hubs especially when the writer has such a unique voice. :)

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LuisEGonzalez 5 years ago from Miami, Florida Author

Phoebe Pike: Thank you and it's intriguing to realize that in your view I have a unique writer's voice. I have not heard that since my college days, you brought back memories. BTW what is your assessment of my style/voice?

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Lynn S. Murphy 5 years ago

This is an interesting twist on paintings and Phoebee is correct about voice. Luis you have an autoritative, confident voice in that you know what your talking about.

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LuisEGonzalez 5 years ago from Miami, Florida Author

Lynn; Thank you. That's interesting, I thought my writer's voice was more of a casual style...good observation

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PurvisBobbi44 5 years ago from Florida


Thanks again for the lesson, I have learned so much from you. You explain so eloquently. Your hubs are amazing, and thanks so mych for sharing.


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LuisEGonzalez 5 years ago from Miami, Florida Author

PurvisBobbi44: Well thank you very much, your comments are always appreciated

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randomcreative 5 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

I love the idea of experimenting with this both physically and digitally!

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LuisEGonzalez 5 years ago from Miami, Florida Author

randomcreative: Thank you and I wrote a hub with a link to one of your articles; "photographing for Online Sales " hope you like it.

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