Light Tent and Photographing My Small Paintings (Equipment)

Taking photos of my small 20cm x 20cm canvas paintings using a 50cm light tent. 

20081111 light tent and painting set up

50cm light photo tent set up with household desk lamps and digital SLR on tripod

Here my 50cm light tent (photo tent) set up for the first time. Using 2 household lamps with low energy daylight bulbs – nothing special just ordinary lamps.

20081111  light tent and painting

Light tent (50cm) with 20cm square box canvas inside

Photo of canvas in the light tent taken with Nikon D40 digital SLR …

20081111 light tent with nikon d40

Canvas in light tent taken with digital SLR Nikon D40 with manual settings for exposure

… and then same thing taken with a point and shoot digital (Canon Ixus I Zoom) …

20081111 light tent painting with canon ixus i zoom

Canvas in light tent with digital point and shoot (Canon Ixus I Zoom)

The first DSLR image is a lot brighter than the digital point and shoot and closer to the original colours on the canvas.  Of course I have a lot more control over settings on the DSLR for aperture and exposure which makes a big difference.

Later I edited the DSLR photo in photoshop and took out the white tent to replace with a solid white background. So it went from creased tent to solid white …

20081111 light tent with nikon d40

Photo of canvas in light tent taken with digital SLR

hanging around with pete polar bear - straight on

Photo after editing in Photoshop to remove background


I couldn’t find a lot about people talking about using light tents to take photos of art canvases but it worked really week for me and was a lot less hassle to set up than when I have tried to take photos outside on good daylight.  As well as being able to control the light, it also helps to use a light tent with varnished or glossy finished paint like acrylics as you can get glare of the surface of the finished canvas.

I won’t be able to use this for larger canvas paintings because I don’t think I’ll be able to produce enough light to light the tent withut buying studio lights.

I decided to buy a 50cm light tent off ebay (for about £15) rather than make one at home because I wanted to be able to easily store it and for it to take up as little space as possible.  Plus I needed an easy option as my energy is limited by my illness.


Update 24 Nov 2008:

I got this advice on a comment on Flickr

if you get reflections try using a polarising filter, and for bigger canvases use outside on an even lit day. If you can use two polarisers, (called cross polarising), this gives accutate colour rendition and no reflections. Its how we used to do it in my days in the advertising studio with film cameras, it worked, I have never tried it with digital

Thanks to ecoartist chris for the advice!

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Posted in Art, Artist, Discovery, Equipment, Experiment, Photography
9 comments on “Light Tent and Photographing My Small Paintings (Equipment)
  1. cusp says:

    What a funky little set up. Never seen one of these before. Now I know what to put on my Christmas list.

  2. Tanya says:

    I love seeing other people’s photography set-ups 🙂

  3. […] I’ve been reading: Light tent and photographing my small paintings by RachelCreative I love the rain by Nessa Just because by […]

  4. Cusp – It’s great for macro photography apparently. And they come in smaller (and larger!) sizes.

    Tanya – Oh no! You’re a proper photographer! How embarrassing to show off my low tech set up ;o)

  5. mudspice says:

    Great tutorial! I love the way the photos turned out with the light tent. Thanks for the great advice!

  6. A proper photographer indeed 🙂 I want one of those

  7. Carol says:

    In the stage where you cleaned up the background in photoshop you lost a lot of the detailed brushstrokes, particularly in the red areas. If that were my painting I would ask for a reshoot.

  8. Yes I’m still learning. I need to perfect my technique perhaps!!

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Rachel Groves, Artist
Lichfield, Staffordshire, UK



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