Sunday Jun 22, 2003

Picture Perfect

When I was living in California, I knew a photographer who specialized in photographing fine art. He would take 35mm slides of my artworks and I paid him a fee for each slide.

After moving back to the East Coast, I checked the Yellow Pages to find another photographer to take slides of my work. I called a nearby photographer and asked if he had experience taking slides of paintings. He assured me that he did. I brought him 30-paintings and he said he’d have them ready in a few days. I had paid him in advance—$6 dollar per slide, or $180 dollars.

When I returned to his studio, eager to see the results, he handed me two plastic trays with the 35mm slides. I carefully removed a few and put them on a light box. I took out my loop and looked, and then look again. Each image needed to be perfectly centered within the frame. Instead, these images were misaligned, distorted, and the colors were dramatically off. I checked a few more slides and found they were of the same poor quality.

I said: “Did you use a tripod?”

“No, I placed them on the floor and shot them looking down. I have a keen eye,” bragged the inept photographer.

I realized he had conned me and there was no point in discussing this further, and having him do it over would be a waste of time.

I took my 30 artworks and “useless” slides and drove back to my studio where I scrutinized all the slides. Not one was useable. As began thinking about looking for another photographer, I had a smart attack. While it had never occurred to me before, in that moment, I decided I would learn how to take slides of my own artwork. I bought a how-to book on photographing art, a used 35mm camera, a cable release, tripod, plus basic lighting. The equipment, while not state of the art, was mechanically sound. After a few days of focused experimentation and several rolls of slide film, I found the camera’s optimum aperture and speed setting and the correct lighting placement for professional-looking results.

Although the incompetent photographer who hadn’t a clue about photographing art made a few dollars at my expense, he had lost a client. On balance, he didn’t realize that he had done me a great service. Not only was I now in control, my slides were outstanding and my investment in the camera equipment quickly paid for itself.

Today, I mostly use a digital camera to take good quality images of my work.

Buried inside a problem or in a seeming defeat, there is a seed for a solution and success—you need only be aware of it.»

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