Cross Polarization

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Skylight Publishing

Specialist artwork photography techniques

Photographing artworks - cross polarization to remove reflections.

Cross Polarization Method

Artwork Photography Guidelines using cross polarization

Any artwork will reflect light off the surface which will tend to cause colour to be less saturated and produce specular highlights, especially on paintings that have been varnished.

To eliminate all these unwanted highlights and produce deep rich colour you need to used a cross polarized lighting method. The principle is this:

  • set up two studio lights with soft boxes to diffuse the light
  • fix polarizing filter sheets over the front of the lights
  • place the lights either side approx 45 degree angles to the artwork
  • use a quality circular polarizing filter on the camera lens
  • use a good quality prime lens and focus the camera
  • with lights on, turn the circular polarizing filter until you see all surface reflections disappear
  • if using flash units, take a few shots turning the filter each time to achieve the above
  • make sure you have set exposure after you do the above
  • There is a consideration you have to make when the artwork contains any refelctive materials, like gold or silver leaf (or gold paint). Using this process all that lovely reflective light is totally removed. You need to employ a different process for this kind of work. Will be described in a forthcoming article.

    Monitor calibration

    Your PC monitor may not be properly calibrated to display correct colour and white balance which will affect how you see images on your screen. It is very common for consumer systems to be overly bright and over saturated for effect. Use this gray scale image below as a gauge. You should be able to see the subtle difference (at least) between X,Y and Z and also A, B and C. Colour should be a neutral gray in all boxes.

    gray scale test


    What is Giclee Printing?

    Originally from a French word (Giclee or Giclée) it means 'little squirt' and refers to squirting fine drops of ink or dye onto paper or canvas. The term is properly applied to fine art giclee prints produced on high quality large format professional inkjet printers specially designed to print high quality Fine Art Giclee prints.

    Wolf by Paul Cummings

    Wolf - pastel painting by Paul Cummings

    Providing a quality fine art printing service in the South West, we are based in Calne, Wiltshire (near Bath, Bristol, Swindon, Chippenham, Marlborough, Devizes) and within easy reach of Newbury, Reading, Hungerford, Cheltenham, London and the South West, exiting the M4 at Jn15 or Jn16.


    Artist and Photographers using our services...
    The quality of the prints is excellent, with really good colour, and much better than anything I've had previously from other bureaus... Thanks once again Gordon for a truly superb job you made of my prints. We are so pleased
    The quality of prints on the archival art papers I get from Skylight Publishing has transformed the way I feel about my work and the way others relate to it. I really appreciate the time and care Gordon takes to ensure I get the best possible results.