Photographing Miniature Paintings

By Roger and Carmela Arturi Phillips

When we published our book ‘The Arturi Phillips Collection’ in 2010 we wrote that when we started collecting, we had no experience in photographing miniatures. It was our desire to study our miniatures and get to know the painting styles and techniques of artists that encouraged us to get involved with digital photography.

At that time digital photography was in its infancy but today there are many cameras that are reasonably priced, far more sophisticated and capable of producing excellent photographs with just ‘point and shoot’. Things like exposure, focus and white balance are all taken care of by the camera in its automatic mode but there are still a few things that need to be considered.

Normally a camera will not focus if you are too close to the miniature unless it has a ‘macro’ mode.

We have been using a Nikon camera (Coolpix P330) for some time for a quick point and shoot photograph.

The camera has a ‘macro’ mode shown as a tulip. By selecting this you can focus very close to the miniature.

This as close to the miniature before the camera is unable to focus, about six inches.

When the macro is selected on the camera it is able to be as close as an inch and show the brush strokes and detail of the miniature. There is some reflection from the glass in front of the miniature.

The signature and date can be photographed close up in macro mode.

Nowadays most people take photos with their smartphones and the quality is very good. They are excellent for keeping images of your collection as it grows.

Photograph taken with a Smartphone.

If you want to take close ups you can buy a lens clip with a macro lens. This clips over the phone lens and it will take photos in focus within one inch from the miniature.

To hold the camera steady a small flexible tripod may be used.

One of the most frustrating problems photographing miniatures is glass reflection. The more the curvature of the glass the bigger the problem to eliminate reflections. Even professional photographers have great difficulty with this and all sorts of complicated studio lighting is set up to cope with light rebounding off the glass.

Photographers use what is called diffused light where the light on the miniature is broken up and creates a softer light on the glass.

In this example the camera is held by a tripod and points down into a special light tent with double diffused daylight lights shining into it either side.

The camera is controlled by a connected computer and the image is recorded directly into the computer.

If the glass in front of the miniature can be removed easily then this is the optimum way to get a good image of the miniature.

© Roger And Carmela Arturi Phillips.

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