About two years ago, I had no idea how to reproduce my work. I did work in college that was usually fit for a scanner, but the large oil paintings I was creating in the professional world were not. Frustrated and desperate, I wrote to Roberto Parada, a successful and famous illustrator who paints with oils. I wanted to know a) if he photographed his own work, and b) if so, how he did it.
Shockingly, he wrote back. He listed all his supplies and described his entire process. It was a long e-mail, and must have taken a long time to write. With that act of generosity, he solved all my photography problems. I will always be thankful for Mr. Parada's help, and he is on my short list of people who have made it possible for me to be an illustrator.
So here's the photo setup. I've got the Canon EOS with a Macro Lens on the tripod. The four Lowel Tota lamps with 500W halogen bulbs at clamped to the lamp stands. They are tilted as much as I can so that the light shines across the canvas from each of the four corners. When I only had two lamps, I used 750W bulbs shining from either side. Four lamps work much better.
Once the lights are on, I can adjust them to reduce glare on the painting. I set the camera aperture to 2.8, and usually shoot a range of shutter speeds from 1/50 to 1/25.
In order the get the highest resolution in the digital image, I have to take photos of the top and bottom half of the painting, then merge the two halves in Adobe Photoshop (a pain in the butt). As a result, I have make sure the camera is the same distance from the painting in both the top and bottom shots. I made a cheap pendulum out of string and a Sharpie which I tied below the camera. I mark the spot where the pendulum hangs when I take the top photo, then I adjust the legs of the tripod and match the pendulum to the spot on the floor before taking the bottom photo. If my tripod was better, I could make the vertical adjustments without moving the tripod legs. One day I'll make that investment.
Once the photos are taken, I can send the originals to the client. I wrap it up in tracing paper first. Then I cut up a cardboard box to fit the 18"x 24" format, which usually doesn't make the box look great, but with enough tape it works fine. After a layer of bubble wrap around the pieces, I close up the box and it's set to go to FedEx.
Then I cross my fingers and hope it gets all the way to Washington with no problems.