Photographing a picture frame

We’re taking a brief break from my mommy-blogging to take a look at some Photoshop finagling that I did this morning.

I just completed a Custom Shadow Box project and wanted to get a photo of the box that was relatively presentable to email to the client (and perhaps use it in a future update to my gallery).

The big challenge for me was getting a good photo of the shadow box without catching my reflection of me taking the photo. First, I tried leaning the shadow box back against a fabric background, angled against the ceiling. My initial thought was that since the ceiling was white and lacked objects on it, that there wouldn’t be weird object reflections. Unfortunately, what I really ended up with was a white sheen over the glass which wouldn’t go away despite many attempts in Photoshop.

While Photoshop can do wonders, it unfortunately can’t compensate for some “bad photography.” Back to the drawing board… er… camera.

So what I really needed was a black background that wouldn’t reflect light back onto the glass. Unfortunately, large swathes of black fabric are a scarce item at our place. Next best – a black sweatshirt, which I forced Steve to hold at awkward angles to try to get the right coverage. The sweatshirt wasn’t quite big enough, so I took two pictures with him holding the sweatshirt at different heights while I tried to keep the camera still (too lazy to set up a tripod):

You can see Steve’s fingers, over the edge of the sweatshirt, in the right top corner reflection of this photo below:

I did some Photoshop magic to overlap the two pictures. Laying one photo directly over the other in two separate layers, I set the top layer to “Difference” mode, then moved the layers until the whole thing was almost black. For each pixel in a photo, difference mode takes the RGB value of one layer and subtracts it from the second layer – so if the pixels are the same, you end with R:0 G:0 B:0,” aka black.

After lining up the layers, I added a layer mask to the top layer and painted out the reflections.

The next step was using Photoshop’s Lens Distortion filter to straighten out the photo. Given the angle of the original photos, above, I was pretty impressed that Photoshop could twist my shadow box so that it looked like I’d taken the photo almost head-on. It’s not perfect, of course, but you’d probably never know at first-glance!

A few Levels and Hue/Saturation adjustment layers added to lighten things up and make the flowers more true to their actual colors (my camera tends to oversaturate reds), a few passes at sharpening the photo using the unsharp mask filter, and I ended up with a fairly presentable photo of the shadow box:

5 thoughts on “Photographing a picture frame

  1. Wow, that is sure a lot of work. People don’t really think about all the trouble and bother that goes into getting a good photo. I remember once when I was crouching on the floor in the bathroom between the toilet and the wall (because it had good lighting) to take a picture of some items, thinking, This has gone toooooo far!!!

  2. Hi PK – That’s a good long-term solution (although perhaps not as cheap as getting black cloth); I was in a time crunch, though, so I’m glad Photoshop + black sweatshirt worked for me!

  3. I am somewhat familiar with assembling frames for but not that familiar with the process of assembling your box… however, here’s the suggestion – since you don’t want the glass surface visible, is there a possibility to remove the glass from equation? Ie. either to remove glass surface (just for the sake of photoshooting) or to take a picture with frame and everything, before you insert the glass surface part? This would save you time fighting with sheen, shadows, etc.

  4. Funny you should mention that! I actually HAD taken the glass out of the frame in order to paint it, but the process of putting it back together was a bit stressful and I didn’t think of taking a photograph before the glass was back in. 🙂 Next time I would definitely take the glass out!

    There are some frames where the glass isn’t removable, though, so it’s nice to know that I can still get a fairly decent picture with Photoshop.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s