If you want to make almost 1’600 photographs for an art archive on a single weekend, your workflow must be 100% accurate and have the potential to be repeated thousands of times. That’s what happened in my studio this weekend. For the Walter Oscar Grob Club, I was responsible for the entire production resp. the technical material, required setups as well as the location, which were provided in the same house by Kaufmann Systems AG.

Most critical success factorsRepro work

  • Efficiency
    Due to the massive amount of images, only 35 seconds per artwork was available. During this time, the images had to be placed and photographed 100% centred, parallel and horizontal to the sensor axis. Every single piece has to meet the high demands of art archives.
  • Repeatability
    Neither the light brightness, its colour, the sharpness, brightness distribution, eventual distortions and polarisation lights were allowed to change over two days. Too much time would then be necessary for individual image adjustments.
  • Centring
    A millimetre paper aligned precisely in the centre of the picture and fixed on the table made it possible to quickly and accurately centre and level the paintings horizontally.
  • Reliability
    Failures of individual components could have messed up the entire time planning. Since the weekend had been planned and prepared over several months, my client placed the highest value on the exclusive use of professional materials.
  • Working height
    Spending two entire days with more than 1’500 paintings, working at the correct working height is absolutely essential for the well-being of your own back. A lifting table, which was precisely positioned with the forklift, helped a lot.
  • Financials
    As the client is a private club of only a few people, financial possibilities are limited. After an intensive evaluation of several photographers, I won the competition because of the best price-performance ratio. 🙂

The Equipment

In addition to the absolute exact component configuration, the equipment I used was largely responsible for the success of the repro photography weekend. The following materials from my studio have been used:

Repro setup

  • Hasselblad X1D-50c camera (medium format, 50 megapixels)
  • Hasselblad XCD 90mm lens (almost no optical distortions)
  • LEE Filter linear 100mm polariser
  • Manfrotto and Foba camera pods
  • Manfrotto MN 410 geared tilt and pan head
  • 2 Elinchrom ELC 500Ws flash heads
  • 2 Elinchrom Rotalux 60x80cm softboxes
  • 2 Elinchrom boom stands
  • Elinchrom EL-Skyport radio control for flash heads
  • Sekonic Litemaster Pro flashlight meter
  • x-rite ColorChecker calibration card
  • TetherTools USB3 extension cord
  • Apple MacMini
  • Hasselblad Phocus software
  • EIZO CG276 calibrated 27″ pro monitor
  • SanDisk SSD storage devices
  • Tristar Turbo Model 1000 wind tunnel (to reduce the crew’s perceived temperature level)

Even though the backside screen of the Hasselblad X1D cannot be deactivated in the tethered shoot (yet?), a battery charge surprisingly lasted for a whole day! In combination with the 90mm XCD lens and the manufacturer’s image software “Phocus”, the required sharpness and imaging performance could be easily and reliably established and controlled via remote connection. The ability to sync with the flashes even at minimum shutter speeds of 1/2000 second (btw. the flash’s burn time was 1/2990 second), make the use of medium format technology, to avoid ambient light, to an indispensable partner for art reproductions.

The use of Elinchrom ELC’s has also paid off. Spread over the entire day with over 2 flashes per minute at 172 W/s, the ELC’s proved even with activated modelling light still outstanding colour fidelity of +/- 100 Kelvin.

Repro setup from aboveIn some works processed with oil and other shiny materials a polarisation filter applied to the lens helped to avoid reflections resp. bright spots.

The biggest challenge

The biggest challenge was to create a distortion-free perspective camera setup. Even the smallest deviation in one axis leads to trapezoidal distortions of the reproductions in one or both dimensions. For example, if the camera is panned half a degree (0.5°) to minimise distortion effects with a camera/table distance of approximately 3 meters, the centre of the image must already be moved by 2.7cm. It was essential to fine-tune this because the artist, drowned in mysterious circumstances in 2000, had placed a high value on the margins of his works. The used geared head offered the required precision for adjustments in all three axes.

The top material in combination with the seamless planning, made it possible to do the very ambitious project in even less time than intended!

In the end, we produced almost 170 gigabytes of imagery and had 34 seconds per image (1 second faster than planned) including setup and breaks. 🙂

And here is one of the final repros including a wasp flying over it, captured at a 1/2990 second:

Bee flys over painting