Photographing Blacklight Art

I started making blacklight art back in 2011 – and it took me a little while to figure out how to photograph it, so I thought I’d share what I’ve learned.

When I take photos now, I zoom in close and shake my head at anything that doesn’t look super sharp, but then I remember how terrible my photos used to be.   This old blacklight photo of Copulashroom is one of the better ones I took back then, and it’s really not very good.

copulashroom_uv

Part of the problem was the camera I was using, which I’ve mentioned in a previous post was a little outdated.  The quality was lower, but also, the features I needed to control were harder to access.   In order to change them, you had to click a menu button, scroll through the tabs, then down to the correct row, click that, and you’d be able to edit.  I spent a lot of time scrolling through and just not seeing the thing I was looking for.  I found it frustrating, and often just didn’t bother.

Notably, the phone I have now (Google Pixel) is one of the best for low light photography, and I haven’t been disappointed.  It’s worth mentioning that the light weight of a phone is an asset – your hands are less likely to shake, compared to a heavier DSLR.  So if that’s what you’ve got, definitely give it a try.

I have a lower end DSLR I bought more recently makes the important features easily accessible:

  • ISO (shutter speed)
  • Aperture

For a decent photo in low lighting (such as UV), you want a wider aperture, and a higher shutter speed.  The exact combination is dependant on the amount of light on the subject (how many lights, how powerful they are, how close they are).  I have 4 small tube fluorescents,  and moving one a few feet can have a pretty big impact.  I’m working with a new space, so it took me a few tries to get it right.

blurrs

To be fair, I actually kind of like some of these mistakes.  In the ones above, the shutter speed was slow enough that I moved, so there is more than one image in there.  It’s a neat effect that I’d like to explore more, when I have the time.

 

I had a few that showed too much noise – graininess, that I didn’t like very much.  The shutter was fast enough, but the aperture was too wide – so it’s almost like there’s too much detail –  light shining off dust motes in the air, or whatever.

DSC_0023

This last one turned out pretty well – I used f4.5 and ISO 6400.  it’s pretty smooth – at least in the face.  With patience, I should be able to tweak the settings to make it even sharper, and remove the double exposures around the flowers.

I’ve actually tried asking professionals who photograph art to help me out with this, but I guess it’s too much of a niche thing.  So I guess I’ll have to become my own professional.

Any tips?  Feel free to share!

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