Like most artists, I have found a way in the past to make pictures of my work for use online at 72 dpi that I consider to be adequate, if not inspiring. I just take them outside on a bright overcast day, hang them on the barn door and photograph with my moderately good Panasonic DMC-F260 digital camera. After a little cropping and auto color correction with my rudimentary Adobe Elements program, I upload them to my website and that’s that. This worked reasonably well when my largest painting was 3’ x 4’ but when it came to shooting my more recent, larger pieces I have found myself running into problems. The images of the larger pieces were flat and the colors oversaturated -even for use online at a low resolution- missing the rich detail of the originals. They also were somewhat distorted on the edges. So I was intrigued when I heard about RCP in Portland, Michigan, just west of Lansing. They claim to produce extremely high quality images from high resolution scans using their state-of the art equipment. They offered me a free scan to demonstrate, so I decided to try them out.
I arrived at their offices and met Keith Menne, who is in charge of scanning. He demonstrated the process on a painting I had brought. The scanner, which sits in its own large room, is a mammoth piece of equipment which reminded me of a cat-scan machine. The bed is 4 x 6 feet which would allow most of my paintings to be scanned in one operation; larger pieces can be scanned and then “stitched” together to accommodate larger work. The machine’s lens is specially ground to eliminate distortion at the edges of the image. The scan takes place in two passes. In the first pass, the image is lined up for framing and focus; the second scan is image capture. The equipment is designed to get maximum surface detail and nuance as well as to reduce unwanted shadows and glare, and I must say that it did make a big difference with my work. Small variations in the thickness of the paint showed up much more clearly and the surface of the painting was cleanly represented. After the scan, Keith’s co-worker Jamie re-touched parts of the picture and he then produced 2 “color strips” to get the color just right.
I didn’t proceed to a full print of the piece, but it was apparent that the process represented a huge improvement in the quality of the reproduced image. RCP can print out images on a wide variety of papers, just about anything from fabric or canvas to fine art watercolor paper.
Of course, all this comes at a cost. RCP charges $82.50 for an individual scan, or $330 an hour on the scanner. They can scan 8-10 similarly sized images per hour, which makes the cost about $33 to $40 per scan. Then there is the cost of paper and output which I didn’t get into with them. Still, the product was impressive, and I think I will make use of their services when I make the step to producing fine art prints of my work. Anyone interested in more information can go to www.rcp-usa.com or contact Keith Menne directly: email@example.com.
I’d be interested in hearing from other artists about their experiences with any other scanning services in the region.