Using Rawtherapee Flat Field for photographing artwork

It seems the main purpose of Flat Field is to correct for vignetting for various lens/aperture combinations, as well as sensor dirt, but it also works well for photographing 2D artwork, especially large pieces. Recently I was commissioned to photograph a historical poster for a client. I set it up with 2 LED photo lights at 45 degrees, each light covered with polarizing film, and the macro lens also with a polarizer. This combination eliminates any glare on the art.

Even with the lights carefully placed, the light on the piece was still slightly uneven. I shot it again, this time with a clean piece of white foamcore underneath. I then removed the poster and shot just the white foamcore, but with no changes to the lighting or camera settings. I used this second shot as a Flat Field in Rawtherapee. Worked perfectly.

I think this would be especially useful when shooting painting with a texture that you want to show. In this case you only use one light, maybe at a 20 or 30 degree angle to the painting to show the raised texture. With just one light there will obviously be light falloff on the side further from the light (unless the single light is far enough away, i.e. the sun!). Using a piece of white foamcore as a Flat Field shot should eliminate the problem.

I continue to be impressed by the features and quality of RawTherapee. Kudos.


To refine this further, it’s probably a good idea to shoot the white foamcore slightly out of focus to smooth out any small imperfections on the foamcore.

Nice trick to share! Thanks!


Sounds useful especially for the case you mentioned:

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Hi, I have a long experience in reproducing pictorial works. When I want to highlight the texture of the brushstrokes, I use the classic configuration of two 45 ° lights but one with a parabola and umbrella to reflect and the other direct. In this way the illuminator with the umbrella compensates for the fall of light, while the other light brings out the texture.

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Carlo, that sounds like a good approach, and I’m guessing that the light with the umbrella would be adjusted to partially fill in the shadows of the brushstrokes? Do you think that with this configuration it would still be useful to shoot a plain white background as flat field, or are your lights far enough away from the painting that the light fall off is not significant?

This sounds great! Any samples?

I always place the lights in such a way that there are no shadows or light falls.