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marcros

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Does anybody have any tips for photographing items to get professional looking images of them for websites and brochures. I am thinking about smaller items, but if anybody cares to talk about furniture/larger items too, then the thread may be of interest to others.

I have a DSLR, a 100mm macro lense, and the lense that came with it, which will be 15-85mm zoom I think. I have a tripod, and that is probably about it!

Thanks
Mark
 

marcros

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Digital Single Lens Reflex Camera (as opposed to a compact type camera)
 

Webby

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Hi
for small items place them in a light tent check out ebay for the sort of thing with the right combination of lights you can nearly get shadowless pictures ....bigger items means iether reflectors to reflect light back onto subject or more lights
can get rather expensive though :lol:
 

petermillard

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A lot will depend on what it is you want to shoot, and how big they are. if you have a few small repeatable pieces, then consider getting them together and hiring a photographer for a morning to shoot them for you - it'll probably cost a few hundred quid, but you'll arguably get better results, more easily and faster. If you need to regularly shoot smaller unique or one-off pieces, then you're probably better off spending the few hundred quid putting the kit together to take the photos yourself. And the camera is the least important part of the kit, btw ;) Just FYI, I was a studio-based professional photographer for 20-odd years, only coming back 'on the tools' to earn an honest living in 2001.

One of the early decisions you need to make is how you want to present your items e.g. shot 'in situ' in a home environment, or as a 'product' floating on a background. There are pros and cons of each approach - putting e.g. a chest of drawers in an environment gives it context, but equally the 'context' of the environment can detract from what you're showing. Similarly, putting a chest of drawers on a nicely-lit neutral background can focus all the attention on the piece of work, but won't give any visual clues as to say, how big it is, or how it would look in an alcove.

Photographing things in a 'studio' setting requires quite a staggering amount of space. Very small items can be done in a light tent as mentioned above; things like larger boxes etc… you can do on a table-top - an 8x4 of formica clamped onto a 3x5 baseboard and swept up at the back gives a nice platform. Big soft light over the top, reflectors at the sides and you're away - though even with a small set like this you'll need probably ~10' ceiling height, 10' wide and 20' long.

For larger items, you'll likely need to work on the floor; you can buy wide rolls of background paper in a variety of nasty colours - stick to white or neutrals. Lighting a large area without specialised kit can be tricky, especially on a budget. I worked with a guy once who made his own massive light using 8x4s of polystyrene taped to a 2x1 frame and with a couple of layers of 'soft frost' diffuser over the front. Worked really well, though the thing was huge and needed an intricate pulley-system to hoist it up to the ceiling - and you could only just walk underneath it…

If you have the luxury of high ceilings, then a good option is to bounce cheap lights (e.g. halogen worklights) off a white ceiling to give a nice spread of light, otherwise you might need to suspend an 8x4 poly up near the ceiling to bounce lights off. In many ways, taking your pieces somewhere to photograph them may be an easier option - even with the attendant transportation and permission hassles - though probably not as easy as getting someone else to do it for you… ;)

And of course, if you decide on the 'DIY & on location' approach, you'll need a portable lighting kit of some kind.

Good luck and HTH, Pete.
 

Unib

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You can't go far wrong with waiting for an overcast day and shooting outside - the clouds act like a big defuser producing nice soft shadows. Shooting this way you won't need any tent. Knock up a flat surface with a back, so it's L shaped, put it outside on a table and then fasten a sheet of paper to the back edge and curve the paper down to the front of the flat surface creating a curved continual surface. Hard to describe is that! Natural overcast light is much easier to control than studio lights. It may also help if you get a sheet of Celotex insulation; the stuff with a silver outer surface, and use it as a reflector to direct light back at the thing your photographing.

Ideally you want to put your camera on manual mode and set the shutter speed / aperture manually - in P mode your inbuilt light meter wants to make everything grey - not ideal if you're shooting sycamore or wenge! You want to set the camera so none of the highlights are blowing out but whites want to be nearly white and you want detail in your shadows. Check the histogram to make sure.

If you want to get everything in focus you might have to stop the aperture down a fair way i.e. f/22 but ideally you want to try and get away with about f/8, f/11 as these will produce sharper images.

Oh yes - when your camera's on a tripod, use the self timer so you are not touching the camera when it fires to eliminate any slight camera movement.
 

stevebuk

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i recently bought a lightent from ebay £20 i think, its brilliant, came with lights, tent and 4 assorted back drops, love it..

this is a couple of them from my scrollsaw hobby..

 

marcros

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i saw those earlier steve and wondered if they were any good. similar scale to most of my stuff too. The problem with crafty type stuff is that there is never the volume to make it worth taking to a studio. You have some good results there though.
 

nev

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I too invested in a mini studio kit...£30 ish
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Portable-Studio ... 706&sr=1-1
and it makes a helluva difference to my amateur shots with a cheap compact camera. The kit is not fantastic and I'm sure if more was spent the results would be more noticeable, but its definitely an improvement.
went from this....

eggcups2.JPG


to this...

guardian pink acrylic.jpg


if only i had a decent camera :(
 

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Jensmith

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Best tip is use a diffuser on the flash - even a bit of paper over it will do and you have to experiment with thickness depending on flash strength.

Those light boxes are great. We just used some sheets of white paper in a box but the light boxes with backdrops and lights do work well.
 

bugbear

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marcros":1gd2q3m5 said:
Does anybody have any tips for photographing items to get professional looking images of them for websites and brochures. I am thinking about smaller items, but if anybody cares to talk about furniture/larger items too, then the thread may be of interest to others.

I have a DSLR, a 100mm macro lense, and the lense that came with it, which will be 15-85mm zoom I think. I have a tripod, and that is probably about it!

Thanks
Mark
Almost any (modern ish) camera (not phone, although even some of those are becoming usable) would serve well - there are very few bad cameras any more.

Using a tripod is an almost "royal road" to better photographs (cheapest trick I know).

The "real" trick to photography is lighting, and (after that) composition and artistic ability.

This was taken using a 2 Mega pixel Canon compact, back in 2006 (a Secret Santa gift). Judging by the shadows I didn't use a light tent.



BugBear
 

Gerard Scanlan

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What is wrong with shadows?
An unintended ugly big dark area in a picture or your own shadow cast over the object is obviously not good but a shadow actually helps to create depth. The only reason for trying to take photographs without a shadow is when you want to use the image against another background. If you use a tent with supplied background the pictures will look slick but at the same time they will look like every else's pictures. Outdoors on an overcast day used to be good advice when photography was analogue. Now it is digital you can adjust the contrast on your computer in a blink of an eye. It is best not to photograph stuff between 11.00 and 15.00 hours outside in the height of summer as light is least interesting when the sun is directly above and it can be so strong that the highlights are too bright to correct. Certainly use a tripod, don't get in too close except for details, go further away and use a telephoto to capture the entire object. Perhaps a misty day outside would make your objects look better or photographed at night under a street lamp or by candle light. Pictures with areas in perfect focus and other areas obviously out of focus are the most interesting to look at. An example of this is a good portrait in which the eyes are perfectly in focus but the rest of the face fades out of focus. Look for backgrounds that compliment your object but make sure they are out of focus so that your object stands out. The best advice I can give you is try out everything you can think of good or bad. With digital photography this is easy and cheap to do. U
 

Eric The Viking

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Flash diffusers:
-- greaseproof paper from the kitchen*
-- a single 'ply' of toilet paper
-- bounce your flash off polystyrene sheet (I save the large pieces from packaging for that purpose), or hang a white bedsheet up.
-- Posh, large 'live' yoghurt pots have a cardboard outer over a thin white pot. Take the cardboard off, eat the yoghurt and use the white liner. They're ideal over flash heads, arranged so the bottom of the pot points toward the subject. The rhubarb ones are horrible, although this has nothing to do with photography really.

Generally, the bigger the area, the softer the light.

Backgrounds:
If it's small stuff, keep the background at least 75% of the distance to the camera away from the subject. That way it's well out of focus, so small blemishes, dust, etc. don't show up.

3-point lighting:
Soft lights at the side and onto the background, 'key' light about 45deg round from the front of the camera (higher than it, too). The key produces just enough shadow to give a 3D feeling; the soft lights stop the shadows getting too dark. Cheap 'slave' sensors for flashguns work very well (eBay), and you can tune the amount of light by altering the distances. You will need to use the hotshoe or sync socket on the camera, as built-in flashes often multi-flash - once or twice for focus and guessing exposure, then the main flash - this causes a false trigger for the slaves.

Camera settings:
Use a tripod. If you haven't got a cable release, use the self-timer.
Only stop down the lens to the minimum required to get all the subject in focus - backgrounds need to be blurred if possible. For smaller objects, f5.6-f8 is about as far as you should go - avoid anything near f22. If you can't reduce the sensitivity of the camera ("ASA" 100 or lower), you might need a neutral-density filter over the lens, otherwise double the distance of the flashguns (or diffusers) from the subject, to reduce the lighting (beware that this will make shadows sharper though).

Use the camera on manual settings. When you have something that works, make a note of the settings, and the distances involved for the lights (dramatically affects exposure), and camera-subject distance.

E.

Almost forgot: use a long-ish lens. For a DSLR with an APS sized sensor (most of 'em), I find about 150mm+ works. It lets you get the camera a reasonable distance away, and reduces the area of background in shot, which makes lighting easier. If it's really small stuff your macro lens may well be fine.

*if you are allowed any. Here it occasionally becomes 'too expensive' to allow me to use it!
 

nev

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.... and after a tip from john B =D> this is what pics on a piece of (dusty :oops: ) tinted glass (old tv stand door) looks like...



as opposed to the std white backdrop...

 

woodbloke

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Webby":3rpkh061 said:
Hi
for small items place them in a light tent check out ebay for the sort of thing with the right combination of lights you can nearly get shadowless pictures ....bigger items means iether reflectors to reflect light back onto subject or more lights
can get rather expensive though :lol:
Not necessarily. I do a lot of photography for my stuff in F&C and the lighting kits I use are the halogen site lights from Axminster, which are now mounted on the ceiling of the 'shop. I use a Nikon D60 mounted on a tripod with the 'white balance' adjusted to take account of the colour of the lamps, and always set to 'manual' with a 10 second delay before the shutter goes off. The lights are switched on the instant before the camera fires and then off again...so maybe they're on for 1/4 second or less. I was advised that the best colour for the background isn't white as you'd expect, but a light, matt grey, so I've got a roll of 2.5m wide paper that is again mounted on the ceiling of the 'shop so that when I need to take a pic, I just pull down the paper, set up the shot and take the pic...probably takes about 30 seconds provided that the exposure looks OK (about f16 and 1/8sec) and if it's too bright or dark I just alter the time (bracketing?) and take a couple more shots till it looks about right. Then the paper gets rolled up again and I can get on with making sawdust...until the next pic is needed - Rob
 

Eric The Viking

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That sounds like a really good idea, Rob.

I would say, though, that using halogen lights that way (on briefly) isn't all that good for them. They need to run for a while so that the filament and glass envelope reach the correct temperatures for the tungsten-halogen cycle to get going. Otherwise I'd expect the actual lamps to have a rather short life.

The other thing is the colour temperature: if they haven't fully warmed-up they'll be rather too red. IIRC, conventional tungsten lamps are at around 2500k, and halogen ones at around 3200 (they're in effect designed to be a bit over-run). You'll probably be getting somewhere in between. It probably doesn't matter though.

I really like the idea of having a fixed rig up out of the way, like a TV studio, but what do you do for soft lights?

Cheers,

E.
 

woodbloke

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Eric The Viking":3mkol8my said:
That sounds like a really good idea, Rob.

I would say, though, that using halogen lights that way (on briefly) isn't all that good for them. They need to run for a while so that the filament and glass envelope reach the correct temperatures for the tungsten-halogen cycle to get going. Otherwise I'd expect the actual lamps to have a rather short life.

The other thing is the colour temperature: if they haven't fully warmed-up they'll be rather too red. IIRC, conventional tungsten lamps are at around 2500k, and halogen ones at around 3200 (they're in effect designed to be a bit over-run). You'll probably be getting somewhere in between. It probably doesn't matter though.

I really like the idea of having a fixed rig up out of the way, like a TV studio, but what do you do for soft lights?

Cheers,

E.
I have some scrunched up diffuser paper mounted in front of each light to soften it as they can be very harsh and each lamp is individually adjustable on it's mounting bracket. The problem with the site lights, as you're no doubt aware E, is that they run bl%@dy hot :shock: so that if they're left on for any length of time, there's a distinct pong of melting diffuser paper :oops: :oops: in the 'shop as the total power when they light up is 2KW, so I don't want them on for very long. Having them fixed permanently above head hight though, is a vast improvement and it means that whereas before (mounted on tripod stands) it was a real faff to take a pic, now it becomes almost routine. If you have a quick peek at a Blog entry you'll be able to see the set up over the bench and I have a similar one over the table saw take-off table.
Cost wise, the bulbs are about a £1.50 a pair to replace, so it ain't going to break the bank to replace them every few months - Rob
 

Eric The Viking

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Nice setup, but I'd get the diffusers about 5-6" further away! If you use the proper stuff (Rosco or Lee), it will smoke a bit but won't catch fire. I can't really film as the ceiling height in the garage is too low, but I usually use 'redheads' as main lamps (800W). Gels clipped to the barn doors do get hot, but don't smoke (very often!).

Cheers,

E.
 

woodbloke

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Eric The Viking":3akw54if said:
Nice setup, but I'd get the diffusers about 5-6" further away!
Cheers,

E.
If I do that though E, they'd be too low and I start crashing into them when I move round the 'shop. It's a compromise I know, but the best I can come up with under the circumstances as there's very little head height...around maybe 300mm or so at the highest point and diminishing owing to the slope of the roof. The set-up seems to work OK though and the pics I get are much better than without the diffusers - Rob
 
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