I know this isnt a photography site, but since we all shoot pictures of our projects I thought I might share a few tips with you.
I often get asked how I go about getting my boxes to look good…besides the woodworking I mean.
Feel free to add your tips this blog.
I shoot with a Canon 20D and a 17-85 Image Stabilized lens, but most cameras now are plenty goodand will do fine as long as you take the time to understand how to get the most out of it.
I typically use a tripod and set the self timer, this prevents camera shake. A cable or wireless shutter release is another way to push the button and not wiggle the camera. Most SLR, DSLR and even some others have a setting to lock up the mirror and that is used with the self timer. This simply delays the actual picture taking until everything has had time to stop moving around.
There are many styles and prices of tripods available and they are the ticket to good still photos. They not only help prevent camera shake, but they also help your work flow, the camera stays in one place and the project gets moved.
This allows you to take multiple shots from the same angle and changing either the aperature, the polarizer, the zoom, and then select the one you prefer. Get as good a model as you can afford, a sturdy one is a must for a heavy camera like an SLR with a big lense hanging on the end, but a fold up mini is great for a point and shoot. You will need to set the mini on a sturdy table or such, but it will still be a big improvement over most handheld shots.
I select Aperature and try several settings, a small # like f5.6 will focus on a smaller area and blur out the rest,
and a larger # like f16 will make sure the entire box is in focus. Try about f8 and shoot a few test shots, load them on your computer and see what you think.
I take several pictures from different angles using several f-stops.
Avoid a very wide angle to prevent distortion.
Turn your on camera flash off and use two lamps if possible to get enough light on the subject. With a tripod the camera will choose the shutter accordingly. This will take a little experimenting.
Set your focus to spot or single point if possible to ensure the camera is focusing where you want. Most blurry pictures are because of camera shake due to a slow shutter speed, and not knowing when to use a tripod, but can also be because the lens is focused on something past your subject.
I use non shiny, non textured cloth for a back drop. Usually black fleece or velvet, but maroon and green at times. This depends on the wood color of the box. Many studio work is done with a non glare white back drop. You cant go wrong with going to the fabric store and buying a mid-grade black velvet for about 12 a yard, and one yard is a good size for small projects like boxes. Fabric varies in width, but its typically 54’’-60’’.
After a while you will get a feel for what you prefer.
I like to use natural light when possible, strong sunlight filtered through cloudds or fog is best.
I also use a standard table lamp and play the light on sections of the box to add drama. Just experiment a little.
I do basic editing in either Elements or Photo Shop CS3. I crop if needed, remove any lint I missed, add a little contrast, correct the colors as needed and add sharpening. The better prep you do removing lint, wrinkles, and back ground clutter, means you will spend less time editing it out afterwards.
I reduce the size to fit the screen of my computer, and that makes it quicker to upload.
Thats it, no tricks.
You can use added filters for special effects if you wish, but I prefer natural.
I do strongly recommend a polarizing filter and for most cameras a circular style is perfect. Some point and shoot cameras dont allow for screwing them on, but you can probably add a Cokin style setup.
Here are a series of photos taken with my camera mounted to a tripod and the focus and aperature locked. The only difference is how the circular polarize is turned. As you can see, the valleys and ridges in the shaped surfaces of the box are revealed in varying degrees.
Photos #1 and #4 show off the shaping on the lid very well, but the contours on the front and right end of the body are pretty flat looking.
Photo #2 shows off the shaping on the front and right side of the body very well, but the details in the lid are minimal.
The polarizing filter is not a perfect solution, but will do wonders and give you options if you dont have several off camera lights.
This is a very simply outline of my approach, my goal was to answer in general terms how I photograph my boxes.
I have been pretty avid in photography as an amatuer for many years, but like my woodworking I have developed my own style and bad habits along the way, but they work for me. If you would like to learn more about studio photography I recommend checking out YouTube, and even your camera makers members forums. There are many sites than can do a better job teaching you than I can.
I do hope this has answered some of your questions and encouraged you to take the time to learn to take good pictures of your project. After all your hard work, we would like to see it at its best.
Thanks for reading,
-- If I can do it, so can you.