Photographing work

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Blog entry by Don Kondra posted 09-02-2008 08:05 PM 1737 reads 1 time favorited 15 comments Add to Favorites Watch


I haven’t been making much sawdust lately, last Wednesday I had a carpal tunnel release so it shouldn’t be long before i’m back in the shop.

While I’ve been down I’ve been setting up to do product photography as a slde line and thought I would share some of my latest results.

First the fun stuff, I finally got around to hanging a bird feeder just in front of the patio door. I’ve set the camera on a tripod and sure enough, within days I had regular visitors.

Only problem is, everytime I move toward the camera, I scare them off, sigh… I did manage to get some shots by standing at the camera and waiting for them to return, but, geezz…. Haven’t got much patience for that :)

So I ordered a remote shutter release. I put the feeder in the center of the frame and anytime I’m in the house and notice them I can click away from a distance. The only problem is most of the shots have this big Red Feeder in them :) I did manage some shots with them coming or going and cropped out the feeder.

For now I’ll post just what I consider the best of the bunch.

The day I arrived home with the new remote release coincided with the most activity around the feeder I have seen to date, both before and after this day.

There were FOUR birds performing a ballet between the house and the bush, once in a while they would circle the feeder. I managed to catch three of them, the fourth is just out of the frame….

I call this “Executive Meeting”

Executive Meeting

Okay, back to topic…

The object of the shoot is a green hollow turning by Michael Hosaluk.

Manitoba maple burl circa 1985.

The lights are CF bulbs, the new energy saver fluorescent twisty type with a 5000k rating.

The two side lights have 65w bulbs in 10” reflectors with shoot through satin umbrellas. The main light camera right is a 4 bulb x 27w in a 16” reflector with nylon diffuser.

I figure I have a combined equivalent of 800w incandescent so it is important to have the shooting location as dark as possible. During the day I just hang large sheets of cardboard on the windows.

The paper back drop is “focus gray”. I cut the 9’ roll into a 6’ and a 3’.

Olympus E-510 with 18-180mm @ 105mm, 1/8, f 8, iso 100

I set the metering and focus to center point, just in front of the top opening. This will generally give me a cleaner image and I crop later to center it.

With such a slow speed I used a 2 second delay.

I developed the raw file with Master and did some minor adjustments and small crop in FastStone Image Viewer, a pretty good free editor.

NOTE. The photo set up shows the camera location for a shot with a 50mm lens, for the 18-180 the tripod is moved back to beside the main center light… the light stand on the far right is not in use…

continuous lighting set up

And Michael Hosaluk’s turned vessel…

Michael Hosaluk vessel

This next shot is very loosely related to woodworking, I needed a new avatar and head shot for a magazine I write for :)

Shooting yourself, with a camera that is, has to be the hardest thing to do. I thought I had a pretty good expression but…. And where did those chubby cheeks come from ? :)

Self Portrait

And what the heck, dial up users are already mad at me :)

One more hummingbird shot and I’m outta here (big grin)

I call this one “Just hanging Around”

Cheers, Don

Just hanging around

-- Don Kondra – Furniture Designer/Maker

15 comments so far

View MsDebbieP's profile


18615 posts in 4246 days

#1 posted 09-02-2008 08:11 PM

great blog, Don!
Fantastic shots—all of them!

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (

View Don Kondra 's profile

Don Kondra

114 posts in 3972 days

#2 posted 09-02-2008 08:18 PM

Thanks Debbie.

I need to remember in the future to keep the pic sizes down to 650x …

The right side of pictures are all clipped, sigh… :)

Ahhh, if you click on the picture it takes you to my photobucket albumn..

Cheers, Don

-- Don Kondra – Furniture Designer/Maker

View Freddo's profile


85 posts in 3783 days

#3 posted 09-02-2008 09:02 PM

Thanks! Great images. Are you using a white balance setting or does the 5000K light temp allow you to use daylight balance? And if you don’t mind, what type of 65W bulbs are behind the umbrellas. I used to shoot with strobes but sold that equipment years ago. I now use my “work lights” now when shooting for eBay and WOW they are HOT. I have my first project to photograph for LJ’s soon …

-- God bless! Freddo (Northern - NJ) Our Creator designed us to create - so use WOOD!

View SCOTSMAN's profile


5849 posts in 3671 days

#4 posted 09-02-2008 09:10 PM

very welcome report well done thanks Alistair

-- excuse my typing as I have a form of parkinsons disease

View Don Kondra 's profile

Don Kondra

114 posts in 3972 days

#5 posted 09-02-2008 10:01 PM

Thanks guys,

Freddo, the lights are CF, compact fluorescents. After having the lights on for a half hour I measured the temperature with a digital cooking thermometer and they were under 150 degrees F… Just a little too hot to hold your hand on them but cool enough they don’t burn the nylon diffuser.

I quickly abandoned using work lights, they were too hot and too yellow :)

NOTICE that these 65w bulbs are 4100k, the bulbs in the main light are 5000k. Normally you don’t want to mix light colors but I think these two sets of lights are close enough I’m getting away with it…

I just use an auto white balance, I do sometimes have to adjust the exposure and color when I develop the raw file.

Here’s a pic…

CF light bulbs

-- Don Kondra – Furniture Designer/Maker

View Joe Brumley's profile

Joe Brumley

70 posts in 3868 days

#6 posted 09-02-2008 10:17 PM

Hey Don, those are great looking pics. Thanks for all of the information as well. This is something I need to kick up as is evidence from my current project pics. I did just get a piece of dark brown velvet and some work lights so i will get some Cf bulbs now and see what I can do with a minimal investment setup. Can you recommend some other inexpensive items that I can use? Maybe some low-cost diffusers if there is such a thing. Are the insides of your lights coated with something or is that a texture worked into the metal?

-- Joe, Indiana,

View trifern's profile


8135 posts in 3853 days

#7 posted 09-02-2008 11:49 PM

I really enjoyed this post Don. Thanks for sharing.

-- My favorite piece is my last one, my best piece is my next one.

View Don Kondra 's profile

Don Kondra

114 posts in 3972 days

#8 posted 09-03-2008 03:23 AM

Trifern, glad you enjoyed it :)

Joe, I think you are going to find the brown velvet is too dark…. and it will suck up the light, but you should give it a try and see what you think. It is a personal preference.

I used to like the kind of picture where the object appeared to be floating in space but now I like a little bit of color. Right now I’m in a gray phase :)

For diffusers you are going to need something thin, even cheap sheets may be too thick because these lights are not that powerful. Try them without first, you may not have a problem with shine.

For deflectors white foam core is a inexpensive choice, available at office supply stores. Cardboard covered in tin foil may work depending on the situation.

My reflectors are aluminum and the inside is just textured. The pair of Cameron light stands without bulbs was ~$150. The four bulb light stands were bought off and were ~ $200 with shipping.

Cheers, Don

-- Don Kondra – Furniture Designer/Maker

View John Ormsby's profile

John Ormsby

1288 posts in 3823 days

#9 posted 09-03-2008 05:43 AM

Thanks Don for posting this important topic. Photographing ones or others works is an important aspect of woodworking. It allows the work to be portrayed in a more artistic way.

Good Luck, John

-- Oldworld, Fair Oaks, Ca

View Don Kondra 's profile

Don Kondra

114 posts in 3972 days

#10 posted 09-03-2008 07:15 AM

Hay John,

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not picking on anyone here but I flinch everytime I see a coffee table shot on the front lawn :)

It really does not take a lot of planning to better present a project… but.

I still remember when the finishing part of the project was a chore, darn, I thought I was done, and now you’re telling me I have to set up to shoot a picture of the project too, geeez…. :)

Cheers, Don

-- Don Kondra – Furniture Designer/Maker

View kenn's profile


810 posts in 3806 days

#11 posted 09-03-2008 07:32 AM

I’ve got alot of work to do now. I thought I was improving my posts by moving from the cherry table to a sheet of posterboard, but after looking at my most recent project I have to pick it up a notch. Thanks for the ideas.

-- Every cloud has a silver lining

View TomK 's profile


504 posts in 3960 days

#12 posted 09-03-2008 08:23 AM

Don, now I’ll just have to find another place to photograph my hall table than the front lawn!

-- If you think healthcare is expensive now, wait until it's free! PJ O'Rourke

View sandhill's profile


2128 posts in 4010 days

#13 posted 03-10-2009 08:01 PM

Thanks Don, My photos are the pits maybe I can get better results now that I see how I should proceed.

View oldskoolmodder's profile


801 posts in 3766 days

#14 posted 03-10-2009 08:16 PM

I’m a hack photographer at best (like many things in life) BUT, one of the favorite things for me to take photo’s of, are hummingbirds. Their so hard to photograph correctly.

-- Respect your shop tools and they will respect you - Ric

View Don Kondra 's profile

Don Kondra

114 posts in 3972 days

#15 posted 03-10-2009 09:10 PM

Hummingbirds are definitely fun to shoot :) Now if I can just figure out a way to hide the feeder, he, he..

Still having fun with lighting, I took the two 16” 4 bulb reflectors and built softboxes for them. And then made a boom light. The boom light I just leave attached to the bench and it comes in real handy for benchwork, sigh…

The softboxes are made of foamcore and liquid nail caulking, then I lined the inside with tin foil. I bought rip stop nylon from a fabric shop for removeable diffusers. After much fooling around I found attaching them with cloths line clips worked the best….

The lights that came with the reflectors were 26w’s, I bought a set of 45w and a set of 85w bulbs from Alzo Digital. That gives me the equivalent of 900w/head of light output. I’m using a 26w in the boom light. These bulbs are 5500k which is daylight balanced.


This is the set up to shoot a carved turtle by Jamie Russell.

Jamie light set up

The reason to add the boom light is to eliminate light fall off. This occurs when there is not enough light reaching the backdrop and the top of the picture appears darker than the bottom ?? The boom light is shining on the backdrop and will even out the background color of the picture.

Here’s the result…

Carved Turtle Box

Now there is no need to get this carried away with lighting :)

A paper backdrop, some clip on light reflectors with CF bulbs and a tripod will make a world of difference in your images.

For me, well. I’ve worked out the kinks in my continuous light set up and temporarily lost my sanity, sigh. I now have Four strobe lights, a rolling boom stand, Another camera and a new lap top to shoot with the camera tethered to the computer, sigh…..

HTH, Cheers, Don

-- Don Kondra – Furniture Designer/Maker

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