Yesterday turned out to be a day of learning. For me, those are always good days. I had originally planned to take some quick pictures of the new project and one that my partner was just finished with and then spend the rest of the day drawing and working on the next one. That just wasn’t how it turned out to be.
One of the best thing about being your own boss and keeping on schedule is that it allows you the flexibility to deviate from that schedule most of the time. At least for myself. As those of you who know me know, I tend to ask quite a bit of myself and set the bar high in the production department. Although I don’t always reach these goals, I do often get close. I tend to err on the side of over shooting rather than under achieving as I feel it pushes me to a higher production level. It also allows me days such as yesterday where I can totally go in another direction without negative consequences.
Although the morning began a bit overcast and foggy, as the day progressed things began to brighten which made for a better environment for shooting pictures of my project. The picture that I used on yesterday’s post was scanned in after a few failed attempts at shooting it with a camera. It was simply too dark.
I had worked previously with someone who was very much into photography. He had many photography lights and diffusers and although under certain circumstances I realize that this equipment is very useful, I just don’t have the means or storage space to start investing in it. I watched him pour hundreds and hundreds of dollars into different equipment only to see marginal improvement in his photography.
When I submit my projects for the magazine, my editor has come to expect several step-by-step photographs of the process of building and creating the project. I usually send him anywhere from 15 to 25 pictures, from which the editorial staff at the magazine chooses from. Most of the time they use about 10 of them, but there have been times when they decide on using more and I have had projects which take up to five or six pages of the magazine. I always send the project itself to them, as they always take the final presentation photograph for the article. That mainly leaves me to take the pictures of the process and also I need to take photographs of the final project for my own presentation on my site and on the pattern packet.
I have a decent camera which cost me around $300. It is approximately 8 megapixels and I feel it does a fine job. I have learned to work with it and even my editor says that my photography has been getting better and better and that there is little that they need to do before the pictures are printed. In most cases I feel that the pictures look fine, and I have been having a good time in ‘presenting’ my final projects for my site and the patterns. It is rather fun to make them look attractive.
One thing my editor asks me is to greatly minimize the amount projects that I create which use darker wood – especially walnut. He has told me in the past that photographing the darker woods can really be a hassle and he did say that projects done in the darker have much less of a chance of making it to the cover of the magazine. I try to keep this in mind when I design, although sometimes I just have the need to produce something in darker wood – such as the candle tray. I knew it wasn’t headed for the magazine anyway, so I though, what the heck?
I guess I learned the reason why quickly enough.
The biggest problem I had was with the darker wood combined with the intricate detail, even the slightest amount of shadow was a bit of a problem. When I first took the picture yesterday morning, I did so in my usual place where the lighting was good and I was sure the shadows wouldn’t be strong. The problem I had was that even with slight shadows, the darkness of the mahogany blended with the shadows so well I was unable to see any detail at all. I tried both with and without a flash and got similarly poor results. For the blog here, I finally resorted to placing the tray on the scanner bed, figuring that the light source would come straight on and there would be no shadows to worry about, but because of the thickness of the wood, you could see shadows anyway.
After several different attempts and trying pictures both indoors and outdoors, I finally got some acceptable photos. I found that with the dark wood, what worked best was when there were clouds overhead and the light wasn’t so harsh as in the full sun. This worked for both indoor and outdoor tests that I did and although there were still some initial problems with shadows, I was able to work with the pictures in Adobe Photoshop and bring them back to looking like the original project.
Below is one of the final pictures of the project:
|From SLD327 Fretwork Cross Candle Tray and Charms|
It is an amazing difference as to what I was able to do yesterday (and I did use some Photoshop adjustments on the scanned picture yesterday too) If you click on the title, you can go to the entire album and see them all. I left the first one in there for comparison.
Photoshop is amazing in its ability to correct so many problems you encounter with lighting and such. As with most programs though, 95 per cent of the battle is knowing how to use it. I have worked with Photoshop for over fifteen years now and I learn something new about it every day. I have got to the point where even if the raw image looks quite questionable when I bring it up on my screen, I immediately know if I will be able to work with it and make it acceptable. I know it is expensive, but its capabilities are astounding and there are so many video tutorials both on the Adobe site and on the internet in general that with a bit of time you can be on your way.
I won’t get into the technicalities of what I figured out yesterday, but I am very happy with the results I achieved. By the time I finished with the pictures, it was nearly 4pm and I decided to load them up on my gallery and call it a day in that department. After all, I wanted to fully absorb what I learned for a bit and think about it.
I know that this stuff isn’t exactly woodworking, but I think it is important for many woodworkers here. Many of us sell our items either on Ebay or on our web sites or through the internet. I am finding more and more that by presenting the items as attractively as I can in photographs, it does help sales and looks more professional. Up until very recently (the beginning of the year) I never used background colors or anything such as that. Although I know that the focus should be on the item, I am finding more and more that by adding the appropriate amount of color to the background, by either using a piece of fabric or even crumpled tissue paper, you are making a presentation that looks more professional and thought out. People want to deal with others who conduct their business in a professional way. As you can see with this project, sometimes white is best, as any color whatsoever in the background would have added to the chaos and taken away from the design. I guess that in the end it is up to your judgment as to what would make a pleasing presentation and still keep the focus on the item. Again, it is all a learning process and usually there are several right answers.
I spent the evening painting my next skating figure. It was a good feeling to do so with so much under my belt already for the day. It is good when days fall together like this. I have been seeing more of them than not, so I must be doing something right.
So for today I have a couple of choices. I can either work on assembling packets of the new items, or moving on and drawing the next one. I know where I am heading with the next one and I would like to see it and some other things come to life, but I don’t want the instructions to pile up too much either. I just don’t know. I have to start thinking about updating the site again, as there are several new things that need to be added since the update a couple of weeks ago. I guess I will let the day dictate for me.
Sometimes it is best just to go with the flow. :)
-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs (http://www.sheilalandrydesigns.com) Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"