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My Journey As A Scroll Saw Pattern Designer #347: Photographing Your Projects

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Blog entry by Sheila Landry (scrollgirl) posted 05-22-2011 02:02 PM 2934 reads 0 times favorited 15 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 346: And Yet Another Tray Part 347 of My Journey As A Scroll Saw Pattern Designer series Part 348: Writing Pattern Packets »

One thing that I like so much about my job is that there is such a great variety of steps that need to be done in order to keep everything running smoothly. The saying that “necessity breeds invention” comes to mind when I am in the midst of doing so many of these other tasks.

For someone such as myself, who is trying to make a living on my designing abilities, learning all the different aspects of what it takes to not only design patterns, but to produce and market them is a necessity. Even if I did have the resources to hire people to do these other parts of my job I don’t think that I would, as I like being able to do things for myself and enjoy learning about each different step.

There are several reasons that I am like this. First of all, I am somewhat impatient. Many of you probably have seen that I move at a certain pace and I am not really fond of waiting for or depending on others. I believe this comes from many years of waiting for things to get done by others, only to be disappointed with the results. I learned a long time ago that people in general don’t put the proper care and time into jobs that they should. In the end, I feel that I am better off doing things myself, even if there is a slight learning curve there and it takes a couple of tries for me to get things right. In the long run, it is better for me to know these things than sit here frustrated and upset because someone else is either taking too long or doesn’t do the job properly.

I realize that this may sound a bit controlling, but I find it to be necessary to keep things running smoothly. It would probably be a bit different if I could afford top of the line services, but at this point in my life I simply can’t. In all probability if I were to hire out for any of these things, I would have to go with the budget level of help and the skill level of the person who comes with that. In the long run I probably do better learning on my own than going that route.

A good case in point was last week when I received the new painting book from one of my favorite tole painting designers. I know her through some common channels and she was fortunate to have a new book come out. Even though I don’t do much painting from others’ designs, I have been a long time fan of hers and I have a sizable collection of books from my favorites. When I heard she had written a new book, I was one of the first in line to order it. I received it last week, and found it was very nice. However, along with it came a friendly note which in part stated that she wished the photography was a little better and clearer.

This thought struck me as being somewhat odd. Here I thought she would be excited and thrilled about the book and in the short note she seemed almost apologetic about the photography. Now this woman is not the timid type of person that so many artists are. She strikes me as very confident and enterprising and kind of an all over “take the bull by the horns” type of girl. Yet she must have felt somewhat disappointed with the photography of her book for her to even mention it to me. I felt it was a shame that it would put a damper on such an exciting event for her. (By the way, I thought the pictures looked really nice!) I suppose it just goes to show that we all have our own standards of what we feel is acceptable. I think it is rare to find someone to work with that meets, or better yet exceeds them.

So with that said, I continue to learn all the different parts of my job and what it entails in order to make it successful. I have been fortunate to find a partner in Keith, who is very talented in his own right and who has standards that rival my own. It has been a valuable lesson of growing for me these last couple of years and letting go of some of the responsibilities, but he has proven himself to do excellent work and having two of us filling in the gaps for each other has been a big part of the success of the business.

Yesterday I spent most of the day photographing the new projects. Besides my own new items, Keith also had several new things that needed to be shot. I am finally learning which lighting and settings do best with certain types of projects to make them look their best.

As I stated yesterday, the darker woods seem to be the most troublesome. I find that getting a good balance between the project itself and the background can be the biggest challenge. I have a nice, but inexpensive camera which I feel does a fine job. It is a Sony Cyber Shot 7.2 megapixil. It also has a video option which I feel does well for my purposes.

I have been working with Adobe Photoshop for over ten years now too, and although I know that I have barely scratched the surface of its capabilities, I know many of the basic functions that can make a dull, crummy picture into one that is quite acceptable. I find that there are many great free resources on the web with Photoshop tutorials and I love just playing around with the pictures and making them look nice. Contrary to what some may believe, there is a great deal of creativity involved in taking and presenting a good picture. I find myself wondering how I ever had decent pictures before digital cameras came along (Oh – I forgot – they kind of sucked!)

Here is one example of what I can do in Photoshop to make my pictures look a little better. This is the original raw image that I took:

And here is the image after I finished working on it and adjusting it:

It may not be as good as a professional photographer, but it is far better than if I had left it as is. The wenge was particularly difficult to shoot because of its dark color and also because the spray shellac gave it a bit of a shine. In the initial photograph, all the character was lost and the grain was not even visible. However, I have learned that the camera “sees” more than our eye does and if you use the right adjustments, you can do wonders with the picture. It is quite satisfying to see it come to ife.

There are so many cool and easy adjustments that you could make on the computer to make your projects look nicer. I think if any of you are trying to sell your work, it is well worth your time to look into what photo-editing software you use so you can make the best presentation possible. I really doesn’t take much to make some major improvements.

So now that the photography is done, I am on to making packets for the four projects that I finished up last week. Hopefully I will be able to get them done today so I can get them up on the site within the next couple of days. I have already started drawing my next designs and I feel that I am on a good roll. I don’t want to stop the momentum that I have going for me right now.

I wish you all a happy and creative Sunday! Enjoy the rest of your weekend.

-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs (http://www.sheilalandrydesigns.com) Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"



15 comments so far

View BarbS's profile

BarbS

2434 posts in 2833 days


#1 posted 05-22-2011 02:50 PM

Interesting column, Sheila! I struggle with my photography, and don’t have a PhotoShop program, but try to adjust things in IPhoto. I once ‘corrected’ a bowl photo and thought the color gradation was vastly improved, then realized I’d made a beautiful photo but the color of the wood was not truly representative of the project! I have to be really careful to keep it within bounds and not ‘change’ it for the better too much. So much to learn!

-- http://barbsid.blogspot.com/

View Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)'s profile

Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)

7891 posts in 1668 days


#2 posted 05-22-2011 03:02 PM

I know just what you mean, Barb. Here is an example of how much you can change something.

One of my original paintings:

And what possibilities of what you can do with Photoshop:

I actually liked the second one a little better, (although it looks a bit over saturated when put up here) and thought I should have painted it that way when I did it. But I figured that I can always do so next time. It is quite fascinating to see how much you can change things. There are so many options and adjustments that it can be an art form in itself!

I also learned to not overdo the adjustments so that the wood comes out as realistic as possible. You are right in saying that if you don’t watch closely, it can get away from you. :)

Sheila

-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs (http://www.sheilalandrydesigns.com) Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"

View Dennisgrosen's profile

Dennisgrosen

10850 posts in 1863 days


#3 posted 05-22-2011 03:17 PM

it seems to that this is a very good excample of what can be done … not that I have any photoeditor program
but it also strikes me that this shuold be done in the shot as needed in the old analog days
even though we cuold save a lot in the dark room
I wonder and have to ask do you have one of the cameras where you can look thrugh the lence
that will make it a lot easyer to create the pictures in the shot together with a tripod
I know many feel acward playing around with a tripod instead of just shooting from the hip sort of speak
the tripod force people to think different and gives them time to build the images as they want
with light and see that there isn´t a desturbing thing in the background
sorry just a flip back in time of my werd brain :-)

have a great day
Dennis

View Dennisgrosen's profile

Dennisgrosen

10850 posts in 1863 days


#4 posted 05-22-2011 03:22 PM

the original butterfly is the best :-)
but the second wuold fit in a teenagers room

Dennis

View Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)'s profile

Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)

7891 posts in 1668 days


#5 posted 05-22-2011 03:24 PM

I do use the tripod at times, Dennis. Mostly when I am doing the videos though. I find that since I started taking my own pictures a few years ago I am extremely aware of the background stuff. People seem to forget about it or don’t notice it when taking pictures and I think it detracts greatly from the subject of the picture. Even when I took the picture of my avitar here, we moved the scroll saw into the living room where there was a clean backdrop. It takes too much time to crop out the extra stuff in the back and it doesn’t always turn out well. Best to start with as clean a ‘canvas’ as possible. :)

My camera does have the window, but more often I do look through the lens to get a better picture.

I used to use film, but the cost was high and the pictures were usually bad. With digital I can tell right away what needs adjustment. For most projects, I start with about 50-80 raw pictures and whittle it down to about 5-10 by the time I am done. Different lighting and times of the day affect things a lot, as well as being in different areas (being at the saw or maybe at the drill press, etc.)

So much to learn! :)

-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs (http://www.sheilalandrydesigns.com) Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"

View Dennisgrosen's profile

Dennisgrosen

10850 posts in 1863 days


#6 posted 05-22-2011 03:36 PM

I knew you are using the tripod I just didn´t knew you had a more advanced camera too :-)
I wuoldn´t say you have much to learn :-)
you do as the proffesionell does take many pictures ,different angles ,different light
and choose the best image thats how the always have done it
many of the best actionshots or just pictures with people in that looks like a snapshot
is just something the photographer has seen in a glimt maybee even month ago
and had them staged with light and instruction to people
and you do a good job with your pictures Sheila

take care
Dennis

View Ken90712's profile

Ken90712

15304 posts in 1936 days


#7 posted 05-22-2011 03:38 PM

Very nice Blog you have running! I have always enjoyed reading them as your writing flows very nicely. Can I send a picture of me and have you make it look better LOL …. Photoshop is amazing and I’m sure you will have it mastered in no time. Well done.

-- Ken, "Everyday above ground is a good day!"

View huntter2022's profile

huntter2022

275 posts in 1363 days


#8 posted 05-22-2011 04:09 PM

Shelia , There is alot you can do with Photoshop as you are learning . I found this Psp Tutorials
I have only touched what can be done it is nice to sit and play with it and see what can be done with the different tools . Just finding the time to do it is the next thing .

http://psptutorials.multiply.com/

-- David ; "BE SAFE BE HAPPY" Brockport , NY

View Bob Kollman's profile

Bob Kollman

1797 posts in 1939 days


#9 posted 05-22-2011 04:35 PM

I don’t like doing the camera work…I have found that if I take 10 shots at
one angle with lights on lights off….running a varation that I will get the
shot I want and the exposure I want…eventually. So my rule is take 100
photos and 5 of them will be what I want or good enough. Having a
good photographer would be worth it’s weight in gold…:( poor me I have
no gold….

-- Bob Kenosha Wi.

View stevebuk's profile

stevebuk

57 posts in 1432 days


#10 posted 05-22-2011 10:16 PM

i think one definate trick of getting a good photo is really good even lighting, too much and the subject burns out, not enough and the subject parts are dark, a well balanced and even lighting is far more acceptable and gives a better result in the long term. Its always good to take a little longer and stage set the item being photographed, and in today’s media circus you can take loads of pictures without having to commit to anyone of them.
try shooting from just slightly above the subject sheila, and take note of the distance you are from it, make a record of your better shots and settings..

View William's profile

William

9270 posts in 1590 days


#11 posted 05-22-2011 10:26 PM

I think photography is a problem for a lot of us. I’ve tried getting good enough to just snap photos of my projects and be done, to no avail. I don’t even try anymore. I just take a lot of photos. I’m with Bob about the one hundred photos to get five good ones. I’ve done that often. Actually, I’ve take on some projects over three hundred photos of one project. I’d take between fifty and a hundred in each of three or four different lights. Lighting seems to be my biggest problem. Some items photograph well outside. Some don’t. Some are better with light in front of them, while some like light behind them.
I have also had so many people email me with tips about different computer programs to improve photos. I’ve tried so many of them. I’ve given up on that as well. I’m just not good at getting them right.
Part of my problem is that I have to play with a photo and then get my wife’s opinion. You see, I’m color blind. What looks good to me doesn’t look good to others. So I have come to the realization that with lots of photos, and my wife giving approval on final project photos, I am happy as I guess I ever will be with what I get.

-- http://wddsrfinewoodworks.blogspot.com/

View Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)'s profile

Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)

7891 posts in 1668 days


#12 posted 05-23-2011 12:14 PM

I do realize that the lighting is much of the battle with photography. I can’t believe that while I was in the United States I didn’t stop and get a soft light box like I wanted to do. It just completely slipped my mind. I should just bite the bullet and pay the over the border fees and order one because for the small things it will be ideal. I have a friend who made one for herself and it looked easy enough to do, but they really aren’t that expensive and I probably should just get one.

William – I can see how being color blind would cause a major problem. So much of the adjustment process is subtle toning of the colors. I don’t know how you would be able to accomplish that. It would certainly be a challenge. :)

Sheila

-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs (http://www.sheilalandrydesigns.com) Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"

View Dennisgrosen's profile

Dennisgrosen

10850 posts in 1863 days


#13 posted 05-24-2011 11:01 PM

Sheila :
if you have one of those stores that sells paper , pencils , books giftcards , roles of paper to
protect schoolbooks , roles of Chrisma paper ETC. near you then try to see if they have roles of
goldpaper and silverpaper if so then make 4 thin plywoodsheets 1×1 yard or so and glue the
paper on the plywood gold on one side and silver on the other side :-)
and then make 2 – 4 more just painted mathwhite 2 of them you can make with halfglans on the other side
now you have realy very good chances to control the light and where you want it and how much light
even the tone in the picture using these sheets to reflect/bounce the light with
thats what I did before in the not so old analog times to soften the shadows
you can even colour them if you want to make werd pictures :-)

the best think is …...... its cheap !!!

take care
Dennis

View Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)'s profile

Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)

7891 posts in 1668 days


#14 posted 05-24-2011 11:40 PM

That is a great idea, Dennis! I will certainly give it a try and get some reflective paper the next time I am in town. I may even have some left over gold or silver reflective paper in my storage. I appreciate the suggestions. :)

Sheila

-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs (http://www.sheilalandrydesigns.com) Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"

View Dennisgrosen's profile

Dennisgrosen

10850 posts in 1863 days


#15 posted 05-25-2011 12:15 AM

the gold is very good for potrait tooo :-)
just remember the math sheets can often bee the best

if you make one out of cardboard you can bend it between your hands … better yet a helper do it
when you bend more or less you can make a spot light sort of with it
well experiment with them all you can and soon you are an expert :-)
I gess with the project sice you make you can make the baunching sheets the half size or smaller

take care
Dennis

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