The final act…
Buffing the final coat of finish is the moment of birth for a project. After that it is carefully wrapped and delivered to start its’ life with family, friend, or client.
One part of the woodworking process that most of us don’t figure in is the photography. I can tell you from experience that this a very important part of furniture making. It is not an option if you are planning on doing woodworking and furniture as a business, be it full or part time. The images that you have to show in your portfolio are going to help capture more work and the higher the quality the better.
I feel the same financial pinch that everyone does, but as professional I don’t have an option. Taking progress and finish photos is something that I have been working on myself. The computer (this is my first) and digital camera have been great tools to make this task easier.
The in-shop studio…
Here is how I set up a photography studio in my shop.
I bought a couple of canvas painter’s tarps and put grommets in one. I use shower curtain clips to attach it to a copper rod that hangs from the ceiling in one end of the shop.
I have a dozen parabolic reflector lights. I use the “Reveal” bulbs from GE for lighting. They cast a whiter light than standard incandescent bulbs and are easier to color correct in the computer.
Lighting is tricky and you can open a real Pandora’s box when you start casting light on a subject. When you throw light on one side it creates shadows on the opposite side. The brighter the light, the harder the shadow. The goal is to get even light. Your woodworking project is usually sitting still so a tripod and long shutter speed often works.
Besides shadows you will get hot spots of light reflecting from the surface of your project. Those seem to show up worse in the picture than with the naked eye. With practice and attention to detail, you will gain an understanding of the relationship between camera, lighting, and subject to prevent the hot spots.
Without writing a full technical manual these are the basics. The following images may give you some ideas of how to set up a photography studio in your shop.
1. Here is the section of shop I use to photograph.
2. I keep all the tarps and lights in storage containers when not in use. Wash the backdrops and dry them on high heat to get a good wrinkle, that looks better than fold lines.
3. I hang the tarp and place one on the floor.
4. I start adding lights. Some are reflected off of the ceiling and some I like to wash down the backdrop which creates a texture.
5. Prep the piece for presentation, you don’t want dust to make an appearance in the photos after you put everything away.
6. Here are the images from this shoot. These were color corrected in the computer. I rely on the tools in the photo software to make these corrections. These are some of the actual images that helped me get juried into the Western Design Conference.
7. Here is another project. The first image shows how I have lighting clamped all over the place. You will also noticed that this project is elevated. Some projects will be easier to shoot this way.
To take my photography to the next level I will be working on creating even lighting. When you cast a light from one side you have to counter it with another light to eliminate the shadows. It is a bit of the snowball effect and pretty soon you can’t believe how many lights you have bought.
The best advice for taking pictures in the house is turn your flash off and use a tripod. The slow shutter speeds will absorb the image and ambient light in the room can create a warm and desirable effect.
No Techno Geek Speak
This is not a fully detailed tech manual for photographing your projects, nor is it intended to be. I certainly am not an authority on photography. This is how I do it and I hope that it may give my fellow woodworkers some ideas for photographing your own projects.
Share the Love~Share the Knowledge
-- Todd A. Clippinger, Montana, http://americancraftsmanworkshop.com