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Equipment Help, choosing a camera for close up work

Discussion in 'Photography, Art & Design' started by Cookie Monster, 8 Jul 2009.

  1. Cookie Monster

    Cookie Monster Well-Known Member

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    I don't want everyone fighting over which camera to get, just a bit of advice on what to look for.

    I know nothing about cameras, so this is why i'm asking here. A friend has an ebay shop where she sells items to make wedding stationery. These items can range from small silver / gold press on embossed stickers and ribbons to paper and textured card.

    She needs a camera which doesn't cost a huge amount (£200 and below if possible as its only a small business with limited funds) but it needs to capture the textures of the items.

    As with everything else I understand you get what you pay for so if £200 isn't enough please say. I want honest answers without flaming me / her for not spending enough.

    Also I have seen somewhere that macro's are related to capturing close up shots, is this right? Is it a must have for this kind of work?

    Cheers in advance.
     
  2. Jumeira_Johnny

    Jumeira_Johnny 16032 - High plains drifter

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    Ideally, you would want a body and a nice macro lens. But that isn't in your budget. TBH, for what you want to use it for (ebay shop) any modern P&S should have a macro mode that will suffice. A P&S will also allow you to switch quickly between macro modes to wide angles should she have the need to capture larger areas. I would steer you to a more feature rich camera that would allow you to utilize the manual mode, but that's just me. A fully automatic camera should, with some practice, can yield the results you want.

    Now that I have given you honest budget advise, if you really want to show off texture you are going to need to light from the sides. Shadow is how we perceive texture and the best way to get that is to get a light, even if only a desk lamp, off the axis of the lens. Straight on lighting will wash out the fine details of paper and the assorted "stuff" the she will be wanting to highlight. My idea of what you can accomplish on a budget is: a work lamp with a high wattage bulb, a P&S with a good macro mode, a small tripod, assorted reflectors made from cardboard and alufoil, and maybe a small piece of white fabric on a frame to soften light when needed. That will get away from using the built in flash with out pushing you into flash lighting, which means more money.

    Edit: to answer your question more directly: maybe a Nikon L100 or a Canon Sx110 IS...something in that range. If she can stretch to 350-400, a much better range of cameras opens up, but 200 is more then doable.
     
    Last edited: 8 Jul 2009
  3. crazybob

    crazybob Voice of Reason

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    Johnny has pretty good advice - the truth is, the camera doesn't matter a whole lot as long as it's got a macro mode and optical zoom. Personally, I'm a fan of the Canon Powershot series, which have excellent macro modes.

    What really matters, though, is light and a tripod. You absolutely must use a tripod, and to get the best-looking pictures you want the subject lit from all sides with the same color (but not same intensity) of light. This can be something as simple as a lamp on one side of your subject with a white wall on the other side to reflect a portion of the light. Using this sort of setup, you get the shadows you need in order to perceive depth, but they're not harsh and sharp-edged.

    When you're taking pictures, if you want the very cleanest results, set the white balance manually to something in the picture (either wall or part of the item) which ought to be white (if nothing in-frame is white, auto or preprogrammed white balance is fine), turn the ISO to the lowest setting, and use a tripod with a 2-second timer to eliminate camera shake.
     
  4. crazybob

    crazybob Voice of Reason

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    Just to give you some kind of reference, I grabbed a graduation announcement card I had sitting around the house and snapped a quick close-up. This was taken using a Canon Powershot A550 (closest thing currently available is the A480, available for under £100), a dirt-cheap tripod, and an ancient desk lamp running a 60-watt-equivalent CFL, with a battered piece of glossy white foam-core posterboard as a reflector. I also spend less than five minutes on the whole thing, including setup, photography, and cropping/uploading. In other words, this is a pretty terrible attempt, and you could get much better results with a bit more powerful lighting and a bit more care and effort.

    [​IMG]
     
  5. OleJ

    OleJ Me!

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    Most P&S cameras will indeed take very decent pictures as soon af you have A LOT of light.
    Buy a couple cheap studio lamps off of ebay to light your stuff and you'll be getting great results with a P&S.
    I would advise against thinking that a 60W desk lamp would be sufficient.

    Light, light, light and perhaps as mentioned a piece of cloth to soften the background :)

    All tips above are great I just can't help stress the matter of good lighting.
     
  6. crazybob

    crazybob Voice of Reason

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    Yeah, I should have pointed out that in the above picture, the desk lamp was something like six inches away from the subject. A nice big 500-watt halogen would work a lot better if you don't mind getting warm; otherwise, you might be able to get somewhere with an army of CFLs (although CFLs aren't great choices for color rendering).
     

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