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Guide How to photograph your mod(s)

Discussion in 'Modding' started by PsychoI3oy, 23 Jun 2004.

  1. PsychoI3oy

    PsychoI3oy Member

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    Due to a couple comments by some not-so-nice people in various threads here in the modding section, and the general feeling (with plenty of exceptions) that many modders simply don't know/care how to make good pictures digitally, I present a basic guide on taking digital pictures in low-light and up-close environments.

    First, the disclaimer: I am by no means a professional photographer, nor do I think my word on the subject is final. There are plenty of people here better suited to writing this guide than I (our own g-gnome the ex-photog modder is the first person that springs to mind), but I see a need and know a few tricks to fill that need, so here goes. I am perfectly willing to edit in anyone else's tips, and constructive criticisim is appreciated. Camera specific tips are also appreciated, as I've only personally played with a few different digicams.

    This tutorial assumes you have a digital camera, a computer, and some form of photo editing software. I personally have a Fuji FinePix 2650 (2mp, 3x optical zoom, point-and-shoot for the most part), an Athlon based system running Gentoo Linux, and I use The GIMP for photo editing (though I'm equally as good if not better on Photoshop in winders). If you are stuck using a camera phone or webcam for still shots, I'll see if I can't throw a couple tips at the end (I don't own a camera phone but I have been forced to suffer with a webcam for a while).

    Part 1: General Tips


    Hold the camera steady.
    Hold the camera steady with both hands, with your elbows either resting on something solid (table, desk, whatever) or close to your body. Don't hold the camera too tightly, relax and just take the picture. Use of a tripod (mini desktop tripods are cheap and easy to use and screw into the standard hole found on most cameras) is highly recommended, though I don't own one and have been able to manage. If you can't seem to hold the camera steady, try setting it on something and then taking the picture. For even better steadyness, set it on something (or a tripod) and use the time delay. This assures that you're not touching the camera when the shutter is open.

    Take lots of pictures.
    Most of the time when a picture is blurry, it won't show up as much on the little 1-2" LCD on the back of the camera. Take as many pictures as you feel necessary of each shot you're trying to capture. This is digital photography, excess pictures can be deleted, and due to the law of averages (and/or some other math mumbo jumbo I don't remember) you're more likely to get one good shot if you take several to begin with. Try different lighting/angles when taking your pictures, too. Taking pictures of your shiny new paint job straight on with a flash is a sure way to end up with a not-so-great picture. Experiment when taking the pictures, then decide once they're uploaded to the computer what came out best.

    Have a decent backdrop.
    While not necessary for work logs, having an appealing (or at least uncluttered) backdrop can make pictures much better looking. Showing off your ub3r1337 Lian-Li with watercooling and 2984 bl00 CCFL's amid a pile of old comic books, dirty socks, and old pizza boxes is NOT how to win accolades from the modding community. You don't have to go all out with the sheets and white paper and all that, just have a clean/neat backdrop such that the focus of the picture is what you're trying to show us, the audience. Heck, even a clean carpet is better than the aforementioned clutter.

    Learn your camera.

    All cameras have different functions and features, and even identical models might react differently in the same conditions. Learn the functions and limitations of whatever camera you're using. If your webcam doesn't like low light (and most of them don't), take your pictures on a bright sunny day with the windows open. If your camera doesn't have a macro mode for closeups, find other ways to get small subjects clear (I have a few hints at the bottom of this). If your camera doesn't capture the shade of red paint you're using, learn how to edit color balance after taking the picture; very few people want to hear "it looks better in real life".

    Be a perfectionist.
    If your only source of showing off mods is the Internet, put your best foot forward. Don't hesitate to retake the same picture 23 times till you get it right, nor should you worry about spending 10 minutes in photoshop tweaking it till it looks like the real thing. Think of how long before Orac3 was finished and when he actually put up the article. 2 weeks? Don't spend that long on 3 pictures in a work log update, but do take the time to make it look good. If we put a quarter of the effort into the picture-taking as the mods themselves, we'll end up with some darn nice eye candy.
     
    Last edited: 23 Jun 2004
  2. PsychoI3oy

    PsychoI3oy Member

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    Part 2: Basic daytime/flash shots (average distance)

    Important things to remember with daytime/flash shots are that you have ample lighting (or are in a good range for your flash to work) and are holding the camera steady. Most people don't have huge problems with these kind of shots, but the odd blurry image is not uncommon. Over- and underexposing are sometimes a problem, make sure the white balance on your camera is set to auto or the correct type (incandecent, flourescent, sunlight) for your lighting situation.

    Make sure, also, that you don't move the camera after pressing the shutter half way. On most cameras, a half press of the shutter not only locks any autofocus, but also the sampled light/white balance for the shot. Sometimes this can be used to your advantage: if you're not getting accurate readings on one subject, move to another subject at the same range and press the button half way, then move back to what you want to take a picture of. For example, strong overhead light might make it harder to take a picture of your shiny case panel on the floor, so lock the focus and white balance on the carpet, then move back over the panel to take the picture. Again, experimentation is key for things like this.
     
  3. PsychoI3oy

    PsychoI3oy Member

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    Part 3: Up-Close-And-Personal

    Macro mode, macro mode, macro mode. Usually identified by a flower icon (or similar), macro mode is a term for locking the focus of the camera to between 4 inches and 3 feet (not sure on the exact specs or wether they're standard for all cameras, but suffice it to say 'close stuff'). Autofocus (or locked focus) generally works at ranges greater than 4 feet. If you want to get closer, use the zoom from the same range or use the macro focus and move closer. A note here on zoom; so called 'digital zoom' really isn't, and when I say zoom, I mean optical zoom (as in lenses moving in relation to eachother, etc).

    "Digital Zoom" is meerly taking the center portion of the CCD's avalable area when capturing at a lower resolution than the CCD is capable of. I almost always take pictures at full resolution (128mb will hold ~200 2MP jpegs in my camera) so digital zoom never comes into play. Optical zoom will usually be disabled in macro mode, and digital zoom will only be active if your camera is set at less than full resolution.

    Very important when taking up close pictures is making sure your lighting is accurate. Flash at these ranges can tend to white out the subject completely, and any movement in low-light situations is highly noticeable.
     
  4. PsychoI3oy

    PsychoI3oy Member

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    Part 4: Low-Light shots
    Of course we all want to show off our mods in the dark, as internal lighting is a good percentage of what people do for modding. See the general tip above about avoiding shakyness, and double it. Sometimes when the flash is off, it's near impossible to hold the camera steady enough by hand to avoid blurryness. The trick with setting the camera on timer on a hard surface/tripod is excelent for these kind of situations.

    Often in low light situations autofocus won't work if the center of the viewfinder is on a dark area. If this is the case, try moving the camera so that the center is over a light, half depressing the shutter to lock the autofocus, then move back to the right framing of the shot and press all the way. Experimentaion and taking multiple pictures come into play with this, too.
     
    Last edited: 23 Jun 2004
  5. PsychoI3oy

    PsychoI3oy Member

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    Part 5: Editing

    So you have your pictures in the computer and are ready to throw them on the web. Well, there are a few things you should do first.

    Crop
    Along with having a decent backdrop, cropping your pictures to show only what you want the audience to look at is highly recommended. As stated above, I tend to take all my pictures at 2mp, knowing full well that up to half that data is going to get tossed in the first crop. In photoshop, cropping can also straighten out pictures taken at a slant, as well as cut away the unneeded background pixels. Don't crop too liberally, leaving some of the background in is a good reference point for the viewer.

    Resize
    Obviously on bit-tech there's a limit to the physical size of allowable pictures, resizing to ~500-600 pixels wide keeps the tables in the forums' html from breaking on smaller screen dimensions, as well as keeping the image size down. In your image editor's resize menu are probably choices about liner/bilinear/bicubic sampling, I believe bicubic is the best looking, but also takes the most processing power (though not a significant ammount on today's PCs). You shouldn't have to worry about DPI or physical (inches/centimenters/mm) size, unless you want to print the image. Making images in posts clickable to larger versions is nice for really good shots, but not necesary for all of them.

    Color balance
    As stated above, different cameras have different perceptions of what "blue" or "red" are, and to compound the problem, so do all our monitors. Most OSes have a pretty good handle on this with current technology, so making it look good on your monitor is usually enough. Color balance in post programs consists of 3 sliders that chose between primary colors (red, green, and blue) and their compound color opposites (cyan, magenta, and yellow, respectively). The best way to get it to look good is turn on any preview optiions and just play with it (in small incriments) till it looks right. If you completely screw up and can't get it back right, the cancel button is your friend. This editing is not always necesary for all images.

    Brightness/contrast
    Similarly to color balance, this may not be needed for all images, but it can make the difference between a black case with a single bright light and a fully illuminated case. Again, playing with the sliders to give the best representation is the easiest way to get it right. It's amazing how you can turn what originally looked like a solid black blob into a bunch of well lit components.

    Compress/save
    One of my biggest personal pet peeves with some of the images on this site is that they may be 500 or 600 pixels wide, but they're still 70-200k. Jpeg compression is there for a reason. I have been able to keep almost all the 600pixel wide images in my worklog to <40k each, with no complaints so far about pixelation or overcompression. Obviously not all pictures will compress well, and of course you don't want to lose detail on finer pictures. But please please don't leave them the same level of compression that they came out of the camera at. Cameras may save as jpegs, but at the highest quality possible. Again, play around with each image till you have the smallest file possible without noticeable artifacts.


    That's all for now, as I said above feel free to post more tips and tricks and/or correct any mistakes, but hopefully this will help all of us take better pictures of our mods.
     
  6. guy

    guy New Member

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    wow you got all into it, i never thought that much went into good pics, but maybe that's why mine suck :rolleyes:
     
  7. acrimonious

    acrimonious Custom User Title:

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    Excelent idea for a guide and execution. :thumb:

    :idea:

    May I suggest some example pictures for each section, one done how not to do it, and one done following the advice in the guide. I think people would be impressed by the difference.

    Also, are you going to mention exposure time? It makes a big difference to the quality of my pictures.
     
  8. woodshop

    woodshop UnSeenly

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    Difference lighting makes.
    [​IMG] [​IMG]
    thats same car same amount of green paint and same green paint.
    [​IMG] [​IMG]
    No Tripod / Tripod.

    Hey i got the same brang camera as you only the 1.3mp one.
    Also i got the tripod cheep only $18 USD and it's full size.

    I always wanted to know what those Flower/Landskape pics with the switch on the front of the camera is for.
     
    Last edited: 21 Jul 2004
  9. Pookeyhead

    Pookeyhead It's big, and it's clever.

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    All the basics seem to be there :thumb:

    I can add, or rather, reiterate a couple of points:

    TRIPOD! If you don’t have one, buy one... if you cant buy one, borrow one... Bit-Tech does not advocate the theft of photographic equipment, but if you cant borrow one... LOL

    First of all, it frees up your hands when used in conjunction with the camera's self-timer, so you can take more illustrative shots of work in progress, and manual techniques.

    Second: On camera flash is pants! Having the flash on the same axis as the lens will give flat lighting, and make reflections difficult to manage. If you are lucky enough to have a separate flash gun that can be used off the camera, then great, but the use of such equipment is beyond most who would read this thread. Instead, I recommend shooting in daylight, if not outside itself (avoid direct sunlight - overcast days are best), then near a window (preferable), and use a tripod. Whilst I don't know G-gnome, nor what equipment he uses, it's clearly obvious that he's not using on-camera flash... that's the main reason his images look so much better than most people's. They’re probably taken with daylight, or another diffused, off-camera source. The problem with this, is your camera will choose a lower shutter speed, as ambient light is probably going to be a lot lower than the flash output - the result is blurry hand held shots: You need a tripod for this.

    *Dont forget to manually turn off your camera's flash if using daylight or an external light source!*

    Make your own lighting rig! Sounds complicated? Nah... easy.. just get two, bright desk lamps... place them either side of your work, and experiment. The quality of lighting even from such a basic setup will be way nicer than using that awful on-camera flash. The only caution you will need to exercise, is with colour balance. Household tungsten lighting is a lot warmer than daylight, and if you don’t set your cam to compensate, you'll get yellow/orange images. If you are going to do this, don't mix daylight and artificial light together in the same shot! You can only correct for one or the other... unless you filter your lights, but again, that’s' way beyond the scope of most reading this thread.

    If you use one light source only, whether it be daylight, or artificial, think of using a reflector. This can be simply a A3 piece of white card. If you light something from one side only, then it stands to reason that the opposite side will be in shadow: Whilst your eyes can cope with this contrast, the CCD or even film, can not, and the result will be dark, blocked up shadows with little or no detail. Placing a reflector on the opposite side from the light, will bounce light back into the shadows, thus reducing contrast to a level the film or chip can manage. Try it yourself. On the next sunny day, when the sun is high.. go outside with a friend, and look at his/her face... now hold a piece of white paper under their chin. Big difference huh?

    Soft is better: If you are going to use off camera lighting, try to avoid direct light from small sources, like light bulbs etc... instead, bounce the light off a large white card. The larger the light source, the softer the light, and lower the contrast... this yields more detail usually. Think of natural daylight: On a sunny day, you have a hard shadow... on an overcast day, you have no shadow. On a sunny day the light is from one point source, and on the cloudy day.. It’s from everywhere.

    Learn how to use your camera's Exposure compensation:

    In my work, I wouldn't even be using the camera’s meter... hell.. my cameras don’t HAVE meters. However, nearly everyone reading this will have to rely on their cam's meter. It's not foolproof! If you photograph a small white object on a large black background, the camera will just see all that black, assume it’s dark, and lower the shutter speed, or adjust the aperture to compensate. The result will be a very overexposed white object, sitting on a grey background. Conversely, the opposite would happen for a small dark object on a white background: Will render the scene as a small almost black, featureless object on a grey background.

    Use your Exposure compensation to correctly expose the most important part of the image…. If the background goes.. the background goes… don’t worry about it. This can be avoided of course, by NOT putting a small black object on a white background, but if you really must do it, be aware that the camera will be fooled by all that white.

    This is nicely illustrated in Woodshop's post above. Whilst he probably did this unwittingly, he placed the car in the second shot on a white background. The camera has reduced exposure to compensate, resulting in a very dark car. Also, he hasn't corrected for tungsten lighting, resulting in a yellow background. The first shot is either using an external light source to the right of the object, or there is a window to the right (or possibly sunlight). The car fills more of the frame, and as a result, the camera is less fooled by the light background. The darker background helps too. Results are clearly superior. This could have been improved yet further by a reflector to teh left, bouncing light back to ease the shadows a little.

    ------------------------

    If anyone needs any advice on photography... just drop me a line, or PM me: I'll be glad to help.

    Thanks to the original poster for raising this issue... I'm surprised it never crossed my mind to be honest.
     
    Last edited: 23 Jun 2004
  10. PsychoI3oy

    PsychoI3oy Member

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    thanks, and the good/bad pictures are in the works, just didn't have time to do them yesterday.
     
  11. Pookeyhead

    Pookeyhead It's big, and it's clever.

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    Here are some examples:

    As I think of things that could be relevant, or find/take pics that could be relevant, I will add them to this post, not create a new one, so check back if what you need is not here. Also, if you need advice, get in touch - my e-mail is in my profile, and I always reply to PMs


    Why your On-Camera flash is useless for your modding pics!
    [​IMG]
    Shot 1: On Camera flash - totally hard shadows heading away from the viewer, harsh, and unpleasing lighting. Fall off from front to back also, common with on camera lit macro shots. Highlights are starting to burn out, and reflections from metalic objects are unpleasant.

    [​IMG]
    Shot 2: Hateful on-camera flash switched off!! Daylight from a window to the left of the shot. Much more pleasing lighting. Lower contrast, far more detail, but shadows are a little deep.


    [​IMG]
    Shot 3: As above, but shadows reduced merely by holding a piece of white paper just to the right of the card to bounce light back. Look at the difference to the right hand side of the card, especially the PCI connectors. Now compare shot 1 to shot 3. I think you'll agree it's a far more pleasing result. ALl three shots used the same, low-end comsumer camera, and the only difference between 1 and 3, is switching off the flash, and holding a piece of paper... simple as that.

    A tripod was used.

    To illustrate why exposure compensation is important, I took three shots. I reduced them to greyscale, as it's easier to see what's going on, and to understand what the camera tries to do.

    [​IMG]
    In this image above, the same bettery is photographed, with the same camera, same lighting, and same distance: The only difference is the colour of the background. In the upper shot, the background is white, and the lower, black. In the upper shot, the camera saw all that white, assumed it was too bright, and closed down the aperture (or uses a faster shutter speed) to darken the background. In the lower, the opposite happens, the camera sees all the black, and opens up the aperture to let more light in (or uses a slower shutter speed to do the same), lightening the background. ALl this is at the expense of the battery, which is either too dark, or light respectively.

    Why does it do this? Your camera tries to render everything grey. That's how meters are calibrated... they try to average a scene to 18% grey, as that is deemed to be the average tonal level of the average photograph. Usually this works OK for most people, but faced with a situation like this, it fails miserably. You can see this in action in these shots: One is a black background, and one is white - both are rendered almost exactly the same shade of grey!!
    To get around this, use your exposure compensation: If it's a white background, you will need to set +compensation, and if it's a black background, you will need to set -compensation. How much varies, so experiment.

    Once set, the camera produced what it should have... a battery on a white background.
    [​IMG]

    Strong backlighting will also give you the same problem:

    Too see this in action in real life is easy to demonstrate: Below are two quick snapshots of my hand against the window. Left is with exposure compensation set to +2 stops, and right, is the camera left to it's own devices, and making a complete mess of exposure. It assumed that as the majority of the image area was very bright, it was that I wished to photograph, and not the hand. you will see that my window blinds are nicely exposed in shot 2: Unfortunately, it was my hand I wished to photograph. The camera tries to guess... and is not always correct. In this strong backlighting situation, you could also use the on-camera flash to fill in the hand, but as we're talking about detailed still life shots of your beautiful mod.. we've already established that on-camera flash is pants in the first demo... so use a tripod, and use your exposure comp!
    [​IMG]

    Depth of Field

    A lens can only focus on one thing at once, but shorter, wide angle lenses are very good at keeping things close to you, and things far away in reasonably sharp focus. This area of acceptably sharp focus from front to back is referred to as the Depth of Field. Long telephoto lenses have a much narrower depth of field, as do Macro lenses. So if taking closeup shots, bear in mind that your camera (unless it's a higher end cam with multiple focus targets) will only focus on what's dead centre of the screen. If you just frame your shot and shoot, whatever was dead centre will be in focus. SOmetimes however, what's dead centre is not what you want in focus, and this becomes very important in macro work when shooting at sharp angles to an object - when the object heads away from the lens.

    In the shots below, I wanted the black chip in focus, even though it was not centre frame. In the first shot, I half-pressed the shutter to set focus whilst the chip was centre frame, then reframed the image without moving my finger (this holds the focus), then took the shot. In the second shot, I framed the shot as I wanted, and just let the camera focus. It simply focused on whatever was in the centre, regardless of whether I wanted that sharp or not.

    A Manual focus camera is ideal here, but precious few comsumer digital cameras have this option.

    The results can often be dynamic if you think about angles, and more interesting if the subject is offset from centre. The main subject does NOT always have to be cetre frame!

    Remember... the closer you go, the less the Depth of Field.
    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: 23 Jun 2004
  12. Renko

    Renko New Member

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    great guides guys and a fantastic idea!

    can we make it compulsory that everyone who posts pictures at least reads this first? :hehe:
     
  13. Pookeyhead

    Pookeyhead It's big, and it's clever.

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    That's the thinking, both mine, and obviously PsychoI3oy's. Better pics of modding projects benefit us all! Plus.. they're nicer to look at.

    I never realised G-Gnome was an ex-photographer. I thouhgt I was the only one in here representing my field.. It doesn't surprise me now I look at his pics. Nice lighting, and good use of post-production colour correction.
     
  14. supermonkey

    supermonkey Deal with it

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    Woohoo, photogs of the world, unite!! ;)

    Here's a little tip for us purists who still use film (and those of us who can't exactly afford a digital camera right now).

    If your camera allows it, reset the ISO rating of the film lower than its usual rating. For example, if you are using ISO 400 film, after you load it in the camera, manually set the ISO to a number between 200 and 300. This is commonly referred to as "pulling" you film, the opposite of "pushing" film (rating it higher than normal to get shorter exposures).

    The reason for this is an extension of pookeyhead's post regarding the batteries and black/white objects. When your camera's light meter reads the scene, and tries to make everything 18% grey, you lose a lot of your detail in the shadow areas. One common misconception among amateur photographers is that you have to underexpose brightly lit scenes, like a snowy field on a sunny day. The opposite is true. By over exposing, you force the camera to take in the subtle shadow details that would otherewise be lost. Normally, to compensate for the overexposure, you would need to under-develop the film by an equal ratio. However, due to the wide and forgiving latitude of color print film, developing normally will give you a pretty good exposure, both in the hilights and shadows.

    Now, there are a couple ways to over-expose your film. The first is the most obvious. When you meter the scene, slow down the shutter speed or open the aperture by 1 stop. Second, you can use the exposure compensation. However, by setting your ISO 1 stop lower than its normal rating, the camera will automatically overexpose each shot. Adjusting the shutter speed, aperture and exposure comnpensation from there will give you complete control over any exposure.

    Another way you can set your exposure for any given scene is to use a grey card. Grey cards can be found in any photography store and are exactly 18% grey, so your camera will read the exact color it wants. If you can't get a grey card, you can meter your hand and open up one stop (more exposure). Manually set your camera for whatever the reading is and you have a general exposure to use for that lighting situation.

    just felt like adding my 2¢
    -monkey
     
  15. Pookeyhead

    Pookeyhead It's big, and it's clever.

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    Hmm.. not really. What you propose there is merely over-exposing it. It's not pulling unless you adjust development times to compensate.. hence the name "pulling"... you pull the stock from the dev early. This gains nothing in modern emulsions, particularly E6, and will cause highlight detail to suffer. Simple over-exposing, as you suggest CAN increase shadow detail, but at the expsnse of highlight detail and colour saturation.. I can't say I recommend it, as without adjusting devepment (as you propose), you're merely either over, or under exposing, not pulling or pushing, and to take every shot with incorrect ISO is a bit hit and miss. It's far better to learn how to make your lighting lower in contrast, and how to use exp comp to avoid these problems: That way, simple auto exposure cameras as more likely to be able to cope. Remember... not many people will have sunlit snow in their modding pics :D BTW.. for sunlit snow... ignore your camera's meter, and buy a decent incident meter.

    I really think everybody in here will be using digital capture for their project logs anyway to be honest. What you're touching upon tentively here is Reciprocity Law and manual metering techniques, which will be almost useless to most in this thead, even if they do use film, as it requires full manual control of both aperture and shutter to be completely effective. Even those using film are very unlikely to be using a completely manual camera.

    Remember this thread shouldn't be a Photography 101 course... just simple techniques to improve your modding shots. If anyone wants advice on the above you're welcome to mail me, but I think it's best if this thread was kept free of overly technical jargon - most in here are not photographers... not even amateur photographers.
     
    Last edited: 23 Jun 2004
  16. Axly

    Axly slo-mo...dder

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    First of all, a great thanks for these guides. It should really be compulsory to read through this thread before posting pictures.

    I'd just like to add that if you don't master the camera, you can still post great pictures. After all most have access to some sort of picture editing software. I've been doing some work for an engine tuning/building company lately, making a simple webpage and giving some basic hints about how to not do ads or promo pictures ;)
    they supplied me with .tif's in about 3-4000 px/side and all's good with that, but they have clearly not read this guide.
    [​IMG]
    I've only made this pic smaller, and cropped a LOT of background away.. the pic looks ok, but notice the strong yellow tint throughout the picture, and also the slight blur.. Is it a spongy brass piston?

    [​IMG]
    Well, of course not, it's pure steel, and since they wanted "clinical" pictures on a white background I've just turned it almost b/w, cropped everything around it, and sharpened it a bit. (and removed some smudge..)
    the sharpening tool that are available in most programs is something more people should use. By downsizing images they will get a little "softer" and to give a really good, crisp look to the photos, why not experiment a bit with sharpening? Just don't overdo it.
    These pics are a lot smaller on the page, so the smudge remnants aren't visible at all there.

    So, don't dispare if you can't get the photos as nice as for example G-gnome's just by reading through this excellent guide thread.. You can fix a lot in photoshop/photo magic.. whatever.

    (edited, corrected some typos)
     
  17. woodshop

    woodshop UnSeenly

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    Well both shots were taken without a flash. The first one was taken outside at about dinnertime as you can tell by the shadow. There was also a large white wall to the right in the picture with the sun shining onto the wall. The second Pic was taken on the dining room table again with no flash and with the ligiting provided by the overhead lights and the chandler.

    Man i whis my camera had all thoses features. But it don't i really need a new one.... need a job first though...
     
  18. Pookeyhead

    Pookeyhead It's big, and it's clever.

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    Nah... you dont need features mate.. that's the whole point of this thread. There's always a way to overcome the limitations of low end auto everything cameras. For the pics in this thread, I used a Nikon 775... a really bargain basement, obsolete 1.3mp camera.
     
  19. G-gnome

    G-gnome Peter Dickison

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    Awesome, simply awesome.

    :thumb: Top stuff!

    Great guides. Both myself and another member of the bit-staff, Fly, are former professional photographers.

    I don't really have much to add as from what I can see all the basics to taking a good pic of your mods are covered. I agree with all the tips wholeheartedly. There is everything there most anyone would need to know to take better pics.

    I used most of the techniques mentioned above, including: no-flash, available daylight (through a window) only, reflector panels, altering camera angles to minimise unwanted reflections, a tripod to keep things sharp, using macro-focus setting on the digicam, using exposure compensation to counter the effect on the camera light-meter by the black backdrop, draping black material as a plain backdrop etc, in fact, all of these techniques were used together in this one shot:

    [​IMG]

    Heres my 'bedsheets & broomhandles' home 'studio' that I set up for the pic shown above, that I took of my Orac mod:

    [​IMG]

    You can see the only light is from the glass sliding doors to my patio. This is indirect light too as the patio has a translucent corrugated plastic roof, so no direct sunlight comes in. The light is reflected on either side of the case by the setup of white bedsheet and white cardboard panels, which are outside of the final shot. The backdrop is a piece of black material (bought from a craft/dressmaker shop). It's hung over the back of a chair and curves out to the doors. I put a piece of cardboard on the end to keep it stretched out and wrinkle-free. In all, a basic setup anyone can do, you probably wouldn't even need to go quite as elaborate - a backdrop, window light and a couple of bits of cardboard. I sat the camera on a tripod and underexposed (exposure compensation at -0.7) to keep the black backdrop nice and black. Remember, the camera sees all that black and wants to (wrongly) over-compensate by over exposing the shot. I also shot on a bit of an angle to avoid excessive reflections in the sides of the case.

    I do use photoshop also, but only to re-size/watermark my pics for publication on the site here, and to apply a single application of the basic photoshop 'sharpen' filter (a true godsend) to counter the slight blurring 'softness' that creeps into shots when downsizing. I don't do any colour/contrast/brightness correction or fool around other than the basic size/watermark/sharpen-on-resize.

    I sold most of my photography gear a few years back when I moved away from Sydney and re-joined the military, so all I own now and all I have to use to photograph my work, is a 5mp Sony Mavica and a folding reflector. All my setups at home use stuff available to most people in these forums - sheets of black and white coloured cardboard, broomhandles/bedsheets and available light. Not quite the results of the studios I used to shoot in but perfectly adequate nonetheless. After all, its the person behind the camera that takes the photograph, not the camera ;) Good lighting and focus can make great shots from even the most budget of cameras.
    So very true!

    All my nice pics I try and shoot in daylight only. I am still forced to use a flash for a lot of my work-in-progress pics, due to doing most of my modding in evenings, when it's dark outside. Most of the delay between finishing my project and finishing the write-up (as was guessed at here) was in waiting for the weekend to roll around so I could take some nice daylight shots. Just think, you don't spend months and months modding to hide all your effort in badly-lit or blurry pics! Though I'd still have to say nothing beats seeing the real thing... :)
     
    Last edited: 24 Jun 2004
  20. Etacovda

    Etacovda New Member

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    "Even those using film are very unlikely to be using a completely manual camera."

    Hey, i have a pentax S1a dammit, and it doesnt know what auto means! :D I really would like a decent digital, but at present I can't afford one.

    Yes, photography really is everything; even the most average mod can look stunning with decent photography, and the best mod can look shocking with bad photos.
     
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