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A Photo Tip

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by Hambone, Mar 26, 2005.

  1. I discovered this phenomenon this week and though I'd pass it along to you all.

    It's always a pain to get good shots of highly figured wood - especially full body shots. I've found that no matter how you light it, something gets left out or "refracted out" and it darkens or just loses detail. Then when you get that area looking good, some other spot goes bad. I think they call it chasing shadows.

    What I figured out was that part of the problem comes from the distance we commonly choose to take our pics from, 4-6 feet or just until we can get the body or the full instrument framed in the viewfinder. That was always what was taught for taking good pics but it isn't the best for figured wood and here's why: When the light goes in the wood and comes out in all directions making that nice pattern, you limit how much of the pattern your eye sees by bein so close to the subject. If the body was painted and the color was solid, the light would reflect back in essentially a straigh line giving us a good representation of it's surface - smooth and even color. But the twisted fibers in the wood bend, reflect, and refract the light, shooting it out rays of light at all angles. If we consider the widest angles to form a cone opening up from the body we see that to see all of the figure, we should see all of the rays. When we stand close to the body, we stand inside the cone and can't see many of the rays forming the outer portions of the cone. So to solve that problem, move back - way back. I'm talking 15 - 25 feet if you can or as far as you can get and still maintain resolution (more on that later). You'll then begin to see all of the figure at all points on the body illuminated at the same level without hotspots or darkspots. To do this the best, take the body outside on a sunny day. The pinpoint lightsource of the sun will make the figuring pop like a rocket and you'll get unbelievable depth. The pic you take will show this figure just as you see it from where you stand. Just make sure not to pick up the reflection of the sun itself and you should be fine. About resolution - If you are going digital, bump your resolution up to the highest practical setting you can attain and still take more than 1 shot. This way, you can enlarge your pic and maintain all of the detail (figure included). If you are shooting film and have a very sunny day, I recommend shooting ISA200 on a tripod with remote release or timer for clarity. I'm going to have the Jazzwick shot this way by a photographer friend with a new high rez digital. I'm really looking forward to the results.

    (Edit: Jeez-o-pete guys, Sorry for the lousy composition. I fixed it!)
  2. Lowtonejoe

    Lowtonejoe Supporting Member

    Jul 3, 2004
    Richland, WA
    Excellent tip!

    I just finished some experiments based on your suggestions and compared to my earlier attempts the results were phenomenal!

    Very cool.


    Got any more?


  3. Cliff Bordwell

    Cliff Bordwell Commercial User

    Jan 6, 2004
    USA , Orlando , Florida
    Owner of CB BASSES
    Thanks, Hambone!
    I've always been disappointed with my full bass shots.
  4. I was a very active photography hobbyist a couple of years ago. I agree with hambone about taking various shots at various angles and composing different frames and using a longer telephoto lens and shooting from a distance. Also, do not rely on your camera's integral meter for all shots. It pays to understand exposure. Digital helps to see the results right away, but personally I'm still a fan of the film. If you are going to use your camera on a tripod, there's really no reason to use ASA200. 100 is a lot less grainy and has better color saturation. I recommend Fuji Reala for negatives (if you can still get it in your market, it's been discontinued in many), but I personally prefer color transparency film as it has much better detail and resolution than negative, Fujichrome Provia 100 is my favorite as it does not exagerate any color (unlike velvia which exagerates the greens and reds).
  5. teej


    Aug 19, 2004
    Sheffield, AL 35660
    I've also dabbled in photogpraphy. It's amazing how some of the things I've learned in classes are put to everyday tasks. :)
  6. Tdog


    May 18, 2004
    The studio pics look pretty good to me, Cliff.....BTW.....Great looking instruments.

    I prefer a couple of Chimera softboxes on my strobes and a seamless backround. Yes, the outside light does bring out the finer detail of the wood grain. It is a direct light source, but the sunlight can't be controlled at all times......and for consistent results, a studio setup is the way to go if you can afford it. In a studio you are able to paint with the light, making it softer or harsher if you wish, even in specific areas. I'm not a studio photographer(I do well enough to get me by), but a fine art large format artist doing mostly B&W landscape work for about 25 years. I now do other artwork and use my photography backround to shoot the sculpture, guitars and furniture that I craft.

    Here are a few pics of my latest bass and a shot of a vessel that I turned. These pics are unmanipulated.
  7. For as long as I've done what I've done, I've got several friends in the biz but I've also directed catalog shoots and the like and know so well all of the trouble it is to put out good studio work that I don't bother them with my hobby stuff. They appreciate it I'm sure :)

    I haven't, until now, done anything more than whipped off a few quick shots for posterity. Simple composition with a digital to get the information but nothing ready for presentation. Now, I've got to start getting art ready for the website and that's going to mean actually thinking about it. :meh:
  8. Rav


    Dec 29, 2004
    Aurora, IL
    If you want to capture highly detailed shots do the following.

    1) Use the lowest speed film available use ISO 100 or slower. Fuji Velvia for instance is ISO 64. It is extremely high contrast, tight grain, high definition. It does enhance the greens and tint the blues ( thats a primary reason people use it for landscapes ). You can compensate for the green blue shifts with lighting or post production editing for studio work. I mention velivia because its very easy to find but any high quality slow ISO film will work.

    2) Use the highest F-stop your camera supports. Higher F-stops "shut down" the lens and reduce the aperature that the camera sees thru. Most automatic cameras select a shutter speed and F-stop combination thats general purpose for the given lighting. Override this and go to manual. Lock down to a tri-pod. Set your f-stop to as shut down as possible. Then use the cameras light meter to back off the shutter speed to a slower and slower setting until you get a shutter speed that works with the f-stop you have selected. This could be extremely long depending on lighting. This elimintates the available light refraction angles and creates extremely clear puctures as long as the tripod/camera and objective do not move while the shutter is open.

    If your using a high end digital camera like a nikon D2H-X or a Cannon EOS D set the camera to the lowest ISO emulation, highest RAW resoultion supported. Some of the CCD cameras really hate long shutter speeds. So experiment to find out the lowest shutter speed your camera will support without diffusion CCD noise and then use the highest F-stop you can at that shutter speed.

    If you need close up shots of details use a tripod to lock the camera down and be sure to place the camera just beyond the parallax minimum focal distance of your lens. On most SLR camera lenses the focal plane is listed in feet and meters on the barrel.

  9. Cerb


    Sep 27, 2004
    Bunnybass.com has a nice tutorial on taking pictures of your instruments Here .
  10. Guys, I'd like to point out some of the advice you all have given above is absolutely perfect, and right on subject. But if you look at the depth that you've taken it, most of that doesn't mean much to most of the readers here. That's why my post only mentioned the 200 speed film. That's something everyone understands and can easily obtain - from the grocery store. ;) It's results are predictable under most conditions and while it isn't foolproof, it does offer some measure of assurance that the pics will be acceptable. Besides, I just wanted to get you enough info to make the concept work for you all.

    Rav, your advice is about as deep as it comes and we're thankful for your knowledge, you certainly know your stuff - but guys that don't handle a camer daily aren't going to know where to get Fuji Velvia or give a hoot about correcting blue/green shifts with lighting and post studio editing. Their lighting will come from the sun and their post studio editing consists of reducing the shot to 600 x 600 pixels for uploading to TB. It isn't likely going to get more complicated than that.
  11. Not to hijack the thread here, but Tdog, can we see some more photos of that beautiful P-bass? Woods, specs, etc?
  12. HamOnTheCob

    HamOnTheCob Jacob Moore Supporting Member

    Nov 21, 2004
    Cambridge, Ohio, USA
    Endorsing Artist for Warwick Basses, Mesa Engineering, Joyo Technology, Dr. J Pedals, and Levy's Leathers
    I dabble in photography too, and have had trouble with lighting when taking pics of my instruments... natural light is the best, but I often don't have any. Any suggestions on bulbs?

  13. Rav


    Dec 29, 2004
    Aurora, IL

    My bad

  14. Tdog


    May 18, 2004

    Here are a few links to some pics. The bass has a 1 piece top and back of sequentially cut Big Leaf Maple Burl with matching accent lines of 1 piece Purpleheart The laminated core of the body is also P-heart with Birds Eye Maple accents. The lightcolored wood on the wings is Eastern Curly Maple. Schaller bridge and hardware.....S-Duncan pups. I turned the knobs from African Blackwood. The neck on this bass is a Warmoth....The customer wanted it quickly and opted for the Tele-bass neck in Birds Eye Maple that I had in stock.






  15. M_A_T_T


    Mar 4, 2004
    That's how I ALWAYS did it, I guess it's common sense. Thanks for the great tips! :cool:
  16. pilotjones

    pilotjones Supporting Member

    Nov 8, 2001
    Very nice. What's the green stuff you used to fill the voids?
  17. No, actually, my bad. That sounded pretty bossy.

    Rav, what's your day job? You've got more than your average bears grasp on light catching.
  18. Tdog


    May 18, 2004
    It is an inlay of crushed turquoise.
  19. pilotjones

    pilotjones Supporting Member

    Nov 8, 2001
    Is that something that's available in sheet form, like abalone? Or do you actually lay in "gravel" and then have to level it?
  20. Tdog


    May 18, 2004
    The turquoise is crushed nearly to a powder, maintaining some texture and leveled in the void.

    Just to stay on the topic of this thread......FWIW.....The ground that has been covered here regarding instrument photography is pretty basic......Any good hobbyist shooter should know film and exposure technique......But, some of the info that has been provided is not going to help the cause at all. If you are shooting outside, color temperature and the appropriate filtration need to be addressed. The flattening and compression of perspective, when using a lens of the length needed to photograph a guitar from a distance of 25ft, needs to be taken into consideration.