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[Photography] : Tips for photographying instruments?

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by Ari, Sep 28, 2004.

  1. Ari


    Dec 6, 2001
    It seems that web-based instruments retailers are finally understanding the power of pro-quality pictures to increase their business. The first website I knew to make pro-quality pictures of basses was Bunnybass, now there are some nice-looking pictures on Thegrooveshoppe, Gguitars, and Sadowsky to name a few...

    I would like to discuss photography, software techniques, and gear. Basically, What is needed to make beautiful pictures like these?



    Do you need only natural lighting or more sources of light? Which settings on the camera? How do you do a black background in photoshop?

    Sorry if this has been posted before but I've done a search and found few topics about photography. If you know a good photography forum, please send links...

    PS: I wasn't sure if I had to post this in "off-topic" or "miscellaneous".
  2. fastplant


    Sep 26, 2002

  3. Ari


    Dec 6, 2001
    Oops, is this a spelling mistake? (Apologies, english is not my mother tongue ;)
  4. Ari, I don't know that much about digital photography and photoshop, but I do know a thing or two about regular film photography.

    If you don't know much about studio lighting (umbrellas, light boxes, et cetera) then I'd suggest getting one of these. http://www.omni-bounce.com They usually cost about $20 U.S.

    They produce very nice, soft, flattering lighting for both products and people.

    As to what setting on the camera, that would depend on your desired effect, and which lens you're using:

    1) Large lens aperture (shallow depth-of-field) to focus on one particular part of a bass, or
    2) Small lens aperture (deep depth-of-field) to have everything in sharp focus.

    If you're just starting out in photography, I'd suggest taking pictures outdoors in subdued light, or indoors with an omni-bounce to start with. Write down the camera and flash setting for every frame you take; this is one of the best ways to learn.

    Portraiture, product and landscape photography are all separate areas, and it takes a little time to get to any level of proficiency in any of them.

    Also, go to your local bookstore and check out the photography section, especially product photography.

    Use a tripod and a hand held light meter whenever possible. (here's where it gets expensive) ;)

    I'm sure others will add their thoughts.

    As I said, I know a little about photography, but the best way I learned was from my mistakes.

    Mike :cool:
  5. Wrong Robot

    Wrong Robot Guest

    Apr 8, 2002
    Michael jewels has many layers....like an onion.
  6. NYIP



    - Wil
  7. P. Aaron

    P. Aaron Supporting Member

    If you're using a handheld digital camera, turn the flash off, hold the camera very steady, and snap away in decent light.

    I use my digital almost exclusively without flash. Just some 1/2 decent light.
  8. Ari


    Dec 6, 2001
    Thanks for your help so far. I know that pictures with direct flash looks usually very flat and uninteresting so when using flash I try to direct it to the ceiling or to separate it from the camera with a cable, so the light is directed to the subject with another angle.

    BTW Wil, I meant I did a search on talkbass and found few topics dealing with photography.
  9. Yeah - kinda weird, eh? I was looking for some stuff on landscaping and found even fewer threads dealing with that here… oh, well… ;)

    - Wil
  10. MichaelScott


    Jul 27, 2004
    Moorpark CA
    Photography is an art of controlling the light elements of the subject you want to take a picture of.

    Product photographers make big bucks and they own thousands of dollars in lighting equipment - they also use large format film cameras most of the time so they can manually fix visual distortions that come with taking product pictures.

    You can take some sweet shots of your axe and if you have some funds and patience to experiment. I’ll give you some advice.


    When doing any type of photography you have to meter. Metering measures the amount of light present and every camera made today has an internal meter- you just don’t know it is working.

    Example of metering:
    1) You grab your point and shoot camera.
    2) You point at your friend to take a picture and you press the button down.
    3) The camera figures out how much light is in the room and how much is reflecting off the target. If there is not enough light the camera decides to use a flash.
    4) The camera takes into account what speed film you are using (unless you are shooting digital) and adjusts the aperture and shutter speed so the correct amount of light passes through the camera to hit the film or digital plate.
    5) BAM! The picture is taken.

    The trick to metering product photography is that you need to light every part of the product equally with the soft light.

    You can do this one of two ways:
    1) You can purchase a hand meter and meter over each part of the product- and adjust the lights closer or father from the product till the lighting is universal.
    2) You can just take the picture with a digital camera, look at the image, and then adjust the lighting back and forth till you have the correct lighting over each section.

    Controlling the light:

    You want lots of bright soft light when you take pictures. You do not want harsh light or no light. Unless you are in a studio you have to take what Mother Nature gives you though. An example of bright soft light would be a lightly overcast day that is hiding a bright sun. The light is very ambient and there are no shadows. An example of harsh light would be the sun setting at around 5pm on a clear day. The light is very bright, discolored, and throws mean shadows. The flash your camera uses is also considered a harsh light and you should never use a flash unless you can not get enough natural light- or if you need to light up a subjects face when the main source of light is behind them (you are taking a picture of someone’s face and their back is to the sun).

    There are 3 variables that photographers adjust to control the light that passes through the camera. When you take a picture the light is metered to get a reading of its strength- and then the camera is adjusted so the right amount of light passes to the film (or digital plate) to create a nice picture. There is a positive and negative to each form of control on your camera.

    1) Aperture- Like Michael Jewels said before: the aperture is controlled on the lens and the wider the aperture the more light that passes through- but the wider the aperture the less depth of field you have- so the focus point will be the only thing in focus. The smaller the aperture the less light that gets through- but you have a wider depth of field. I can’t think of any reason that you would want a small depth of field (maybe for a weird art shot) most photographers will try to give aperture their greatest priority when determining how to control the light. If you are shooting a stationary product you need to have the smallest aperture setting possible for your camera. If you have a point and shoot you should have a setting for “Portrait”- use that setting.
    2) Shutter speed- is controlled by the body of the camera. It is the opening that conceals the film/digital plate from the light that will expose it. The faster the shutter speed the less light gets in -but the camera can be hand held and you can take photographs of moving targets with out the blur effect. The slower the shutter speed the more light gets in but you’ll have to mount the camera on a tripod and you may even need a remote trigger because if you touch the camera the picture will end up blurry. If you are going to be shooting product photographs I would recommend that you have a very slow shutter speed to offset the small aperture you will have. Get a tripod and possibly a remote.
    3) Film- You can also control the amount of light that goes through the camera with the speed film that you use. 100 speed film is very slow but produces very fine grain picture. 400 speed film is very fast but has larger grain so you could not enlarge the print size as large as the 100 speed film without seeing a noticeable grain difference. Most 4x6 standard size prints you won’t see the difference between 100 and 400 speed film- and film now a days is so good you might not tell the difference on an 8x10 print. But you would on a poster size. Digital cameras have a set rate at which the light image is imprinted on the digital plate. The higher quality camera that you use the faster it will do it.

    There are lots of different combinations you can use- and unless you are in the studio and you can add whatever lighting you want- you are very dependent on understanding how to balance the positives and negatives of the light control on your camera. It is kinda like a balancing act that is all dependent on the light you have available and what kind of image you want to produce.

    Here are some examples just to get you familiar (assume that the lighting is the same on these):

    Small Aperture, slow shutter speed, slow film speed.
    This is what you should be using when you are shooting a product. You want maximum depth of field, you want maximum detail on the print. And you don’t care about how quickly the shutter moves since the product isn’t going to move and you have a tripod and remote.

    Small Aperture, medium shutter speed, medium film speed.
    This is what you should be using if you are taking a portrait of someone. You have a tough line to walk since you want a large depth of field, you want the shutter speed to be somewhat quick since the target can move, and you also want the print to have a lot of detail.

    Medium-Large Aperture, Fast shutter speed, Fast film speed.
    This is what you are shooting when you shot sports. Your priority shifts from aperture to shutter speed- since if you shoot with too slow a shutter you’ll get blurry pictures. You still want the smallest aperture you can get- but if you can’t take the shot because your shutter speed is too slow then you have to give.

    Small Aperture, Fast shutter speed, Slow film speed.
    This is the nirvana of photographers- you have all the benefits and none of the drawbacks. To do this you’ll need to have a bunch of lights in your studio, or a really great sun when you are shooting.


    I wrote earlier that you want a bright soft light (and lots of it so your aperture can be the small). And if you are in the garage or studio you can get kind of creative. You want to use Halogen bulbs because this kind of bulb creates the truest form of light. You also want to have some way to “soften” the light. If you have ever seen a studio photographer work with their lights you may have noticed the semi transparent white shields they put over the bulbs. This is creating that “soft” cloud-type lighting effect. Ever seen a picture at night when a flash is used and every shiny surface has a horrible glare? That is harsh light.

    Everything I have listed is completely variable- as long as the light is bright and soft. So if you have enough light in your studio- you don’t need to have a slow shutter speed. Also, you can’t generate enough light you don’t have to have a small aperture you will still produce a picture as long as you meter correctly and adjust the light control variables on your camera and lens to match your current lighting.


    Here is what I recommend you need to take some pictures of your bass (doesn’t mean you need to get it- I just recommend it)

    1) Large sturdy table higher then waist high- to set the bass on.
    2) An empty garage to put the table in.
    3) A large amount of black canvas to cover the table and use as a backdrop for the picture.
    4) Some way to attach the black canvas to the wall that your camera will be pointing at. You want to lay the canvas over the table and then have one side clip above the wall- when ever you look through the camera you need to see just black.
    5) A semi decent camera that can mount to a tripod. Another poster said you could use a point and shoot. You can but I would recommend that you have a camera where you can manually set the aperture and shutter speed. If all you have is a point and shoot you must turn off the flash, you have to set it on portrait, and you have to make sure you have even more lighting then you would think. Also, with a point and shoot you can not get that really up close macro shot that you are showing us- the camera just doesn’t focus that close.
    6) Lights. I’d recommend you go to your local camera shop, tell them what you are doing, and get (rent) some lights from them. You probably need about 4, you need to have a semi transparent white shade so that the halogen bulbs get that “soft” aspect, and if you have a point and shoot camera you might have to buy more lights because you might not be able to set the shutter speed down slow enough to get enough light in without using your flash- and remember… the flash is bad.
    Be very careful with the lights- they are super hot and will burn the white shades (or anything else) if you put them too close.
    7) I’d recommend a hand meter- but I know how to use them. If someone can give you some pointers in person then pick one up- it will save you a lot of time and make the picture look much more pro the first time you shoot it. If you have a digital and you don’t want to get a hand meter then you can just look over the picture to make sure that the lighting is even over the bass. You’ll probably be retaking the same shot 5-10 times before you get the lighting right.
    8) Tylenol Extra strength
    9) Lots of water- it gets hot working with 4+ halogen lights in a stuffy garage.
  11. Matt Till

    Matt Till

    Jun 1, 2002
    Edinboro, PA
    VERY IMPORTANT: Tungsten lighting gives you that natural beauty look. Normal bulbs discolor. Florecent bulbs make your picture green, Incandecent light makes it yellow. Tungsten not only gives you the proper color, but it also gives higher contrast/makes everything "pop" better.

    Also, as a matter of prefrence, I wouldn't use a black backdrop, but rather a step or two lighter. A very very dark grey. It gives a more infinite look. But that doesn't seem to be what these photos are about, I'm pretty sure they photoshopped out all background interference because there is no light hitting the backdrop at all. Also, watch out for that, make sure that your bass doesn't tonally blend into the background.

    MmMMMMm: My photo major is finally starting to pay off. :meh:
  12. Matt Till

    Matt Till

    Jun 1, 2002
    Edinboro, PA
    **** MichaelScott posted like 10 seconds before I did making my miniscule post look like a pile of poop.

    (Goes back to hiding/poping out to occasionally making useless posts)
  13. MichaelScott


    Jul 27, 2004
    Moorpark CA

    Woops! thanks for reminding me about tungston bulbs. You can use those or halogens.

    Try to rent the lighting equipment- spend some time in your local photography shop. Those guys are all nerds and spend the whole day waiting for someone to ask them studio questions (can you tell how I put myself through college??)
  14. Jeff Bonny

    Jeff Bonny

    Nov 20, 2000
    Vancouver, BC
    A cheap alternative to tungsten is to use colour correcting gel (Rosco and Lee Filters are the two big companies). CTB (blue correction) on an incandescent lamp will filter out as much yellow as needed. There is also gel to diffuse light and help eliminate hot spots and glare. If you know a stage lighting guy he can help you and probably give you enough to do the job. The stuff is really cheap. 1/4 CTB (Lee #203 or Rosco#3208) is a good place to start. It goes 1/8, 1/4, 1/3 (rosco), 1/2, 3/4 and Full CTB.

    As for lamp placement I'm a rank amateur photog but a lamp from either side at a 45deg angle or so and one from the close front at around 65-70deg works for me for the cheezy ebay shots I need to take. I generally diffuse with Rosco #112 or #114 frost gel and use a combination of incandescent and floro lamps with no correction. I'm a stage lighting guy by trade so I have lots of correction gel available but have never felt the need to take it to that level. If you wanna take shots like you're talking about a colour temperature meter is prob'ly in yer future.
  15. Brooks


    Apr 4, 2000
    Middle East
    Excellent posts! If you don't have fancy lighting setup, shoot outdoors on an overcast day (sun shining through clouds), or in a shaded area, preferably in a corner made of white walls. That will give you that soft, diffused light. I shot my pics (brooks.envy.nu) in that way. Backdrop can be a simple piece of cloth. I usually prefer either black or white (didn't have black when I shot pics on my web page).

    Avoid flash and direct sunlight - those will give you harsh lighting and too much contrast.
  16. mark beem

    mark beem I'm alive and well. Where am I? Gold Supporting Member

    Jul 20, 2001
    New Hope, Alabama

    You know not everybody likes onions....

    PARFAITS!!! Parfaits have layers!!!

  17. Ari


    Dec 6, 2001
    Thanks guys for these great posts. Michael, I agree with what you said except for the depth of field. There are times when you need a large aperture and a narrow depth of field, when you need to blur the background for portraits.

    I try to use natural lighting when possible but it's not always easy. As you said, I guess I need a large table close to a window with a black cloth to cover both the table and the wall...

    On this picture I used natural lighting but it would look way better with a black background:


    On this picture OTOH I used a flash bounced off from the ceiling but the results aren't great.


    If you compare with the original picture on the Sadowsky website, the bass came out much more "alive" on this pic... I guess there is some better lighting there.