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Please critique my bass photos

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by jive1, Sep 26, 2005.

  1. jive1

    jive1 Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jan 16, 2003
    Owner/Retailer: Jive Sound
    I am trying to improve on my newbie photography skeels, and would like some feedback on the pics I took. I used a Canon A70, a tripod, a couple of 250W lights, and a black bedsheet.

    As far as photoshopping, all I did was blur the black background, sharpened a couple of images, and cropped.

    This is my first attempt at doing photos in a "studio" setting with lights, so I figure I still have alot to learn. If anyone has any comments or tips, I'd much appreciate it.

  2. Vorago

    Vorago (((o)))

    Jul 17, 2003
    Antwerp, Belgium
    the 4th picture is a bit blurry.

    Are you using direct light or not?
  3. Matt Till

    Matt Till

    Jun 1, 2002
    Edinboro, PA
    The second photo has a black line surrounding the body that is slightly distracting... but congrats, you managed to avoid a photonono... not using a jet black background. People always see black backgrounds and assume "black is infinite... like space" when in reality a completely black background tends to flatten space. The off black/dark dark grey you went with is basically what you want to shoot for, though it isn't consistant in all pictures, it varies... I don't know if it's your exposure that varied or what.
  4. NJL


    Apr 12, 2002
    San Antonio
    I would of liked to see the sides of the body on some of those pics...

    Also, it looks like the tuner pegs need to be wiped down...

    I'm anal! :D
  5. jive1

    jive1 Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jan 16, 2003
    Owner/Retailer: Jive Sound
    I pretty much used direct light. I don't have the knowledge or experience to use reflectors or what-not. If anyone has any ideas on reflectors, umbrellas, etc. I'm all ears.

    I didn't play around with the exposure or anything like that. I'm clueless on stuff like histograms, f-stops, etc. I'd like to be able to change the depth of field and let the camera blur the background instead of using photoshop, but I'm sorta clueless on how to do that. If anyone knows how to use the camera to do so, please :help: The A70 does allow for manual shutter speed and aperture, as well as white balance and ISO speeds so I have some room to work with.

    What I did was take a black bedsheet, and spread it so that it draped against the wall and floor. I took two 250W tungsten lights with diffusers, and placed them on each side of the bass. I took a small stool and put a black T-shirt over it to hide the stool. After that I put the bass on top of the stool and took my pictures.

    Thanks for the comments thus far, and keep em coming.
  6. Blackbird

    Blackbird Moderator Supporting Member

    Mar 18, 2000
    Pictures 1,2, 4 and 5: You can tell that your souce of light is coming from the headstock's general direction because the butt of the bass is shaded and the bridge is projecting a shadow as well.

    You can minimize the shade by making some reflectors to bounce some of the incident light onto the shadowy spots.
    You can use many light and easy to get materials, such as styrofoam sheets, aluminum foil or even Frito Lay wrappers, like the non clear dorito bags. They make good reflectors. All you have to do is glue them or paste them to some cardboard and you got yourself a reflector. Styrofoam will produce a softer effect than the Frito Lay ones, which are more mirror like. They don't have to be huge. You can use them by placing them strategically out of shot, propped up with a book or a helper, if you have one.

    Focus seems soft, but that's not a bad thing. Good pics!
  7. Matt Till

    Matt Till

    Jun 1, 2002
    Edinboro, PA

    That's such a huge topic... maybe this is a little generic but... ever consider getting a book?

    Lighting: I don't know if they use strobe units on basses (that's all portraits are anymore) but usually Tungeston lights are what you'd want. Basically, it's the color temp of daylight... except you can control it's direction.
  8. Jazzin'

    Jazzin' ...Bluesin' and Funkin'

    The 4th picture is out of focus. A few if the picutres have borders around the bass of the real background which hasn't been cut out close enough to the bass. But I am really impressed. I coudn't have done better.
  9. Those picks look great.

    The only thing I pick up on (besides the smudged tuning keys :eek: ) was the glear from your light source reflecting on the bass. Like mentioned above reflectors and defused light is best for this type of photography. Sometimes you can use a nearby wall or bounce the light off the ceiling.

    Another thing, check to see if you have a setting to choose what type of light source. Tungsten, florescent, sunlight, cloudy,...etc they usually will show as an icon for what type of light. If you use the correct one the colors will be more accurate, instead of letting your cam guess on the best setting.

    If you google "product photography" you will find some sites with a lot of information. Some of them use guitar and musical instruments as examples because of the challenges of light, glossy finishes and chrome etc.. Product photography is in a field all it's own that uses a lot of different techniques.

    Here is a great site, they have some articles with photo tips, more so they have a really good forum. http://www.megapixel.net/html/cover.php

    This one also has a great forum if you are interested. http://www.steves-digicams.com/

    These sites will defiantly break you from the automatic modes.
  10. Tingly


    Jul 16, 2005
    Yonkers, NY
    Beautiful photos. Nice color. The grain of the wood is downright sensual. You shoulda wiped the tuning machines before taking the last picture, but it's to your credit that the photo is so sharp, you can see the finger smudges on the chrome.

    As for your statement: "I'd like to be able to change the depth of field and let the camera blur the background instead of using photoshop, but I'm sorta clueless on how to do that..." You may already know this, but to blur the background, you need to use less light, or a shorter exposure. Either method will force you to use a WIDER aperture (bigger lense opening) and the "depth of field" (the depth of the physical space that will be in focus, from the lense to the subject matter) will be "shorter." Since you manually set the camera, try higher shutter speeds first.

    But, remember, there has to be something in the background to blur. You won't see much blurring with a black or grey background.
  11. LajoieT

    LajoieT I won't let your shadow be my shade...

    Oct 7, 2003
    Western Massachusetts
    +1 on the reflectors comments. Foam-core works great, white pillowcases in a pinch will give a bit of fill, but with Tungsten lights you won't be reflecting a lot, so you might be better off with soft reflective stuff, cookie sheets, the foggy side of tin foil, stuff like that. The specular hightlights (the white reflections of the lights on the glossy finish) are tough to get rid of without changing your photo rather dramatically, you can diffuse the light by shooting through a diffuse material, but you're going to loose a LOT of light doing that, and you don't have a lot of light to loose with only 250w Tungstens. Plus with a more diffuse light source you won't be showing off the figuring of the wood as well (which is great in your shots BTW) You might be better off trying to position your lights so they don't reflect. It's generally just a matter of angles, shoot the lights at the bass from the same general direction as the camera. If you've got one that is at a visible angle from the camera, you can put something small and black right in the path between the light and the reflection and it will block just that little white highlight. Depth of field is a tricky one, If you lessen it to blur the background, then headstock (in the shots from the body) is going to be more out of focus. IMO some of your shots don't have enough depth of field, and I'd rather blur than sharpen. I'd guess you're color balance was set to Automatic, which is going to make each shot slightly different, Find the tungsten setting if they ARE tungsten lights (or better yet figure out how to do a custom setting using a grey card) and you're photos will be more consistent. You mentione using a tripod, but what about a cable release or the timer setting. Pushing the sutter release causes a good bit of vibration, and you're at the mercy of shutter speed to give you the aperture you want when you're using hot lights rather than strobes. Find the self timer, set it to about 5 seconds and use it. Push the shutter release and let go, it will settle still and then take the photo, you should get sharper images.
  12. Finger Blister

    Finger Blister

    Jul 8, 2003
    Polish the tuners if your going to take a close-up beauty shot.
  13. Scottie Johnson

    Scottie Johnson

    Sep 8, 2004
    You've got mad skillz, yo!
    Every one has said the few problems with the pictures,
    but they are much better that I expected when opening this thread. Good job.
  14. Juneau


    Jul 15, 2004
    Dallas, TX.
    First, the pics are far above average I think, but some improvements that could be made:

    Use a diffuse light, umbrella, ect, you can even put some tissue paper over the light (dont catch anything on fire hehe). A plain white piece of paper might work as well if your lights are strong enough. You can also try bouncing the light off a wall, instead of directing it at the bass. This will cut down on unwanted reflections.

    When you mask, use the lasso and trace by hand. The magic wand type tools simply dont work all that well unless the pic is clear cut between colors. Almost no pic is, and with shadows and everything, I always put in the extra time to mask well. Note I didnt see any masking issues really, but something to keep in mind.

    Also, not sure what your bass looks like in real life (sunlight), but the pics all look very yellow to me. Might do some white balancing. A simple way to do that is to put a small white card in the background someplace. Its easy to cut out and remove, and you can mess with color masks and things to make that card appear as white as possible before you do the rest of your editing. It may be the maple with finish you have is just yellowish too, so that may not apply here. I always seem to have white balance issues with artificial lights.

    Oh and in reguards to the tuners comment, polish the whole instrument, not just tuners, and just a nice touch, turn all the pegs the same angle, even if out of tune, its a nice little touch.
  15. jive1

    jive1 Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jan 16, 2003
    Owner/Retailer: Jive Sound
    Thanks for all the comments and input.

    Here's a second round of pictures. Here's what I did differently:
    - I used indirect light. I aimed the lights towards the ceiling to bounce the light off it. That way I avoided shadows, but I still had to fiddle with the lights to avoid reflections on the finish. I did that by lowering the lights and moving them away from the ceiling.
    - I played with the white balance, and set it to tungsten.
    - I adjusted the ISO speed so it was a little slower.
    - I did fiddle around with aperture and shutter speed, but in the end it was a lot of frustration. I'm just not there yet.
    - I lowered the quality on my camera. What it did was make photoshopping a little easier, since there weren't as many stray pixels and stuff seemed to "blend in" a little better to my eye. I found that with the highest quality and largest size, there was too much for me to work with considering my limited experience.
    - I recommend the book "Shooting Digital", it has alot of nice tips. But in the end, it didn't cover enough about photographic objects like a bass for my needs, but it did have some nice fundamental concepts in it. I still don't undertand f-stops, and technical concepts like that, but I'm still a newbie so I hope to get it someday.
    - I tried some reflectors, and once again too complicated for me to accomplish what I wanted to. Maybe not too complicated, but more due to shortcomings of the operator.
    - I forgone the stool, and instead rested the bass on a pile of small books to move it away from the background.
    - The "magic wand" is anything but magic in photoshop, but after playing around I got it to work OK. The lasso is pretty tedious with large pictures, and my wireless mouse had me pulling my hair out when using it. Once I got my selction squared away, I used the blur-average filter in photoshop to get the background.
    - I have used diffused lights in the previous photos, but they were directly on the subject. The indirect lights in conjuction with the diffuser seems to give it a more natural, softer light.
    - I also used the timer function on the previous photos as well. But, this time around, I learned how to properly secure my camera on the tripod. No-one told me about the little screw thingy under the mount.
    - I polished up the tuners for you anal b@stages :D

    Like I said, I'm quite a newbie at this. All I ever did before this was point and shoot with a camera. The wierd thing is that I'm finally using photoshop for photography instead of hacking up pictures of TBers.

    So don't feel the need to have kid gloves on for critiques. I understand that I'm new to this, and quite inexperienced, and pretty ignorant on the topic. Thanks for all the help thus far, and keep the comments coming!

  16. Jive, you got a lot of good advice and you used a lot of good advice but whenever that happens, you don't really know which of the good advice made the most difference and which differences it made. My good advice would be to concentrate on one aspect mentioned above to see all of it's possibilities before moving to another. That way, you can pick the best of the best for your situation and equipment.

    As for shadows, diffuse light isn't the only way to eliminate them. The use of slave flashes is a great way to do it too. These are small self contained flash units that literally "see" the flash coming from your main unit and activate at the same time. By positioning these small units opposite your main flash and filling shadow area's, you can maintain full illumination and keep your color rendition, while blasting out the shadows. Go to your photo store and ask about "peanut" flashes.
  17. Christopher


    Apr 28, 2000
    New York, NY
    Wow. Big change. Like Juneau, I thought the biggest issue with the first set of photos was the white balance. Now the instrument looks like it actually has a natural finish, rather than a vintage yellow one.
  18. Finger Blister

    Finger Blister

    Jul 8, 2003
  19. Better than what I could do. It gets the thumbs up from me. :smug: