Friday, May 16, 2014

Lights, Camera, Action! Behind the Scenes - Shooting Quality Photos


Last week I was asked to submit 15 photos of artwork to a magazine for a local art tour of professional artists. We have over 25 artists. It shouldn’t be hard to find 15 quality photos, right?
Wrong! Some were out of focus, others showed junk in the background, or had their item laying in bright red cloth, and lastly the color was off. I find this happens more often than not.

So, in this blog series, I’m sharing some simple tips on creating quality photos of artwork (jewelry in this case).

Holding the Camera
The camera must have a camera stand. This removes most of the chances of blurry photos. They don’t cost that much, less than $36.  Most cameras have a screw hole in the bottom that allows for mounting on a stand. A search on the internet will reveal a camera stand/mount designed for iPhones too.

The Background
When setting up your shot, look in the background. Put jewelry on a neutral background. Bright colors, like red, blue, or yellow take away the focus of the main object. Additionally, colorful backgrounds reflect their color onto jewelry. Look at the reflection on the jewelry to see what color is showing, especially if it’s silver jewelry. A bright color makes the silver appear to be that color. For my background I use a white cutting board or a gray card.

Set the White Balance
Have you ever taken a photo that turns out blue or really yellow, but when you look at the setup it looks fine to your eye? That’s because the digital camera is picking up light different than your eye. All cameras have a setting that allows you to set the white balance. This setting is what changes that same shot to the corrected color. Different lights cause different colors. For example, fluorescent lighting adds a bluish cast to photos whereas tungsten (incandescent/bulbs) lights add a yellowish tinge to photos. Check your camera’s user manual to find the white balance setting menu. The easiest setting to use is "Auto". The camera makes a best guess of balancing on a shot by shot basis on the auto setting.

Lights and Lamps
I used to go outside on a cloudy day or find a shady spot to photograph my silver jewelry. Shade offers natural lighting, but the problem is the reflecting light. If I have a wall nearby the color reflects off my jewelry. A quick, easy, and cheap way to obtain natural lighting (I found out from Doug Baldwin) is to use CFL Daylight bulbs in a desk lamp. They can be bought at most hardware and discount stores. Use a desk lamp with the movable neck. This allows you to move it closer or further from your jewelry.


Softening the Light
A bare light bulb near shiny jewelry reflects a bright shine! The light must be diffused or scattered. An easy way to do this is to place tracing paper in front of the bulb (another tip from Doug Baldwin). If using the CFL bulbs they don’t get as hot as other bulbs, so it’s not as much as a fire hazard to do this. I lightly tape the tracing paper over the end of the lampshade. Of course, don’t leave the lights covered with paper for a very long time. It can cause a fire!


This is a good start on setting up your shots. Next time I’ll cover the secrets of making the jewelry behave and sit correctly!

Until next time, have fun claying around! [Edit. Look here for post #2]






 
by Janet Alexander 
Technical Adviser


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