Monday, October 11, 2010

Table Top Photography

ACK! and ACK again! I have been photographing jewelry or my husbands line of children's toys for nearly thirty years. It used to be to jury into a show you needed great slides; and for some shows, photographs. Needless to day we have gone through a million photography set-ups and cameras. My favorite of the 35MM cameras was my Nikon F-4. A workhorse of a camera and I loved it. This family comes by camera passion naturally. My father's favorite was an Exacta with a Carl Zeiss lens to die for. Name it and someone in our family has probably had it at one time or another. Fancy schmantzy, point and shoot, and instant prints, we have had a lot of them.

I was working with a Sony F-718 Digital after the big switch over. It's a big camera. Nice - 8 mega pixels. It's like the one Corinna Tettinger used to write Passing the Flame. Or maybe a similar but newer model. I like it but missed the versatility of that Nikon. With digital photography came an entire new set of bells and whistles. We don't exactly have them all figured out - YET!

We just wanted to take good shots of the beads and jewelry and I lusted after the "good old days" so we purchased a Nikon D90 and a Sigma 105mm macro lens. It's a brute and I am far from figuring it completely out. I will - or DH will. So far, so good with some aid of Adobe Photoshop shop (Elements 3.0 - I lust have a full blown version of that too!). I have Gimp (the freeware Photoshop) but haven't gotten the hang of it.

In all of this changing around we've gone through about a dozen different photo set ups. We've boxed, back dropped, lit with tungsten's, domed, draped, table tented, and now we are trying a version of the set up in the first photo. It is difficult to work within the confines of a tent or dome. Tungsten lights are expensive and burn out (luckily not often). Keith on the Frantz Art Glass Blog has been writing about photography and editing bead photos. He's good! Good at photography and good at getting his point across. We switched the set up so pieces can be moved around more easily and I couldn't hardly believe how they lit this photo set-up. Keith used white boards to bounce light back into the photo shot to move light into unlit areas or change a glare. We are trying that. So far so good.

Now, about that photo set up. What was in the picture was interesting. Lots of area to move a piece around to set it up. The example they gave in the B&H web site and their U-Tube of their product kind of whacked me upside the head. They are using a fluorescent light I've purchased before to put under my kitchen counters.

It pays to be married to man who is handy. (A whole 'nother story for all of you looking for a mate. My suggestion - marry handy! - and I'm not gender specific here - just marry handy person whoever, okay?). I showed "Mr. HANDY" the company video and the photo of the potential set-up. "Uh, dear sweet person who loves me (big time butter job) so do you think you could possibly build this for little (gross exaggeration) ol' me?" LOL He saw it coming but loves Home Depot and Lowe's so off we went.

We culled the Lowe's and came up with the light. For the light I purchased two bulbs to test. One is a 5000K and the other a 6500K. They are meant for daylight/ plants/ aquariums and stuff. There is also a setting on the camera for fluorescent. Whoo Hoo! Like I said - being the spouse of a "handy" has perks. Since the original top is made of metal and that was probably out until I wanted to work with roof flashing like I use on my bench top that was out of the question. But - a little more looking and I found something I've used before. Reflective white faced oil board. Oh yeah baby, this was going to be an excellent trip. The rest was easy - he's an extraordinary carpenter. It just needed a little cutting. For the background I used a very cheap Walmart poster board. It is more matt surfaced than shiny but it's definitely white. I used two bent pieces of flashing as easel backs for the side reflectors and I'm in business. Like how the background connects? HA! We found one clothes pin and then he snitched a pair of my soldering tweezers - which I will replace shortly with another clothes pin.

So far the photos are turning out pretty well with this. I'm shocked that the fluorescent bulb is enough - we are using the 6500K even though the camera's setting only go up to 5000K. We are still having some issues with setting the white balance. We will get it - it's only a matter of time.

So what do you think? I like this better than anything so far. Down and dirty cheap and very functional.
If you need an specs on this just leave a comment and I will email you.


rosebud101 said...

Wow! Looks great! Your hubby is really functional, isn't he? lol

Right Turn ArtWerks said...

Yes, he is outstanding at making useful things to help me out. He also made some great kids..(what a bonus!).

Whitney Lassini said...

I love it! I too have gone through about a million different set-ups to get the right shot while not take up half of my studio to do it. Right now I am using some crazy thing I made out of foam core and regular Ott light. I might have to build something like this. I am the handy one!

Patty said...

I'm intrigued by the fluorescent lighting, Sharon. How do the bead pix look? Let's seeeeee! :-)pa