I think that I may have finally figured out what I am doing wrong.


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SaxonPig
November 23, 2010, 05:59 PM
I have a fair amount of experience with photography. I studied photography for two years at the university and actually worked for a while as a professional photographer. But all of this was years ago using film cameras with full manual controls. For the past couple years I have been playing with digital cameras and having lots of trouble. I just can't seem to get the lighting right when shooting guns. They are tough, anyway, with dark areas and reflective surfaces. But I keep getting either way too dark or way too light with no middle ground.

While practicing some photo work the past two days I think I realized the trouble. The automatic camera keeps wanting to open the aperture wide open when shooting indoors. Then when I apply flash it doesn't compensate and the scene is washed out. I realized this when I noticed the extremely shallow depth of field in the recent photos indicating that the aperture is wide open.

So, I need to tinker with the camera settings and see if I can get it to use a smaller aperture. I may have to go to full manual control and set it for what I want, which I can do, but I've been trying to get the camera to work using auto settings.

Anyway, here are a couple of shots I took while tinkering. Still needs work.


http://www.fototime.com/F2AD58B37E035F2/standard.jpg


http://www.fototime.com/F0843BF787AF1A3/standard.jpg


http://www.fototime.com/43AF728BB617327/standard.jpg

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kingpin008
November 23, 2010, 06:19 PM
I'm a total dunce when it comes to photography so to me, those look pretty good. Looking forward to seeing what you come up with after further tinkering. :)

NCsmitty
November 23, 2010, 06:43 PM
Doing impromptu snapshots, I'll do a partial cover on the flash with my finger(s) to get the light level that looks good. Other times I'll cut some masking tape for the center of flash unit so I get a peripheral illumination, without a direct reflection of light.
Your background can work for you or against you depending on it's ability to reflect the flash.



NCsmitty

sansone
November 23, 2010, 06:48 PM
I also had trouble taking gun pics with digital cameras, until I took them outside and disabled the flash

SaxonPig
November 23, 2010, 07:25 PM
Yeah, outside in sunlight works great. It's indoors with electronic lighting that becomes a bugaboo. It seems digital is a totally different animule than film photography.

Starship1st
November 23, 2010, 07:37 PM
Looks good to me but I am not an expert. These guns you can not go wrong.:cool:

twofifty
November 23, 2010, 08:03 PM
You could override your automatic settings.
Experiment with side lighting, indirect lighting, or bouncing flash off a white wall or ceiling. Watch out for shadows.

InkEd
November 23, 2010, 08:09 PM
The first two are okay. The lighting is very poor on the third. Try using something beside a white sheet for you back ground. Beige, ash or black will probably give you better results. Adjust you light source to a different angle.

CeilingCat
November 23, 2010, 08:27 PM
Good lighting on metal is really important. You may also want to merge an under and an over exposed image as an HDR. That way you can get lots of details in the shadows and highlights.

Also I would say that if your going to invest any time in photographing the collection I would say to not use a flash and diffuse some fluorescent lights.

I also echo InkEd's suggestion to use something other than white. I use gray extensively at work. Its very easy to make it look lighter or darker to suit your needs.

Definitely a good start! Nice models too.

Rexster
November 23, 2010, 08:29 PM
Is your digital camera a DSLR? Digital is actually quite similar to film, in principle. One big difference is that digital will have some problem resolving pure white and pure black. Wedding photographers usually have to photo-shop those white dresses and black tuxes.

Some thoughts:

You can set the aperture where you want without going to full manual control, if your camera has an "aperture value" setting. (On a Canon, this is "Av" at the dial on top of the camera; others makes may use other terms.) The camera will still decide the shutter speed for you.

A white background is going to give you exposure challenges, period. Anything other than "18% gray" means you will have to work to get the exposure right, especially if using flash. I just bought myself an 18% gray card, and planned to try using it as the background for photographing some small handguns and knives. I had previously done fairly well using the tile in the den for such subjects.

Try pointing the flash at the ceiling, if the flash head is adjustable. With an adjustable flash gun mounted on a DSLR, or a non-adjustable flash head mounted on a cord that allows me to point it anywhere I want, I will literally turn the flash toward a white ceiling, if photographing a darker subject that is against a light background, or a light, reflective subject. This diffuses the light. If your flash cannot be pointed elsewhere, try something to diffuse the light itself. Even some professionals will use something as mundane as a cut-up rubbing alcohol bottle. Real, full-line camera stores may have other solutions. I have a really nice Canon 580EX, but also use a much handier and less advanced 220EX on a cord, and a Gary Fong Puffer, the latter of which cost a mere $20.

To be clear, I am a relative beginner with photography, too, but in order to photograph crime scenes, a new task for me at work, I had to get some fairly high-level training really fast. (Ironically, I can be issued a tiny Sony point-and-shoot, for the shift, but it it cannot hope take the photos that would impress a jury.) My practical experience is still lacking, and I, too, still struggle sometimes when photographing darker objects against a white background. I generally try to avoid using flash at all, if I can help it, under such conditions. If I cannot avoid using flash, I try to bounce it off of something.

I will bet some other members can give advice based on more actual practical experience than I have at this time.

By the way, those are some wonderful firearms! I love that Garand! Your photos are quite good, with the actual subjects, the firearms themselves, very clear.

SaxonPig
November 23, 2010, 08:42 PM
InkEd... It's pale blue, not white.

Old Fuff
November 23, 2010, 09:10 PM
I of course, am an authority on everything... :uhoh: :rolleyes: :D

Anyway the best luck I've had is to go outside and "shoot" in open shade, which eliminates harsh shadows. Pictures may come out a bit on the dark side, but this is easily corrected using computer software (sometimes available for free by simply downloading).

Inside, work with flood lights, and turn off the flash altogether. Two lights are good, but three or four are much better. This way you can direct the light to where you want it, the way you want it.

Don't use a light background on a dark gun, or the other way around - because this combination may drive the camera's meter nuts. Istead experiment with mid-range and darker backgrounds that are a different color/texture then the subject.

If the camera is auto-focusing be sure it focuses on the gun(s) not the background.

Mount the camera on a tripod.

If you know how to use them, manal controls are your friend.

Don't have a high-quality digital camera, but do have a middle/top line .35mm film SLR? Take pictures and have the film developed and scaned on to a CD or DVD disk. The resulting files will be equal or better then those made by many of the best and most expensive digital models.

Do not try to get good pictures with a cell-phone. :cuss:

wally
November 23, 2010, 10:30 PM
Yeah, outside in sunlight works great

Actually outside on a "cloudy bright" shadowless day works best. Direct sun is even harsher than your flash making the brightest to darkest ratio way more than your digital camera can handle. If you must shoot outside in the sun, force the flash on to fill in shadows -- it has little if any effect on the overall exposure when in sunlight.

Shooting digital has the same exposure problems as shooting slide film.

Checkout these done on a cloudy bright day with a rather mundane digital camera:
http://thehighroad.us/showthread.php?t=421494

PhilA
November 23, 2010, 11:26 PM
Your biggest problem isn't your aperture setting, though that will certainly affect the amount of light reaching the sensor. Assuming you know how to manipulate your settings to achieve the exposure you're looking for, you'll get far better lighting if you stop using your camera's built-in flash.

Straight on flash is lighting death. It produces washed out exposures lacking in detail.

What you want is softer side lighting.

When I had my photo studio set up, I'd typically set up a large softbox overhead set to a half stop or even a full stop lower than my side lights. For those, I'd have a couple strip boxes positioned to give a nice sheen on the wood and some rim lighting on the metal.

But not everyone has access to their own studio lights.

Do you have any external lighting? Before I bought my strobes, I used to get good effects using a couple of cheap metal clamp lights from Home Depot. I'd angle them in from the sides, set my camera's white balance for incandescent, and shoot a couple test frames--adjusting my shutter speed or aperture (depending on the depth of field you want to achieve) until I got the shot I wanted.

Try it. :) Just remember...straight on flash sucks. Do anything you can to avoid it.

PhilA
November 23, 2010, 11:30 PM
Oh...and to soften the light from the clamp lights, I'd tape some tracing paper over the fronts (be careful not to run your lights too long this way or POOF!).

These are the lights I mean:

http://tinyurl.com/2bctfyt

GRIZ22
November 24, 2010, 09:01 AM
A ring flash will take care of most shadow problems. You need to use exposure compensation if you want to shoot with a white background. Get a roll of seamless paper to eliminate the folds in the sheet you're using. A green (like nice grass), red (like a tomato), or blue (like deep sky blue) is the same reflectance as a 18% gray card. Read up on marcophotography for other ideas.

InkEd... It's pale blue, not white.
__________________


It looks more like a lilac to me. You need correct the color temperature of the light. Daylight and flash are 5-6000 degrees kelvin and studio tungsten is 3200. You can get some weird colorcasts if you shoot under flourescents that you'd need a color temperature meter and a full set of filters to correct.

ZCORR Jay
November 24, 2010, 09:26 AM
The photos look good. I cheat and practice more with photo shop than the camera.

swagner89
November 24, 2010, 12:47 PM
using only one light source makes it appear flat. use 3 point system-

http://www.metacafe.com/watch/641615/three_point_lighting/

SaxonPig
November 24, 2010, 01:05 PM
PhilA- Using strobes at 45 degrees and flash on the camera. Kept trying and it's getting better. Gave up and started using manual settings and that helped a lot. I still need some back lighting to soften harsh shadows but getting better.

http://www.fototime.com/92290353DE70906/standard.jpg

Metal a bit dark but I like the look.

http://www.fototime.com/EA5E9075F81323A/standard.jpg

natman
November 24, 2010, 01:09 PM
You will have better luck with a slightly darker background. The exposure meter tries to get everything to an 18% gray, so either the light background is too light or the guns are too dark. Try to get a back ground that is about the same darkness as the guns and let it be distinguished form the guns by a different color.

SaxonPig
November 24, 2010, 01:16 PM
A darker cover is a good idea and I did intend to try it. I just like the pale blue.

Nickel gun are real tough because of flare. This one turned out OK.

http://www.fototime.com/9A679D1762E7F39/standard.jpg

ZCORR Jay
November 24, 2010, 01:31 PM
One method I use is to take a photo that is under exposed, one over exposed and one at ideal exposure. The in photoshop layer them with the darkest on the bottom, then the ideal exposure, then the over exposed. Make the top two layers 50% - 75% transparent and it will help remove any glares and give the photo a really crisp look.

I also use 3 light sources.

bryan7675
November 24, 2010, 09:17 PM
The pictures of the revolvers looks good. In the first three pictures.
1) Because the rifle is pointing to the lower left corner, it is going to draw your eye out from the picture. Try pointing the 1911 in the other direction for more a crossing line feel.
2) Second picture the white balance is off. If you can set your digital camera to RAW, in doing so, you change the white balance after the fact.
3) Third picture is over exposed, but not by much.

Other stuff to try
1) Soften the light, other have gotten into this, but it would be http://www.videojug.com/webvideo/how-to-make-a-better-bounce-card
2) If you can get some distance between the firearms and the back ground. Like standing the revolvers up in your second set of pictures.
3) Might sound odd, but I would use a tripod, and shoot wide open, or rather the largest aperture your camera can do. F2 should do the trick.

The really nice thing about digital is no film cost. So keep up the good work, and please share more.

Bryan

LibShooter
November 24, 2010, 09:27 PM
SP, the guns you are photographing aren't moving. Sometimes I like to put the camera on a tripod and shoot them with available light using a longish exposure. Long exposures don't cause a color shift in digital images like some films exhibited. Most digital cameras also have a white balance setting to match the color temperature of the light you're using. If not, PhotoShop or the GimP are your friends.

Set the camera on the 'pod, and move some table lamps around until you like what you see in the LCD display. There will be a lot of lag, so be patient. Mixing window light with indoor light can give you some interesting colors on shiny surfaces. It can also be a mess, so YMMV.

Keep Shootin'.

robmkivseries70
November 24, 2010, 09:36 PM
Well, I started drooling at the Python, if that's any help.
Best,
Rob

PhilA
November 26, 2010, 10:40 PM
Read your post about keeping the flash 45 to the side...good, but try diffusing it, too. Your shadows are hard-edged, which tells me you're probably using undiffused light.

If you don't have softboxes, try taping some tracing paper to the front of your lights. Or cut the bottoms out of a couple plastic milk jugs and put those in front of your lights to diffuse the light. Remember to open your shutter for longer to compensate for the slight light loss.

Also, even with your lights set at 45 degrees, what you're really after is light skimming across the surface of the gun.

I've attached a shot I made awhile back of my Kimber to show you what I mean. The angle of the light was low, and I used a softbox (with another on the opposite side, set to much lower power for fill light) for a nice, soft, gentle light.

SaxonPig
November 26, 2010, 10:53 PM
That is a nice shot.

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