Sunday, January 18, 2009

Taking Photos of Beads

In my last blog post I took close up pictures of the beads I have been working with. I had to work pretty hard to get reasonable pictures. So I thought I would write about it.

I have a Panasonic Lumix DMC - FZ20 which is a very nice camera. It is almost but not quite a digital SLR camera. I can't change lenses but besides that I can do everything I can think of to do. And more than I have the skill to do. For what I am doing here the most important things are a place for a tripod and a shutter release cable.

I wanted to take pictures really, really close up and very sharp of my beads. The first time I tried the pictures were too fuzzy and didn't show the detail. So I decided to try harder. I figured a real photographer with real equipment could do it so I would at least try. (I am nothing if not optimistic about what I can do if only I work at it.)

So I set up on my kitchen table with a piece of foam under the beads. I used bright yellow so both the white and the dark purple would show. It was already by a window but I also took a pole lamp that I had handy and pointed 3 lights right at my work.

Then I got my little tripod. This one is little enough to sit right on the table. And I flipped it around so the camera was pointing down at the beads. It wasn't very steady so I ran and got an ankle weight from my bedroom and leaned it up against the leg to help steady it. (I only tipped the camera over once. Ouch!)

I knew from previous tries at this sort of thing that I didn't want anything more than necessary on the front of my camera so I removed the assorted adapters and filters and hoods that I keep on there.

The shutter release cord plugged into the camera and I was ready to go. I use the shutter release because I have a tendency to shake the camera when I push the button directly. And of course shaking the camera is always a bad thing. I do have image stabilization on my camera but doesn't ever seem to do enough. If I didn't have a shutter release I would use a timer on my camera. That is what I do for my old camera.

I took a bunch of pictures varying the setup to see what would work best. I always used a tripod and I always used the shutter release. But I took pictures with and without a flash. And I moved the camera a little closer to the beads then a little farther from the beads. I took them from this side and that side. I tried zooming to make the beads a little bigger.

The flash left a ring of shadow on the picture from the lens. It didn't wash out the picture too badly though. Sometimes a flash leaves a bright spot in the middle of the picture but I didn't notice that being a problem this time. But my best pictures were without the flash because of the shadow.

With the tripod I was using I could get the camera about 6 inches from the beads or I could move it farther away -- about to 10 inches. Closer seemed to be better. When I got closer I used the macro setting which has an icon of a flower on the dial. These worked pretty well together.

Zooming didn't work well. It made the image of the bead bigger in my viewfinder but it made the image fuzzier. I had a few pictures where the image was completely fuzzed out. I think they were where I used both the macro setting and zoomed. So my best pictures weren't zoomed.

The last thing I did was this. I thought more light would be good since I wasn't using my flash so I went and got a gooseneck table lamp and put it on the table. I bent it over so it was shining directly at the beads. I hadn't thought about it but the pictures that I took with that lamp were a lot yellower than the other pictures. I am guessing it was a different sort of light bulb. Next time I will try to use my Ott light.

So after I took all these pictures I went in Photoshop and threw out all the bad ones. Then I straightened them up and cropped them -- and fixed the color of the ones that were yellow. I think they came out pretty good.

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