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Pen Photography Tips

photo photography pen tutorial tips info information

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17 replies to this topic

#1 Guest_Ray Cornett_*

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Posted 22 March 2014 - 02:52

I would love for this to be made a pinned topic so all who enter can quickly find tips on photographing their pens. 



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#2 estie1948

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Posted 22 March 2014 - 07:02

I came to this post hoping to find some Pen Photography Tips. I have tried to take photos of some of my pens to post here as well as to show off in some emails. Let us just say that I really need help. Many members post excellent pen photos here, so I know that some people really do know how to take pen photos.

 

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#3 Guest_Ray Cornett_*

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Posted 23 March 2014 - 04:19

I came to this post hoping to find some Pen Photography Tips. I have tried to take photos of some of my pens to post here as well as to show off in some emails. Let us just say that I really need help. Many members post excellent pen photos here, so I know that some people really do know how to take pen photos.

 

-David.

What, if any, equipment do you have? For the blue Sheaffer in my profile pic only use a camera, small light cube and a single lamp to light the pen through the top of the light cube. It lights it nicely and being from above it avoids shadow issues.



#4 KBeezie

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Posted 23 March 2014 - 04:44

Other than lighting one of the most useful accessory especially with jewelry is to use a circular polarizer. A lot of the shots of Pens I've taken especially on top of mirrors would have too many annoying reflections from two strobes/softboxes if not for a polarizer (Linear PL can be used, but they don't always work with Autofocus Systems, hence why Circular Polarizers tend to be used). 

 

For most of my shots, it's a really simple Photogenic Powerlight 750 with an umbrella style softbox (strobe faces away from the subject, and reflects back thru the softbox onto the subject), which gives a much more wider light source which causes softer shadows. 

 

With the camera settings:

Manual Mode is best, pre-set the shutter and aperture manually (if using strobes try to max the shutter to the flash sync, something like 1/180 or 1/200, that will help remove ambient light, from there the aperture will control both the exposure and focus range if the strobes remain static). 

DO pre-set the white balance, don't use automatic white balance. 

 

This one for example is incredibly simple.

A small flat cardboard box that you just fold up, with some holes poked in it, the pens inserted into the hole.

Strobe+Softbox above my left shoulder down onto the pens. 

A clipboard with a filing cabinet filler sitting upright behind the pens.

A strobe behind the clipboard at a lower power (1/16th, vs 1/4th on the front strobe) 

If I recall this shot was 1/200th @ f/8 with front strobe at 1/4th power and rear strobe at 1/16th

If a rear strobe isn't used, you can use a white piece of cardboard out of the shot behind the pens to reflect light back onto the dark side to help fill in the shadows a little. 

Polarizer was rotated until the lever of glare was minimized. 

group.jpg

 

For something like this, very similar table top setup, the mirror was set down on the table, cleaned off pretty good, and using the polarizer I was able to remove most of the ghost image from the surface of the glass. Held up a piece of cardboard above the pens to act as the reflected color. Front strobe was off my left shoulder as usual.

 

x750_ef.jpg

 

Very similar situation as this, but with a Tamron SP 90mm f/2.8 Adaptall 1:1 Macro Lens (bout 30-35 years old, was intended to be a lens that could adapt onto all camera mounts, so they sould them with removable mounts, which is handy for my Olympus E-P3 cuz I can just use an Adaptall->Micro4/3 adapter) , main difference here is to throw up a different object behind, like a pillow sheet, with the rear strobe shining thru a little bit. 

 

Also with macro lens, the closer to the object you are, the more distanced objects will be out of focus (ie: the lens is focused on something a mere few inches away, but the object in the mirror is probably 4 feet away reflected). 

 

sheaffer_snorkel_close.jpg

 

 

It helps to shoot in raw mode to utilize all the data possible, but if only shooting in JPG you want to watch the histogram and try not to clip the white point or the black point, and with JPG middle-exposure is typically the goal, where as with raw shooting, you tend to try to lean right-mostly on the histogram since you can pull back the white/highlights in the raw conversion to maximize the signal-to-noise quality.

 

In the absence of a strobe, you can also use a shoe-mount flash (anywhere from $50 to $150 on the cheap side) with a slave trigger, preferably with a head that can tilt towards the ceiling. 

 

Either on top of the camera, with the flash head aimed up at the ceiling to use the ceiling as a bounce like so: 

5.jpg

 

Or you can remove the flash from the camera completely and use a radio trigger (cheap ones can be had for $30 on ebay), and place the flash off to the side somewhere for direct exposure (If the lens is too close to the subject, such as a bug or pen, the lens itself may block the light of the flash, hence why it's good idea to be able to move the lighting source off to the side): 

 

2048.jpg

 

They also make cheap attachments (velcro) that you can attach to a shoe-mount flash, where you point the flash head straight up, and attach a bounce flap onto it, with an insert so that you can spread the light more like a softbox. 

 

On-Camera flashes which tend to be close to the lens will give the harshest light/shadows. 

 

If you without a good flash you can bounce off something white, or a strobe with a soft box, you can always find a desk next to a window for some natural lighting, preferably with some thin white curtains to help diffuse. 

 

If you do decide to shoot pens outside, overcast/cloudy days are best, they're like god's softbox, diffuses light easily and makes the shadows softer. 

 

And most importantly, a Tripod is VERY handy, especially if you have lighting issues and must use ambient (room lights) lighting. 


Edited by KBeezie, 23 March 2014 - 04:45.


#5 KBeezie

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Posted 23 March 2014 - 04:54

PS: On the photoshop side, after I've adjusted the raw settings for import into photoshop, what I liked to do with almost every picture is : 

 

1) Using a selection lasso, select around the object of importance, the selection can be pretty loose and not perfect. 

2) Right click the selection and 'feather' around 120px is good if the original is something like 12 Megapixels in size

3) Click the adjustment layer icon, choose 'levels' , ctrl+i to invert the newly created mask so it selects the area around the object

4) Pull the midtone slider back to something like 90 or 80 so the surrounding areas is darker but not so much so (reverse to 120 if you want surrounding area to be brighter). This will put more luminance emphasis on the subject. It's sort of like vignetting, but not so painfully obvious.

5) Add a 'curve' mask, and around 80% towards the right curve up the brightness a tiny bit, then near the bottom 20% pull it down a little, this will increase the contrast a bit nicer than just using the contrast slider. Adjust the opacity as needed to pull back on the effect.

6) go thru with a healing brush and just peck off little bits of dust or something you couldn't wipe down. 

7) Save your 'large' copy, preferably as a psd file. 

8) When you resize, use bi-cubic sharper, I like to resize/rotate down to 1280x960. 

9) On the small copy, Ctrl+A on the background layer, then Ctrl+C/Ctrl+V to paste a copy of that layer

10) Unsharp mask filter, something like 90%, 0.8 radius, threshold around 8 to 16 depending on how much smaller pieces you want sharpened)

11) Set the sharpened layer to "Luminosity" (this will remove some of the color artifact from sharpening), and adjust opacity to a comfortable sharpness level. 

12) If you only want parts sharpened, click the layer mask icon for the sharp layer, then ctrl+I to invert it, and while clicking on the mask, select a broad brush with soft edges (somewhere around 25-45% opacity), and just brush over the parts you want sharpened from the sharp layer. 

 

Once done, save a 'small' copy of the psd, then save-for-web Jpeg, around 65 to 80 on the quality (Depending on how much fine details you have in the image, or size restrictions), select convert to sRGB if you weren't already working in that colorspace, and reduce the meta details to either none or "copyright", this will strip the jpeg of EXIF and other data that identifies the camera used, or geo-tagging if the camera supported it. 



#6 KBeezie

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Posted 23 March 2014 - 04:59

Oh grey cards help too, if you have trouble with color balance under your lighting condition, taking one shot before hand, you can make a level mask, and using the middle eyedropper select the 18% neutral gray card in the middle to hopefully force the color balance to be accurate under that lighting condition. 

 

ahh_the_colors_by_kbeezie-d5i6nzp.jpg

 

Especially since if you plan on selling pens, the accuracy of the color can be very important. 


Edited by KBeezie, 23 March 2014 - 05:00.


#7 penrivers

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Posted 23 March 2014 - 06:52

Good KBeezie. I don't know, I perceive some declining enthusiasm. Years ago you could read formidable tips from Bruce in Ocala , Ethernautrix, and many, many other FPners, even nibmeisters. Greetings.


Edited by penrivers, 23 March 2014 - 07:28.


#8 Guest_Ray Cornett_*

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Posted 23 March 2014 - 08:20

Karl and I do it how you would do it if you had that equipment.

 

  I have it but in the location I am in at the moment I do not. Everyting but my camera, batteries, and memory card are back home.

  So I have the dumbed down version of a studio set up. Camera, normal house lamps, and a light cube which can me mimmiced by using a white sheet in various ways to diffuse the light. I use various items found around the house as props and can use various color papers and such as reflectors.



#9 KBeezie

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Posted 23 March 2014 - 23:09

Karl and I do it how you would do it if you had that equipment.

 

  I have it but in the location I am in at the moment I do not. Everyting but my camera, batteries, and memory card are back home.

  So I have the dumbed down version of a studio set up. Camera, normal house lamps, and a light cube which can me mimmiced by using a white sheet in various ways to diffuse the light. I use various items found around the house as props and can use various color papers and such as reflectors.

 

Hence why the last few lines were how with window light or outdoors. :P Nothing beats an overcast day for soft shadows. 

 

Also most newer camera should have a manual mode, or ability to manually set the white balance, etc. 


Edited by KBeezie, 23 March 2014 - 23:10.


#10 KBeezie

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Posted 24 March 2014 - 01:01

By the way stone slabs from Lowes or Home Depot can be pretty cheap for a surface to photograph, this one was less 2$, the black marble was about $4, usually comes in 1 sq foot which is usually plenty big for something like pens. 

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#11 estie1948

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Posted 24 March 2014 - 04:34

Thanks for the information. I'm taking it all down and will study it. My equipment is limited (like my knowledge).  I have  an old, hand-me-down digital camera with no factory instructions. I've sort of guessed how to use it and, apparently, I've guessed wrong more often than I've guessed right. I really thank you for your help and I'm sure others will find your information helpful, also.

 

-David.


No matter how much you push the envelope, it will still be stationery. -Anon.
A backward poet writes inverse. -Anon.

#12 KBeezie

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Posted 25 March 2014 - 08:49

Thanks for the information. I'm taking it all down and will study it. My equipment is limited (like my knowledge).  I have  an old, hand-me-down digital camera with no factory instructions. I've sort of guessed how to use it and, apparently, I've guessed wrong more often than I've guessed right. I really thank you for your help and I'm sure others will find your information helpful, also.

 

-David.

 

Knowing what brand/model it is may help in determining the features you can or can't use. For example some extremely cheap ones now don't even give you "M" Manual mode or control of the shutter or aperture. Or better yet if it has a hot shoe or not for attaching a shoe-mount flash. 


Edited by KBeezie, 25 March 2014 - 08:49.


#13 Tasmith

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Posted 26 March 2014 - 01:19

If you're starting out, constant lights work well.  Since they are constant light, you're seeing the actual lighting.  With flash, you always don't know exactly what lighting you're getting until the picture is taken, so it can take more time to get the lighting you want.

 

You can go technical, this is four lights, two LTM Pepper 100s, one for the main light and one as a kick or rim light. Two 500w Lowel V lights bounced in Lowel umbrellas for fill.  Canon 45mm TS-E tilt shift lens with close up filter.

 

Or more basic, one adjustable table lamp for the main, and a small LED lantern for a bit of fill on the cap.  Canon 100mm f2.8 macro lens.

 

A tripod was used on both images.  The camera was Canon 6D, but any newer Canon or Nikon DSLR with a kit lens that allows you to photograph macro will work great.

 

There are two great British photography magazines dedicated to helping Canon and Nikon shooters.  For Canon, Photo Plus, and Nikon, N Photo


Edited by Tasmith, 26 March 2014 - 01:40.


#14 Tasmith

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Posted 26 March 2014 - 01:41

By the way stone slabs from Lowes or Home Depot can be pretty cheap for a surface to photograph, this one was less 2$, the black marble was about $4, usually comes in 1 sq foot which is usually plenty big for something like pens. 

Think I'll be heading to Home Depot tomorrow.  Thanks!



#15 KBeezie

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Posted 26 March 2014 - 03:55

Canon 45mm TS-E tilt shift lens with close up filter.

 

That lens alone is over a thousand dollars compared to my Tamron SP Adaptall 90/2.8 1:1 Macro + a Tilt adapter. 

 

But yes hotlights do work, but can't really use just any mini-CFL bulbs and such. The ones you mentioned are specifically color balanced so multiple bulbs will match, like wise can get LED panels (tad more expensive, but easier on the electricity bill). Note to others, if you do get normal house bulbs, it's sometimes easier to get a couple cheap incandescent bulbs, as they may have an easier time matching each other on color balance, otherwise one bulb will always case some hue of yellow or blue than the other no matter which way you try to adjust the white balance. 

 

On the inexpensive side you can get something like a light tent to put the product into: 

 

http://www.fotodioxp...rance-item.html

light-tent-32x32-demo-color-v2.jpg

 

Which can also double as a hot-light + Softbox if you have a light stand: 

 

ez-light-32n24-demo1.jpg

 

Not the greatest thing in the world, but is under $100, and handy if you just want a seamless white/grey BG for stuff like ebay photos. 

 

And as you said Tas, Tripod Helps tremendously (even more so if you're using a tilt/shift lens). 



#16 KBeezie

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Posted 26 March 2014 - 04:02

If you're starting out, constant lights work well.  Since they are constant light, you're seeing the actual lighting.  With flash, you always don't know exactly what lighting you're getting until the picture is taken, so it can take more time to get the lighting you want.

 

 

PS: That's what the modeling lamps are for on Strobes, there's two lights on strobes, the incandescent bulb in the middle that is the modeling lamp, which matches the ratio you set on the strobe to give you an accurate 'preview' of the strobe's power compared to the others. Then the flash tube (usually a ring around the modeling bulb). 

 

But yes, in regards to hot-shoe flash, there's no preview, but if you only have one flash, it's much easier to control than you think since only the aperture affects the exposure when the shutter speed is up high enough to block out ambient light. 



#17 Tasmith

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Posted 05 April 2014 - 01:11

Two British photography magazines April 2014 issues have articles about macro (close up) photography.

 

Digital Camera, macro technique.

 

Photo Plus, (for Canon shooters) macro lenses compared.



#18 ac12

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Posted 31 August 2014 - 05:38

Very cool.

Been doing photo for MANY years, but never tabletop stuff like this.

After seeing some of Karl's shots, I'm getting the itch.

 

thanks guys


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