14 September 2012

Photo Friday: Photographing Trophies (Part 2)

Calling in Reinforcements

 

exposure 1/60, aperture f/3.2, focal length: 6mm, ISO 800,
vivid color setting, spot focus, custom white balance

So, I'm back to square one on how to photograph a trophy for incorporation in my written personal history or in a heritage scrapbook. This picture is okay, but I want higher quality. Could it be done?

I knew the scope of this artifact was beyond my knowledge base. I didn't feel I was understanding what was available on the internet or in books. I have a friend who loves photography and let's me pester him with a billion questions. So, I offered to feed him dinner if he'd come over for a tutoring session with the object in question.He agreed!

After dinner and showing off my husband's backdrop solutions, which my friend loved, the tutorial began. I don't remember exactly everything he tried. But honestly, he taught me to just play.

When you're learning photography, try nearly every setting imaginable. If it improves the picture, keep heading in that direction. If it makes the picture worse, go in the opposite direction. Keep playing around and see if you can get the type of picture you want. So, for those of you who still can't understand what someone means by playing, I thought I'd show you in the following pictures what my friend did to 'play' with the trophy until we came up with a picture that would work well.

I'm going to take you along the journey of 'playing' with your camera settings. By the way, the first thing was to NOT use the backdrop as a drape. The first thing we did was set the backdrop. Created a prop using books and such to elevate the trophy to a comfortable height for shooting. Then we covered the prop with additional white muslin.

Starting point: exposure 1/20, aperture f/2.8,
focal length: 6mm, ISO 800, vivid color setting, spot focus

 As a skillful teacher, my friend began with simple overhead lighting and the settings I was already using on my camera. Notice how the exposure and the aperture changed dramatically within the “P” mode by only using overhead light?


What happens when we add top mounted flash?
The camera mounted atop a traditional point-and-shoot camera washes everything out. Not good.
(Still using the settings as original picture, only adds flash)

What happens if we diffuse the flash?
By placing a sheet of paper in front of flash, we can see how the picture improves. Diffusing a flash helps maintain detail in a picture. You can do it with a top mounted flash, you just have to learn some tricks.
(Still using the settings as original picture, only adds flash)

Thus far, my mentor has taught me how to diffuse flash lighting on my camera. I don not have a flash that can be pointed at the ceiling to diffuse the light. Instead, a folded piece of white paper was placed in front of the flash and the flash becomes less harsh on the trophy.

exposure 1/60, aperture f/2.8, focal length: 6mm, ISO 800,
vivid color setting, spot
focus, Tungsten color balance, diffused flash

 After playing with the thickness of a folded sheet of white paper, the trophy detail was improving, but the nameplate still had too much glare. The next step was to add a light to the set up. Remember, thus far, I only had my tungsten overhead light on and the camera's flash as my light source. There is a reddish haze around the photograph as well.

If you play and the photos don't improve, try something different.
Adding an additional light reduced the reddish haze, but the photograph still wasn't stellar quality. It was time to try something else.

I had read somewhere that placing a dark color behind a reflective object might help the quality of the photographs. We left the trophy in the vertical position but slipped a piece of black cardboard over and behind the trophy. We could see the quality would probably improve if we could solve one problem.


With the flash diffused through a piece of white paper and overhead light,
the detail of the trophy was vastly improving, the backdrop wasn't cooperating.

 With the step up we hand, we had trouble keeping the seamless backdrop without a pair of hands appearing in the photo. So, we thought why don't we just lay the trophy down on the ground and shoot from above. Again, play. If something isn't working, play around until it does.

exposure 1/60, aperture f/2.8, focal length: 6mm, ISO 800,
vivid color setting, spot focus, Tungsten color balance,
diffused flash with a +2/3 exposure bias


This photo was itself a vast improvement over previous photos. The camera is still pretty much in the same settings it originally started with. Now we knew we were on to something. Thanks to a few handy pieces of black bean bags in my friends bag of tricks, we propped the trophy off the flat surface just a bit. Then it was time to fine tune the photos.

exposure 1/60, aperture f/2.8, focal length: 6mm, ISO 800,
vivid color setting, spot focus, Tungsten color balance,
diffused flash with a +2/3 exposure bias

The first step was to continue playing with the white paper held in front of the flash. We determined that the paper, folded about 4 times, was the best thickness for these types of results. I could stop now and have a wonderful picture. I just need to edit the angle of the photo, but I'm so happy with all that I've learned.

After this final photo was taken, my friend explained about changing the exposure bias to lighten or darken the photos, and changing the ISO. We also tried a few shots of the same set up with the Custom White Balance.

In the end, we only played with lighting and angle and achieved amazing results with my compact system camera and a top mounted flash. In the future, I'll take more 'risks' as I know how to have fun playing around with my camera's settings.

Here are a few more tips I either learned or read about on-line for trophy photography:

  • if you use the built in flash on top of the camera, diffuse the light
  • external flashes, sunlight, or continuous lighting would work better
  • use a dark background or an 'outdoor' setting such as a golf course for golf trophies (I like this idea)
  • Use a large aperture to reduce the depth of field so only the trophy will stay in focus and the background will be blurred (I'll check this out next time around)
  • Lower the ISO value

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