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Better Pictures--(I Hope)

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  • Better Pictures--(I Hope)

    I have had an ongoing problem taking good enough pictures of my projects to post. If I use the flash on the camera, I get "wash outs" in the center of the pictures from the reflection of the camera flash. If I don't use the flash, the pictures are too dark to see. I can't always drag my subject material outside to photograph it in natural light. As a consequence of this, I have to take 7 or 8 pictures of the same thing in order to get one good enough to post. Today I finally got tired of this and visited a local camera shop. When I explained my problem, they immediately tried to sell me a white fabric "Light Box" to take my pictures in. I explained to them that my projects are frequently covered in oil and/or machining chips, and that I didn't think the white fabric light box would live very long. They then suggested a "Diffuse light stand and light reflecting parasol." This sold for a total of $110 including taxes, so I brought it home to try. It seems to make a remarkable difference, and I don't have to use the camera flash at all. I will have to experiment with this rig, but I expect the quality of pictures I post to improve.-----Brian
    Brian Rupnow
    Design engineer
    Barrie, Ontario, Canada

  • #2
    I built myself a light box for that same purpose. Mine is mounted to the wall and resembles a cupboard. Two doors swing out to expose the interior. Each door has a pair of those CF bulbs in it, and a section of fluorescent light cover is mounted over each side. When the doors are open, a shelf can swing down and sit level. This thing is about 3 ft wide and is 2 ft tall. It sticks out from the wall by about 6 inches in total.

    I hooked each door up to a separate switch, though I always use both pairs of lights anyway. I bought several pieces of poster board to use as shelf covering and/or backdrop. The backdrops can just hang in place on screws, and I got several colors so I could select a suitable background for whatever it is I'm taking a photo of. Most of the pics I've posted of small items were taken in this light box.

    At times I'll add a clip-on light if there's a problem area that needs fill or shadow elimination.

    A few years ago I built a self-standing frame to which I can mount the camera and several lights. I seldom use it since I have so little room left in my crowded shop, but for larger items it would be very handy. The frame is made from a steel channel which is like track for garage doors, and this allows for an adjustable height camera mounting bar. The camera mount can slide side to side, and the whole bar can be fixed at any height. So far I have six adjustable lights that mount to it. If you fold all the lights in, the footprint becomes about 1 foot by 2 ft. The base is about a foot high and has a flat top, so you can put your foot on it, although it is heavy enough to be stable on its own. It's just handy to be able to put a foot on it for a change in stance, and you also avoid the possibility of kicking a tripod leg since there are none.

    This is basically two vertical posts with a cross bar at the top, and a sliding crossbar in the middle. I want to add a second crossbar closer to the bottom to act as a handle for moving it around.
    I seldom do anything within the scope of logical reason and calculated cost/benefit, etc- I'm following my passion-


    • #3
      For those with some time on your hands, there is a very good series on how to light all kind of subjects over here:

      It is really amazing how much difference off centre lighting makes for your pictures.



      • #4
        If you use a tripod to hold the camera, most of the newer cameras will take
        a time exposure by whatever light is available and they come out fine.
        Sometimes the color balance is off due to the kind of light available but they
        should be good density wise. I do that all the time in the school shop by
        whatever light is there, especially on the lathes and mills.


        • #5
          Never knew there was such a setup, but not up too much on photography.

          Like that "Spae-Naur" catalog !!


          • #6
            I had some success years ago photographing the internals of radio equipment and such like. The method I used was to put the subject on a stool in a room that could be darkened, I mounted my camera on a tripod with the smallest possible aperture and loaded with my slowest film (nowadays that would be the lowest ISO setting). I had a colour neutral light on a lead, that was a blueish white light of low wattage.

            I opened the camera shutter then walked around the subject carrying the light being careful not to pause in any one position and to ensure that as much as possible of the subject had the light wash over it.

            The results were very good but it did take a few tries to learn how fast to move to get the exposure right.


            • #7
              AB, I've heard that called light painting, it is fun to try. Mostly, 99.9%, I do as Lew describes. You can usuall set light balance and still play a bit, time of day, what shop lights are on etc.

              check out some of gbritnells work, he puts out outs some great photography and uses a few simple clamp on reflectors.

              Here's some playing light painting I did, just with a flashlight, dark shop and 30 second exposure

              Last edited by Mcgyver; 08-05-2012, 08:36 PM.
              in Toronto Ontario - where are you?


              • #8
                That is just SWEET!! Thanks for the great pics!!


                • #9
                  Thank you IKDOR for the link to

                  Very interesting site with much good information.
                  Errol Groff

                  New England Model Engineering Society

                  YouTube channel:


                  • #10
                    Post deleted due to a difference in understanding of the intent of the topic.
                    Last edited by dewat; 08-07-2012, 03:46 PM.


                    • #11
                      If you shoot in RAW you can get a lot more out of a picture that might be trash when saved with JPEG. You can also lighten dark areas and kill brights and not make the picture look weird like if you try it with a JPEG. JPEG sucks (for taking) and with the size and price of memory cards and external drives there is not point not to shoot raw. Though some cameras really slow down in RAW. My old Sony DCS-V3 takes forever to save a RAW file.

                      I use Aperture on my Mac and am very happy with it. There are a lot of lightroom fans too. Never tried it though.

                      Once your done save it as a JPEG as usual.


                      • #12
                        dewat, I don't so much mind you using it as I do the implication that the second one is an improvement. The subject was properly exposed and the background dark as intended. It wasn't supposed to be a document type photo to convey engineering details, it was just suppose to have a look/feel. Not that I'm any great photographer or that i couldn't improve, but yeah, it's not particularly enjoyable having someone rework your work like that
                        in Toronto Ontario - where are you?


                        • #13
                          I read a discussion about getting good photos of jewelry, which can be notoriously difficult to photograph due to all of the highly polished and shiny surfaces, flashy gems, and the small scale of things. One trick I recall was using a white plastic milk jug with the side cut out as an improvised light box. You can place your item in the cut out jug, then place a few lights around the jug to get light from all angles (to minimize shadows), but the white translucent material of the jug acts as a diffuser to prevent from having point sources of light that make for hot spots in the photos. I've never done it myself, but the photos that were shown as having used this method were very nice.

                          This is not the one I am thinking of (can't seem to find the link right now) but here is a quickie example. Lots more out on the web of course:


                          • #14
                            I'll see your milk jug and raise you a cardboard box
                            It'll fit bigger parts and it's a bit easier to set up.

                            I got gifted one of these, they cost about 25 euro and also do a fair job



                            • #15
                              I agree with Mcgyver. I don't understand why overbright pictures with washed out colour are considered an improvement.