Sharing photo tips

Discussion in 'Replica Props' started by snook, Sep 20, 2002.

  1. snook

    snook New Member

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    M-Pire -

    I have been noticing that your prop photos are the BEST on the net. They are indicitive of a lot of skill, talent and thought.

    Your photos are always super clear, and your composition is wonderful. You often show the props from different angles, and always beautifully lit. I especially like the seamless white backgrounds.

    These are museum-quality, archival reference material.

    I was wondering if you could share some of your technical expertise here. Could you perhaps show a picture of your "set" from a distance? What do you use for lighting? What is your weapon of choice, camera-wise? Any information that you can share would be greatly appreciated.

    Keep up the awesome work.
     
  2. MonCal

    MonCal Well-Known Member

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    This is a good thread idea!
    for those of us camera / photo challenged individuals [​IMG]
    Good photos of our props are important [​IMG]
    Cal
     
  3. Cenobyte

    Cenobyte Sr Member

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    BobaDebt posted a thread a while back on taking prop-pics.

    Showed how he did it. Might want to ask him also.

    Brandon
     
  4. Stormleader

    Stormleader Well-Known Member

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    Yeah, I've commended Cliff on his mad photo skillz before. Wish I could take pics like that. [​IMG]
     
  5. Boba Debt

    Boba Debt Master Member RPF PREMIUM MEMBER

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    <html>
    <head>
    <title>Display Insert Tutorial</title>
    <meta http-equiv="Content-Type" content="text/html; charset=iso-8859-1">
    </head>

    <body bgcolor="#FFFFFF">
    <div align="center">


    <font size="6">DIGITAL PICTURES</font></p>


     </p>
    <div align="left">
    <p align="center">Let me start by saying that I am not a photographer nor
    have I ever had any formal photograpy training.
    </p>
    <p align="center">A lot of you ask me how I get such good pictures of my
    props for my web site.
    </p>
    <p align="center">Here are some methods that I use to get good pictures.
    </p>
    <p align="center"> </p>
    <div align="center">
    <p align="center">*******************DISCLAIMER*******************</p>
    </div>
    <div align="center">


    Use this tutorial at your own risk. I can not be held responsible for
    any damage or injury sustained from the improper use of tools or procedures
    that are outlined below.</p>


    ******************DISCLAIMER******************* </p>
    <table width="95%" border="0" height="700">
    <tr>
    <td height="370" width="64%">
    <div align="center">
    <p align="left"><font size="4">THE BASICS</font></p>
    </div>
    <div align="center">
    <p align="left">1. Buy a good digital camera. I use an Olympus D-450.
    I splurged and bought a macro lens set, rechargeable batteries,
    a tri pod and Flash Path floppy adapter for reading the smart
    media. </p>
    <p align="left">2. Shoot against a white back drop. Here is my set
    up. I pull the sheet tight with clamps. </p>
    <p align="left">3. Use white light to get rid of shadows. As you
    can see in the picture above I have 1 light pointing behind the
    blaster. This eliminates the shadows that the front lights create.
    </p>
    <p align="left">4. Use SHQ to get a prep shot. This is a smaller
    file size. Once you have the right picture with the correct lighting
    do tip 5 </p>
    <p align="left">5. Use TIFF format for the final shot. Large file
    but very detailed and easier to edit. </p>
    <p align="left">6. Use the time delay if you have it. Even a slight
    shake will blur the photo. By using the time delay the camera
    will have time to settle before it takes the picture. </p>
    <p align="left">7. Move the front lighting during the time delay.
    I have found that even a slight variation of your lights will
    change the picture. During the time delay you will be able to
    manipulate the lights to get the optimal picture. </p>
    </div>
    </td>
    <td height="370" width="36%">[​IMG]</td>
    </tr>
    <tr>
    <td width="100%" height="333" colspan="2">


     </p>


    <font size="4">EDITING TIPS</font></p>


    I use Adobe PhotoShop Deluxe. </p>


    1. Edit the photo in its original size. Don't reduce it until you
    have it looking good when it is big. </p>


    2. Cut the object out of the background with white lines. It may
    be tempting to use a fill tool but this will give you fuzzy edges.</p>


    3. Eliminate the entire background with pure white. I cut and paste
    a white block from Corel Draw to use as my back ground color. This
    ensures that it is not tinted an off white color. Then I make sure
    that I eliminate all of the back ground with this color. You can
    use a line that is 100 pica wide to get rid of most of it, then
    use the brush for the small areas. </p>


    4. Reduce the photo to a manageable size. </p>


    5. Rotate the picture a few degrees back and forth to blend lines.
    Sometimes the picture will look edited once it is reduced. If you
    rotate it a few degrees and them rotate it back to the correct position
    it will blend the picture and make it look more natural. </p>


    6. Make sure you use the Sharpen tool if you need it. </p>


    7. Save your work constantly. </p>
    </td>
    </tr>
    <tr>
    <td colspan="2" height="2">
    <div align="center">


     </p>


    That's it, never had a class but I can take pictures all night
    long until it looks good
    . </p>
    </div>
    </td>
    </tr>
    </table>


     </p>
    </div>
    </div>
    </div>
    <div align="center"></div>
    </body>
    </html>
     
  6. Boba Debt

    Boba Debt Master Member RPF PREMIUM MEMBER

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    BTW: I taught Cliff everything he knows [​IMG]




    I recommend and encourage all to save this tutorial
     
  7. snook

    snook New Member

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    Thanks ever so much!

    Many, many great tips!
     
  8. MonCal

    MonCal Well-Known Member

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    Thanks
    Kudos to you Bobadebt!! [​IMG]
     
  9. M-Pire

    M-Pire Well-Known Member

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    [​IMG] Yes he did....I spent days at his house just trying to learn how to turn on my camera! [​IMG]



    Just kidding. [​IMG]



    Yep, after talking to David about his setup, I did the same, but just on a smaller scale. I've got pics somewhere...I'll try to find them and post them later.

    With PVC piping from Lowes, I built me a stand....it's got a square base for stability, and an upside-down "U" shape plugged into it. At the top of the upside-down "U" shaped structure, I have a "T" bar bolted in. From the "T" bar I hang fishing line. Being that the "T" bar is bolted, it can be easily rotated....so that's how I get the angles of my props....I simply rotate the T bar that's got my prop hanging from it.

    Anyway, about 3-5 feet behind the PVC stand I have a huge piece of white felt pinned up on the wall. I bought the material at Hobby Lobby....it's about 4 or 5 feet tall and about 8 feet wide. By having the white felt on the wall behind the prop and stand, I'm able to have a white background that is easy to edit out. And, with it being about 4 or 5 feet behind the prop, it isn't in focus...which makes it even easier to edit out. More on this later.

    So, I now have a PVC stand that is about 4 feet tall with my prop hanging from it via fishing line. About 4 feet behind the stand and prop is a white felt background.

    Next, about 4 feet in front of the stand and prop I have 3 garage work lights mounted....all in a vertical line, and all aiming up at the ceiling. They're not aiming up into each other though; they're kinda aiming just ahead of each other, but all still aimed at the ceiling. This is a white room, by the way. Aiming the lights at the ceiling creates enough ambient light that I don't have to use flash...and that's the key to my pics....no flash! The garage type work lights were bought at Lowes. They are round and shiny metal or aluminum...and CHEAP. I have 60-150 watt bulbs in them.

    And finally, in between the lights and the stand, I have my camera, mounted on a tripod. The camera I'm using is a Kodak DC 280 Zoom...about 2.1 megapixels. I bought it several years ago for about $350. I went to cnet.com and looked through their digital camera reviews and looked for a camera that had high marks on "Interior Lighting". I also looked for a camera that had a Macro lens. The macro lens is is how I get my detailed closeups. The camera also has an exposure setting....a way to keep the shutter either open longer or shut faster. I keep my shutter open a teeny bit longer than the default...this lets more light in for a brighter pic, again without flash. So, don't get too basic of a camera...cuz in the long run you'll appreciate it more because you can control the outcome of your pics better.

    ------

    That was the setup. I always mount my prop on the fishing line loops hanging from the rotating "T" bar, and then wait about 4 to 5 minutes while the prop quits bouncing/bobbing/swinging. I turn on the 3 lights aiming up at the ceiling. I make sure that no lightbulb has a direct line of sight to the prop (or the prop will have a flash-like spot on it). I make sure my camera is mounted on a tripod, and I activate a 10-second timer, so that me pressing the button to take the pic doesn't move the camera any. I take the pic in the highest resolution and quality mode possible.

    ------

    Okay, after taking the pics, I download them to my computer. I have Adobe Photoshop 6. I love layers...hehe Anyway, I load a pic into photoshop. The first thing I want to do is get rid of the outside areas of the pic....the border/frame area that doesn't have the prop in it. This is called cropping. I take the cropping tool and make a rectangle around the prop itself...with about a pinky-sized finger "gap" of frame/border around the prop. This takes off the rest and leaves less for me to have to edit.

    The next step I do is called "Auto Levels". It's just something I click that takes the whitest white in my pic and makes it true white, and it takes my blackest black and makes it pure black, and similarly does that to the rest of the colors in between. It basically corrects color imbalances in the camera and helps to make the pic more color accurate.

    Next I remove the backgrond surrounding the prop. It's that white felt. I take the magic wand tool, I set it's tolerance real low...to about 10. I then click on the background area or areas and get it all selected...so that everything but the prop itself is selected. I then make sure that pure white is my background color and then I press the delete key. This clears the area selected (the felt background) and puts pure white in.

    Next, I used a tool called a "stamp" to get rid of the fishing line...which mainly shows up against the prop....it usually fades into the white felt background pretty good and therefore gets selected and deleted in the previous step. Anyway, I use the stamp tool to paint over the fishing line with whatever is directly next to it. The stamp tool basically lets you make copies. By this I mean that it is a paintbrush that lets you paint an area using an area of paint that already exists. Whew! It sounds rough, but it's easy and cool. So, to get rid of the line, I simply set the copy area to be right beside the fishing line, and then when I paint over the fishing line, it gets painted over with the area right beside it. This tool and effect is virtually undetectable when done correctly.

    Finally, I resize/reduce the pic to be about 800x600. The images are originally 1600x1200, and they're usually 400k to 900k in size. I make them 800x600 and reduce them to 60k to make them more web-friendly. Next, I add my little logo to the corner and size it accordingly (with the Transform option), and then I'm done. I then save it as a JPG and try to keep it about 60k in size by moving the compression setting.

    It takes me about 10-20 minutes per pic.


    I myself am self-taught, and my only schooling was David's tutorial that he posted above. So, as you can see, I'm no professional either....I'm sure there are better/easier ways....


    Thanks everyone,
    cdw



    examples: http://pub23.ezboard.com/fpropreplicasfrm51.showMessage?topicID=6.topic


    *edit: fixing typos*
     
  10. quarryman

    quarryman Well-Known Member

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    587
    Thanks Guys, for sharing your information so freely. Learning this the hard way is costly, in money........and time. I'm sure it was very time consuming learning these things without training. Thanks!!!
     
  11. M-Pire

    M-Pire Well-Known Member

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    You're quite welcome. [​IMG]


    This place is great for sharing things.


    Cliff
     
  12. MonCal

    MonCal Well-Known Member

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    Thanks guys!!
    Very helpful. Now all I've got to do is get a good camera [​IMG]

    Cal
     
  13. metamorphic

    metamorphic New Member

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    16
    Boba Debt

    I followed your instructions to the letter, the equipment, the lighting, the positioning. Everything.

    I set it all up, went to the bathroom, next thing I know. My entire office down stair is on FIRE! My whole damned house burnt down!

    Damned DISCLAIMERS!!!!!!! [​IMG]


    </SPAN><TABLE BORDER=0 ALIGN=CENTER WIDTH=85%><TR><TD CLASS=$row_color>Quote:<HR></TD></TR><TR><TD CLASS=$row_color>
    <div align="center">
    <p align="center">*******************DISCLAIMER*******************</p>
    </div>
    <div align="center">


    Use this tutorial at your own risk. I can not be held responsible for
    any damage or injury sustained from the improper use of tools or procedures
    that are outlined below.</p>


    ******************DISCLAIMER******************* </p>
    </TD></TR><TR><TD><HR></TD></TR></TABLE><SPAN CLASS=$row_color>
     
  14. Oohyeah KL

    Oohyeah KL Well-Known Member

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    705
    CAN WE PLEASE MAKE SURE THIS THREAD GETS ARCHIVED!!!!!

    Thanks for the great tips, David and Cliff!!

    The main problem I have is that I don't have a stand and the white background setup (and too lazy to set up one).

    But definitely, for anyone who wants to take mediocre but reasonably decent pics (like mine (IMHO [​IMG]), then these are the things you must do at the very least:

    - CROP

    - AUTO-LEVELS

    (Ctrl-shift-L in Photoshop, if I remember correctly)

    - ADJUST IMAGE SIZE

    (I typically make horizontal pics to have a width of no more than 650 pixels to be "forum friendly", and 750 pixels to be "web friendly")

    These are some of the other things I do regarding taking pics:

    - NO FLASH (if possible) / NATURAL LIGHTING

    Unless I'm taking pics of my room which does not have enough light, then if I'm taking individual props, I put it beside my window ledge to get as much natural lighting as possible, cos the flash usually kills everything.
    If you really must use flash, then having lots of natural sunlight at the same time would also still improve the quality of the pics tremendously.
    Of course, if you have a pro or semi-pro set up like David/Cliff, then you can dispense with natural lighting altogether.

    - OTHER EDITING FEATURES

    I sometimes also tinker with the Contrast/White Balance and the Color Balance too if necessary, depending on the individual pic, and also sometimes the "sharpen" feature.

    - SAVE AS JPG

    (Leave this as the very last step, and try to only save once if already in jpg format, cos every time you save when it's in jpg format, you lose quality. So if you want to do heavy editing and want to save constantly, put it in another non-loss format like tiff, psd, bmp, etc., and you can save to your heart's content. Many programs will also allow you to choose the jpg quality (eg., on P/shop it's scale of 1-10), and I usually save (just once) at quality 4, or sometimes even 3, cos it makes a big difference in the size of the file and there's not too much difference IMO.



    There, my 2 cents. [​IMG]

    btw, really need to get a new camera. My old Sony F-55 is really on its last legs... [​IMG]
     
  15. jd pilot

    jd pilot Well-Known Member RPF PREMIUM MEMBER

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    And Cliff taught me everything I know [​IMG]

    http://jdpilotlightsaberpics.homestead.com/titlepage.html

    A LOT has to do with the camera. Some DCs take great pics outside and in of people, but when it comes to detail, close shots, they down right stink. You can do all that Dav and Cliff said to do, and they still come out blurry (speaking from experience). That's about all I can add that hasn't already been discussed [​IMG]
     
  16. Sluis Van Shipyards

    Sluis Van Shipyards Master Member

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    4,470
    Yeah, thanks for the tips. I have Paintshop Pro 7 so I think I can probably find out how to do similar things in it, since it's pretty much a budget Photoshop.
     
  17. M-Pire

    M-Pire Well-Known Member

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    Great info!

    I'll make sure it gets archived. [​IMG]
     
  18. snook

    snook New Member

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    Hey M-Pire,

    Thank you so much for your info! This thread is destined for the archives for sure.

    I could say 1000 words on your technique - but I think that we all agree that the pics speak for themselves. PERFECT!

    You gave great, detailed descriptions, but at some point could you add a "long shot" of your set-up with all of the pipes and wires visible?

    It is so cool of you share your methods and teach us. You exemplify what the RPF is all about! THANKS AGAIN!






    - snook
     
  19. M-Pire

    M-Pire Well-Known Member

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    Here are some pics to kinda show what I was trying to describe. In the one pic of the whole layout, you'll see a pic of an M3 on the wall....if you look closer, you'll see the white felt...it goes from the bottom of the M3 pic to the floor.


    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]


    Hope this helps!
    cdw
     
  20. Flix4Me

    Flix4Me Well-Known Member RPF PREMIUM MEMBER

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    AAAAHHH! It looks like a prop torture rack! [​IMG]
     
  21. darthgoat

    darthgoat Well-Known Member

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    also make sure the lens cap is on.

    off! i mean off!!

    i lose more pics that way! [​IMG]
     
  22. gavidoc

    gavidoc Well-Known Member

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    Here is some useful information for you to keep in mind.

    </SPAN><TABLE BORDER=0 ALIGN=CENTER WIDTH=85%><TR><TD CLASS=$row_color>Quote:<HR></TD></TR><TR><TD CLASS=$row_color>
    Another thing you'll want to remember is that if you are using a light meter, it is set up to read the lighting as if it's taking a black and white photo. Something that was designed before color film and the industry hasn't changed yet.

    Example: A lightmeter reads the light using an 18% grey as the standard. This is what Black and White film is set up for.

    Color film is set for 36% grey or an entire stop of difference.

    What that means is that if you have ISO 100 film in your camera and have it set up on auto, then your pictures will come out dark no matter the lighting.

    If your camera has different manual settings, you'll want to put it on the one where you can adjust the ISO setting. If you have ISO 100 film in your camera, put the ISO manual setting to 200. Then you will get the correct reading and exposure for your film out of your lightmeter and your pictures will come out more clear.

    It is also possible to light an entire prop by using only 1 light. The ideal thing is to buy a 1000 watt photo light (exspensive but well worth it) or you can try and get a couple light fixtures that can handle 500 watt bulbs.

    Ideally, you want to have at least 1000 to 2000 watts of light for product photos. From there it's only a matter of making a basic frame out of wood and thin nylon curtains to filter the light. Prop the light fixture directly over your prop and then with the use of white foam core or corrugated cardboard wrapped in foil strategically placed around the prop to light it how you want, you can take some awesome product photos.

    Also, shoot with low ISO film. ISO 100 or lower (ISO 50 is awesome) is ideal. It takes more light but you'll have plenty if your using some 500 watt photo bulbs. Plus, you can then enlarge your photos without any loss of detail. ISO 200 will work but when blown up, you'll begin to lose some clarity in the shadows.</TD></TR><TR><TD><HR></TD></TR></TABLE><SPAN CLASS=$row_color>
     
  23. snook

    snook New Member

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    M-Pire-

    THANKS!

    Those shots of your set "behind the scenes" REALLY drove it home for me!



    I'm not worthy...

    I'm not worthy...

    I'm not worthy...

    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]
    [​IMG][​IMG]
    [​IMG]
     
  24. phase pistol

    phase pistol Master Member RPF PREMIUM MEMBER

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    Wow! Great tips! [​IMG]

    I can't wait to run out to Loew's... once the flooding from Tropical Storm Isidore abates... [​IMG]

    - Karl
     
  25. gavidoc

    gavidoc Well-Known Member

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    When taking a 3/4 shot that has an extreme perspective, remember to focus the camera 1/3 of the way down on the prop.

    That way, the entire prop will be in focus. Common problem is for a person to focus on the front of the prop. If doing this, the back end of it is blurry.

    If you center in the back of the prop, the front is blurry. Has to do with the way the camera is set up.

    From the visual standpoint (IE: prop), the camera will focus up to 1/3 in front of the focusing point and up to 2/3 away from the focusing point. So you need to get within that window.

    Another thing to remember is that a 35mm film slide has the equivalents in clarity of an 8 megapixel digital camera. You heard it right. 8 megapixels! So remember that when using a digital camera. If you're using a 2 megapixel digital camera, you just cut your photo quality and clarity by 3/4.
     
  26. phase pistol

    phase pistol Master Member RPF PREMIUM MEMBER

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    I have found that I can keep things in focus by setting the camera on "aperture priority", which increases the depth of field.

    I have a 5-megapixel Minolta DiMage 7, BTW. [​IMG]

    - Karl
     
  27. yodaman

    yodaman Sr Member

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    archived
     

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