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Thread: Tips on taking good gear photos?

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    Kablamminator ratherdashing's Avatar
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    Default Tips on taking good gear photos?

    I know a lot about many things, but photography isn't one of them.

    What do you guys do to get good gear pics? Some of us are quite good at it, so I thought I'd start this thread so that photographically challenged people like myself can learn a thing or two.

    Any tip is fair game here, including:

    - lighting
    - angles
    - camera settings
    - camera, lens, and lighting equipment
    - post processing (i.e. Photoshop)
    - dealing with bad lighting (dark stage, for example)
    - getting good pics with budget equipment and/or phone cameras

    What say you, shutterbugs?

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    John Mayer's Mankini ImmortalSix's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tips on taking good gear photos?

    I shoot with a Nikon D3100 - that's an entry-level Digital SLR camera.

    In general, you want to stay away from direct flash. Direct meaning not bounced off of or passed through a diffusing source. Bounce flashes are common and affordable , which allow you to angle your flash to bounce it off a wall or the ceiling so that when the light reaches your subject, it has been diffused or softened a bit.

    Here are two pictures taken in the same room of my house, on the same day. One with direct flash, one with a bounced flash: Note the color difference on the left picture - washed out and bluish. That's direct.

    Also note that the left photo looks like a photograph, where the right photo looks much more natural.



    When possible, use a tripod and no flash at all - only natural light. If your space is not well lit, no matter - simply leave your shutter open longer. Naturally lit tripod shots always look cool, have rich and full colors, and are generally great for guitar gear photos.



    Note how natural the colors look. Very much like you'd see in real life - not like what you're used to seeing in a photograph. Note how clear and non-fuzzy all the lines and features are. That's what you get with a tripod.

    TL;DR --- diffused light and a tripod.
    Last edited by ImmortalSix; 02-21-2012 at 11:29 AM.

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    Asshatologist
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    Default Re: Tips on taking good gear photos?

    Put some boobies somewhere in there.

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    Desert RATT Chris of Arabia's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tips on taking good gear photos?

    Lighting:

    - The lighting on a dull overcast day will be better for photographing equipment than a bright sunny day, as contrast will be better controlled and you won't suffer as much from burnt out highlights.

    - If you have a north facing window, the light from that will generally be easier to work with than one with light streaming through it, for the same reasons outlined above.

    - If you can put a white sheet or piece of foam board on the opposite side of the gear from the light source, then you will throw additional light back onto the shadow side of it. This helps get a much or natural lighting effect than single-direction lighting alone (very similar to I6's bounced flash idea)

    -If you don't have a tripod, get one. No need for anything expensive in that regard. Pretty much any tripod is better than no tripod. Failing that, a bag of rice/beans can be used to rest the camera on and keep it steady - there are very definite limits to what you can achieve that way though.

    - Try to use backgrounds that don't distract from the guitar itself, as they will only compete for the viewers attention with the guitar itself.

    - If you can set the camera aperture, using a wider one will give a shallower depth of field (how much of the image is actually in sharp focus), which will allow you to separate the equipment from its surroundings.

    - Digital images are usually lacking in contrast. Most will look more dynamic and punchy if you add additional contrast in your photo processing tool (e.g. PS)

    - On a compact camera with no direct control over the shutter speed or aperture, try putting it on the portrait setting (the image of a head), as this will be the equivalent of setting a wide aperture. Think of it as taking a portrait of the equipment instead of a person.

    - On a camera that automatically pops up the flash when it thinks it's getting dark, find the setting in the menu that forces the thing 'Off'. Let the camera work out how to deal with the low lighting in other ways.

    - If you are taking close ups, make a point of cleaning the guitar as best you can to remove fingerprints, dust etc. Any remaining blemishes can be 'spotted' out in PS later if they get missed, but it's much easier not to have them there in the first place.
    Last edited by Chris of Arabia; 02-21-2012 at 11:55 AM.
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    Mojo's Minions GuitarDoc's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tips on taking good gear photos?

    All good advice.
    Originally Posted by IanBallard
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    John Mayer's Mankini ImmortalSix's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tips on taking good gear photos?

    Amen to Chris of Arabia's suggestions.

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    Default Re: Tips on taking good gear photos?

    Quote Originally Posted by ImmortalSix View Post
    Amen to Chris of Arabia's suggestions.
    +1

    but a tripod and no flash is pretty much the most important, i've found.

    Alas, I have no tripod, so I use the sport motion setting on my camera to eliminate the fuzziness my shaky hands tend to produce on photos. quite handy!

    Having good lighting helps a lot. Sometimes even when you think there is adequate lighting, it might not be. Taking test photos helps adjusting this.
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    Mojo's Minions ItsaBass's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tips on taking good gear photos?

    That is a loaded damned question.

    The short answer is that all photography is about quality of light.

    I would search for a book on lighting for products and still lifes.

    Artificial lighting is easy to get if you firmly base your understanding on one main thing: Pretty much all you are ever doing with artificial light is to replicate the sun and the weather. What effects does the sun have at different times of day? What does it do in different sorts of weather? What effects do these various natural lightings have on your mood? So, crafting good lighting comes not from knowing about flashes or other technical bits, but from paying close attention to natural lighting, and figuring out what details make it have the effects it has.

    Here is a studio shot of my '68 SG. I shot it on 4x5 tungsten-balanced film and never scanned the neg, so I just took a quick snap of the matted print outside, hence the poor quality copy. But you get the gist. This is a single reflected ("bounced") light from a 2x2 foot reflector. Placed at a mid afternoon position to highlight the horn. The fact that it is a single light with no fill light or bounce back gives it a dramatic shadowy look. Do something as simple as holding a piece of white foam core facing the light (on the left side of the guitar), and those shadows fill and it becomes a simple catalog shot. If my intent was to show a basic picture of "this is what the guitar looks like" to potential buyers, or if I wanted to hide blemishes, that's how I would approach it. But if I simply wanted to make it look bad-ass for artistic purposes, I'd light it more like I did here.



    This is the style of light I used. Mole-Richardson 1 KW Softlite. You don't need fancy Hollywood glamour lamps like this, but notice how the bare light is modified to change it's quality. The bulb itself points straight up, and all the light that goes toward the subject is actually reflected light from that big 2x2 curved reflector. It makes the light source bigger (hence softer), but not so big and soft that it loses it's drama. It gives the effect of reflected sunlight bouncing off of a wall or something to illuminate a subject in the shade, not the harsh effect of direct sunlight. The reflected light is soft, but still directional.

    Last edited by ItsaBass; 02-21-2012 at 09:15 PM.
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    Default Re: Tips on taking good gear photos?

    i use a small light tent that is just tall enough for me to fit a guitar inside, i can then position the lights as needed to get a nice reflection. I do not use a flash at all when using the tent.


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    Asshatologist
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    Default Re: Tips on taking good gear photos?

    Boobs are the new bacon.

    Everything tastes better with more boobies.

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    Kablamminator ratherdashing's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tips on taking good gear photos?

    Damn, ItsaBass and xntrick, those are fantastic pics!

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    Mojo's Minions dominus's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tips on taking good gear photos?

    If you're taking a picture of your guitar, trim the ends off the strings. Nothing looks sloppier than loose string ends.
    "Their children also shall be dashed to pieces before their eyes; their houses shall be spoiled, and their wives ravished." Isaiah 13:16

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    SmoothCriminalologist JOLLY's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tips on taking good gear photos?

    Quote Originally Posted by dominus View Post
    If you're taking a picture of your guitar, trim the ends off the strings. Nothing looks sloppier than loose string ends.
    That gets on my nerves everytime I see someone playing live, and their guitar is like that.

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    Mojo's Minions DrNewcenstein's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tips on taking good gear photos?

    Remove background clutter like potted plants and furniture that matches the guitar (I HATE that!) and never photograph a black guitar inside a black-lined case. That's just short-bus.

    In the case of gear pics, the subject (i.e. guitar) should stand out clearly from the background (i.e. furniture and plants). You can always tell the Ebayers who have taken the photography class at the local Community College - they have "decorations" in the shot trying to be artistic when it's not needed.

    If your camera has an attached flash (built-in or mounted) you can tape a piece of white paper over it to diffuse it, especially if it's like a small thermonuclear device. My Olympus D600L had a flip-up flash that would make ebony look like rosewood, and forget taking a pic of anything white. I took a small piece of printer paper and rubber-banded it over the bulb, and it diffused perfectly.

    I do like the idea of the white sheet tent, though.

    And don't forget natural lighting. You don't need direct sunlight (i.e. face down from the top at high noon), but indirect light coming in through a window or sliding glass door can do wonders.
    Don't be afraid of those cloudy days, either. Clouds diffuse sunlight very well, though in glossy finishes you might come away with a "blue sky and clouds graphic" effect
    Quote Originally Posted by Brown Note View Post
    I'm soooooo jealous about the WR-1. It's the perfect guitar; fantastic to play, balances well even when seated and *great* reach for the upper frets. The sound is bright tight and very articulate. In summary it could only be more awesome if it had **** and was on fire!
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    Dawn Of The Shred TheLivingDead's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tips on taking good gear photos?

    Quote Originally Posted by dominus View Post
    If you're taking a picture of your guitar, trim the ends off the strings. Nothing looks sloppier than loose string ends.
    God I hate that.

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    Mojo's Minions DrNewcenstein's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tips on taking good gear photos?

    It's not such a big deal. Really.
    Quote Originally Posted by Brown Note View Post
    I'm soooooo jealous about the WR-1. It's the perfect guitar; fantastic to play, balances well even when seated and *great* reach for the upper frets. The sound is bright tight and very articulate. In summary it could only be more awesome if it had **** and was on fire!
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    Default Re: Tips on taking good gear photos?

    Did anyone say boobies?


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    Default Re: Tips on taking good gear photos?

    A big juicy blonde ....



    No boobies though.

  19. #19
    Something Cool uOpt's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tips on taking good gear photos?

    Before I post this I should point out that I don't do all this stuff on my forsale photos, mokay?

    Quote Originally Posted by ratherdashing View Post
    I know a lot about many things, but photography isn't one of them.

    What do you guys do to get good gear pics? Some of us are quite good at it, so I thought I'd start this thread so that photographically challenged people like myself can learn a thing or two.

    Any tip is fair game here, including:

    - lighting
    Well let's leave aside the dark stage for now.

    One of the major things that makes guitar photography easier is that it is generally acceptable to have harsh shadows, and they don't squish their eyes. So you can just put them in bright sunshine. That makes everything easier because now you don't have to worry about noise anymore.

    Another thing is depth of field. You want wide depth of field, so don't bother getting a camera with a large sensor or a lens with large aperture. Of course you want enough light for that. As for lenses, you want sharp. Macro lenses are generally where the music is.

    Indoors is more problematic since flashing directly at the guitar has reflections that are meh. Even if you use a large flash and bounce off the ceiling, the highly reflective nature of the guitar's paint means you'll have to fiddle for a while. Ideally you want a product photography setup which means light from all directions evenly, but that's a pain to get for large objects like guitars.

    Quote Originally Posted by ratherdashing View Post
    - angles
    Well, this is the mother of all questions, and guitars are not a very well-researched photography topic where people have specific expectations. You can always assume that rules of thirds apply, and that you want diagonal lines - of some kind. The rest if proportions. What do you put where so that the zoom factor in play enlarges it how relative to the other parts of the guitar? No rules, these aren't people that know very specifically which parts are supposed how to look how. Consider your audience's viewpoint. What do they expect? Do they desire the guitar in a stand that was in that shop in 1983? Do they desire the far away zoomed view to a guitar somebody was playing on a stage? Do they want a real close feeling to trigger the same neurotransmitters that flow when playing the guitar? Do you want them to admire you for your photography or do you want to make them hot for the guitar.

    On glossy guitars you want to watch what is visible in the reflection. Keep it free or start modeling something that should appear in there to make it more striking (but not distracting).

    If you want real control of proportions you can start messing with shift-tilt lenses (Canon's TS-E 45mm comes to mind). Also gives you tools to get pleasant non-straight lines and control depth-of field that allows you to have selective sharp panes that are not parallel to the viewpoint.

    Quote Originally Posted by ratherdashing View Post
    - camera settings
    Full auto except aperture will do.

    Well first of all put a white balance reference card into one of the pictures so that you will have a reference. Especially if you are indoors. WB isn't too important since there is no reference for the viewer either and you can make the color anything you desire, but be warned that some cameras have real problems with WB when photographing music gear that has no white anywhere.

    Aperture I usually have around f/9 to f/11 on crop sensor bodies if there's enough light. I can post some statistics of the settings if you like, easy enough.

    Quote Originally Posted by ratherdashing View Post
    - camera, lens, and lighting equipment
    As I said, the camera is the least of the problems here. A rebel with a 50mm macro is probably close to perfect, but of course you will want some other focal lengths in the end.

    Outdoors, wait for the sun or a nuclear attack. Indoors, a large flash bounced off the ceiling can do a good job. Messing around with the usual softboxes or umbrellas in product photography can be frustrating.

    Quote Originally Posted by ratherdashing View Post
    - post processing (i.e. Photoshop)
    White balance, obviously.

    Use the techniques that you normally use to "pop" eyes and apply them to hardware detail. I usually use it on things like pickup polepieces/screws, logos, bridge saddles, the writing on knobs and the like. It makes you picture appear more "valuable".

    See below for exposure mixing - underexpose the picture, keep bright details at that, lift the rest.

    On glossy guitars you can "grab" on the shape of the contrast as it traverses a surface on the guitar. Open the color curves tool (don't use it on the colors, just the mix), pick the place where you are at for one point that is brighter and one point that is not so bright and then s-curve between those. Works especially well on black guitars.

    A similar trick can be used to enhance structure that is below the surface. Namely flame maple under sunburst, but also the striping of rosewood.

    Quote Originally Posted by ratherdashing View Post
    - dealing with bad lighting (dark stage, for example)
    - getting good pics with budget equipment and/or phone cameras

    What say you, shutterbugs?
    Stage photography in bad light really has nothing to do with photographing your gear in a controlled environment. If the subject isn't moving you can obviously expose as long as you want but if there is outright shade on the good parts that's not gonna save you. I can ramble about it a bit if there's interest.

    Random tricks:
    • I often underexpose by 2/3rds of an f-stop (or more!) and bump it later in PP. The idea is that things like metal hardware, beige pickup rings and all the other bright things are not blown out in the original picture. You blend these from the dark version in the rest of the (bumped) picture. Don't worry about noise since you can expose as long as you want but keep in mind you want half the ISO as a minimum as you normally feel good with. The whole thing becomes much more saturated looking. Correctly exposed guitar photos generally suck.
    • Restrict the noise reduction in the camera, if any. Note that Canon cameras do not allow you to turn off all NR even though the menu says so. But it only applies to the jpegs and with low enough ISO there shouldn't be any. You should be able to keep ISO low enough so that it doesn't do much but I often do without any. NR is the works of the devil. You want sharp, sharp, sharp, and as much detail as you can get, this isn't your girlfriend.
    • Hammer away with the shutter. Get a fast picture viewer/selector. It's not really easy to see good angles in the viewfinder if you don't have a lot of experience, things are different on a computer screen. You should have hundreds of frames from a session. Shoot quickly, toss quickly.
    • Get a step ladder, and comfortable kneepads, too. Don't let your height or your joint aches dictate your picture composition.
    Last edited by uOpt; 02-21-2012 at 04:54 PM.

  20. #20
    Li'l Junior Member MetalManiac's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tips on taking good gear photos?

    Quote Originally Posted by uOpt View Post
    Before I post this I should point out that I don't do all this stuff on my forsale photos, mokay?



    Well let's leave aside the dark stage for now.

    One of the major things that makes guitar photography easier is that it is generally acceptable to have harsh shadows, and they don't squish their eyes. So you can just put them in bright sunshine. That makes everything easier because now you don't have to worry about noise anymore.

    Another thing is depth of field. You want wide depth of field, so don't bother getting a camera with a large sensor or a lens with large aperture. Of course you want enough light for that. As for lenses, you want sharp. Macro lenses are generally where the music is.

    Indoors is more problematic since flashing directly at the guitar has reflections that are meh. Even if you use a large flash and bounce off the ceiling, the highly reflective nature of the guitar's paint means you'll have to fiddle for a while. Ideally you want a product photography setup which means light from all directions evenly, but that's a pain to get for large objects like guitars.



    Well, this is the mother of all questions, and guitars are not a very well-researched photography topic where people have specific expectations. You can always assume that rules of thirds apply, and that you want diagonal lines - of some kind. The rest if proportions. What do you put where so that the zoom factor in play enlarges it how relative to the other parts of the guitar? No rules, these aren't people that know very specifically which parts are supposed how to look how. Consider your audience's viewpoint. What do they expect? Do they desire the guitar in a stand that was in that shop in 1983? Do they desire the far away zoomed view to a guitar somebody was playing on a stage? Do they want a real close feeling to trigger the same neurotransmitters that flow when playing the guitar? Do you want them to admire you for your photography or do you want to make them hot for the guitar.

    On glossy guitars you want to watch what is visible in the reflection. Keep it free or start modeling something that should appear in there to make it more striking (but not distracting).

    If you want real control of proportions you can start messing with shift-tilt lenses (Canon's TS-E 45mm comes to mind). Also gives you tools to get pleasant non-straight lines and control depth-of field that allows you to have selective sharp panes that are not parallel to the viewpoint.



    Full auto except aperture will do.

    Well first of all put a white balance reference card into one of the pictures so that you will have a reference. Especially if you are indoors. WB isn't too important since there is no reference for the viewer either and you can make the color anything you desire, but be warned that some cameras have real problems with WB when photographing music gear that has no white anywhere.

    Aperture I usually have around f/9 to f/11 on crop sensor bodies if there's enough light. I can post some statistics of the settings if you like, easy enough.



    As I said, the camera is the least of the problems here. A rebel with a 50mm macro is probably close to perfect, but of course you will want some other focal lengths in the end.

    Outdoors, wait for the sun or a nuclear attack. Indoors, a large flash bounced off the ceiling can do a good job. Messing around with the usual softboxes or umbrellas in product photography can be frustrating.



    White balance, obviously.

    Use the techniques that you normally use to "pop" eyes and apply them to hardware detail. I usually use it on things like pickup polepieces/screws, logos, bridge saddles, the writing on knobs and the like. It makes you picture appear more "valuable".

    See below for exposure mixing - underexpose the picture, keep bright details at that, lift the rest.

    On glossy guitars you can "grab" on the shape of the contrast as it traverses a surface on the guitar. Open the color curves tool (don't use it on the colors, just the mix), pick the place where you are at for one point that is brighter and one point that is not so bright and then s-curve between those. Works especially well on black guitars.

    A similar trick can be used to enhance structure that is below the surface. Namely flame maple under sunburst, but also the striping of rosewood.



    Stage photography in bad light really has nothing to do with photographing your gear in a controlled environment. If the subject isn't moving you can obviously expose as long as you want but if there is outright shade on the good parts that's not gonna save you. I can ramble about it a bit if there's interest.

    Random tricks:
    • I often underexpose by 2/3rds of an f-stop (or more!) and bump it later in PP. The idea is that things like metal hardware, beige pickup rings and all the other bright things are not blown out in the original picture. You blend these from the dark version in the rest of the (bumped) picture. Don't worry about noise since you can expose as long as you want but keep in mind you want half the ISO as a minimum as you normally feel good with. The whole thing becomes much more saturated looking. Correctly exposed guitar photos generally suck.
    • Restrict the noise reduction in the camera, if any. Note that Canon cameras do not allow you to turn off all NR even though the menu says so. But it only applies to the jpegs and with low enough ISO there shouldn't be any. You should be able to keep ISO low enough so that it doesn't do much but I often do without any. NR is the works of the devil. You want sharp, sharp, sharp, and as much detail as you can get, this isn't your girlfriend.
    • Hammer away with the shutter. Get a fast picture viewer/selector. It's not really easy to see good angles in the viewfinder if you don't have a lot of experience, things are different on a computer screen. You should have hundreds of frames from a session. Shoot quickly, toss quickly.
    • Get a step ladder, and comfortable kneepads, too. Don't let your height or your joint aches dictate your picture composition.
    Holy Crap..the guy wants to take pictures of a guitar, not National Geogrphic images of the Himalayas.

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