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Old 06-25-2011, 11:53 AM   #1
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I'm putting together a small article for a magazine that must include 6-8 photos. The subject of the photos is a small woodworking project at various stages of the build. All photos will be taken indoors. They will be about 3 inches square in the magazine. I know very little about photography, and I only know how to operate a small digital camera without fancy lenses, etc. I don't want to ask the editor what may seem to be rookie photography questions.

I do want to expand my photography abilities, but I don't want to spend a lot of $ on equipment. I'd like to spend no more than $800 at this time and maybe expand later. This opportunity is all I need to persuade DW that I need a new camera.

Any suggestions on cameras on this price range? And more importantly - will I be able to take decent magazine photos within a week of getting a new camera? Or should I have a photographer friend just take the photos?
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Old 06-25-2011, 12:41 PM   #2
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You don't need to get any fancy equipment. At 3" in a magazine, your point & shoot will have the necessary resolution for the picture.

You need to light up your work space well - use some white poster board as reflectors so that there are no sharp shadows. Use lamps and a thin sheet of white paper across them to diffuse the light. Don't use your P&S flash.

You will have to do some post processing but even a simple program like Picasa should be able to help. First, you'll need to correct for the light color if you are using incandescent lighting. Secondly, you'll need to resize your picture to the magazine resolution. Find out how many pixels/inch the magazine prints at and then multiply by 3" for the size you need. Next, you need to "sharpen" your picture. Try these steps and you'll be surprised at how good your picture will look.

All the best.

But if you still want a good, but small camera, check out the Panasonic LX4. It has a leica lens and all the manual controls you could want. Any entry level dSLR will meet your needs too.
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Old 06-25-2011, 05:03 PM   #3
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No magazine I ever sold an article to used anything higher resolution than 300 dpi. Pretty much any cheap digital camera is capable of that resolution, so don't worry about it.
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Old 06-25-2011, 09:13 PM   #4
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As walkinwood wrote, it is all about the lighting. Best results will occur if you do not use the flash on the camera and instead use so-called "off-camera flash". So a window with natural light indirect will give "soft" lighting without harsh shadows.

Pros will have a couple of flash units reflecting from or through a white or silver umbrella which will make it look like the light wraps around the subject.

I take photos for brochures and use radio-controlled speedlites. That's probably too expensive for what you want to do.

As for composition, make sure you remove all extraneous crap from the field of view especially around the edges. You can crop some away in post-processing, but it is better to deal with it before you take the picture.

$800 will get you an entry-level dSLR and a speedlite for that camera. You can get a remote cable for your flash unit or perhaps you can get an optical trigger as well if you do your research and make sure it will work with your camera body and your flash unit.

Also check similar articles in the magazine. For photos/articles you like, what is it about them that makes the photos appealing? For those you don't like, what is it about the photos that makes them distracting? If you can provide a link to such photos/article, I can critique them.
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Old 06-26-2011, 06:09 AM   #5
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I agree with the lighting and pocket cameras. With careful attention in this controlled situation your photos should be fine. For other photos you would benefit from learning a bit about editing the photos. Simple levels adjustments, cropping, etc can make a big difference.
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Old 06-26-2011, 07:27 AM   #6
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Thanks for the tips! I can tell that my immediate problem is lighting. Most of my photos will be taken of projects being made in my workshop with no natural lighting, except if I open the garage door. I could take photos of the finished product outside or in the house. I'll research and initially fine tune my photos with better lighting. Then I'll take a class to learn more.

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Also check similar articles in the magazine. *For photos/articles you like, what is it about them that makes the photos appealing? *For those you don't like, what is it about the photos that makes them distracting? *If you can provide a link to such photos/article, I can critique them.
I couldn't find similar magazine type photos on their web site, but here are a few similar photos that I have submitted to a woodworking forum that could use some critiquing.

http://http://lumberjocks.com/ronstar/projects
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Old 06-26-2011, 07:52 AM   #7
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I sent you a pm with critiques.
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Old 06-26-2011, 08:37 AM   #8
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I sent you a pm with critiques.
Thanks! Got it.
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Old 06-26-2011, 10:11 AM   #9
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Another very common technique is to bounce the light from the flash off of a light-colored ceiling or wall. This is why separate flash units (speedlites) that attach to the camera body hot shoe usually have tilt- and swivel- heads. This also gives a very diffuse lighting as walkinwood suggests.
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Old 06-26-2011, 02:53 PM   #10
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I thought I saw something on Lifehacker about el cheapo lighting aids a while back and did a search. Here are four DIY light soft boxes:
Make a DIY Photography Softbox from a Styrofoam Cooler
DIY photo softbox
Build a $10 macro photo studio
Turn a bucket into a light box
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Old 06-26-2011, 03:17 PM   #11
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Great ideas! I should be able to build a cheap light box to serve my needs.
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Old 06-26-2011, 08:12 PM   #12
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....Most of my photos will be taken of projects being made in my workshop with no natural lighting, except if I open the garage door. ....
Open garage doors make great lighting. It is a large opening, so causes diffuse shadows. With a couple of strategically placed white cardboard sheets, you should be able to get some good lighting.
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Old 06-26-2011, 08:55 PM   #13
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I work part time for a distributor who is required to send customers pictures of parts on occasion. Sometimes when the pictures do not look well with indoor lighting so they have taken the item out of the building into the natural sunlight and then taken the picture.
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Old 06-28-2011, 12:21 AM   #14
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Found this on lifehacker - thought you'd like it
Basics of Photography: The Complete Guide
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Old 06-28-2011, 06:03 AM   #15
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Found this on lifehacker - thought you'd like it
Basics of Photography: The Complete Guide
Thanks! I think I'll start shooting today - maybe outside with natural lighting.
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Old 06-28-2011, 08:20 AM   #16
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Ronstar, also look at Fine Woodworking magazine. They have a section in each issue which is a gallery of readers projects. IIRC (I'm away and don't have a copy handy), they give requirements/suggestions there, and most pictures from the readers look very good (at least the ones they publish).

From my limited experience, I'll agree with the others that lighting is #1. Also important is a nice plain background. I helped DD take some pics for a portfolio submission of her art projects, and even our mid-range point-and-shoot Casio cameras had a white balance setting. I was shocked at how well it worked. We had to use a bunch of tungsten and halogen lights, and the pics were originally way off-color. But set the white balance, take a picture of a plain white card, and then the camera adjusts using the white card profile as a reference- perfectly to my eye. I was unable to get the same balance in a photo-edit program, but that might be my lack of skills there. But white balance in the camera was easy, fast, and spot-on.

-ERD50
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Old 06-28-2011, 01:51 PM   #17
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But set the white balance, take a picture of a plain white card, and then the camera adjusts using the white card profile as a reference- perfectly to my eye.
-ERD50
Good advice, except that "plain white cards" are not always white.
The trick I learned from the pros (who don't always carry reference charts to calibrate the camera) is to use styrofoam cups. Almost perfect white for setting white balance.
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Old 06-28-2011, 03:30 PM   #18
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^The trick many have learned is that you can get any white-balance you want to as long as the light is not a mixed spectrum and you save the raw image. The camera body does processing when it converts the sensor pixel values to a jpeg or to the camera body's LCD. Any good post-processing program (such as one that comes with your camera) can adjust the white balance after the shot.

A mixed spectrum might be something like using fill-in flash outdoors with the sun. You will want to put a gel on your flash to make it more sun-like. Another mixed spectrum would be fluorescent lights with flash or fluorescent lights with natural sunlight through a window. Another mixed spectrum would be a basketball gym with a mix of different kinds of metal halide and/or fluorescent lamps.
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