Need Help with Basic Lighting, Shooting Problems

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by Bob McLain, Nov 24, 2003.

  1. Bob McLain

    Bob McLain Guest

    Last week, I bought my first digital camera, a Nikon Coolpix 2500, chosen
    for its ability to take good close-up shots. I'm using the camera primarily
    for taking shots of small items that I plan to sell on eBay. I've gotten my
    shots about 75% of the way toward what I'd consider acceptable. I've hit a
    rough patch...

    The Coolpix 2500 has a 'scene' setting called Close Up. It seems to work
    well, but is it advisable to instead monkey with the white balance settings,
    the flash, etc., rather than rely on the canned Close Up settings?

    I'm also having a hard time getting rid of shadows. I've rigged a primitive
    background using a big piece of white poster board draped over a wooden
    chair that I position under a battery of 60-watt overhead incandescent
    lights. I've moved things around more than musical chairs, but the little
    figure on the poster board still casts a shadow. And worse, the white poster
    board looks grey when I download my shots to the computer.

    And here's final proof that the part of my brain responsible for
    comprehending photography burned out years ago - how the heck do you fasten
    the digital camera on the tripod? I bought a Hakuba S-4500 tripod that has a
    little screw on top. After brilliant insight on my part, I figured out that
    the little hole in the bottom of the digital camera must fit onto the screw.
    But no matter how much I jiggle the camera on top of the screw, it won't
    fasten securely.

    I feel better for having confessed that...

    If anyone can help, or point me in the right direction, please do. I've
    uploaded a sample shot (taken with the Close Up setting) here - - for all to admire. (By
    the way, the colors in that shot are way brighter than the colors on the
    figure, but I haven't been able to get a darker shot.)


    Bob (glaring menacingly at his tripod)
    Bob McLain, Nov 24, 2003
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  2. Bob McLain

    Wendy S Guest

    Try making an open box frame out of whatever you have available, (PVC?
    couple of broomsticks balanced on chair backs?) and draping thin white
    cloth over it to diffuse the light. IOW, get something flat and
    translucent between the light bulbs and the subject.
    Wendy S, Nov 24, 2003
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  3. Bob McLain

    Wdflannery Guest

    I'm trying to understand your set-up .....

    You have a white poster board 'draped' over a wooden chair. Flexible poster

    A 'battery' of 60-watt overhead incandescent lights ....??? From the pic
    supplied, there only appears to be one light, to the left and under the
    camera....... hence the shadow..... or, is the flash firing ???

    Can you clarify the setup .... how is the poster board 'draped'.... exacly how
    many lights ..... where in relation to camera and subject .... flash on or off

    The posterboard looks white in the close foreground ... but fades quickly to
    gray .... how do you want it to look .....

    Posting the pic helps a lot .... the problems are 1. shadow ... 2. color of
    posterboard .... 3. overall too bright ????

    I think you just have to keep fiddling with the tripod screw .....usually there
    is a screw that goes into the camera ... and it also has a 'collar' .... you
    may have to back off the collar before screwing the screw into the camera ....
    then, tighten the collar ......
    Wdflannery, Nov 24, 2003

  4. I've moved things around more than musical chairs, but the little

    60 watts is not enough, you need at least 250 watts. Get some floods, and
    photo floods will have dimmers, which you can adjust, or dim the light when
    not shooting (since they get hot, and heat things up). Diffused light,
    coming from above at different angles, at 250 - 500 watts, is better for
    white balance and removing shadows.

    The white poster board is grey because it is getting underexposed. You need
    brighter light, say at least 250 watts. Have the light, at least two, three
    is better,

    Most tripods, even the cheap ones, have a release. Release the plate that
    has the screw, and it will be easier to attach it to the camera, since the
    underside of the plate is where you can tighten the screw with a screw

    Try, for lighting ideas for selling
    products on the internet.

    Patrick Lockwood, Nov 24, 2003
  5. Bob McLain

    Charlie Self Guest

    Wendy responds:
    Good advice. Add drop those overhead lights and the flash. Bring the lights
    back to the camera, spread at about a 15 deg. angle in towards the subject and
    a couple feet out from it when it's that small. The lights should be about a
    foot higher than the camera. You probably won't do it with 60 watt bulbs,
    either. Go get a couple halogen lights at the local big box store (Home Depot,
    Lowe's). Watch those suckers, though: they will burn you and set fire to paper.

    Then take one light--experiment with light strength and exact position--and
    point it at the background, taping heavy black paper over the reflector so
    there' s no light flare on the camera or hitting the subject. This is a form of
    snoot or barn door set and helps pop the subject out of the background.

    Keep moving your lights until you see exactly what you want to see. Same goes
    for white balance: keep trying different settings until you get exactly what
    you want.

    Keep notes as you go, at least on major changes, and write down your final
    settings even if your camera saves them for you. Memory is a capricious beast.

    Charlie Self

    "Analyzing humor is like dissecting a frog. Few people are interested and the
    frog dies of it." E. B. White
    Charlie Self, Nov 24, 2003
  6. Bob McLain

    Bob McLain Guest

    And here's final proof that the part of my brain responsible for
    That did it, thanks. The plate came right off and I can see the handle
    underneath that lets me tighten and loosen the screw. Duh...
    Does it matter what kind of floods I buy as long as the bulbs are 250 watts?

    Bob McLain, Nov 24, 2003
  7. Bob McLain

    Bob McLain Guest

    I'm trying to understand your set-up .....
    Yes. It's the kind you buy in craft stores for 35 cents. I used clothespins
    to attach the poster board to a larger piece of corrugated cardboard that I
    tied onto the chair. Unfortunately, the tripod is too high (even at its
    minimum extension) to line up with the object on the chair, so I've moved
    the cardboard and posterboard setup to a desk.
    The lights are part of an overhead fan about six feet above the object. The
    fan has 4 60-watt bulbs arranged in a circle beneath it.

    The flash is firing. I understand now that I should turn it off.
    I want the entire background to be pure white, with no gray. I think the
    gray makes the object look 'dirty'.

    Based on the answers to my initial questions and other research I've done,
    it seems that I should be doing this:

    * buy two or three 250-watt flood lights and focus them on the background
    (not the object). It seems that the floods should be placed above and to the
    sides of the camera. Can anyone recommend a particular brand or type of
    flood? I'd like to keep things inexpensive - maybe something at WalMart or
    Home Depot?

    * buy a brighter white posterboard, or maybe even use a bright white cloth.
    Will a cloth backdrop give me better results than a posterboard backdrop?

    * keep the flash off and use the self-timer to take the shot.

    How close should I put the camera to the object? I'm using a Nikon Coolpix
    2500 mounted on a tripod.

    Also, for taking shots of small images, is it advisable to have the camera
    on the same level as the image? slightly above it? slightly below?

    Thanks again to all!

    Bob McLain, Nov 24, 2003
  8. Bob McLain

    Tom Monego Guest

    Get some ROSCO ripstop diffusion fabric, it is fire proof. B&H should have it.
    Sheets are cheaper but your house won't burn down with the ROSCO fabric.
    Brighter the light the better. Halogen lights from home depot work Lowel
    TotaLights are better but again $. Look for them on Ebay, just search Lowel

    Tom Monego, Nov 24, 2003
  9. Bob McLain

    Charlie Self Guest

    Bob McLain states:
    HD or WalMart, wherever. I think those halogens are about $10. Bigger ones are
    about $30. But you do NOT want all lights on the background. One will do. Splay
    the others in front of the object being shot, moving them until you get the
    look you want. Just getting rid of the on-camera flash will eliminate most of
    the shadow in back of your object.
    Avoid cloth. It wrinkles and looks like crap. If you can't do it another way,
    go to a photo store and get a 53" wide roll of seamless paper in SUPER white.

    The posterboards should work, though. Test with varied white balance settings.
    Fill the frame, with maybe some cropping space. So it depends on the size of
    the object, and the closest focus of the camera lens. I'm told many of the
    Coolpix cameras focus down to about 1", which is way too close for most things.
    Depends on the object. Experiment. Use what you like best out of the results.
    After all, you're not paying for film processing. Make use of that fact.

    Good luck.

    Charlie Self

    "Analyzing humor is like dissecting a frog. Few people are interested and the
    frog dies of it." E. B. White
    Charlie Self, Nov 24, 2003
  10. Bob McLain

    Wdflannery Guest

    Please post your results .... I'm like to see them..... .

    Also...... using the halogen lights .... how to set the white balance ?????
    Wdflannery, Nov 24, 2003
  11. Bob McLain

    Charlie Self Guest

    WDflannery asks:
    I'd guess the auto white balance on many cameras woud handle it. Is the light
    about the same color as tungsten? I really don't know, but a bit of
    experimentation might be needed, something that is easier with digital than
    with anything else. Or, if not easier, gives faster results.

    Charlie Self

    "Analyzing humor is like dissecting a frog. Few people are interested and the
    frog dies of it." E. B. White
    Charlie Self, Nov 24, 2003
  12. Bob McLain

    Wdflannery Guest

    Setting the white balance .... I tried it just now ... I have a 500 W. halogen
    lamp I got at Kragen auto for $10.00 .... on a stand ...I tried several of the
    WB settings on my Canon G2 but nothing worked ... so I tired the 'custom' white
    balance ... and I have a gray backdrop (Savage paper) so I used that and it
    Wdflannery, Nov 24, 2003
  13. Bob McLain

    Charlie Self Guest

    Wdflannery responds:
    As I said, experiment. It was always necessary with film. It is still necessary
    with digital, at least until you're set up. Just think: once the white balance
    is set, it's set. No more checking batches of film to see where their color
    rendition happens to fall so you can select your filters.

    Charlie Self

    "Analyzing humor is like dissecting a frog. Few people are interested and the
    frog dies of it." E. B. White
    Charlie Self, Nov 24, 2003
  14. Bob McLain

    Don Coon Guest

    So you read the manual!! The suggested "white" piece of paper would have
    worked just as well : )
    Don Coon, Nov 24, 2003
  15. Bob McLain

    Wdflannery Guest

    So you read the manual!!

    I did ..quite a thrill to see that custom white balance work too ........ but
    now I'm thinking that 'tungsten' might have worked.... I didn't try it ......
    figuring a 'halogen' lamp was not like my night light .... but ..... they both
    have filaments ... ?
    Wdflannery, Nov 25, 2003
  16. Bob McLain

    Don Coon Guest

    I'd used "Custom" for anything important. Tungsten lighting varies more
    than you might think.
    I have a home studio with three tungsten rated floods. My custom shot was
    seen as 3050 degrees by PS RAW Plug-in. Tungsten set by the camera is 3200
    degrees so there's a 5% difference. Probably not a big deal for snapshots
    but it is noticeable in a portrait setting. Having said that, I must say
    that sometimes I'll adjust the white balance to "warm" a picture if it fits
    the mood and setting : )
    Don Coon, Nov 25, 2003
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