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The Essence of

Picture Taking


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Photo Facts - Diagrams

The first pre requisite for achieving this is a camera - of course!! Some people will still use film and need to then scan prints to get their digital images. Scanning is discussed on other pages.

Let's concentrate here though on digital camera approaches, although for the most part the the techniques have great commonality.

Subject Presentation -

This is very much up to you, the photographer! You will have already probably seen some very creative pictures on the board, with a firearm placed on a pleasing background, and perhaps surrounded by assorted paraphenalia, such as ammo, knives, loading accessories ...... etc. But it takes time!!

Ah time! I make no excuses really for some of my rather ''iffy'' pic's .... they are usually taken ''spur of moment'' ... with no time to really set up the ''studio'' environment properly as I might wish, added to which, I try and reduce my material quite a bit. The size of images is discussed on other pages.

What about your background? This is pretty much all down to what you want but there are some category choices. Many times an outdoor situation will be good if only because of natural light ...... a picnic table with nice wood grain figuring often looking good. Maybe too, a ''hunting'' type setting, with leaves, and foliage - useful for longarms perhaps.

For greatest control though indoors may give more scope - and then almost any ''props'' can be used. It is useful to have some rolls of cloth available .. fairly light and neutral colors can work well .... but then too, even a charcoal gray fleece is useful.
Even carpet and bed covers have their uses ...... it is all down to your own imagination.

Do consider when you set out your gear, how you are going to light it all ..... this is covered in the next section below.

Subject Lighting -

Right, well - let's start out by saying that of all lighting sources, the daylight is by far the best.. if not as controllable. However, take note ....... strong direct intense sunlight per se, is NOT the best. Why? It promotes strong and deep shadows, and may also produce strong and burned out highlights from reflective areas on a gun.

Keyword all the way is - ''DIFFUSE'' lighting.
The ideal conditions for daylight are when there is a high and thin cloudbase .. which can give some very useful and more diffuse light. Shadows then will be evident but way softer.

If working indoors ...... you can make quite good use of two or three tungsten light sources ... the color temperature will be ''warm'' but that can sometimes be an advantage and/or, corrected later.

Flash too is very useful (but beware unwanted reflections on bright parts). I have a small slave flash which fires from the camera flash. I set the latter to ''fill-in'' so it is very muted and then use the slave to one side for my main light. Flash tho is by and large not a first choice - much setting up needed and trial shots too, to get ideal results. Note ... some cameras produce a double flash and not all slave units work with this unless designed so to do..... the first flash is sometimes used to assess white level prior to main exposure.

The simplest and maybe most useable approach is what might be called ''main'' and ''fill'' ..... have a light source (lamp or flash) in a position which gives good illumination of the subject - probably from slightly to one side and maybe quite high, then, a secondary and less intense source that ''fills in'' the shadows created by light source #1. Even a third source may at times be useful to provide some degree of back lighting.

Just a mention on ''White Balance'' ...... most cameras can adjust automatically and do quite well. At times though and if settings available, choose what works best. Fluorescent lights can make for a green cast, whereas tungsten makes things tend yellow. It is wise to experiment a bit and find what gives you the results you want.

Then though we have the ''light tent'' approach .. see next section.

The ''Light Tent'' -

I kept this separate because I think it is one of the most useful approaches to this type of photography - but it DOES take time and effort. As a freelance many years ago - it was the only way I could deal with things like jewelry, leather goods etc.

The principle is simple and even without a diagram .. just imagine this. You have your subject/subjects on their background and use something as a frame over which you can drape a large white sheet - this all but enclosing your subject area. You provide light from outside of that ... whether sun outdoors, strong - multi point tungsten lighting indoors ... or flash heads indoors. You take the shots looking into this ''tent''.

The one thing it does so well ... is diffuse the lighting such that highlights and shadows are mellowed, and yet with care over positioning, ''3D'' modelling can still be very effective. I would say to anyone starting ...... experiment. You are not wasting film when shooting digital!!

I am adding this at a late stage to further assist with seeing this - and how simple it can be! Below is my current absurdly simple arrangement with a white sheet draped above subject area. I have three light sources and may use any or all - sometimes also a white card to the side to add slight fill-in. The camera (Minolta DiIMAGE A1) is used on a tripod and all settings are manual.

White balance is set up to suit lighting and exposures are typically 1 sec or more, at f11 with manual focus. I prefer background material to be plain - pattern can I think be too distractive, though other colors can be used. Finishing work invariably is needed to remove lint specks etc.

Ultra simple set up!

Actual Shooting -

(NOT with ammo! The camera!)

Choose ''best'' for image quality.

Now, note this - and note it well ..... your biggest enemy will be CAMERA SHAKE ...... unless you can support the camera on something handy like a small table ... use a tripod. Most digital cameras seem not to have a shutter release cable facility but ... if the button is used smoothly on a solid tripod ... all should be well.

It is surprising how many people just as they press the shutter button all the way - make the camera itself move just a bit ..... and unless shutter speeds are in the order of 1/125 plus on standard lens setting .... and maybe 1/500 on full zoom .... it will degrade the sharpness. These speeds are not usually available though to choose.

Focus is usually now automatic ...... however, select a focus setting that is well geared to letting the camera ''see'' exactly the most critical part of your subject matter, if available...... it might mean changing over to a center zone setting in close-up mode for example. And make sure that a ''half-way'' setting on the shutter button is used long enough to let the focus ''set''........... before taking the picture.

Exposure will by and large be automatic. This MAY be Ok but ... if provision is made, you can set things manually. I will not go into great detail here re ''f'' stops and shutter speeds ... but there is another section which covers this in some detail. However ..... some cameras do have a provision for setting over or under exposure, as a deviation from the metered norm .... it can help - experiment.

You may also have a setting where you can select shutter or aperture priority ... this might help some types of picture taking.

Study your camera's manual carefully. It is surprising how many people say after weeks or months of using their camera say .... ''oh, I didn't know it could do that''!!

Image After Treatment -

Other pages deal with various techniques for changing image attributes and modifying but, before we leave this section, let's just remind you of a page giving an example of what I mean. ''Pre-posting'' image edits.

This has barely scratched the surface!!

I do not claim to be the world's expert, at all ... though as mentioned earlier, I did work freelance years ago for a long time. Used ''film'' in those days!! However this is only intended as a guide to start people off - and I do suggest quite a lot of experimentation.

At least with a digital camera you do not waste film .... only time ... and when done, reformat the memory and start over!

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