Thursday, December 18, 2014

Photos of Your Knitting, Part 2: Location Location Location

The next thing that matters a LOT to your photos? Where you are taking them. Look for a space in your home that has a white ceiling. Ideally, it would have white walls, too, but any color that isn't really bright or really dark is still ok. In this house, that's the basement storage room.

In our old house, I took over a corner of our white living room as a photo studio. Our basement was unfinished. If I had to use a part of the house that was painted a dark color or an unfinished basement, I wouldn't be above stapling up white posterboard. You can get as much as you like for less than $50 and you can replace it if it gets dirty or you have to tear it down to get to the plumbing.

As it is, I have a crowded but pretty good space with light walls and a white ceiling. I only ask that you not judge the number of unopened moving boxes. We moved into this house about 7 months ago and it turns out that isn't a long time when you're also finishing a book!

















A roll of white paper is completely needed for a seamless background. "Real" photographer's background paper is really big, designed to be stomped on without tearing, and expensive. Fortunately 36-inch craft paper is available at most office supply stores and is usually less than $10. I put mine up with blue painter's tape. I'm using a stack of boxes, here, instead of a table, but a TV tray works well. The only problem with these boxes is the shape of the top of the box - you really need a flat surface or you'll have to spend a lot of time photoshopping out wrinkles. I don't like to do that, so I switched to a stool with a flat top after I took this photo.

Using stacks of boxes (or chairs, or whatever you have around) is a cheap way to get around light stands, but if you want to use light stands, it's hard to go wrong with this set. It gets you where you need to go for less than $100. The umbrellas are a great bonus - you would have to worry less about the color of your walls and the state of your ceilings if you had that kit. 

My basement has a fair amount of window light. A slight change in the lighting will happen depending on the amount of daylight outside. This is great if I don't need the lighting for all of my photos for several months to be the same. If I do need that consistency, I will either cover the windows with drapes or only shoot at night. 

However you do it, here's a quick three-light set up. Imagine your studio area is a tiny baseball stadium, with your subject (the foot) at home plate. Your camera will usually be around the pitcher's mound, with a flash that can point straight up. Put that flash into manual mode and set it to send out as little light as possible. (Check the manual or online for how to do this. It's called "dialing it all the way down.") Take your second flash and put it somewhere along the first-base line, pointed at the ceiling, with a slave, and also dialed all the way down. (If you don't know where this is, ask your sports-nut friend while he's drinking something. Hilarity will ensue.)

Your third flash should be your most powerful/easiest to use. It goes along the third-base line. You can see mine on the right side of the above photo. It also needs an optical slave. Start by dialing it down to 1/16 or 1/32. Set your camera on manual. Choose 200 ISO, 1/125 for the shutter (or the highest manual sync for that camera, again, check the manual), and f/5.6 or f/8 for the aperture. 

Take a test shot. Too bright? Dial down your main light. Too dark? Dial it up. Experiment until you love it. 

Tomorrow: How to get a white-background, pretty good photo with just a digital camera or the camera in your phone (and the right location).
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