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Thread: Tabletop photography

  1. #1

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    Tabletop photography

    I want to take photographs of small things so a 'tabletop studio' seems the way to go. The only thing I have managed to work out is to get a little light tent to soften shadows. But now my ignorance overwhelms me. Presently I am using two garden spotlights got cheap from the local B&Q (8 each). First ignorance: with Lightroom I set 'tungsten' white balance and 'pop' it looks fine. So who needs 5000K lights?. Second ignorance: Light A is 5000K and light B is 5500K. Which is daylight - does it matter?

    For 75.00 I can get a great continuous light which has a sort of boom to allow me to position it all over the place. This looks nice.

    But maybe I should buy a flash.

    If I buy a flash I'd get a Speedlite 430EX because it is half the price of the 580EX and if I really wanted to I could buy a 580 later and downgrade the 430 to a 'slave'.

    I would like to put the flash on a stand that has a boom so I move it around (eg put it behind the subject) as for the continuous light. So I need a stand with a boom. Do these things have a special name?

    I need a twiddly bit that goes on the top of my EOS 400D to make the flash flash when its off camera. I'm scared of getting the wrong bit here. What do I look for?

    These questions may well be the wrong ones -- any help greatly appreciated.

    -- Peter

    PS This is certainly the best photo forum

  2. #2
    Moderator Dave Humphries's Avatar
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    Re: Tabletop photography

    Hi Peter,

    I built myself something like this a while ago, but am ashamed to say I've not used it much My excuse is the weather improved and I've been outdoors!

    I got 3 small anglepoise desklamps (3 each from Asda) that take 40W or 60W SES bulbs, so they allow a bit of adjustment for modelling. I might get a longer reach one for toplighting later.

    If you're learning lighting, as I am, I'd suggest stick with light you can see before exposure, rather than the flashes you've suggested, at least for now. One may not be enough anyway for creative lighting. Obviously flash can have a place for freezing water drops, but if you're starting with pics of stuff to sell on e-Bay for example, tungsten lamps will do fine with the correct colour temp set (as you've found).

    I doubt a CT difference of 5000K to 5500K will be too troublesome, only if you try to mix flash or daylight with tungsten, or anything with a tube lamp; e.g. a compact flourescent.

    I too have a light tent thingy, here's an example, click the right arrow to see an alternatively lit shot. Although it looks like I didn't use the tent on at least one of these shots.

    I'm not a Canon shooter, so I'll leave advice on that kit to the many around here that are.

    Good luck and do post some example shots.

    Cheers,
    Last edited by Dave Humphries; 6th April 2009 at 10:09 PM. Reason: clarify cost

  3. #3

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    Re: Tabletop photography

    OK, Continuous lighting to start with. I looked at the sea shell pictures - the second used the light tent I think but both used the bit of background cloth that comes with ... I have a 60mm Canon EPS macro lens which I thought would be great but it's not really because it has no depth of focus seems you have to restirct to 2 dimensions!

    Thanks for your reply Dave. Very helpful.

    -- Peter

  4. #4

    Re: Tabletop photography

    Quote Originally Posted by peter2108 View Post
    I have a 60mm Canon EPS macro lens which I thought would be great but it's not really because it has no depth of focus seems you have to restirct to 2 dimensions!
    Peter,

    I think you are saying that your 60mm EFS macro lens is not giving you much depth of field? Try an aperture around F/8 or F/16. Close-up macro shots on F/2.8 will only give you a few millimeters in focus. You might have to up the ISO to 400 or 800, or put the camera on a tripod and accept long (more than one second) exposures to let you work with smaller apertures (larger numbers).

    Not sure that camera you have, but if you have a depth of preview button (bottom right of the lens if you are looking at the camera from the front) try using that as you are framing your shots. What you see through the view finder will get progressively dark as you reduce the aperture, but you will see the depth of field increase. Oh, did I say try shooting in Av (aperture priority) mode?

    Hope that helps,
    Graham

  5. #5

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    Re: Tabletop photography

    Hi Graham,

    Yes - 'depth of field'.

    I'm including a picture taken on a tripod and manual focus as an experiment. The camera is an EOS 400D 1/8th sec, f8 at about 12ins from teapot. The teapot is about 5cms from tip of spout to back of handle but placed as it is at an angle the distance from the back of the teapot (in focus) to the front (not in focus) is surely only about 10mm. In fact http://www.dofmaster.com/dofjs.html has a calculator and I just put in the values and it gives 0.25" (6.25mm).

    teapot-copy.jpg


    Maybe I am missing something - my usual situation in these matters.

    - Peter
    Last edited by Dave Humphries; 6th April 2009 at 10:11 PM. Reason: place image inline

  6. #6
    Moderator Dave Humphries's Avatar
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    Re: Tabletop photography

    Hi Peter,

    Yes, that is actually quite a big subject for this kind of photography.

    Looking at the larger image, we can now see that focus is toward the back of the subject, so most of the DoF is effectively being wasted on thin air behind the subject.
    At least, that's the case at the top of frame, towards the bottom, due to downward angle of camera, the teapot lid lower edge is almost in focus too.

    You could try a reshoot, focusing on something approx. 1/3 in to the plane of what you want sharpest, say the cats nearest eye. Take the shot at f16 or f22 to make the most of DoF. Yes you may be into diffraction territory, but being out of focus is far worse.

    More advanced techniques like focus stacking; several shots focused in slices through the subject and combined in post processing, is about the only way I think you'll get this ALL in focus.

    I'd try the simpler re-shoot first though and get the hang of focusing planes and DoF by experiment - afterall, the film's cheap!

    Good exposure on the teapot by the way.

    Regards,
    Last edited by Dave Humphries; 6th April 2009 at 10:31 PM. Reason: add exposure comment

  7. #7

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    Re: Tabletop photography

    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Humphries View Post
    Yes, that is actually quite a big subject for this kind of photography.
    Ah - thanks.

    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Humphries View Post
    Looking at the larger image, we can now see that focus is toward the back of the subject, so most of the DoF is effectively being wasted on thin air behind the subject.
    Yes, so it is. I did another shot (attached) as you suggested this time with the teapot flat on, about 14ins away at f16 and it is in focus I think. Seems that some measurements need to be taken with this sort of photography.

    2nd_teapot.jpg.jpg

    2nd_teapot.jpg.jpg

    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Humphries View Post
    More advanced techniques like focus stacking; several shots focused in slices through the subject and combined in post processing, is about the only way I think you'll get this ALL in focus.
    I'll have a go at that next!

    Thanks again.

    -- Peter
    Last edited by Dave Humphries; 6th April 2009 at 11:45 PM. Reason: add picture inline

  8. #8

    Re: Tabletop photography

    Hey Peter,

    Looks like you have come a long way overnight! Your second (white) photo has way more dof compared to your first (red) photo. Well done!

    What sort of shutter speed and ISO have you used?

    Regards,
    Graham

  9. #9

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    Re: Tabletop photography

    Quote Originally Posted by dendrophile View Post
    Hey Peter,
    Looks like you have come a long way overnight! Your second (white) photo has way more dof compared to your first (red) photo. Well done!

    What sort of shutter speed and ISO have you used?
    Thanks - I try and follow suggestions . It was 1/3 sec at ISO 800. Actually I'd forgotten I had set ISO 800.

    -- Peter

  10. #10

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    Focus stacking

    Dave Humphries said:
    More advanced techniques like focus stacking; several shots focused in slices through the subject and combined in post processing, is about the only way I think you'll get this ALL in focus.
    I got a program (free) called CombineZP
    www.hadleyweb.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk/CZP/News.htm which does what I take focus stacking to be. I took 5 pictures of the pencil using a tripod and tungsten lights because I don't have a flash yet focusing on different bits of the pencil each time starting a litte behind the tip of the pencil.

    I used f8 with 60mm Can Macro lens which was about 10 inches from the pencil. According to the online calculator at http://www.dofmaster.com/dofjs.html the depth of field is a tad more that 4mm. The final 'stacked' image shows about 2cms of pencil in focus.

    However it is not perfect because I have not made the slices overlap as carefully as I should. In fact this is diffucult focusing by eye. If I were to do it again I would just advance the focus ring manually by a tiny bit each photo. But its probably more interesting to see the slight blurring where the Combine program has not founbd a sharper bit to use.

    The image is below (138K)

    Tabletop photography

    Additionally the original combine one is at http://monicol.co.uk/pictures/big_pencil.jpg though at nearly 5Mb for a defective image of a pencil I'm not sure it should attract much interest!

  11. #11
    Moderator Dave Humphries's Avatar
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    Re: Focus stacking

    Hi Peter,

    Thanks for the link, I'm sure we'll find it useful.

    Interesting test shot and as you say, all the better for seeing where the process breaks down if not enough pictures used.

    You must be ready to try the teapot again now

    Thanks,

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