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Photographing Setups & Processes

Posted: Sun May 18, 2008 11:52 am
by dgoddard
I have a problem related to photographing various setups or processes that I am including in posts from time to time.

My digital camera is an Olympus SP-500UZ 6 megapixel camera. Given the lighting in the shop I have to use flash. Using flash defaults the shutter speed to 1/30 second. When I take the requisite closeup to for a crisp image of the details I use a tripod, but this still does not give me a steady enough camera at the 1/30 second shutter speed. When tripping the shutter, I invariably jostle the camera just enough to blur the image and obscure the detail I wanted to show.

It seems that when they were making the camera with a myriad of gizmos and "features" (that I have yet to master all of in 3 years) that they neglected to accomocate a cable release. This means that I must put the camera on time delay and wait for it to take the picture without me touching it. What a PITA! :evil:

Is there anybody here who is or knows a camera buff that can tell me how to retrofit a cable release to this camera. This camera cost so much and is so overly complex that I blanch to think what gizmo laden camera I would end up with if I tried to upgrade to one that had a cable release. :roll:

With a cable release I might even be able to use even slower shutter speeds and avoid the glare problems that flash gives me.

Posted: Sun May 18, 2008 12:12 pm
by Lew Hartswick
I've taken a "zillion" pix in the shop at school and the best ones are always
without flash. Just let the camera do the time exposure. Obviously using a
tripod or some "thrown together" clamp to fit the machine somewhere.
These have all been with a Fuji 2600 or a Kodak Z710. I don't see how
you could get shake if it's on a tripod.
Flash always (for flash on the camera) gives too much glare on surfaces
and too contrasty.


Posted: Sun May 18, 2008 1:01 pm
by Jose Rivera
The best way to avoid any shaking with a tripod is by using the auto-snap feature included with all cameras of that caliber and less.

Get to camera ready, push and wait the five seconds or so that cameras allow.

I avoid using flash as much as possible.
If the object is to dark, then move the camera to darker area, push half-ways to let the F stop to auto-set, look to see if you like what you see, if not repeat, then shoot when yo see a good balance.

The lesses the F stop the more prone to blur. This does not work well while in macro the macro mode.

Posted: Sun May 18, 2008 2:39 pm
by Mike Walsh
i have better luck setting up the camera on a tripod, and setting the timer so that it will count down, hence allowing you to press the button and then let teh camera calm down as it counts down.

works well for railpictures...

Posted: Sun May 18, 2008 3:16 pm
by Mcgyver
sorry dg, can't fix the cable problem, but here 's my general comments on workshop photography.

1 - loose the flash, its the biggest way to wreck a pic. Get a tripod and always turn the flash off.

2- for close up, ideally the camera has a macro setting. Most P&S cameras 9 (otherwise known as POS cameras) won't let you control focus. You can often over come this by taking tons of photos, each with tripod or object moved ever so slightly. This changes whatever the POS is sampling and you can 'trick' it into an in-focus shot. In my experience this is the biggest pita of a POS.

3 - Use the time delay. The tripod/camera will be moving after you click and for long exposures this will create blur.

4 - Get a camera that lets you pic aperture or shutter priority, some POS's (like my old nikon p3) let you do this. This is really handy to keep everything in focus or fade backgrounds.

5 - Use the lowest ISO setting on the camera and highest resolution. you don't care if its a 30 second exposure and this lets have a quality image to crop from later

6 - When you can, move onto a SLR. Almost every shot you've seen of mine was with a POS, but man, the SLR makes it soooo much easier.

7 Use a back drop and if possible with a lower f stop, put it out of focus.

8 - Sample set the white balance - read up in the manual how to do this, makes a big difference.

Here's a sampling all done with a P3 POS (before i got an SLR, gloat, gloat :D ). So they're taken with a fairly inexpensive camera using the above tips ... loseup.jpg ... rscube.jpg ... atures.jpg ... esults.jpg ... upping.jpg ... sonupp.jpg ... sembly.jpg

PS, cable releases may be a thing of the past. The modern equivalent is radio or IR remotes. The new SLR lets you select the delay time which is nice, i just hit the shutter button and have a short 2 second delay before the pic is taken

Posted: Sun May 18, 2008 3:33 pm
by Frank Ford
I'w with Jose on this one. I take lots of pictures.

I never use flash because it "flattens" the image, and makes it look less natural unless you're really good at it, which I am definitely not.

Whenever possible, I use a tripod or other support. My favorite "other" is the Manfrotto "magic arm." All my cameras and supports have the same quick mount, so I can switch quickly enough that I don't think of it as any effort at all.

My 18x18 home shop has four each of the two-tube eight-foot fluorescent fixtures mounted up at the top of the nine-foot high white ceiling, so I get good lighting most everywhere. In addition I have another smaller fixture over by the mill, and machine lights on the lathe, mill and drill press.

That's working lighting. Recently, I added four banks of 5 each of those compact 100 watt fluorescent twisty bulbs in homemade fixtures. Those fixtures were salvaged when we updated our photo booth at the shop. I mounted them on the ceiling to fill in various darker areas, and I use them only for photographing my work.

So, as you can see, I have a lot of lighting in my smallish two-car garage.

Now, with the camera on a tripod, I don't get the shakes much, but as Jose suggests, I often use the self-timer to reduce the possibility. More often, I use the timer if I have to be between the camera and the subject, or if I want both hands to show.

I do occasionally take setup and process photos with a hand held camera, but I watch the shutter speed. I chose the cameras I use partly because they have the same image stabilization as video cameras, and that's supposed to translate to two extra f-stops. For me, that means I can expect to get a clear shot at 1/30 second exposure, so I make sure not to exceed that unless I'm on a tripod. I tried monopod and it seems next to useless for me.

I take LOTS of pictures. Did I say that already? Well, I meant it. I take AT LEAST six exposures of every shot I set up, bracketing the exposure most of the time. I can get rid of the ones that didn't focus right, had poor exposure, or whatever. And I always try to frame the shot so it won't need cropping later. That keeps image quality up. How many pictures is LOTS? Well, I bought my first digital SLR some time ago, and in a little under three years the image counter just rolled over 47,000. That averages out to about 40 pictures a day, seven days a week. Taking lots of pictures helps you get good at it, and fast, too.

More important than specifics of technique, lighting, or whatever, I think practice is the real way to get good pictures. Years ago I was hanging with a well known local professional photographer, who was approached by a newbie who wanted to know what gear to buy so he could take great photos.

My friend said, "Sorry, but all I can tell you about cameras is that I use this kind, extending his 35mm SLR for the young fellow to inspect." I'm a professional, and I suppose I'd take the same pictures with just about any camera - it's all about the eye, light, experience and art."

Same for me when folks ask what tools they need to build or fix guitars. I don't really know squat about band saws - I just have this old Delta here. . .

Now, if you want to publish photos, read on . . .


If you are taking photos for publication or presentation, make sure to have your hands in as many as possible. If you're showing a small part, hold it in your hand:


Trust me on this. If you think it's not important to show hands, you are simply thinking WRONG.

Back in the early 70s one of my first magazine editors was even more heavy handed about it. He told me straight out, "Hands in every picture. No hands in picture, we don't run picture - get it?"

I listened to him, and as a result my photos are used more often than lots of others' pictures. No kiddin' - it's the real deal.

Hands in picture = humanity, life, scale, even the appearance of motion.

No hands in picture = static, lifeless:


If you look through my many articles on FRETS.COM you'll see an abundance of hands-in-photo throughout the instrument repair sections, and not so many in the machining articles.

Two reasons for that.

Machines are hard to photograph with hands in view because often the hands are far away from the "action," and to put them closer would imply serious safety concerns.

The second reason is that at first I wasn't taking my machining articles all that seriously so I didn't post them with the same expectations as with my luthier material. You'll see more of my hands in the newer machining articles.


Posted: Sun May 18, 2008 4:05 pm
by Jose Rivera
Frank's pictures really get to the point in which they show exactly what we wants to show.

Now resolution is king and at 800X600 on the board pictures are really basic and enough to get the idea across.

Now day cameras are 10 megapixels with larger resolution coming soon.

I have some of my own high-res pictures here on several albums, the two RC may tickle the fancy to some of the members.

How about this 13.4 gigapixel camera

Posted: Sun May 18, 2008 10:03 pm
by J Tiers
A couple things......

I use an Olympus A-70. No focus, but I can mess with a number of other things.... I can generally get a good pic , in focus, and not blurry.

Yes, flash usually, but not EVERY time will mess up the pic. SOMETIMES it is what you HAVE to have, so you use it.

As far as shaking, probably bad technique..... usually it is from working the flash button with too much of your hand...... Should only take a light push, and you can learn the co-ordination to independently move your finger. An elbow on some surface usually helps a ton.

Focus? If you check around, you can usually find a setting which will provide 'focus boxes" that show exactly where the camera is getting its focus.... IF you have an LED display of the picture.... That will instantly show with good probability whether you are going to have good focus on the subject. Usually the LED display is so grainy you would not have a clue from it as to how the focus will be, so you can't depend on that.

One more item..... higher f-stops will increase the depth of field, which will prevent "camera drift" (you and camera moving a bit) from taking the image out of focus after the camera 'sets". Yes it can increase exposure times.

....which brings us to.......

if you don't have enough light, GET MORE. Don't use flash, get another light shining on the subject.

Posted: Sun May 18, 2008 11:18 pm
by kenh
There are many ways to get a usuable flash picture.

For example, difused, a basic method is a white cloth/paper towel held in front of the lens.

"bounce flash", using a reflector.

Two or more flashes using master/slave combo.

Posted: Sun May 18, 2008 11:30 pm
by Lew Hartswick
Well I'd say if you can't take a picture with a tripod without the camera
moving you need a better tripod. The one your using must be made of
wet spagetti. :-) Get a Linhoff. (at least my 1955 version) Did have to
make a 3/8-16 to 1/4-20 adaptor for the report head.

Posted: Mon May 19, 2008 8:28 pm
by Frank Ford
A couple of things I forgot in my long diatribe above:

For me, it's all about speed. I want to be able to take pictures on the fly, anytime, without any extra setup or hesitation. In other words, I want at least the illusion that I can do it without slowing my work at all. That eliminates the possibility of any fancy flash gear or tricky technique.

I can move the tripod and focus, but that's about all I have time for. I leave my camera on the tripod and the legs fully extended at all times. The most I'll do is fold the legs together and jam the tripod with the camera in the corner of the shop.

I took a bit of advice from an old news photographer when I first got a Nikon SLR in the 1970s. He said, "Don't buy a case, and throw away the lens cap. Those things will cost you too much time to get a photo on the fly."

I don't have a case, and I use a plain glass UV filter on the lens to avoid damage instead of the cap that came with it. My camera gets dirty and scratched, but it gets used a lot. Once I whanged a tool into the filter and it cost me 12 bucks for a new one - no deal at all.

That old photographer had a couple of other cute sayings:

"F-8, and BE THERE," meaning that you need to be at the scene, of course - he was a news photographer, so he new he could miss a really good opportunity at any time.

"You can't even take a BAD picture if you don't have a camera," which was how he explained always having a camera sitting on the front seat of his car, ready for immediate use, set at a decent speed and aperture, with no lens cap.

That's how I do it in my shop. My camera is ALWAYS ready. Once I got used to it, taking pictures became a part of my daily routine.

Every so often I do a new project without photographing it, and find myself really regretting it. Rebuilding the Rambold turret lathe was one of those. I originally thought it would be trivial to get it running, and by the time I noticed it was a really big job I realized I hadn't taken any pictures of the first half of the restoration, so I lost the opportunity to document it.

Posted: Mon May 19, 2008 9:24 pm
by seal killer

When I was young, I took pictures for a living . . . of kids. Kids are different than metal. For one thing, metal doesn't cry. For another, flash is good on kids and terrible on metal. Finally, metal doesn't have to go pee. This is a plus.

When I started taking pictures of metal, it was like I had never touched a camera in my life.

Today, I have four flourescent lights directly over my workspace. Four more would be nice. I also have two halogen lamps mounted on the mill. (The second one is new and I have not used it to take pictures.)

I ignore color temperature when taking pictures of metal for my purposes, which are to simply post them here and maybe a few other places on the net.

Although I built this quill clamp to do several different things, this thread has made me think of mounting my Sony CDMavica 5 megapixel camera on it. (It is really a 4.7 megapixel camera. I think the 5 megapixel claim is marketing talk; a lie.)



When I do mount the 5.0 megapixel Sony on the quill clamp, I believe the mount will be solid enough to allow me to push the button and take the picture without movement. I'll keep the mounting rod very short and therefore sturdy. The Sony is capable of closeup and zoom. Like others have mentioned, I don't know a lot about it. When I quit taking pictures of kids and got old-man's eyes, I was no longer interested in anything but point and shoot. HOWEVER, I am seriously eyeing that Nikon D300. (The D3 would simply be way-overkill for me. I think.)

Oh! I forgot to say everything that Frank said.

Plus, for the Internet, I don't see the need to screw with manual settings since you aren't going to get true quality resolution, anyway. Yet.