Sunday, June 28, 2009

Grain Is Only Fit For Consumption.

If you have a nicer prosumer or professional SLR digital camera, you may have noticed the term ISO somewhere on the camera or in the menu. Sometimes it's on the knob on the top right side of the camera. Here I will explain what ISO is and how to effectively use this setting to maximize your images.

Back in the day (which was a Wednesday) many different inexpensive cameras were marketed and sold that did not have a variable aperture, or shutter speed. No matter what the light conditions were, the camera had only one setting. Of course, this would cause problems as shooting in daylight as opposed to indoor or evening, would require something to change. The answer was to make and market film that had different levels of sensitivity to light. This was referred to as "Film Speed". Film speed is measured as "ISO". A film with an ISO of 100 would be less sensitive to light, and great for outdoor photographs, while an ISO of 400 would very sensitive to light and be well suited for indoor photography.

Digital cameras behave the same way even though they do not actually have film. Some digital cameras have an ISO range of 80 all the way up to 3200.

The lower ISO setting will be less sensitive to light and will produce a sharper image. While the higher ISO setting will be more sensitive to light (better in low light shooting), but produces more grain. The higher the ISO, the more grain apparent in the image.

Effective use:
If you are shooting in low light and your aperture is already open, and you cannot use a longer shutter, but you are still getting an under exposed imaged, turn up the ISO. As a general rule I always use the lowest ISO possible, to get a well exposed image. It's all about balance.

If your camera has an Aperture mode, or Shutter mode (the little dial on the top right corner of the camera), you may choose the ISO, and the camera will adjust either the shutter speed or aperture automatically to obtain a well exposed image. In low light, the camera may be forced to use a long shutter in Aperture mode, so a tripod, and a very still subject may be required for a clean and sharp image.

Hope this Helps unlock the potential on your photography, look for my upcoming post on the subjects of Aperture, Film Speed, and White Balance.


For more information, tips, tricks, and techniques, visit some of my other blogs.
Examples of my work are available for sale at:

First Impressions Are Unaviodable to Make That Sale!

Of course you can go to the nearest camera store and just buy a light tent set up with a lighting and all, a decent set up will cost you well north of $100, for most of us who are not gearing for the new Macy's catalog, here are some simple solutions. Enjoy!

Side note: Everyday I hear the same thing, "I need a new camera, my photos look horrible", followed by, "I just spent a ton of money on a new camera, and my photos still look horrible". Even the most simple point and shoot cameras can take great product photos with good light. before you drive to the nearest electronics store and drop several hundred dollars (or worst, over $1,000.00) on a brand spanking new cameras, try these steps.

basics for product photos

Natural light:
1. get a piece of white foam core and a piece of white poster board.

2. Go outside during the day and find a spot in the shade (If the sun is out).

3. Place foam core flat on a table, or other surface, place the poster board behind the foam core, but upright (Back drop), use a bookend, wall, or any other object to hold it up right. Curve the bottom of the poster board so it curves under the foam core.

note: The white foam core background helps the camera distinguish white, and automatically sets the white balance when shooting in "Auto" mode.

4. Find the button on your camera that says "Macro" and make sure it is selected ("macro" loosely translates to "Close up").

5. make sure your flash is OFF.

6. Place item on the foam core and shoot away.Note: Be aware of your surroundings when shooting out side. If there is a blue (or any color) building behind you getting direct sunlight, that light may reflect into your shot (even though you are in the shade) and cause a tinting effect on your subject.

Note: Light may reflect from your clothing and tint your subject. Wear a black shirt when shooting in bright light or outdoors.

Option #2: Build a light tent, I can't recommend this enough.

(Light tent designed and modeled by Eric at SDPhotography)

Several methods of light tent construction are available, here are a few:
how to make a light tent
how to make a light tent
how to make a light tent

Here's a great video on product lighting using 100% DIY materiel, very informative.
Product lighting setup

If you build a light tent and you use more then one lamp make sure you use the EXACT SAME BULBS, and don't let light from other sources creep in (ex: turn off the kitchen light when shooting)

This subject has come up several times. A common question I get is "What do I do when I can't get my camera to focus on a tiny object". While most cameras offer a Macro mode for shooting close up, this method may not always work. You may have to switch to manual focus. Many point and shoot cameras allow you to disable the auto focus, and manually focus the image. Manual focus will, in many cases, allow you to get considerably closer to you subject (as close a 1mm to the lens). Every model is different so it may be time to break out that manual (or download the PDF from the manufacturer's web site) and learn how to work the manual focus.

Also keep in mind that the brighter the light, the higher your camera will set it's aperture, which will result in a higher depth of field, improving the focal appearance of your total image.

White balance: Some cameras let you calibrate the white balance by pointing the camera at a white object and pushing a button. Other cameras refer to white balance as "Scene". Common "Scenes" are shown as: incandescent light, florescent light, portrait, sunset, etc. Once you figure out how to switch this, you just try each "Scene" to see which one works best.

Post Editing: All cameras come with software. look for how to adjust "White point", or "Color Balance" in whatever software you use. If you have a white background, the "auto color correct" edit works just fine in most cases. Adjusting the brightness and contrast can finish your photos with the extra "Pop" needed to stand out.

Hope this helps!

For more information, tips, tricks, and techniques, visit some of my other blogs.
Examples of my work are available for sale at:

*What are your tips and tricks for great product photographs? Share your ideas in the comments!