12-16-2006, 12:25 PM
I need to take pics of lampwork beads made into jewelry. I'm a lampwork artist and not a photographer, so I need some tight detailed pictures. The cameras that I am considering are as follows and what I am in need of is simply which of these three would you professionals think would work best for what I'm using it for?
Canon EOS 59qd
Canon EOS 300
The reason I need a 35 mm and not digital is because I need to have slide photos for jurying fine art shows. I won't go into detail cause I did it already on another thread and it got buried I think.
Any help you can give in this area would be greatly appreciated
12-16-2006, 08:18 PM
I don't know what lampwork beads are, but my guess is that they are small and probably translucent. Your choice of a 35mm camera is almost irrelevant; any model that has a manual exposure mode should do just fine.
More important is that you need a lens with a focal length in the 85-135mm range. That will provide a comfortable working distance and keep the lens from getting in the way of the lighting. For your application, a standard fixed lens, or even a zoom, with an inexpensive close-up lens (+2, +3, or +4 diopters) screwed onto its front will work just fine. A macro lens would be slightly more convenient to use, but is not at all necessary unless you also plan to photograph flat objects such as paintings or documents.
Purists may wag a finger at me for suggesting zooms and close-up lenses because their optical quality doesn't match that of prime lenses. For what you need to do, though, I guarantee nobody will ever be able to see a difference.
If you want a fancy auto-everything camera, then by all means get one. But for product shots, you need only the most basic functions. I'm suggesting that you first find a lens, whatever its brand. Look for a macro, but don't turn down a good bargain on a standard short telephoto. That done, buy most any manual-capable SLR camera body with a compatible lens mount.
The most important consideration is the lighting you use. It can be incandescent ("hot") lighting, or flash. Of course, daylight is a cheap alternative, but its color changes with the weather and time of day, and it doesn't work at night.
Hot lights and flash each have pros and cons. Hot lights are cheaper and let you see how they interact with your subject, but require either tungsten film or a light-robbing compensation filter. Flash works with more readily available daylight film, but it is fleeting by nature, so it is harder to see its effect on shadows, reflections, translucency, and such. And of course, flash units are much more expensive than photoflood lamps, and you will need slave triggers to fire multiple units simultaneously.
Another lighting possibility comes to mind. I've never tried it, but since precise color balance is not crucial for your task, it may prove to be the best approach for you. I'm thinking of fluorescent bulbs, the curly ones that screw into a standard light socket. You can buy daylight-balanced bulbs for about $7 at Wal-Mart. The ones I use at home are 100 watt (equivalent) GE Cool Daylight types. Standard daylight slide film is balanced for 5500 degrees Kelvin, and these are 6500K, somewhat on the blue side. If you try this and find the color cast objectionable, a weak 81-series warming filter will correct it. A couple of these bulbs and a pair of worklight reflectors won't set you back more than $25 at Wal-Mart, so it will be a cheap experiment. Don't buy anything less than the 100 watt types. You will need to use a small aperture on the lens to maximize depth of focus, so you will need all the light you can get.
Whichever way you light up the place, you must manually set the camera's aperture and shutter speed to values suggested by a handheld light meter reading a photographic gray card. If you think you may want to use flash, get a flash meter (they also measure continuous light). Yes, all this is a royal pain, but you must have this degree of control for predictable, repeatable results.
I'm not quite through spending your money just yet. You also need a sturdy tripod and a cable release. It would be frustrating to spend hours setting up and shooting your pieces, and waiting for the film to be processed, only to get blurry images because the camera was not perfectly motionless during the exposures!
If your pieces are similar to jewelry, with both metallic and glass components, you will need to provide light both onto the front surface (to illuminate the metals) and from the rear (shining through the glass). If the pieces are not pendants, you can lay them onto a sheet of glass and place a light below that, off at an angle so the light itself is not visible in the viewfinder.
The secret to getting good frontal lighting on metallic objects is to use tent lighting. Make a frame from dowels or clothes hanger wire. Make it cubical, domed, teepee shaped, or whatever--shape doesn't matter. Drape white cloth over the frame, or tape sheets of copier paper to its exterior. Leave a hole just big enough so your lens can see the subject you have placed within the tent. From outside the tent, shine a couple of lights onto opposite sides of the tent, and you will get beautiful, soft, even lighting. For some objects, such as silverware, the lighting may actually be too even. For such cases, tape 2 or 3 strips of black posterboard, maybe 1" or 2" wide by whatever length, inside the tent to add visual appeal to the light pattern.
Well, I hope I haven't overwhelmed you with info, or worse yet, discouraged you. But this goes way beyond snapshooting Aunt Hilda in the front yard! For specialized projects like yours, you really must consider all the details to get top-notch results. As you get closer to making it happen, provide more details regarding what you need to do, or feel free to ask questions.
I am familiar with juried art shows. They typically requested 3 to 5 slides, which they would view with a projector along with maybe 100 to 200 slides from other hopeful candidates. Your slides will go by their eyes in a very few seconds. Naturally, your artwork must be good, but that won't get you accepted if your images don't jump out at the judges. At one local show, I was doing booth shots for local arts & crafts folks. That day, three of them told me they had failed to get into the bigger annual event with juried qualifying. I borrowed samples of their ceramic pottery, figurines, and a glass door panel. The glass panel was really difficult; I mulled over that one for about a week trying to come up with ideas on how to shoot it. I returned their work with slides for them to submit. All three artists got into the big show that year. I don't say that to toot my own horn, but to affirm that it takes thought, attention to detail, and hard work to produce images that will make art judges say, "Back it up, Henry; let's look at those 5 slides again."
If photography were easy, we'd all be Ansel Adams.
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