Monday, November 30, 2009

Part 7 - Macro and Camera Icons

Hi again everyone. I'm back with another entry on how to use your digital camera for taking tabletop photos.

Today I want to again go over shooting closeups or macro photos, as well as explaining the use of some of those icons on your camera.

Icons for MACRO and SUPER MACRO:

macro & s macro icons
The term macro when used with photography refers to making small objects look larger through the lens of your camera.

collage 1
collage 2
You may have found that when you try to get a closeup picture of something on a table or even a closeup of a flower, the result is blurred, even though you braced the camera on the table or used a tripod and had enough light. Depending on your camera you were perhaps too close to the object for the camera to be able to successfully focus. Many digital cameras have a flashing focus light which you can see in a corner of the viewfinder or on the LCD screen to warn you that the camera could not focus properly while you attempted to take a closeup photo. You have to then move backward a little or switch on your MACRO mode.

Remember that you should always press the shutter button half way to let the camera focus on your subject before pressing it fully. If the light begins to flash as you do that halfway press, then you know the photo will be out of focus unless you change something. Either move further away or turn on your MACRO setting, press halfway again and your focus lamp (that light in the screen corner that flashes) should stop flashing. It should stay fixed and give a little beep to tell you that it now has the subject in focus and you can finish pressing the shutter.

Note: don't confuse the FOCUS light with the FLASH symbol because they can both blink. The flash symbol is a red thunderbolt, which if blinking, indicates there is not enough light to take an optimum photo.

Examples of using PORTRAIT mode without MACRO when camera was too close to be within focal range, and then the same setup using PORTRAIT and MACRO mode.

collage 3collage 4
Some cameras have SUPER MACRO which allows you to get very close to your subject, where in some cases the camera can be placed less than an inch away from the subject.
I'll show some examples: Coins in PORTRAIT mode without macro, then with MACRO, then with SUPER MACRO.

3 coins
Here are a couple of cameras owned by friends with their focal ranges (distances at which things will be in focus.)

The Kodak Easy Share DX 6490 - this camera will focus normally from infinity down to 2 feet away from the subject. If you want to get closer than 2 feet to that piece of blueberry shortcake, you will have to turn on your MACRO mode (it may also be termed CLOSEUP mode). The macro mode on this camera will focus from 2.3 feet down to 4.8 inches.
So you should get a sharp picture within that range.

Canon Powershot SD880 IS - another camera. This one can get as close as 1.6 ft in a normal mode setting. Closer than that and you have to turn on your MACRO mode which has a focal range of 1.6 feet down to 0.8". That means you could put the camera a little less than one inch away from your subject. That would be too close for food photography but you can try it at a distance of 1.6 feet and see how it turns out.

On my Olympus SP560 UZ the macro and normal settings have the same focal ranges, which is 3.9" to infinity (10 cm to infinity.)
So when I want to get really close I use the SUPER MACRO setting which gets as close as 0.4" (less than a 1/2 inch). Good for insects, flowers or miniature items.

On the little pocket-size Olympus Stylus 800, the normal focal range is from infinity down to 19.7 inches. If I want to get closer than 19.7 inches to my subject, I have to turn on MACRO mode, which is good down to about 8 inches away.
Closer than than I would switch on SUPER MACRO if it were appropriate for the photo. Examples with this pocket camera are the photos of eggs,above.

You should be able to use macro in several of your camera’s SCENE settings appropriate for a closeup photo , such as PORTRAIT, INDOOR, CANDLE, DOCUMENTS, AVAILABLE LIGHT, CUISINE, but not in pictures where distance is a necessary factor in the photo. (Landscape, landscape and portrait, fireworks, sunsets etc.)

Try setting your camera to PORTRAIT mode and prepare a plate of fruit or other food. Set the WHITE BALANCE (WB) and if not during daylight, to the type of lighting you have. If the picture through the viewfinder (or LCD screen) looks dark, then use the EXPOSURE COMPENSATION (EV) button to get a plus factor until the picture through the viewfinder looks good. Take a picture. Then holding the camera in the same position (or with your tripod) switch on the same options plus the MACRO (or closeup) mode. Take the photo again and compare the two. Or better still, take several because it’s a fact that the more you practise and the more photos you take, the better they will become.

If you continually experience blurry photos it might be a good idea to check out your normal focal range in your (shudder) manual under ‘specifications’, ‘Macro Mode Shooting", or go online to *one of the websites that does reviews* and look at the specs for your camera model. There you will see the normal focal range (it may be called ‘shooting range’ or ‘macro/close-up mode’) as well as the MACRO range.

*A couple of good websites for checking out details of your camera are: Steve’s Digicams as well as DP Review. But the easy way to check it out is to get close to your subject, half press the shutter and if the focus light blinks, move back and repeat pressing the shutter until you find a distance where the light no longer blinks.
That will be the focal limit of your normal range. Closer than that you will need to switch on MACRO.

Other reasons for blurry photos are:

1. Not enough light. The camera needs more time to focus in low light and during that time you or the subject have moved. Use a tripod. This is true especially for indoor or evening photos, and when using night scene options on your mode dial.

2. Camera shake. Even though you have strong light your photos are still blurry. You are moving the camera or your subject is moving. Don’t move the camera when you press the shutter button. Hold arms tightly to your sides, brace yourself against a wall, rest the camera on a solid object or use a tripod. If necessary, breath out and hold it while you press the shutter! (Remember to breath in again please.)

Leaving MACRO for now, I wanted to go over the BUTTON OPERATIONS and THE MODE DIAL to briefly go over what some of those icons mean and what will they do when you click them into action.

Here’s a typical MODE DIAL, found on the top right of a digital camera.

mode dial
When you turn this dial and select a mode, you are telling the camera to change the settings for a certain situation. Some cameras will have some of these icons together on a separate mode entitled SCENE …or SCN on the mode dial.
Typical mode choices found on the top of a modern camera dial are for :MOVIE, AUTO, CHECK PICTURES (Review), GUIDE, MY MODE, and M, S, A, P for choosing MANUAL, SHUTTER PRIORITY, APERTURE PRIORITY and PROGRAM.

The photo shows icons for an older digital camera where some of the scene options were included there rather than in an in-camera menu. Here’s what they mean:

AUTO – The simplest of all shooting modes, the settings are fully automatic. The camera selects what it deems to be the optimum focus and exposure for your still picture.

portrait icon PORTRAIT - suitable for taking a portrait style photo; the camera sets a wider aperture (lens opening) to blur the background a little, so the subject stands out clearly from the background.
sport iconSPORTS - suitable for fast action shots, in this mode, the camera sets a faster shutter speed to catch moving objects such as people in sports events.

landscape/portraitLANDSCAPE and PORTRAIT – the camera sets the optimal shooting conditions for a background scene with a subject in the foreground.

landscapeLANDSCAPE - This is the opposite setting to PORTRAIT where the background is deliberately blurred. In this mode the picture is sharp from foreground to background. Blues and greens are enhanced in this setting.

night icon NIGHT – this is where you will need a tripod because the camera will use a slow shutter speed, meaning that any movement while the shutter is open will create a blurry photo.
You can have some interesting results with coloured lights and portraits in night scenes. Do play around with this mode and see what comes out from your inventiveness.

sself portrait iconSELF PORTRAIT – hold the camera at arm’s length and turn it toward you to take a photo of yourself. A fun mode.

movie iconMOVIES – the camera sets aperture and shutter speed for optimum results for taking movies. You may have to click on the microphone icon in one of your menus to include sound.

my mode iconMY MODE – perhaps not seen on all cameras, this mode allows you to save a group of settings of your choice which can be recalled together with one click.

playback iconPLAYBACK MODE – allows you to go back and see the photos you’ve just taken.

aperture priority iconAPERTURE PRIORITY – also seen as AV on a mode dial. This setting lets you set the aperture setting manually while the camera chooses the appropriate shutter speed for that aperture (lens opening).

shutter priority iconSHUTTER PRIORITY – also seen as TV on a mode dial. This setting lets you choose the shutter speed manually while the camera chooses the appropriate aperture for that shutter speed.

These two above settings are semi-automatic in that you have control over one or the other function. For example if you want to photograph sports and you know you need a fast shutter speed and don’t want to rely on the automatic sports mode, then you would use the SHUTTER PRIORITY setting and let the camera choose the appropriate aperture.

If you want to set a certain aperture setting but let the camera figure out the shutter speed then you would choose APERTURE PRIORITY. You can control the DEPTH OF FIELD, or the blurriness of the background where you want the background to recede and a subject in the foreground to stand out sharply by using a wide aperture setting.

We could perhaps go in the next tutorial or so a little into DEPTH OF FIELD because I think many folks would like to learn how to get that beautiful effect of a single flower or piece of cake (!) standing sharply against a dreamy blurred background.

program mode iconPROGRAM MODE – With just a little more freedom to be creative than the AUTO mode, here the camera sets both the shutter speed and the aperture, allowing you to adjust other functions such as white balance, ISO.

I think next time I’ll go over the FLASH icon and FLASH menu as well as the SELF-TIMER option which lets you jump into your photos. Subjects I’d like to mention: Depth of Field and how to make those beautiful Blurry Backgrounds, the important triangle of variables that you need to know: APERTURE, SHUTTER SPEED and ISO, how they work together and how to adjust them…..or at least understand what is happening.

And oh yes….I have to finish that full sized LIGHT BOX so we can see what results we can get from that!

I hope you understand all and if you have questions please ask here or PM me.

Coming up in Part 8 is: Depth of Field
and in Part 9: How to Set up a Tripod.

So thanks for joining me. I'll be uploading the next installment soon. And please feel free to save the pages on your computer.

Sharon (Canarybird) :-)
(All text and photos copyrighted)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Part 6 - Making a Mini Light Box


Hi again everyone. I'm back with another entry on how to use your digital camera for taking tabletop photos.

collage 1 light box
This time I'm going to show how to make a miniature version of a light box, which can be useful for photographing small objects.

I'm also working on making a full sized box out of a cardboard printer box which will be used for photographing larger objects, including plates and dishes of food.

collage 2 light boxesMini box (left)
Full size box under construction (right)

But it might be easier to practise with a mini box to test your results and your skills with a box cutter or sharp scissors. It takes less than an hour to make, requires no special skills and doesn't have to be good looking.

The idea of a light box is to create a partially enclosed 'white room', with white walls, a white sweep (that paper background we made previously in Part 4 - Seamless Backgrounds), with cutout windows and ceiling covered with white paper, into which we project a strong overhead light and usually a light on either side aimed at the white paper windows so that any object introduced into the box will be bathed in total white light with no shadows. You will have often seen pictures on the web of an object which seems to float on a pure white background. This effect can be achieved in a light box.And it's quite entertaining to see what you can produce from this setup.

collage 3 cookies & ring
These last two pictures were taken with my 15 watt CFL desk lamp overhead and one 7 watt CFL spot lamp (that green one) at the left window. Even better would be a 2nd spot pointing at the right window. (I should go out and buy that 2nd spot lamp...they cost about $12 here so not an expensive item and good for the mini box.)

collage 4
Construction of the Mini Box:

Materials needed: small box of sturdy cardboard, box cutter or small sharp scissors, ruler or metal straight edge, pen, glue stick, white paper (I always seem to use printer paper.)

I used a small box measuring 5.25 x 7 inches (13.5 x 18 cm) that contained a little desk lamp. You can use a larger box as well of course, but your lights will have to be accordingly more powerful. And I think it's better that you keep it as a vertical box, higher than wider, so that the lid opening will be your ceiling. We can still make the bigger box later once we have caught the idea of how best to create the whitest environment.

On my little box I took off the top flaps of the lid and using a box cutter, cut out windows on the sides, leaving a frame of cardboard about 1 inch (2.5 cm) all around, except for the bottom edge of the front 'door' which I cut off.

hand and instructions
box & instruc
Then I took white printer paper and after cutting it to the size of one side (5.25 x 7 inches/ 13.5 x 18 cm) glued it with a glue stick into the INSIDE of a window side, then repeated that on the inside of the window facing it.
Glue carefully and smooth out any wrinkles, which would show up in your photos. To further cover the edges, cut out strips of white paper to size and overlap the newly installed white paper to the back wall and the floor, smoothing carefully so the edges are well stuck down and wrinkle free. Do this on both window sides.

Cut a paper sweep to go inside your box, but DON"T GLUE it in, just slide it in so it is removable when it becomes spotted . The measurements should be....width a little smaller than the width of your box.
In my example, with a 5.25 inch (13.5 cm) box width, my paper sweep was perfect at 1/4 inch less than the box width...that is at 5 inches wide (11.5 cm).

Length of the sweep:....start with a piece of paper a little shorter than the box height plus the box depth (from back wall to front door) and slip it into place until it reaches the edges of the door, as in the photo below.
Check that you have a nice curve in the sweep, that it reaches the 'front door' and trim off any excess that sticks up over the top at the back. The finished box should look something like this.

coll 5 sweep & boxes
Many light boxes also use a thin sheet of paper...often white tissue paper or white tracing paper over the 'roof' of the box and this will give you a soft diffused light. If you are going to photograph any reflective item of metal, ceramic or glass you won't want a reflection of the light bulb in the top lamp showing on your object, so you should then use a thin white material or paper to soften the white glare. If you have a good strong light on both top and sides you will be okay with the diffusor on top as the light will be sufficient. If the light is too strong, then move the lamps away a little from the box.

Some examples with fruit: First a sideview of the setup and one example of creating a very soft photo using Exposure Compensation (EV +1.3)... that's 4 clicks up from 0.0... to give deliberate over exposure. Here I was able to get photos using just the overhead desk lamp. If you don't have extra lamps (they must all have the same type of bulb...tungsten or CFL, not mixed) see how you can do with the overhead lamp close to the top opening of your box and raising the EV value to make the picture lighter. This you can do while looking through the viewfinder before taking the photo.

coll 6 cam & fruit
A little less raising of the Exposure Compensation, that is.... pushing it up 3 clicks (instead of 4) to EV +1.0, makes the image a little less over exposed and more defined (left photo).
With no EV changes to the picture, you would have a normal exposure, as in the second photo, below on the right.

2 fruits EV examples
Now you know how to make misty white photos if you wish to have that effect. When you raise the EV value using the plus+, you are actually decreasing the shutter speed of your camera, so it stays open longer, lets in more light and gives you a more exposed (lighter) image. Conversely, when you lower the EV value using the minus -, you are in fact increasing the shutter speed, the shutter closes sooner, letting in less light and your image is darker.
If you manage to make this mini light box, try using a PORTRAIT setting, and maybe add a click on the MACRO option as mentioned below. Remember to set the White Balance WB for the type of bulb you are using...hopefully you have a CFL fluorescent in there, and practice using the EV button to lighten or darken your image while looking through the viewfinder.

I think this is enough for one day but I did want to introduce MACRO, or closeup photography.
If you look at the back your camera you will have noticed a little tulip icon somewhere on or near the round touchpad.
That is your option to tell the camera that you want to make closeup photos. You should be able to click on it from any of the other options that you have, such as AUTO, PORTRAIT, INDOOR. By clicking on the tulip icon you will probably bring up three options: OFF, the tulip icon representing MACRO, or another tulip icon with a small 's' beside it. Some point and shoot cameras may not have this second tulip but it refers to SUPER MACRO where you can get even closer to your subject. Try it out....remember you can still be in another mode and add the macro option. I'll explain more next time with examples of how you can capture very close, sharp pictures of food, insects and plants.

I hope you are understanding it all and if you have questions please ask here or PM me.

So thanks for joining me. I'll be uploading the next installment soon.

Sharon (Canarybird) :-)
(All text and photos copyrighted)

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Part 5 - Artificial Lighting

Hi again everyone. I'm back with another entry on how to use your digital camera for taking tabletop photos.

Finding the right illumination for taking food photos after dark can be even more challenging than finding the right window for daylight photos and much has been written about it.

It would be an ideal situation if we all had a room off the kitchen with studio softbox lights set up over a table where we could just whip down the plated food, snap the shutter and then breeze back into the kitchen to serve the family dinner before it got cold. Those with large, well lit kitchens are perhaps lucky to have focal lights over a counter, or a well-illuminated baking center, ideal for photos.

It is known that the larger the light source, the softer will be the shadows and conversely, the smaller and closer the light source, the sharper will be the shadows. So an ideal studio situation would be to have an illumination diffused enough so that it cast a flattering light without creating heavy shadows, used perhaps together with secondary lights and reflectors. Flash should never be used for food photos as it flattens the images so the result is most unattractive.

But most of us have to cope with less than perfect conditions with over the counter strip lighting, lights in the stove exhaust hood, a lamp over the dining table or a small desk spot in a corner of the kitchen.

This is an extensive subject which has turned into a large entry for today, so I'm going to separate it into paragraphs of different situations, showing how to cope with a certain type of lighting and equipment so you are able to digest it a bite at a time.

1. Worst Case Scenario - The Small Kitchen -
One under-cupboard tube FLUORESCENT LIGHT:

In this case, my tiny kitchen ...which has one old fashioned 8 watt fluorescent tube to illuminate the counter.

collage 1
Above you see the improvised studio: a white cutting board placed behind, a white paper towel as reflector hanging over the paper roll, a piece of white foam as reflector left, and the subject placed on a white paper napkin draped over two cereal boxes. Took just a minute to set up, and it worked fine, considering the less than ideal setting. Here's the result:

 pic 1
Since indoor lighting is much weaker than daylight, the shutter speed of your camera will be slower, and the Scene settings such as Indoor, Candle and Available Light on your point & shoot will make that adjustment when you choose that scene. When the shutter stays open longer, any slight movement of the camera will cause a blurry photo.

To put it simply, you really need a tripod when taking photos indoors after dark unless you can brace yourself and the camera so there isn't the slightest movement.

To take this photo above in the weak light from the little 8 watt bulb I made several tries hand holding the camera but without success, so I set up the tripod and was able to get a fairly decent photo.

If you are trying to photograph your food in these lighting conditions, you will need a tripod. In most cases there just isn't enough light to do it otherwise when avoiding flash.

The camera was set to Scene: INDOOR, White Balance (WB) set to FLUORESCENT 1 (that's the first of those centipedes on your WB menu), and the Exposure Value (EV) was raised to 0+.3....that's one notch up from 0.0.

More details on settings for anyone who likes to know: Shutter speed 1/25s Aperture.f/4.2 .ISO 800.

How are you doing so far?
I hope you find it still easy to understand.

2. Overhead Lamp - TUNGSTEN - single 60 watt bulb

coll 2
These are the incandescent light bulbs which are being phased out to be replaced by the new CFL (compact fluorescent lamp) bulbs which are much brighter at lower wattage and cooler temperatures.

But many of us still have these in our homes and so I used this as an example of how to get by with just one such desk or floor lamp shining down on your subject.
You may have to raise it up nearer to the lamp by using some books and a cloth covered tray.

In this case I just put the plate on a small side desk under the light, and set up reflectors on either side.....the right side with the old photo frame and a piece of white printer paper clipped to it and on the left side another piece of white paper taped to the bookend. I'm quite pleased with the result, although it could have been a little brighter if I had used the EV (Exposure Value) button to lighten the photo with a setting of +0.3.

Such a brightness can be adjusted in a post editing program. See what happens in the second picture when the AUTO white balance misread the light. The photo has a strong yellow cast. This often happens when you forget to change it to TUNGSTEN.

coll 3
The camera in the left photo was set to Scene: PORTRAIT, White Balance (WB): TUNGSTEN, with no EV +/-.
More details: Shutter speed 1/40 Aperture f/3.9 ISO 100

3. Overhead Lamp – 1 CFL bulb

Here I changed the incandescent (tungsten) bulb for a new compact fluorescent 11 watt bulb (CFL) in a cool daylight colour.

Here is the picture that came from using that lamp, with the same setup as above in number 2, with reflectors either side.

collage 4
These bulbs are wonderful because they don’t heat up, they use lower wattage for the same light intensity as a tungsten bulb and they last for ages.

The camera was set to Scene: PORTRAIT, White Balance (WB): FLUORESCENT 1, with no EV +/-.
More details: Shutter speed 1/40 Aperture f/3.5 ISO 100

4. Overhead Lamp and Small Spot – 2 CFL bulbs

collage 5
Here is another setup on my desk, with a white paper sweep as backdrop , an overhead swivel desk lamp with a 15 watt CFL bulb and a mini spot light on one side with a 7 watt CFL bulb, the photo frame on the right as reflector with a piece of white printer paper clipped to it.

If you were doing this in a photo studio, the lights used would be of a higher wattage and the whole setup would be more professional and perhaps the reflector on the right would be replaced by a third spotlight. The photo resulting from this homemade arrangement is on the right above.

I’ve used the first of the three fluorescent settings my camera offers. It’s a little warmer than the other two.

This is what happens when you mistakenly use a TUNGSTEN setting for your White Balance (WB) instead of a FLUORESCENT setting (Remember the centipedes).

More about those CFL lamps:
Here’s the one in my desk lamp. It uses 15 watts and puts out the same light as a 75 watt tungsten bulb. I’m also showing the card it came on as well as a closeup of the tiny 7 watt spot.

collage 6
collage 7
You can see that the 15 watt bulb is rated as cool and it has a Kelvin value of 6400k.

The Kelvin scale is one used to determine the temperature colour of light. The higher the number, the bluer or colder is the light. The lower numbers are for warmer light.

The Kelvin rating of 5000k and 5500k are considered to be the same as pure white and noon sunlight and are therefore best for taking photos that resemble daylight.
The store where I bought mine didn’t have any at that rating but the 6400k , which you see marked on the card from the package, is also considered a daylight fluorescent lamp.

If you need a warm fluorescent CFL for your house, look for a Kelvin rating around 3000k. Candlelight is rated at 1500k.

The camera was set to Scene PORTRAIT, White Balance FLUORESCENT 1, with no EV +/-
More details: Shutter Speed 1/25, Aperture f/4.0, ISO 100

5. Restaurants – Overhead Tungsten Lamp(s) + Candles

You may have to look underneath the lamp to see if it’s a tungsten (incandescent) bulb or a CFL (fluorescent) but when it’s combined with candlelight for a cosy romantic setting you could wonder what setting to use on your camera without resorting to flash.

I would go for the INDOOR Scene setting and then try looking through the viewfinder with the White Balance (WB) set at TUNGSTEN and if everything looks blue, then you know you have to switch the White Balance to a fluorescent setting.

collage 8
The camera was set to INDOOR Scene, WB TUNGSTEN, with no EV +/-.
You could also try out the Scene setting of AVAILABLE LIGHT if you have that on your camera. It has a slower shutter speed so you will have to brace the camera and hold tightly and avoid any movement when you press the shutter. This is true of all photos you take in low light without a tripod.

If there is more candlelight than electric light, try the CANDLELIGHT setting as well. A look through the viewfinder before snapping the shutter will tell you if the setting is right for that scene. You can ask your table partner to hold up a white napkin on the dark side of the subject to reflect some light onto it while you take the photo.

I have done that. Of course it might attract some attention, but where we live there are many tourists and they often take photos of the food on their tables while on holiday, so here it's not unusual to do so.

More details of 2 photos above: Shutter Speed 1/60, Aperture f/2.8, ISO 2500
Shutter Speed 1/20, Aperture f/2.8, ISO 2500

Another Restaurant Example: Overhead Tungsten Lamp :

collage 9
Here there must have been more than one bulb in this quaint array of bottles but you can see the atmosphere, bright on the table and indirect light on the diners.

I believe I set the scene to PORTRAIT, but it could also have been INDOOR, The White Balance (WB) was set to TUNGSTEN with no EV+/- change.
More details of first photo: Shutter speed 1/20 (I’m amazed it turned out without blur), Aperture f/2.8, ISO 2500
Second photo of chips: Shutter Speed 1/125, Aperture f/2.8, ISO 2500.

6. Candlelight
I didn’t have a tripod for this but I braced myself and stopped breathing for a moment (not a good thing to do on your birthday) while pressing the shutter. Normally you would need a tripod for such a low light photo. I still don’t know how it came out without blurring.

The scene was set to CANDLELIGHT, White Balance (WB) AUTO and no EV+/-.
More details: Shutter Speed 1/25, Aperture f/2.8, ISO 2500

Well I hope you have enjoyed reading today's entry and have found it useful.
If you have questions please post them here or send me a PM. :-)

Next week I’ll show you how to make a mini light box and later we’ll make a full sized one.
I have mine started but need some more materials from the craft shop.
In the meantime here’s a preview of the mini light box and what you can do with it:

mini white box

So thanks for joining me. I'll be uploading the next installment soon.

Sharon (Canarybird) :-)
(All text and photos copyrighted)

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Part 4 - Seamless Backgrounds

Hi again everyone. I'm back with another entry on how to use your digital camera for taking tabletop photos.

Today's tutorial is a short and easy one about setting up a paper sweep for a seamless background behind your subject.

You may have wondered how to eliminate the horizon line between the tabletop and the background. Although you won't want to do this for all your photos, it's useful to know a simple and inexpensive way to give your picture a smooth, even background when you want your dish or other object to stand out on its own.

The answer is called a SWEEP and you've probably seen large backdrops in photo studios where a roll of paper is pulled down from the ceiling and stretched out on the floor towards the camera so the model can stand on the paper and there is no line where floor meets wall.

You can buy white plastic or synthetic material sweeps in small tabletop and larger sizes in photo supply shops and online but as we're trying to keep our experiments down to something you can make at home as economically as possible we're going to make one out of a sheet of white poster paper measuring approx. 20 x 26 inches (50 x 66 cm) bought in a craft or office supply shop. You just have to be careful not to spill gravy too often on the paper!

It helps to wipe carefully the bottom of the dish and put a folded tissue or napkin under before placing it on the paper. I just happen to have a plexiglass recipe book holder..Fig. 31....bought years ago, which not only keeps the pages of a recipe book from being spotted with sauces, but also makes a good support for our poster paper, using two clothes pegs to clip the paper to the holder. Fig. 32. (I hope you still have a few clothes pegs around.)

 pic 31
Another useful item you could use as a support for your sweep is the back part of an old picture frame, Fig. 33 & 33a ...the kind that's made to stand on a table, either vertically or horizontally by its back leg. I removed the glass and frame from an old photo and taped the cardboard backing closed so it holds together. It will also do a good job to support your paper and has the advantage of folding flat and being lightweight.

It can also serve as a holder for a piece of white printer paper ....clipped again with a be used as a reflector to bounce back the main light onto the dark side of your subject...(when not using it as a support for the sweep paper.)

If you’re really stuck for something to put behind to support your paper sweep, a 5-lb bag of dry cat (or dog) food and two large clothes pegs also does a wonderful job!

pic 32
coll 33 & 33a
Fig. 34 shows how the sweep looks in place behind the teapot, and the following three illustrate the setup with the camera on a tripod.
For this teapot photo I set the SCENE to PORTRAIT, the White Balance (WB) to cloudy, did not raise the Exposure Value (EV), and used the optical zoom on the camera to bring the scene closer.

coll 36 &37
Fig. 38 shows a piece of white foam packing cut for use as a reflector on the dark side of the teapot. Try to find pieces of fine foam, which come as packing in just about every large item nowadays. The one I show here is the wrong kind, as it leaves bits like popcorn strewn all over the carpet. But I did find some better pieces after I took these photos.
Fig. 39 shows the reflector in place, held by a metal bookend.

coll 38&39
Here is the simple metal bookend that can be purchased very reasonably in an office supply shop.

pic 40
And finally, here you see the difference made by that piece of foam used as a reflector in these two photos. Fig. 41 is without reflector, and Fig. 42 is with.

Of course all shadows aren't bad, because we need shadow to define shapes and show texture and form. But if you are aiming for an all round brightness, the reflector bounces back some of the main light.
In some cases you would also use a softly diffused light from a lamp over on the dark side to give some added highlights.

coll 41&42

Here are a few more sample photos which I took using a white or cream coloured paper sweep:

still life
flower vase
leche asada
In all cases above the photos were taken in daylight. Next time we'll have a look at artificial lighting and how to take food photos after dark, without flash.

I also want to show you how to make a DIY light box, so you can take closeup photos of food surrounded by pure white light.

Following that, we should get into MACRO's really easy and it's made for taking closeups just as we're doing here.

I hope you've been experimenting with the White Balance WB and the Exposure Compensation EV buttons.

Until then, thanks for joining me. I'll be uploading the next installment soon,

Sharon (Canarybird)
(All text and photos copyrighted)
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