Author Topic: Creating and Posting Good Pictures  (Read 6610 times)

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Offline Dan Clark

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    • talkFestool
Creating and Posting Good Pictures
« on: January 27, 2007, 07:41 PM »
Hi.   I've been taking pics for more than 1/2 century starting with my Fathers Nikon.   I don't consider myself a great artist, but I'm a pretty good technician at taking and post processing images.   And I can spot good and bad images when posted.    Unfortunately there are at least as many bad images as good ones uploaded to the web.   

For example, the first pic attached is an example of a "bad" pic.    The purpose of this pic is to show what the CentroTec chuck looks like with a square drive bit.   Pretty bad isn't it?   But what's wrong with it?   How many things can you count?   (Yes, it's a pretty extreme example, but I've seen much worse.)

Now take a look at the second pic.  It's not very artistic and I can spot several things that I don't like.  But it's decent for it's purpose - showing the square drive bit in the CentroTec chuck.  Total pic taking time for the second pic - about 90 seconds for four images.  Total post processing time - about two minutes, including resizing for the web.

So...

I'm offering to share what I know and create some basic photo tutorials, if there's enough interest.   I'm thinking of maybe:

- Basics of taking decent pics
- How to turn fair images into good images with a little post processing
- What to look for in a camera used for product shots (like woodworking, furniture, woodshops, etc.)

If interested, please respond to this and let me know which of these topics are of interest.  Any others?

Dan.



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Offline Eric Parham

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Re: Creating and Posting Good Pictures
« Reply #1 on: January 27, 2007, 08:42 PM »
What are you using for post processing?

Offline Brad Evans

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Re: Creating and Posting Good Pictures
« Reply #2 on: January 27, 2007, 10:30 PM »
>>>  But what's wrong with it?

Here's my take. 

First pic: blurry, cluttered, color cast (no real gray), too far away, no main object of interest, blown out highlights, blacks are blocked up, verticals not straight.

Second pic:  shadow from not so good lighting, highlights clipped a bit


Do I win anything?  :=)


Brad
Urban pix: www.citysnaps.net
Urban PhotoBlog:  www.citysnaps.net/blog

Offline Jim Becker

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Re: Creating and Posting Good Pictures
« Reply #3 on: January 27, 2007, 10:44 PM »
The first example is a bit extreme, but the point is excellent.

Good pictures of projects and tooling:

  • Frame the subject
  • Do not have cluttered backgrounds (or have the background blurred out)
  • Are bright and without harsh contrasts
  • Do not have major color shifts or out-of-whack white balance
  • Are large enough, pixel-wise, to do the job without causing folks to scroll their browser window
  • Use appropriate compression to keep the file size down without materially damaging detail in the highlighted subject

One other thing that I've found is that when you reduce pixel size of a shot to be appropriate for web display, it's often a good idea to use your photo application's "sharpen" feature to bring back detail and crispness lost during the pixel reduction...but don't over do it.

A lot of the software that comes with cameras is either marginal or "egads-terrible" for doing a good job of photo retouching. There are great alternatives available for free or at reasonable cost. My preferred application is Adobe Photoshop Elements (version 5 currently). Easy to use, but has a lot of control available, too.
“Never raise your hands to your children, it leaves your groin unprotected.” - Red Buttons

Offline Dan Clark

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Re: Creating and Posting Good Pictures
« Reply #4 on: January 28, 2007, 01:16 AM »
Hi.

I use Photoshop CS3 (beta).    I like CS3 (and Premiere for video editing) but that's not important.   Photoshop Elements can do everything that's necessary for basic photo editing.    It's a great, inexpensive tool that will improve images quickly and easily.  Heck, just hitting Auto Levels and a quick Unsharp Mask is all that's need to improve most images 100%.

The images were taken with my wife's Sony digicam.  I have a Nikon DSLR with SB800 external flash (my Nikon was in the shop when I took these) sitting on a Markins ball head with RRS QR and plate.   But the Sony is the target camera.  The target users are talented woodworkers who create beautiful wooden things but don't know diddly about taking pics.

I think the key here is helping people with the basics.   

Brad and Jim, I know you guys are jerkin' my chain a bit.  But I'm trying to make some key points as simply as possible.   I think your points are very valid, but WAY over the head of a lot of folks.   The shadow in the second pic isn't that great, but I didn't have a piece of white cardboard handy (bounce card) and I was in a hurry.  The blown highlights are difficult to avoid in a round, shiny bit holder.  But the pic is up close and personal, the exposure in general is pretty decent, and I oversharpened to improve contrast to show the square drive bit.   (I took the image for another post, not for a tutorial.) 

Below is another example of a shot that I took to show how you can bring an MFT "Table Saw" to your work, rather than the opposite.   I also took this with my wife's Sony.  Like most digicams, the Sony has a mediocre wide angle so it was difficult to get everything in the image in a small room.   In other words, normal conditions for our target audience. 

So I took a few simple steps to deal with this.  First, I flipped on both of my halogen work lights and pointed them to ceiling.   Then I backed against the back wall and braced my arms against the studs and my body.   I cheated a little and aimed at the hyperfocal distance (about where the saw is), locked the focal point, reframed and clicked. 

Great image?  Nah.   But it worked for me.  Minimal shadows.  Pretty good lighting and decent white balance (with some post processing).   Pretty sharp.  And it's a decent size and (obviously) can be uploaded.   But what is most important is that I clearly tells the story I want to tell - my TS55 and MFT connected to my CT22 doing their work in my master bathroom.

Unfortunately, it's better than most of the images posted here and other forums.  My content is worse, but my technique is better.  If the folks who took the other images took a few simple steps, their images would be superior to mine.  I want those people to be able to creat those better images.  They already have better content than most of my images, but their photographic technique is a little lacking.  With a few tips, their photographic techique will match their woodworking technique.

Many of the images that I see have bad lighting, are very blurry, have a nasty color cast, and are framed poorly.   Quite frankly noise in shadows and blown highlights are minor issues when you can't even make out the details that people are trying to show.   These are basic errors.  Getting rid of the basic errors will improve their results 100%.

Dan.
« Last Edit: January 28, 2007, 01:21 AM by Dan Clark »

Offline Steven in Iowa

  • Posts: 123
Re: Creating and Posting Good Pictures
« Reply #5 on: January 28, 2007, 06:29 AM »
Dan,
   I for one would greatly appreciate any help you can give on photographing projects and tooling.  I think any tips will carry over to many other subject matters as well.  Thank you for your offer.
Rookie to be sure!

Offline Michael Kellough

  • Posts: 3471
Re: Creating and Posting Good Pictures
« Reply #6 on: January 28, 2007, 09:04 AM »
The MFT photo (with the bounced work lights) is quite good in my opinion. I find the combination of order and clutter very familiar and the broadness of the light allows me to identify things that would otherwise be obscure and frustrate my attempt to identify. What's in that Starrett box?

Offline John Langevin

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  • Springfield, MA
Re: Creating and Posting Good Pictures
« Reply #7 on: January 28, 2007, 11:08 AM »
I have a good amount of both film and digital photographic experience, but zero experience posting to the web and would greatly appreciate any help. I think that adding quality, useful, informative photo content of projects, product enhancements, and techniques would be the single most useful improvement to our forum.
Practicing Mediocrity Never Begets Perfection

Offline Dan Clark

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Re: Creating and Posting Good Pictures
« Reply #8 on: January 28, 2007, 12:12 PM »
The MFT photo (with the bounced work lights) is quite good in my opinion. I find the combination of order and clutter very familiar and the broadness of the light allows me to identify things that would otherwise be obscure and frustrate my attempt to identify. What's in that Starrett box?
Michael,

Hi.  Regarding the "Starrett box"...   It's just the spare components of the Starrett combo set.     I bought an 18" blade to go with the 12" combo set and just stuffed the extra components in the box.   Nothing special.   

Thanks for the compliment about the pic.   It won't win any awards, but it does the job.

Regarding the tutorial, I think I'll post a basic tutorial and then update it with comments from people who have learned some good tricks.   That way, people like Jim and Brad, who are accomplished photographers, can add value and we'll have a superior tutorial.  There are dozens of little tricks that can make a massive difference

- Understanding the basic about ISO, aperature, and shutter speed.
- Using simple tricks like bracing your self against a wall or using a convenient 2X4 as a monopod can massively reduce shake.
- Using simple post processing. 

Regarding post processing, Photoship Elements 5.0 is on sale at Costco.com for $59.99 after a $20 coupon.  It's at Costco - PhotoShop Elements V5.0. FYI, the sale ends today!

Dan.

Offline Overtime

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  • Eastern Iowa USA
Re: Creating and Posting Good Pictures
« Reply #9 on: January 28, 2007, 01:08 PM »
 I could also use a little help. Especially when it comes to size and reduction of the photo after taken but before posting. Like , how is that done ? - Pixles and such , MBs , KBs MPs  Some times I am amazed that I got a photo to display at all , let alone stuff like "simple post processing" and "Auto fix" , Tutorials would be great!
Patrick

Offline woodshopdemos

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Re: Creating and Posting Good Pictures
« Reply #10 on: January 29, 2007, 06:36 AM »
OVERSIMPLIFICATION:

good picture:


bad picture:


Dan, seriously, I am sure that your topic would be well received. I do about 1500 pics a month and have this "formula". Shoot in 1400 X 900 pixels. Bring into Corel Photo (same as photoshop), sharpen, correct color and exposure and crop, take image to SmoothScaling and reduce to 350 pixels wide. Done. It works for me but I did come by this formula after many thousands of pics. I also mix medium shots with close ups. I shoot 1/100 with whatever f-stop t he camera needs. I use flash fill.
In memory of John Lucas (1937 - 2010)

Offline Stu in Tokyo

  • Posts: 8
Re: Creating and Posting Good Pictures
« Reply #11 on: January 29, 2007, 07:40 AM »
Hey Dan, great subject, thanks for having a go at this.

I take a lot of pics, I used to shoot everything LARGE and then reduce size, but lately I've gotten to the point where I just shoot it 640x480, as it is just one less step.

For me, our Sony digital camera is on it's last legs, and it seems to take a lot more abuse in the Dungeon (my workshop) so I've decided to leave it out of the mix and just use my cell phone camera. Now this Camera on my cell is not bad, it is 2.1 Megapixel camera, with auto focus, anti movement setting and some decent macros.

I try my best to take decent pics, but I sure don't mind seeing and hearing tips on doing so.

Cheers!

Offline Stu in Tokyo

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Re: Creating and Posting Good Pictures
« Reply #12 on: January 29, 2007, 03:44 PM »
Hey Dan, is this a good example of a good pic and a bad pic............


Offline Dan Clark

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Re: Creating and Posting Good Pictures
« Reply #13 on: January 29, 2007, 04:18 PM »
Stu,

Yep.  Good pic (and bad pic).  Actually, other than the background being a little cluttered and the framing not quite a tight as is optimal, your "bad pic" is decent.    Based on the pics you've posted, you're NOT the target audience for a photo tutorial.   ;D  However...

You did bring up one VERY good point.   When posting a tutorial, I think a good pic/bad pic combo will be very useful.  I.e., don't just describe a how-to, show how-to.  For example...

Your pics are good examples of the benefit of focusing (sorry for the pun) on a single topic and demonstrating it in pics.  Both pics sharply focused and pretty well well lit pics.   The color rendition is a bit different, but both look pretty good.   However, by simply blocking out distracting background objects and zooming in a bit closer, you turned a decent pic into a very good pic.   

A couple of sheets of white plywood or cardboard, and stepping 6" closer makes an amazing difference.   This is an excellent example of the simple points that I'd like to focus on.  I'm going to use "before" and "after" shots for each point.

Thanks,

Dan.

Offline Art Frank

  • Posts: 12
Re: Creating and Posting Good Pictures
« Reply #14 on: January 29, 2007, 05:28 PM »
Hi Dan,

What a great and timely offer on your part. The other day, I attempted in futility to post a couple of pictures of an enlarged MFT. After an hour or so of tweaking, I gave up. A photo-posting basics tutorial would be fantastic.
 Thanks,
Art

Offline Michael Kellough

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Re: Creating and Posting Good Pictures
« Reply #15 on: January 29, 2007, 06:55 PM »
Hey Dan, is this a good example of a good pic and a bad pic............



Well, I have to disagree in this pair of pictures. I prefer the pic with the shop in the background. I love to see what kind of stuff other people keep around various tools so I'd rather you didn't put a dropcloth (or whatever) behind the drill press.

However, if you were shooting a fine chair you'd made I'd like a clean background behind it.