10,000+ photos and not one is up to snuff...HELP!

Discussion in 'Photography Beginners' Forum' started by davesphotos, Oct 26, 2009.

  1. davesphotos

    davesphotos TPF Noob!

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    I've been an eBay seller for 10+ years. I've listed 6,000+ auctions. My auctions have anywhere between one and twenty photos each. So over the past 10 years, I've shot at least 10,000 photos.

    And to this day, I have never, ever shot one photo that came out the way I wanted it to.

    I'm using a pretty basic setup. Canon A95 digital camera. ISO 50. A piece of white(ish) newsprint as a backdrop. A couple of Reveal 100-watt bulbs in S-V reflectors, softened with vellum. Camera is set to full manual, incandescent white balance, usually macro focus, always on a tripod. Shutter released with 10-second self-timer. Images cropped, resized and sharpened in PhotoDeluxe.

    And the results, as you can see in the examples below, below, are sub-par at best.

    I do have a skylight above my photo backdrop (it's the only spot in the house where I can set up, unfortunately). Sometimes that casts a bluish hue tint on the photos, but I try to use a big piece of cardboard as a bogo to block the daylight. And most of my problems don't have much to do with a bluish tint.

    There's always a problem. Underexposed. Overexposed. Distorted corners on square objects. White background is too dark. Or tinted red. Poor detail. Out of focus.

    I've spent hours and hours and hours trying to get it right. Different backdrops: smooth white paper, bedsheets, cardboard. Different lighting: daylight, 500w photo-flood bulbs. I've asked local professional photographers, received and followed some great advice. But no matter what I do, the photos are always bad.

    When I say "bad", I don't mean "terrible". For eBay, they're passable. But I want them to look professional. Legitimate. Instead of just "this guy was trying to make his photos look good, but he missed the mark."

    So what do I need to do to actually take a good photo? I don't need super-duper studio shots that are going to be enlarged on a billboard or used in a Clinique ad, but I'd like my images to look professional.

    Do I need a DSLR? A 50mm lens? A light meter? A pure white backdrop? A strobe setup? Umbrellas? Reflectors? 4 years of photo school? Is it impossible to get professional results with amateur gear?

    I'd appreciate any meaningful advice anyone can offer. (Please, no "those photos look fine to me" or vague "I shoot with an A95 and my photos come out great!" replies. Useful input only please!)

    Here are a few recent examples, with my notes about what I think is wrong with the photo:

    Old reverb unit. Background came out reddish, instead of white. Right-side edges of unit are distorted. Detail isn't particularly sharp. I shoot photos of a lot of this type of stuff, with the same lousy results.
    [​IMG]

    Mini whiskey bottles. Background came out reddish (ignore the tear in the paper!). Perspective is distorted from front to back. Detail is sharp, but only because I used the sharpen feature in PhotoDeluxe.
    [​IMG]

    Old LP record. LP is overexposed, but "white" background came out reddish and underexposed.
    [​IMG]

    Snare drum. Background tinted red when it should be white or slightly off-white. Perspective somewhat distorted.
    [​IMG]

    Old loudspeakers. Overexposed. Background tinted, and not white. Edges of cabinets distorted. I spent a LONG time trying to get this photo framed and exposed properly, and I missed the mark by a mile.
    [​IMG]

    Old electronic quarterback game. Background underexposed with a reddish tint. Detail over-sharp due to PhotoDeluxe sharpening tool.
    [​IMG]

    3 RC cars. Background totally tinted red.
    [​IMG]
     
  2. Derrel

    Derrel Mr. Rain Cloud

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    Have you ever heard the old expression, "The third times's the charm!" ?

    Great first post you made--one of the all-time best first posts I've ever seen here.
     
  3. syphlix

    syphlix TPF Noob!

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    distortion is probably cuz you're zoomed to the wide part of your lens... can be fixed in photoshop though...

    the shadows and lighting... well.. that's a lighting issue... you can look into the product lighting booth type setups that they have on ebay or elsewhere... usually involve a couple different lights...

    a lot of the stuff you are selling looks bigger though, so u can build ur own box w/ some kind of frame, and white paper or fabric or something... most of them utilize a cpl different lights to get even light w/ no shadows...
     
  4. syphlix

    syphlix TPF Noob!

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    btw to rid yourself of the distortion you could prob step farther away and zoom in... that might help...
     
  5. LuckySo-n-So

    LuckySo-n-So TPF Noob!

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    I used to RULE at this game!!!! Madden Football 2010, eat your heart out!

    :lmao::lmao::lmao:
     
  6. fokker

    fokker No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    You should make one of these:
    Strobist: How To: DIY $10 Macro Photo Studio

    But on a bigger scale perhaps to accomodate some larger items.

    Also, off camera flash is going to help you out a lot compared to incandescant bulbs, and it doesn't have to be expensive either. Check out the strobist website.
     
  7. Dominantly

    Dominantly TPF Noob!

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    May I edit a photo to see what can be done, and give you some steps to try?
     
  8. fiveoboy01

    fiveoboy01 TPF Noob!

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    You can also try replacing the incandescents with clamp lights fitted with flourescent bulbs. Have you tried a custom white balance? Er wait, maybe your camera does not have that feature... The mixed lighting may be confusing your camera and causing the funky white balance. Also keep in mind this is a point and shoot, the image quality is not going to be up to par with a DSLR, and as you can see, some of your photos might show more distortion.
     
  9. Dominantly

    Dominantly TPF Noob!

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    you can easily cheat in post production and get the look you are seeking.
     
  10. Figment

    Figment TPF Noob!

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    I'm still very noob when it comes to still photo lighting, but coming from a video background, the first thing I thought was white balance is off. My first wedding video looked like that. (GOD I hated eating the cost of that)
     
  11. Don Kondra

    Don Kondra Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    I would recommend Alzo Digital for 5500k CF bulbs. Then shoot in aperture mode f8 and you should be able to shoot with auto white balance. Block the window light only to control shadows, etc.

    Ideally the room should be dark when shooting with continuous lights but the CF bulbs are close enough to daylight it shouldn't fool your camera's AWB.

    I would suggest you try adding another light from above and slightly to the back...

    You may find this helpful.

    Cheers, Don
     
    Last edited: Oct 27, 2009
  12. davesphotos

    davesphotos TPF Noob!

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    Thanks for the responses. After seeing Don's results, and remembering that a local pro photog also told me to go with CF bulbs, I decided to give it a shot.

    The first place I looked was my wallet. It contained two moths, a piece of lint, and a dollar-off coupon for Uncle Ben's rice. Rice is nice, but this would have to be a low-budget project.

    Next I looked to the sky. Not for inspiration, but to see which of my living room ceiling lights were CF. Ah-hah, there's one! And I didn't even need to get out the ladder to unscrew it. Just had to stand on a shelf and lean waaaay over. Most accidents occur in the home, kids. I made it through unscathed.

    A trip to the utility closet yielded two more CFs of varying wattage. I'm getting lucky so far!

    But not so fast. The aluminum reflectors on my SV stands are too deep and narrow at the socket to accept the CFs. Luckily, I had a few cheapo clamp-on Home Depot reflectors in the basement. The CFs fit, but the reflectors aren't deep enough for diffusion. Oh well, guess I'll run bare bulbs. A few tweaks to the SV stands and the Home Depot reflectors are now sorta-kinda legitimately mounted.

    I already have a backdrop support, and a year ago I bought a 9-foot-wide roll of seamless paper that I've only used once. Two minutes with a hacksaw later, and it's down to a more manageable five feet.

    This is really starting to come together!

    With one bulb on each stand, and another smaller bulb overhead (clamped directly to the paper roll!), I shot the first object I could find: a pair of disc brake rotors. Here are the four test shots, shot at f8 and 1/4 to 1/10 second, depending on the exposure I was looking for.

    I'm not absolutely overwhelmed by the results, but I think it's a marked improvement over what I was getting with the old setup. I don't think this will solve my problems with distorted perspective, but apparently that's inherent in the A95's somewhat wide-angle lens.

    Fluorescent white balance, +0 exposure:
    [​IMG]

    Fluorescent white balance, +1 exposure (to compensate for white background):
    [​IMG]

    Auto white balance, +0 esposure (too yellow!):
    [​IMG]

    Auto white balance, +1 exposure (too yellow!):
    [​IMG]
     

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