Advice on photographing guitars for my business

Discussion in 'Photography Beginners' Forum' started by stream41, Jan 2, 2007.

  1. stream41

    stream41 TPF Noob!

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    Hey guys, new member here. I have a few questions, if y'all don't mind :)

    I buy and sell guitars for a living, and I'm getting a bit frustrated with the quality of the photography of my guitars. I think having more professional-looking pics of the guitars would help out a lot. Here's an example of what I'm producing now:

    http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=230071985825

    In particular, notice the reflections on the back of the guitar - that's where I always have the most problems because of the glossy coat of laquer they put on the guitars. I almost threw my camera on the ground that day because I literally could not find an area of my yard where I could escape reflections. Anyway, here's where I want to be:

    http://www.buffalobrosguitars.com/images22000-22999/ngb22041-goodallcgc/index.html

    I'm sure that's not true "professional" photography, but it's 100 times better than what I'm doing right now. Basically, my question is how do I get to that? I e-mailed the guy who does their photography, and he said he's using a Canon digital camera (he didn't say if it was a SLR or point-and-shoot), two softboxes, a couple of strobes, and a Minolta light meter. From talking to a buddy of mine who's into photography, I already know I'll need two softboxes. But, beyond that I get kinda lost. Right now I have a Canon SD410 point-and-shoot digital camera. What else do I need to take the kind of pics I want? I'm prepared to budget about $500 for any equipment I need.

    Thanks in advance, guys.

    -Jesse
     
  2. Big Mike

    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member Supporting Member

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    Welcome to the forum.

    The difference between the two...is that you are using ambient light and he is using studio lighting. He is setting up a small (or maybe a large) studio and controlling the light.

    Softboxes would certainly be useful to get that nice soft light. Although, shooting outdoors with overcast clouds is good too....but the reflections are a problem.

    When thinking about studio lighting...you can go with continuous (hot) lights...or strobe (flash) lighting. Strobes are usually a much better option, but they are more expensive. If all you will ever shoot is guitars...then hot lights will probably be OK. You could get softboxes...but what you really need is something to diffuse the light. To deal with the reflections...you might want something like a light tent. Basically, that's just a white translucent tent or fabric that covers the subject...then you shoot the photo through a small hole or slit. You could make one with a white sheet if you are handy. You could use just about any type of lighting to light up the tent.

    Here is a site with plenty of DIY home studio projects...if you are so inclined.
     
  3. stream41

    stream41 TPF Noob!

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    Hey, thanks for the reply.

    The guy on that website said he's using two softboxes on either side of the guitar at 45-degree angles. Could I just buy two softboxes, aim them at the guitar just like that, and then start taking pics with my camera's flash turned off? All I'll ever be using them for is shooting guitars in a simple studio environment.

    Also, what should I use as a backdrop? Would an old sheet work?

    Thanks!

    -Jesse
     
  4. The_Traveler

    The_Traveler Completely Counter-dependent Supporting Member

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    look at this site http://www.cumpiano.com/ for some ideas on beautiful lighting for guitars - (an ex-relative but still friend.)
     
  5. darich

    darich TPF Noob!

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    I think you need a less distracting background.

    Using ambient light mightg work sometimes but that means you probably need to be outside to get enough of it. The backyard is lovely I'm sure but not in the background of a photo! :)

    A shallower DOF would help make the guitar stand out from the background. To acheive that with a point and shoot you'd need to use the full optical zoom since compacts are notorious for not giving shallow depth of field in those conditions.

    To reduce the reflections it might help to have the reflection of a dark area in the back of the guitar eg the grass or a large dark sheet - it might help reduce the glare of the refelction

    Buying a DSLR purely to photograph guitars the way you are seems like overkill but if you have a budget of $500 then you might get one with a kit lens and that would let you use an aperture of something around f3.5 - f4.5.
     
  6. stream41

    stream41 TPF Noob!

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    Well, it's not just the reflections that bother me. I want the pictures to look professional. When the guitar is sitting out in my front yard, it doesn't look professional. If the guitars are obviously photographed in a studio environment, it looks more professional, which (for some reason or another) inspires confidence in buyers.

    -Jesse
     
  7. Big Mike

    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member Supporting Member

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    I agree.

    Might it be feasible for you to hire out the photography part of your guitar selling business? As you said, professional looking shot will inspire confidence in the buyers. As you are finding out, professional looking photos aren't as easy as point and shoot. I wouldn't expect a guitar maker to be a master photographer (no offence intended)...just as I wouldn't expect a professional photographer to be able to make a quality guitar.

    It is up to you to run your business...but could you see a scenario where you spend a few hundred or thousand on photography...but that maybe would double or triple your EBay sales? It's something to think about anyway.

    Of course, you could always learn to take better shots...which it seems you are trying to do...so good for you. Maybe look for a book about studio and/or product photography. That should give you a good frame of reference to get started...and we are always here to answer your questions.
     
  8. Mad_Gnome

    Mad_Gnome TPF Noob!

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    It sounds to me like lighting is less of a concern than background in your opinion. This would also be my assessment from the photos you have posted on your eBay auction. The lighting is fine, but the shooting environment is less so. If that's the case, you may just need a backdrop. You might consider looking into either seamless backdrop paper, or what I ended up getting, which is a collapsible backdrop system. Mine is a Photek brand portable system with a simple 10x12 muslin backdrop. It cost me less than $200 for the whole thing from B&H Photo.

    http://www.bhphotovideo.com/bnh/con...ls&Q=&sku=41824&is=REG&addedTroughType=search
     
  9. jon3k

    jon3k TPF Noob!

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    I'll just chime in and agree with everyone else.

    If you want studio quality photos, then you need (ahem) a studio :)

    You can get a cheap light setup and a backdrop for a couple hundred dollars. You may be able to get away with your point-and-shoot, maybe not. You'll almost definitely need a tripod.
     

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