Piano photos - need help

Discussion in 'Commercial/Product photography' started by amnesiac096, Jun 16, 2008.

  1. amnesiac096

    amnesiac096 TPF Noob!

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    Hello,

    I work at a music store and we have quite a bit of pianos and we need to get better photos. I understand photography and how the camera works, I would consider myself intermediate. The issue is how do I take photos of pianos, both grands and uprights? We have a wide variety, some are satin (somewhat like a matte finish) and polish (which reflects a lot).

    We only have one camera here and it's a Sony DSC-H5, which I am sure is no good for taking photos of pianos. Plus I think the sensor is dying.

    I have a spot I could maybe set a backdrop up with lighting, I just need some advice on what to do with all of this and maybe a camera that would do well (maybe a lens too?).

    So in a nutshell, looking for advice on setup (backdrop? lighting?), camera, and/or lens.

    Thanks,
    Erik
     
  2. Rachelsne

    Rachelsne TPF Noob!

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    any DSLR with a wide lens (see this site for lens guides: http://www.digital-slr-guide.com/focal-length.html)- or even a point and shoot that takes attachments like the s5is (im sure there are others)
    check out a few photography magazines and compare prices, there are two good us based websites to look at to-read reviews that people have written about the cameras you are interested in
    http://www.bhphotovideo.com/
    http://www.adorama.com/
    always check http://www.resellerratings.com/ before purchasing from a website to make sure they are not a rip off site.
    there is no easy answer to your questions for the lighting, firstly decide on your budget, choose your camera and lens and then see whats left for your lighting and backdrop-just looking at the differnt websites that sell lighting and backdrops will give you an idea on costs
     
  3. amnesiac096

    amnesiac096 TPF Noob!

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    Ok, that's a good start.

    I'm thinking that for the camera, around $400-500 and I'm really not sure what I could spend. I am spitballing the figure a bit because I have to run this all passed my boss and persuade him, which shouldn't be hard because they all want better photos.

    The photos need to have good color to show the color of the piano and very little noise. They'll be used on the web, so the max they will be is probably 1000px width/height and then I run a script for thumbs.

    Any advice is welcomed here because this is new territory for me.
     
  4. Rachelsne

    Rachelsne TPF Noob!

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    to be very honnest and blunt :) you will find that people on here wont recomend a particular camera or brand-this is because its such a personal choice.

    The best thing to do is look at a few cameras try out some in stores too, once you have a rough idea of what you want come back and ask specific questions and other people will find it easier to help
     
  5. amnesiac096

    amnesiac096 TPF Noob!

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    Ok, so I guess I can do it this way.

    Say I buy the Canon S5 IS and get a wide lens.

    What lighting should I get? Softboxes? Or what?
     
  6. *Mike*

    *Mike* TPF Noob!

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    Honestly, if you're going to spend the money on a camera, lights, maybe a backdrop, etc., you're probably going to be better off paying someone to do it. With that budget, I doubt you'll get a full-time professional commercial shooter - but you could get someone with the equipment, a solid knowledge base, and willing to work with you.
     
  7. amnesiac096

    amnesiac096 TPF Noob!

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    Yea, I understand that, but the issue is, that can't happen. It's not like I'm going to just set it up and shoot once. This will be used probably everyday if not every other day. So the equipment will eventually pay for itself.

    Would having a backdrop and decent lighting work? or would I need more? Just hiring someone else is not really an option. I thought this was a photo forum? not a 'have someone else do it' forum.

    thanks for the suggestion though.
     
  8. astrostu

    astrostu Guest

    This is a photo forum. And Mike is probably right in this case.

    Photographing pianos is difficult work for several reasons. First, you need a wide lens because they are large pieces of equipment. Good wide lenses are expensive (think $1000+). A cheap-o wide-angle lens will result in a lot of defects (spherical and chromatic aberration, and significant vignetting, though the latter may not be a big issue for this kind of photography). Not having a wide-angle lens will force you to be farther away to get the whole piano in the shot. This will affect the look of the final photo, the depth of field, etc., and depending upon your showroom floor, it may not even be possible to get far back enough with something like a 35 mm or 50 mm lens to actually capture the entire instrument.

    Second, you need a good lighting setup. I would think a minimum of two off-camera light umbrellas (don't know the technical term since I've never used them) to give you a good, diffuse light. A single flash will result in obvious highlights up close to the camera and shadows far away.

    Large backdrops would not be necessary, but advisable because you'll be using a wide angle lens so getting a lot of other "stuff" in the field of view ... and you want just the piano.

    Fourth, you need a decent camera that can take the wide-angle lens. That's usually an SLR. Granted, you can probably get a Digital Rebel 350D (which is what I have) even though it's an older model, but it can probably be found for around $500 or so.

    Fifth, actually executing the shot won't be easy. Finding the right angle, the right focal length, the right aperture, and then getting the lighting right to go with your settings ... if you've never done anything like this before, it could be an incredibly frustrating and fruitless experience. Especially with the more reflective finishes. Post-processing work in Photoshop will also probably be a necessity.

    Now, if you think that you can do this and are willing to invest the time and expense, then I say go for it. You'll learn valuable skills that are fairly marketable. But if this is more of a one-time thing or where you may want to do it once every six months or so, then I would seriously consider trying to find a professional.
     
  9. amnesiac096

    amnesiac096 TPF Noob!

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    Well, this won't be a every 6 month thing, like I said before it will most likely be everyday or every other day, so assume 3-4 times a week of shooting, plus we have another store, which has pianos.

    I'm glad people have responded to me.

    I have a few ideas, and this really needs to be done in-house w/o a professional just due to the fact that we can't have a pro. photographer here every other day, that would get crazy, especially with money.

    What you must remember is that these are going onto a website, so they will be 1000px wide/high at most (with most being around 800px wide/high).

    Photoshop work is not an issue, I am good with PS.

    Will having a backdrop with a camera that can get the whole instrument (a bit of distortion is ok, I'm more worried about the color and getting rid of the background easier) and decent lighting work?
     
  10. RyanLilly

    RyanLilly No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    I think that this may end up costing you a bit more than you are planning, but even an entry level DSLR and kit lens starting at 17 or 18mm can get you started as far as a camera, I think that maybe some white background material, behind and under the piano, so the piano can be cut out easily in photoshop, and put on a pure white, otherwise I think that everything else in the store will be very distracting. Some studio strobes and huge softboxes would be best, but that is probably not realistic for your situation, so look at www.strobist.blogspot.com and don't forget a tripod.
     
  11. Ben-71

    Ben-71 TPF Noob!

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    In your case, I think that the main issue is the lighting and not the camera.
    One of the better P&S would give very good pic' quality, and will cover
    from wide angle to any focal length that the space allows.

    As has already been mentioned here, pianos are somewhat 'demanding'.
    What you'll have to cope with is things like "empty" black, glare, undesired
    reflections, and introducing some glare at the right places.
    There may be reflections from the display room lights. If those lights
    shouldn't be turned off, their reflections should be removed by PS.

    For getting good results, you'll need some foldable (relatively large) light
    boxes or umbrellas, at least 4 slave flashes, some tripods (preferably, but
    not essential, one with a boom), and some reflectors.

    A Nikon Coolpix, triggering a few SB600 or SB800 (or a parallel system)
    would do.
    A light meter, for checking at various places on the piano would be helpful,
    but not essential.

    Once you have some photographs to show, I'm sure that people here will
    give you guidance how to further improve the lighting, if needed.

    Backdrop – in your case, of using it a lot, I'd use white cloth rather than
    paper (which would quickly wear out).
     
  12. Meysha

    Meysha still being picky Vicky

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    I had to shoot a bunch of pianos the other week for an ad. So here's my advice from that experience.

    What camera to get here isn't the problem. Whatever camera you choose will be fine, so long as it has a wide-ish angle.

    I shot on a Canon 40D with a 10 - 22mm lens at about 20mm.

    The results were pretty crap, but it was a crap ad. I only had an on camera flash at the time. I needed another one to point under the keyboard.

    What you need to concentrate on is the lighting. If you can get a bunch of desk lamps, then you can shoot pianos with a P&S. The tricky bit is lighting under the keyboard, and also making sure the exposure is correct... there's nothing more difficult than photographing something that's black AND shiny!
     

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