Friday, February 13, 2009

300 Monkeys: (or: Learning about Photography)

My approach to photography is a lot like the theory that if 300 monkeys typed for 300 years, one of them would produce the works of Shakespeare. In other words, I play the odds. If I take as many pictures as possible from as many different angles as possible, somewhere in there I'll get a good picture. As you can imagine, I spend a lot of time editing pictures. LOL!

But I'm learning things along the way. I learned how to use a white or light blue background to reflect the light properly. Since my miniatures range from tiny embroidered pillows all the way up to large dollhouses, I needed a large space so I set up a permanent photography table with a white sheet fixed to the wall and draped over the table. That was easy and it eliminated the background "noise" as well. Then I learned how to use the macro setting on my camera and it quickly became my new best friend. When I replaced my camera last year one of the things that was a neccessity was a good macro setting and as high a resolution as I could get. I drove a salesman crazy because he didn't understand why I needed to take pictures of things that are only one inch tall.

So with my nice, white background and some practice with macro settings, I made progress. My pictures were beginning to look a little more professional...........or at least they were showing the subject matter a little more clearly. But I still wasn't getting the quality I wanted and determined that my lighting was a problem. I have three 100 watt bulbs going in the studio and while that's good for my eyes, it's not ideal for pictures. Outdoor light is always best but hauling a background out to the backyard as well as a huge dollhouse just isn't feasible. I tried the obvious solution first........a drop light with an aluminum hood. You know the ones I'm talking about. They sell for a couple bucks at any hardware store and have a clamp on them so they can be fixed into convenient positions. Okay, that was marginally better. At least I had a little more light focused on my subject matter but it still wasn't quite right.

I fixed my hubby his favorite meal and then broke the news to him that the new shop lights he'd just bought for the garage were now residing in my studio. Fortunately he's a good sport and didn't fuss at all. He just went and bought another set for the garage. The shop lights definitely made a difference in my photography! They're on a stand and adjustable both in height and angle. Now I had the background, the right camera and proper lighting! My pictures were definitely looking much better.

There was still a constant battle with shadows. I used the drop light as a spotlight but it didn't always give me the consistent light I wanted. Then I discovered the Lumiere portable photography studio. Actually, that discovery was fairly easy since my hubby had placed it under the Christmas tree! The photo box is excellent for pictures of the dressed beds that I sell and that alone thrilled me. But the lights were exactly what I needed to use for baby spots to take the shadows out of my pictures. I was doing some serious happy dancing when I saw the pictures taken after I pulled it all together! I'm still doing a lot of experimenting with lighting and the settings on my camera. I have a lot more to learn but it feels really good to have a grasp on the basics.

Obviously, I'm a complete novice when it comes to photography but I realize that in order to display my work properly and professionally, I need to have at least a small skill set with a camera. So I'm continuing to practice and learn. As with any skill, practice is the key. I play around with the camera, experimenting with the lights and trying new things.

Today, I was playing around with backlighting. In my experiments I've discovered some beautiful effects by focusing light in one area of the picture while using shadows for contrast. I'm sure there's a name for that but I have no idea what it would be.........I just called it "I have some free time today so I'm going to play with the lights and see what happens when I back or side light a subject". LOL

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