How to successfully photograph small objects

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How to successfully photograph small objects

Post by Nic on May 18th 2010, 12:13 pm

A lot of beginners have difficulty getting their cameras to do what they want when it comes to photographing smaller, 'difficult' objects. Hopefully these hints will help you produce clearer photographs for your posts.


Focus
A common misconception is that to photograph a smaller item you have to move the camera close to it. In most instances, with your camera in default mode, this will simply result in a blurred useless image because your camera will attempt to focus on distant objects.

For a sharper image you need to move your camera away from the subject - anywhere between 30-90cm / 1-3ft should be fine.

Next you need to turn on the macro option (it is represented by a flower icon on all digital compact cameras - see image below), as this will tell your camera to focus on nearer objects. Macro is also essential for photographing signatures and markings.

Finally, if the object is quite small, you should use your camera's zoom option. Ideally you shouldn't zoom in more than 50% as this will also result in blurring in macro mode.


Lighting
The first thing is to turn off the camera's in-built flash. Using it will result in a washed-out photograph with colours that are not true to life, especially on reflective/refractive surfaces like glass.

Where possible, try to shoot in natural daylight - this will provide an even and colour-balanced light. If this is not an option, then artificial light from a brightly-lit room should suffice, although this may produce a yellow hue if you're using older incandescent/tungsten bulbs. Too little light will produce a dark and blurred image.


Background
A clear white background is the best backdrop for your objects, as images with background clutter can make your images hard to decipher - especially with glass.

White backgrounds can easily be improvised with sheets of paper for very small objects, or even plain bedsheets for larger objects.
Clear glass, especially that with cut/engraved decoration, can sometimes show better against black backgrounds.


Long Term
If you intend on taking many photos, you might want to invest in a photo tent to achieve much easier and more consistant results. They can be bought inexpensively from eBay, or you can make you own:

DIY Photo Tent: http://digital-photography-school.com/how-to-make-a-inexpensive-light-tent

eBay: Search for 'light tent', 'photo tent', 'light cube' - they have come down in price a LOT in recent years, and can be bought with change left from £10.

For indoor use, you may have to experiment with lighting, although the easiest option is to take advantage of bright dry days, set your photo tent on the lawn and let the sun do all the hard work. As long as you face the tent so that the sun is behind it, reflections should not be too much of a problem - although there's no guarantee that neighbourhood cats won't try and get in on the action...


In Summary:

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