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The Dark Room -- Photo Editing and Picture Taking. Advice, tutorials, questions on all things photoshop, photo editing, and taking pictures of beads or glass.

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  #1  
Old 2011-03-15, 11:48pm
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AmorphousDesigns AmorphousDesigns is offline
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Default Fun with a Nikon D-50

First off, let me start by declaring that I'm a newbie both to lampworking and photography. But I wanted to share my journey so far in trying to improve my photography, many thanks to the excellent advice I've read here on LE.

I've taken a gazillion pictures using my point and shoot camera. I've spent countless hours editing photos using Shutterfly, Picasa and GIMP (all free photo editing software downloaded from the Internet). I've built my own photo box twice (really 3 times as I'm on iteration 2 of the current one). And I still was NOT HAPPY with the strange colors and glare off my pretty little fire babies (beads).


This is my current photo box, it's kind of hard to see with the blinding amount of light in there. I literally wear shades when working in it, otherwise I get snow blind, LOL. The box is made of foam core board from Staples, masking tape and 4 cheap clamp-on lights from Home Depot with "daylight" fluorescent bulbs.


Tonight I made a command decision that I would learn to use the white balance on my Nikon D-50, because I could and would master it's insanely complicated menu's, DAMMIT no camera's gonna get the best of me!!

ROUND 1:
This is the D-50 using a normal set up in the photo box with auto set White Balance. Note the slightly greenish cast to the background (Kosher salt crystals).

Nikon D-50 Auto White Balance in photo box

I like the GIMP software, but it's a GINORMOUS application and really slows my computer down so the the only feature I've really used so far is Levels. Levels allows you to use an eyedropper to find a spot in the photo that's supposed to be white, the software then auto-corrects the color based on that selection (you can do this for black too, but these photos had no good matte black). The photo below is the same as above after Gimp level set.

Nikon D-50 Auto White Balance in photo box with Gimp Levels set

ROUND 2:
The last one above wasn't too bad, but I thought it could still be better using the D50 preset White Balance. After all that's the whole objective of tonight's little exercise. This is after messing about with the camera for about 10 minutes trying to get it to set the white balance by putting a piece of white interfacing (fabric stuff, but kind of stiff and with a nice matte finish, shiny would be bad in this situation I think).
Note that the salt looks better, the greenish cast seen in the first photo is gone now.

Nikon D-50 Preset White Balance in photo box

same as above after using Gimp to set the Levels

Nikon D-50 Preset White Balance in photo box with Gimp Levels set

definitely better (probably a little too bright, but that's a lesson for another day)

FINAL ROUND:
and for tonight's final exam; I used a card with a white side (coffee filter for the matte finish) and a black side (fabric scrap) so I could use the Gimp Levels to set both light and dark. You can just see the edge of the card in the top of the photo, for actual posting purposes I would crop this out.

Nikon D-50 Preset White Balance in photo tent with Gimp Levels set for both white and black

And that concludes my photo experimentation for tonight. Next time I want to see what can be done to reduce the light glare with some better diffusion, which will cut the overall light to the subject and may necessitate yet more exploration of the D-50 to figure out the best ISO, aperture, exposure adjustment and/or shutter speed. Who knew that making glass beads would also require a major investment in upping the photo skills?

Any and all suggestions for improvement are very WELCOME, thank you for your patience in making it all the way to the bottom of this very long post.
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  #2  
Old 2011-03-16, 6:29am
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Great post, very interesting, thank you!
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Old 2011-03-16, 12:37pm
SteveWright SteveWright is offline
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Lizzie,

Did you do the white balance with the beads in place? If so, try it without them.

The meter within the camera is trying to bring everything to a middle gray. If you were taking a photo of a checker board, with a good blend of light and dark, it would work perfectly. Since your photo is more light than dark, your photos are coming out too dark.

Experiment with changing your EV settings to come up with a good exposure. Start with -1/3 EV and go in 1/3 EV increments until you get to -2 Ev. Once you have this number, you can easily duplicate a proper exposure using the same light setup and background.

The only variable after that is the lightness or darkness of your subject. If you camera has an Autobracket feature, set it to take 3 photo at a time. You can adjust the amount of bracket, start with +/- 1 F-Stop. You might be able to fine tune it to +/- 2/3s F- Stop.

Steve
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Old 2011-03-16, 5:58pm
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Thanks for the advice, that makes sense. I will try the exposure adjustment next.
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Old 2011-03-16, 8:58pm
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I printed out a gray scale background off Moth's website and yes indeed it was much easier to get to the right level balance.
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Old 2011-03-17, 8:46am
SteveWright SteveWright is offline
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Lizzie,

That worked, and you nailed the concept. You are on your way.

In your first post you mentioned the glare off of your beads. With the light reflections in the right spots, it gives dimensions to your beads and is not at all distracting.

I do like the rock salt background. Explore the manual and learn how to adjust the Exposure Value (EV). It is a useful feature.

The AEB feature will help nail the exposure too. You have to love digital photography. Without it, all of this experimenting would have been impractical.

Go get 'em.

Steve
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Old 2011-03-17, 8:16pm
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IMO, you're on the right track and there's no question one can learn much faster with instant digital feedback. I think back to my film days and shudder! Actually, black and white with film is great, but color and digital were made for each other.

GIMP can do a huge amount, but the user interface is so terrible I gave up on it. For free, Irfanview is a nice program with a better interface. I use Paint Shop Pro for everything and it can do about 95% of what the high priced spread can do. Usually $50 on sale. (Sorry if you're on a Mac- I'm not familiar with processing programs for those.)

Post processing is a necessity, so I'll often keep the initial exposure a bit low, and the contrast a bit flat. That insures that RG&B are all within the linear range and no surprises will occur in later processing. If you even slightly overexpose R, G or B, your ability to post process will be limited before you get color casts in highlights. One can use the RAW format if their camera has it, but properly made jpegs are usually quite adequate for web and other needs.

If your camera has a histogram feature, use it! Interpreting a histogram may not be obvious at first, but it's your best exposure indicator. Give enough exposure, but not so much that anything is running off the right hand edge.

I always do a custom white balance, and have settled on 5500K CFLs as having the best color. Brands and performance change, so YMMV, but I won't buy any CFL that doesn't have the color temperature printed on the bulb base. It doesn't tell everything, but its a good start.

Best,
Conrad
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Old 2011-03-17, 10:01pm
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Thanks for the great advice Steve and Conrad! I will try the histogram and EV on the camera next. Now I just need some time to make more beads to photograph, cuz' I sure am tired of looking at these three, LOL.
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