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Pen Photography Discuss the techniques and equipment for perfect pen pictures.


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Old 05-08-2018, 06:47 PM   #1 (permalink)
 
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Default Pen Photography Myths

I've seen a lot of good pen photography advice given on this forum. I have learned a lot from others, and passed along several tips myself. Unfortunately, I've also seen a lot of well-intentioned but misapplied, misunderstood, or mistaken advice as well. I'd like to take the opportunity to address some of that here.

Now, there is no single best method, nor best equipment for taking pen photos. I don't mean to imply that my approach is necessarily any better than many others. Many excellent pen photos have been posted on this site that were taken with different equipment using different techniques than I have previously described. There are, however, several asserions that keep cropping up, which I firmly believe will not necessarily yield a better pen picture.

Here is my initial list (I may add more) of Pen Photography Myths:
  1. You need a DSLR,
  2. You need a macro lens, or need to use a camera's "macro mode",
  3. You need to shoot in "raw mode",
  4. You need to use HDR,
  5. You need to use focus stacking,
  6. You need strobe lights, and
  7. You need to use polarizing filters, or cross-polarization.

Each of these techniques or pieces of equipment serves a legitimate purpose in photography somewhere, but none are necessary for taking a good picture to post in in the "Show Off Your Pens" forum. I've addressed some of the items above previously, but plan to go over the others (or return to them) in subsequent posts. I'm sure I'll ruffle the feathers of some who are dedicated to their own method, but hopefully I can help others understand that they can get good pen pictures without needing to buy expensive equipment or software.

Regards,
Eric
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Old 05-08-2018, 06:54 PM   #2 (permalink)
 
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#1 on that Earl, as long as you learn to work with the limitations of your equipment you can get good results from most cameras. Ive even got decent results from a quaker oats box pinhole camera. ��
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Old 05-08-2018, 08:46 PM   #3 (permalink)
 
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Another myth is... You have to take your own photos. :)
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Old 05-08-2018, 09:01 PM   #4 (permalink)
 
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Default Myth #1: You need a DSLR,

I've often repeated a remark my 8th grade photography instructor made: "what's behind the camera is more important that what's inside it". For a case in point, check out Photography Basics - Composition. Some of the photos shown were taken with a prosumer grade DSLR and lens. Others were taken with a $70 point-and-shoot camera. See if you can tell which pictures were taken with which camera. Take a look at Canon SX 160 on sale as well. My only pen pic that ever made the home page was taken with the point-and-shoot camera.

To be honest, I prefer using the DSLR (Digital Single-Lens Reflex), for two reasons:
  1. I'm more comfortable with it, simply because I use it more. The conventional wisdom is that a photographer will take the best photos with the camera he's most familiar with.
  2. The controls make it easier for me to get the result I want more quickly. The point-and-shoot camera takes a little more effort.
Both cameras, however are capable of taking good pictures.

In fact, the point-and-shoot camera does have some advantages. See
Canon SX 160 on sale for an example.

I hope that helps,
Eric
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Old 05-09-2018, 10:05 AM   #5 (permalink)
 
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I'm sure the big cameras obviously have some added quality but all of my pics have been done with my Motorola Nexus 6 phone camera. I sometimes will up the exposure of light a bit to show more details on dark blanks, other than that though I do nothing. I will say though I have two big lights I use to eliminate shadows as much as possible.
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Old 05-09-2018, 10:24 AM   #6 (permalink)
 
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Default Myth #2: You need a macro lens, or need to use a camera's "macro mode"

I'll address this myth in two parts:
  1. You need a macro lens, and
  2. You need to put the camera in "macro mode".
I've written about the first part before at "Do I Need a Macro Lens?". Also, check out Which photo is better?, where I posted two photographs of a pen, differing only in that one was taken with a prime (fixed focal length) macro lens, and one with a (non-macro) zoom lens. Neither image is significantly better than the other.

There are two basic arguments given for using a macro lens:
  1. A macro lens allows you to get closer to the pen, and
  2. Macro lenses are "sharper".
I have no difficulty filling the frame with a pen using a non-macro lens. A macro lens can be useful for extreme close-up photos, but for regular pen pictures, it has no advantage. Technically, a prime macro lens may have greater sharpness than a non-macro zoom lens, but the difference is very small. When a photo is resized to computer screen resolution, the difference between the lenses is not discernable.

Regarding taking photos in "macro mode", do you know what exactly "macro mode" does? The answer varies from camera to camera, but for the most part, "macro mode" is the same as "auto mode", except that the camera restricts the autofocus to nearby objects. That is, it won't autofocus to infinity anymore. That helps the camera acquire focus on close-up objects more quickly, and reduces "focus hunting".

When I'm shooting a pen in the studio, however, I don't really care how quickly the camera can focus. I do care about controlling the depth-of-field. Macro mode gives me something useless at the cost of something important (aperture control).

A macro lens represents an expense that doesn't help pen photography, but macro mode acutally hinders pen photography.

I hope that makes sense,
Eric
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Old 05-09-2018, 12:17 PM   #7 (permalink)
 
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Eric, I agree. I have a great Nikon, but use my iPhone 6s for all my pen photos. I use a small light box, mirror and gray gradient background. Just use whatever works for you!
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Old 05-09-2018, 03:17 PM   #8 (permalink)
 
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Eric... Thank you for reintroducing this subject again. There are many new members since it first was posted and it is valuable information for posting our pen pictures. When you first posted this awhile back I did search and found the Canon SX 160 camera. In the meantime I got an Apple Iphone and its my go to camera as it is readily available. I will get out the Canon camera and review your posts again. Thanks for sharing your knowledge and I look forward to post from more members. Darrell
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Old 05-10-2018, 07:51 AM   #9 (permalink)
 
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Default Myth #3: You need to shoot in "raw mode"

I've written about camera raw mode before at What is "RAW" mode? (if you want more detail), but in summary the major difference between a JPEG image and a camera raw image, is that raw image usually has greater color depth. For example, my current camera records over 16000 shades of red, green, and blue for each pixel in raw mode. In JPEG images, it saves only 256 shades of each. The raw image gives a much smoother tonal representation of the photo.

So why use JPEG? Well, if you're going to post a picture on the internet, you're going to have to convert the file to a standard format. JPEG is typically the best available choice for uploading photos to the IAP website. If you shoot in raw mode, you'll need to need to convert the image to JPEG format at some point.

So why shoot raw? If you are skilled at photo editing, you might be able to do a better job of manipulating your image in the full color depth and converting it to JPEG format afterwards. If not, then there is no advantage to camera raw mode.

Disclaimer: When using my DSLR, I shoot in raw mode most of the time - including when photographing pens. I do that because I've used Photoshop and Lightroom enough that I feel I can benefit from editing in 16-bit color depth. The point-and-shoot camera I used for comparison, however, does not have a camera raw mode. It only produces JPEG images. That didn't keep me from producing effective pen photographs.

I hope that helps,
Eric
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Old 05-10-2018, 09:47 AM   #10 (permalink)
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sylvanite View Post
I've seen a lot of good pen photography advice given on this forum. I have learned a lot from others, and passed along several tips myself. Unfortunately, I've also seen a lot of well-intentioned but misapplied, misunderstood, or mistaken advice as well. I'd like to take the opportunity to address some of that here.

Now, there is no single best method, nor best equipment for taking pen photos. I don't mean to imply that my approach is necessarily any better than many others. Many excellent pen photos have been posted on this site that were taken with different equipment using different techniques than I have previously described. There are, however, several asserions that keep cropping up, which I firmly believe will not necessarily yield a better pen picture.

Here is my initial list (I may add more) of Pen Photography Myths:
  1. You need a DSLR,
  2. You need a macro lens, or need to use a camera's "macro mode",
  3. You need to shoot in "raw mode",
  4. You need to use HDR,
  5. You need to use focus stacking,
  6. You need strobe lights, and
  7. You need to use polarizing filters, or cross-polarization.

Each of these techniques or pieces of equipment serves a legitimate purpose in photography somewhere, but none are necessary for taking a good picture to post in in the "Show Off Your Pens" forum. I've addressed some of the items above previously, but plan to go over the others (or return to them) in subsequent posts. I'm sure I'll ruffle the feathers of some who are dedicated to their own method, but hopefully I can help others understand that they can get good pen pictures without needing to buy expensive equipment or software.

Regards,
Eric
8. You need a light Box/Photo Booth

Les
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