Taking pen photography to the next level

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Amihai

Member
Joined
Oct 8, 2021
Messages
21
Location
Israel
Hello,
I own a simple setup with a small light tent, two tripod lights and a tripod for my smartphone. Bought all of those for like 60$ on Amazon.

The pictures I produce with this setup are fine, I guess. And fortunately for me, sales have been going great the last two weeks (sold 7 pens!)

However, there are several problems:
First of all, the light mirrors back (I hope that's the correct term in English?) from the pen, creating unpleasant bright strips on the pen.

Secondly, the background isn't completely white, but sort of light grey. The pictures don't come out very consistent from this perspective.

As I'm getting more serious in this craft, I want to upgrade this setup soon. Where should I start? How to choose a camera, what other equipment to look for?.. I'm willing to spend some money, but not something too crazy please. Thanks!
 

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Ironwood

Member
Joined
May 31, 2010
Messages
1,192
Location
Mackay. Australia
At the top of your screen, click on recourses, then click on library, there is a section on techniques.
In there there are a number of articles by Eric Rasmussen, forum name “Sylvanite “ . Pretty much everything you need to know is in those articles, including how to choose a affordable camera.
 

Ironwood

Member
Joined
May 31, 2010
Messages
1,192
Location
Mackay. Australia
I just had a quick look at the article called “tabletop photography “ , there are some helpful sections in there for you to read also. In Silver Photography, there is a section on reducing reflections and glare.

I just had a look at the photo of your setup, you need to diffuse the light, otherwise you will get the light reflecting back into the camera. I use sheets of white A4 paper between the lights and the pen. Sylvanite’s articles will explain this better.
 

magpens

Member
Joined
Feb 2, 2011
Messages
15,284
Location
Coquitlam, BC, Canada
@Amihai

I too feel concern about my photographs; Brad's suggestion to search the IAP Resources for tips makes a good start towards improvement.

One thing you say:
"First of all, the light .. reflects .. back from the pen, creating unpleasant bright strips on the pen."

I don't think you should let that be a first concern because it is in the nature of the Physics of light to reflect from ALL surfaces.
Wherever there is a change in materials (eg. from air to the solid pen material ) such reflections will occur.
You will learn techniques to minimize these effects in your photos but it's impossible to eliminate them.

Another thing you say:
"Secondly, the background isn't completely white, but sort of light grey."

This is another toughie to cope with. . It's best for beginners to just "live with" this phenomenon. . Even "advanced" users struggle with it.

As for a camera . . . I'd suggest that you do lots of experimental photography with your present "smartphone camera".
Such cameras are actually incredibly good for the "amateur" photography that we do . . . learn to optimize your photos as best you can.

There is no substitute for doing lots and lots of experiments with your existing setup . . keep notes and try everything you can think of.

You can spend several hundred dollars ( or thousands ) on a single lens reflex camera, plus lenses for it, and still have the same problems you are currently experiencing. . I know this because I have done just that. . There is no cheap and easy "fix".

Look for IAP members' photos that you really admire and "get friendly" with a couple of those members; ask them private questions.
Keep doing that until you make some progress with the equipment and setup that you already have.

The photos you have taken and shown here are actually not bad at all. . A new camera is not a "magic bullet" to better pictures.

My advice is to work at improving them BEFORE you spend on another camera and more equipment.

What you are wanting to do is not an easy thing to accomplish.
There is no alternative to doing lots of experimentation with the equipment that you already have.
You cannot avoid doing that no matter how much money you spend on cameras, lenses, and other equipment.
 

hokie

Member
Joined
May 29, 2017
Messages
197
Location
DC Area
First of all, the light mirrors back (I hope that's the correct term in English?) from the pen, creating unpleasant bright strips on the pen.
That's most likely from the direct light shining straight onto the pen. Try to use diffused light from the top and sides (which would mean you'd need to change your photo box to have translucent sides). I like to use pop-up photo boxes for my small item photography like this (please ignore the clutter):
1634312222513.png

Also note the flash for my camera is pointed straight at the ceiling. Helps soften the harsh light and spreads the focus to avoid blown out white spots on the objects. I end up with pretty well exposed and evenly lit subjects:
1634312489866.png

You don't *need* a flash to do this, but you do need to shine your lights through diffusing material or bounce them off a white surface and onto the subject.

As for your gray background issue. You might just need to increase the exposure on your camera or in editing software. My favorite way to get a bright white background is to shine a light directly onto the background from above, behind the subject. That would require a box with no top or with a translucent top.

Good luck!
 

medsakord

Member
Joined
Nov 24, 2021
Messages
1
Location
UK
Well, you have pretty good photos for a beginner. And I don't think it's worth spending money on expensive equipment. As you were advised earlier, you should learn how to work with what is available with maximum efficiency. Try to play with the settings of the smartphone camera and with the light. In fact, you can take beautiful photos on your smartphone. I recently made an interesting photo shoot for my sister only on the camera of my iPhone and using location scout to choose an interesting place for a photo. This turned out to be enough to get interesting and high-quality pictures.
 
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