Thursday, April 08, 2010

Crafty Thursday: Spectrum

One of the most challenging things about my doll-making business is taking accurate photos. Photos have improved since I invested in a photo light tent last autumn (the two homemade version I tried didn't work). Still, there are some felt shades that simply don't show up accurately and require Photoshop skills I do not have. When I presented to the NaturalKids Team my challenge regarding a recent doll I made, Daria of LaLa! Shoes revealed that she had extensive Photoshop skills and offered to help. She said that the human eye can register more color shades than a camera, and that it's even harder to reproduce those colors in prints. Daria is working on a tutorial for me so that I can learn to do the work myself, but in the meantime, she changed my lavender doll from this:

The doll is dressed in a pleasing shade of mauve; however the felt itself is not actually this color.

To this:

This orchid color is the true shade of the felt.

It is an odd construct that one has to edit a photo to make it an honest representation. Photography is both art and science.


Charlotte said...

Goodness! That is quite a change...and it's rather nice that the doll's face is no longer greenish!

tanita davis said...

WOW. Wow, wow, wow.

I watch D. manipulate photographs taken in something called Raw -- and adjust the colors to match up to true white -- and it's always astounding how the color corrects. We don't use PhotoShop at all, but just that color balancing thing from the camera.... Sorry that I can't actually explain it; he'll have to tell you if it's something that might work for you.

gaudblogvrudaii said...

Oh, yes - "raw" is a photo format (like jpg., tiff., psd., ...) - if you have a good camera and the program you can do the most difficult changes in that (mostly used in "high" photography - because it doesn't "ruin" the digital photo data as photoshop sometimes does raw format contains more photo data - very important if you scale a photo to a big poster format), and if the photo (colours, shades, contrasts) doesn't still look good enough you switch to Photoshop for further and most accurate corrections.
I didn't mention this at all because I'm not an expert in raw corrections (spoiled by my prepress colleagues who did this for me, I barely used it), and for what we need PS is good enough.
It will be interesting to combine both in a tutorial.


Saints and Spinners said...

Charlotte: Greenish! Heavens, now I wonder how the rest of my dolls look on different monitors. ;) I wish I had a professional photographer on my staff, but then, I'd have to charge more per doll, and that makes no sense.

Tanita: Ah yes, I've tried the color balancing too, though my camera is nowhere near the calibre of D.'s. It is fascinating what can be done if one knows how to do it.

Daria: I look forward to this tutorial. You've got the challenge of explaining something so that a newbie can understand it.

gaudblogvrudaii said...

Oui! I can't do it without you :)
Looking forward to our tutorials!

adrienne said...

Photography is one of those things that eludes me. I don't have a terribly good eye is part of it. I can see the difference when you put two photos next to each other like that, but it's hard for me to look at a photo and imagine how I might improve it.

Jules at 7-Imp said...

And what a gorgeous mauve it is....

David T. Macknet said...

See, the thing is that you're shooting with a camera very much like Tanita's camera, but we end up with good pictures from that, too, because we use the Canon Digital Photo Professional software on those, as well. My usual correction is to 1) tweak the contrast until it becomes clearer (powershots tend to make things a bit ... well, hazy), and then 2) tweak the brightness until it looks as I'd like, and finally 3) saturate the photo until it looks as I'd expected.

You're already shooting with a manual colorspace, so you don't need white adjustment. The only other thing I'd say is that you're shooting ISO 400, which, if you have a light box, shouldn't be the case: you should be shooting ISO 80 or 100, to get the most out of your shot.

As to Photoshop: I don't use it, ever, and uninstalled it long ago. It's way too complicated compared to Canon's software, and wouldn't give me anything more than I can get out of Canon's software, in particular because I'm looking for things to look real, not doctored up.

Truly: Canon's software would be about a 20-second adjustment & then you could copy that recipe to all of the remaining pictures & bob's your uncle (you unfortunate soul).

Saints and Spinners said...

David: Thank you! I was hoping you'd come in on this discussion. I'd been experimenting with the ISOs, and found that I got better colors with 80 or 100, but then discovered that the embroidery details were showing up fuzzy. Getting good color, light, detail, etc. feels like the "putting the octopus to bed" scenario.

By the way, ever since you told me about taking photos of subjects where they're looking up at the camera in order to produce the best jawline, I have been more satisfied with the few photos taken of me. I like having a good side, as it were.

David T. Macknet said...

Hmm. That makes me wonder whether you're mounted on a tripod when shooting these shots. The blur could be caused by camera shake (if not on a tripod) or from a very wide aperture. If that's the case, it'll be a matter of tinkering with things until you can get it to shoot with a narrow aperture, so that it gives you more depth-of-field in your pictures. Are you, by chance, shooting in "macro" mode?

So much automation in the cameras leads to difficulty in achieving what you're after. It's a paradox, really, that the "high end" cameras give you more options, because it'd be just as easy to learn how to get good shots using old-school techniques as it is to paw through the stupid manual, trying to figure out how to set the aperture to f11 (for example).

I grew so frustrated w/ Tanita's camera that I hacked the software (Canon Hack Development Kit) in order to get it to behave like a camera instead of second-guessing me all the time. Annoying things, telling you what you should be doing, grumble grumble....

Glad you're happier with your face shots!

Tell me what camera settings you're using & I'll see if I can find the manual online somewhere & figure out what you should be using.

Saints and Spinners said...

David: To answer your questions, I am using a tripod and macro mode, and set the timer to 2 seconds so that I'm not touching the camera when it takes the photos. I wish that I could just hand the camera over to you to take a look-- however, I do have a clear manual, so I can look things up again when I get home. I wonder if I can make the aperture narrower. The camera that you used to take the video of Tanita and me several years ago in the airport is not the one I have now. The camera I have now is technically not as sophisticated as the one I passed along to my mom, but it is easier and more intuitive to use.

To sum up, here are the camera settings I've used:

Tungsten setting to get rid of the yellow tints, though recently finding out how to set the white balance has helped with that.

200-400 ISO.

Macro setting almost all the time.

Light metering goes up to +1 depending upon the background.

Two second timer.

No flash (of course).

Lighting is a bit sketchy-- I don't remember how bright the lamps I'm using are, but there are two white light lamps clamp-mounted on either side of the table and a natural light lightbulb in the lamp hanging above the table. I know one is not supposed to mix the lights, but it does seem that natural lights don't make much of a difference in the light tent.

Thank you so much.

David T. Macknet said...

OK, it's the macro mode which is giving you the wide aperture: macro is for taking pictures with a very narrow depth-of-field, and for blurring out the background.

If you were to shoot ISO 80, just a regular shot, you'd probably turn out just fine, as far as the sharpness of the picture goes.

If you've already set the white balance, then you're nearly all the way there. The only other thing I'd say is to set your pictures to be a bit higher in contrast & a bit more saturated with color.

As to putting it on a 2-second timer, if your camera's like Tanita's, then it has image stabilization built in, so there should be no problem with just taking the picture, particularly if you've got the picture in a light-box.

Playing by the book said...

I've just left a comment on someone else's blog about comments can add so much to a blog post so it's funny to see it in action here! I love your before and after photos, and I love the comments here - all so informative.

Saints and Spinners said...

Playing by the book: I do love it when the comments are an integral part of the post as a whole. I haven't yet had a chance to test David's recommendations, but I will provide an update when I do so.

Saints and Spinners said...

David: I shot some quick photos today of the Red Prince:

I still have a ways to go, but I did take your advice-- actually, I'll take the ISO down to 80 next time, as I did it at 100 for these shots.

David T. Macknet said...

So - a tad bit overexposed on those, from what I can tell, and not as crisp as you'd like them.

You might want to change your metering mode to spot metering or center-weighted average metering, and not worry that the background isn't quite as white as you think it ought to be.

Other than that, tweaking the contrast is something that I do as a default setting in my camera, but is something that I have to do post-processing w/ T's camera.

Looking better, though!