Author Topic: Lighting Opinions Wanted  (Read 4141 times)

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wcfn100

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Lighting Opinions Wanted
« on: May 12, 2008, 06:40:35 PM »
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As I posted in Weekend Update, I've been trying to find a cheap and easy setup for lighting article photographs.

I went to the hardware store and picked up a couple of 8 1/2" reflectors and 6500K 100w bulbs to go with them.  I already had a 12" reflector at home with a 5500k 75w bulb at home.  While I was at the store, I passed by the paint section and saw that they had 18"x18" square samples.  They were a little pricey but the finish on them was great and the colors were very nice so I picked up a light blue.

So my question is, would you think that the following shots would be good enough to accompany a modeling article in a magazine?  They seem fine to me, but you know how it goes when you're looking at your own stuff.  I know the lighting is a bit washed out on the first one which was not intentional but it does show more detail.  The second one I had to move the shell further back but I didn't adjust the lights which made it darker with heavier shadows.  Both of these shots are only cropped without any other adjustments beside what I set on the camera.





(does dust count as weathering? ;D)

Jason

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Re: Lighting Opinions Wanted
« Reply #1 on: May 12, 2008, 07:38:26 PM »
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nice! what happened to that poor F-unit?

3rdrail

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Re: Lighting Opinions Wanted
« Reply #2 on: May 12, 2008, 07:46:44 PM »
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The second shot looks better, due to the more pronounced shadows. This highlights details better.

Did the C&NW paint handbrake wheels a contrasting color??  ;D ;D ;D

wcfn100

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Re: Lighting Opinions Wanted
« Reply #3 on: May 12, 2008, 08:11:37 PM »
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What happened to that poor F-unit?

The F Unit is/will be RI #49 which lost it's top headlight.  I haven't figured out how to do the top cooling system.

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Did the C&NW paint handbrake wheels a contrasting color??

It's always interesting braking out the stuff you did 10+ years ago and have just accepted for what it is.  I've had it out for a couple weeks now and never noticed it, not even in the photo. It's on the list for lowering, a 905 coupler, replacing the trucks with just a grimy black paint (I was experimanting with oils at the time) and a good dusting.  I'll make sure to replace the brake wheel too, thanks for pointing that out.


Jason

Chris333

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Re: Lighting Opinions Wanted
« Reply #4 on: May 12, 2008, 09:49:57 PM »
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I have a question.

Is it better to have more light and a shorter shutter speed or is it better to keep the shutter open as long as possible to "soak" in the details better?

I try to take most of my pic's with the shutter set for 15sec. Sometimes I will hold up a sheet of paper to diffuse direct light. Or I might shine a small light into nooks-n-crannies.

Also I always keep the camera on Auto White Balance, when I try to set the WB by evaluating I end up with goofy looking colors.

I'm no photo pro, but would like to get better.

wcfn100

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Re: Lighting Opinions Wanted
« Reply #5 on: May 12, 2008, 10:07:59 PM »
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I have sort of defaulted to setting my Nikon on Apature mode where I can set the smallest F-Stop to get the most DOF I can.  I just let the camera take care of the shutter speed and I compensate with the exposure, usually a +0.3 or +0.7.  The shots If been taking today seem to have a shutter speed of about .5-1 sec.  Maybe I can find it in the EXIF data.

I was using paper towels for diffusers which actually work really well.  I am now trying a couple of isopropyl bottles to see how they work.




Jason

DKS

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Re: Lighting Opinions Wanted
« Reply #6 on: May 12, 2008, 11:32:15 PM »
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I have a question.

Is it better to have more light and a shorter shutter speed or is it better to keep the shutter open as long as possible to "soak" in the details better?

I try to take most of my pic's with the shutter set for 15sec. Sometimes I will hold up a sheet of paper to diffuse direct light. Or I might shine a small light into nooks-n-crannies.

Also I always keep the camera on Auto White Balance, when I try to set the WB by evaluating I end up with goofy looking colors.

I'm no photo pro, but would like to get better.

Chris, short of melting models, the more light you have, the better depth of field you can achieve. If you can set the f-stop manually on your camera, then stop it down as far as it will go and let the shutter stay open as long as need be. The camera should come up with a fairly decent exposure on its own most of the time, and if it's off a little, it's usually a little easier to photoshop it later than to manually bracket the exposure to hit the right one (assuming you don't have a light meter). For deeper shots, such as on a layout, you'll need to pump progressively more light into the background to balance the illumination across the scene. Auto white balance is generally OK, usually way better than any "canned" setting it may have (daylight, fluorescent, etc.), because most of the time the sources are mixed and not an ideal temperature that matches the camera's selections. Even if the auto balance is off a little, it can usually be photoshopped. Some cameras let you calibrate it manually with something like a sheet of white paper; I've never found it necessary to go to the trouble.
« Last Edit: May 12, 2008, 11:33:46 PM by David K. Smith »
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Chris333

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Re: Lighting Opinions Wanted
« Reply #7 on: May 13, 2008, 04:17:04 AM »
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Hmmm White paper you say, I think that may be why I get strange colors when I try to set it. I was just pointing the camera at what I was photographing thinking it would read the light there and set itself. I will have to try the white paper thing. Or a novel idea...  read the manual.  :-X


As for Jason, have you tried a "daylight" bulb for lighting?

wcfn100

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Re: Lighting Opinions Wanted
« Reply #8 on: May 13, 2008, 04:38:52 AM »
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As for Jason, have you tried a "daylight" bulb for lighting?

Maybe not what you're talking about, but the bulbs I'm using are 6500k which is as high as I've seen in a florencent screw in type.  They are also the reason I preset the white balance on my camera.  I can't switch over to fluorescent" because they are too white but they aren't quite "daylight" I think because I'm using only 260 watts.  After I did the white balance, I was also definitely able to get truer colors without any adjustment on the computer.

Jason

Sokramiketes

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Re: Lighting Opinions Wanted
« Reply #9 on: May 13, 2008, 10:09:19 AM »
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Jason-

Couple steps involved.  You're on the right track with the lighting.  Don't step down the F-stop any lower than you need to for the shot.  While you'll increase depth of field, you'll lose detail and sharpness.  So, stepping all the way down for shooting scenes is fine, but for rolling stock F9-F12 is usually sufficient.  If you want to keep the sharpness for longer models like passenger cars in 3/4 view, then the best way is to still keep the Fstop around 9, but to use Helicon Focus to stich together several shots.

After that, post processing is your friend.  On the free side, I start with Google's Picasa package, as it is the best for adjusting fill light, highlights, and shadows, without throwing the whole exposure out of balance.  If I'm going for a pure white background, which you'll never get straight from the camera, then I move the image over to Gimp (also free) and wash out the background there. 

For the longest time I was frustrated because I couldn't get pure white backgrounds no matter how much I played with the camera settings.  Turns out it's all "dark room magic". ;-)  For colored backgrounds like your Blue, you can probably just skip this step.  Should be fine for magazine publication.


NWX Renton Rebuild, MTL sides with IM roof and ends.
Mike

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DKS

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Re: Lighting Opinions Wanted
« Reply #10 on: May 13, 2008, 01:38:13 PM »
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Here's a couple of shots I knocked off for a bunch of ebay auctions for Z scale rolling stock. Lighting is 2X 23W 5000K coil fluorescent lamps in standard cheapo 8-inch reflectors; key light is ~10 in. away to right, fill is ~16 in away to left. No background light, so that the white falls off to a nice neutral grey. Background is a 2 x 3 foot sheet of aluminum painted with gloss white paint. 50 mm, f/36, ~.5 sec. avg. exposure. The only significant digital darkroom work done was slight cropping and removing a few specks of dust.





Since I was shooting 50+ images for auctions, I wasn't being too fussy; if the images were for "keeps," I'd have worked on the lighting more, maybe placed a couple of kicker reflectors to pick up the trucks, or pull them up in photoshop. Getting the details to "pop," like the rivets and surface textures, is a matter of setting the lighting angle for best effect.

I find colored backgrounds can create problems not only with white balance but also "discoloring" the model itself. I used to go for a light tan; now I stick with plain white. I like how it fades when the light falls off. I can also throw some light on the area behind the model and burn it out to pure white if I want, or even hit it with a color-filtered light to give it some coloration effect without messing up the model itself.
« Last Edit: May 13, 2008, 01:58:45 PM by David K. Smith »
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wcfn100

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Re: Lighting Opinions Wanted
« Reply #11 on: May 13, 2008, 02:23:05 PM »
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Thanks for the input guys.  I think I will be able to work with what I got for lighting just a single model and construction pictures.  I need to remember that a published picture as part of an article will only be 1/4" the size I'm seeing on my screen here so maybe I don't need to be so criticle.

Mike, I played with the f-stop setting using the same lighting and I was losing focus on rear portions of a 40' boxcar slightly turned even at f18. I'll have to see how that compares to the detail I was getting at f32.  Here's the shot.



But once again, that probably won't show up on even a 1/4 page picture I don't think.

I'm not opposed to post processing since I went to school for Photoshop. I'm just trying to get the most out my camera and setup before hand.  So far I really like the bottle diffusers. They really help with the harsh shadows.

Now I have to remember how to write....

Thanks again.

Jason

Sokramiketes

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Re: Lighting Opinions Wanted
« Reply #12 on: May 13, 2008, 03:27:54 PM »
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Mike, I played with the f-stop setting using the same lighting and I was losing focus on rear portions of a 40' boxcar slightly turned even at f18. I'll have to see how that compares to the detail I was getting at f32.  Here's the shot.

Jason

Auto focus?  If auto focus is catching the very front corner of the car, then that might limit your depth of field unnecessarily.  If you can focus it yourself, try focusing 1/3rd of the way into the boxcar and see if that helps the farthest corner without blurring the near corner.
Mike

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wcfn100

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Re: Lighting Opinions Wanted
« Reply #13 on: May 13, 2008, 03:42:42 PM »
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No, it's a manual focus. :P

I could certainly compensate and focus more toward the middle.  But, of course, there's no free lunch.  I will need to compare the focus vs. detail like you had posted before.  I was just pointing out that I am getting some loss stepping up (down?) the f-stop.

I'm sure there are also some limitations to the stock lens I have.  I wanted to rent a Nikon 105mm AF-S micro lens this week, but someone beat me to it so now I'll probably have to wait until next month.  Maybe I'll try the 60mm micro as well since it's so much cheaper. I don't really need to get 1:1 but I would like to get closer than what I can now.



Jason


Chris333

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Re: Lighting Opinions Wanted
« Reply #14 on: May 13, 2008, 04:05:31 PM »
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Messing around:

F8 1-2sec light 1' away.
Color of the deck look OK to me and I can see the background (tan construction paper),  but the car itself seems like a big block of black with no detail.

F8  3-4sec light 1' away.
Deck still OK, more body detail, background starting to wash out.

F8 15sec just room lights.
Color all off. I can see the detail, but the car seems gray instead of black. Background is crazy.