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A Little How To Photo Help


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While I see many of you take fantastic photos of your marbles, I have been asked for a couple tips by a few. I have written an article for a couple other places and thought I might share it here and hopefully help answer some questions. Remember there is really no one right way to do things and if you have found what works for you, keep at it. Also something not mentioned in my article....Photoscape is free and quite easy to use to crop and replace backgrounds if you so desire.

Please, I am no writer...so cut me a little slack. =}

When I first started shooting marbles I knew it would be mostly a lighting and color issue. This turned out to be more true than I realized. If I finally got enough light there was either a color change due to the lights or I would burn out the lighter colors.

What I did on the cheap....I hit the hardware store and went to the lighting section and started trying bulbs two at a time. These are color corrected for natural light. Run about 6$ each. I tried a couple different brands before I found one that worked well. They work differently color wise between brands. I don't remember the brand I used but different ones will likely work better for different cameras.

Now about the camera....truly, you will have an easier time using a small point & shoot. Mine was about 100$ and only about 12mp if that. The thing here is that a point&shoot use a much deeper Depth of field than a full size camera with a macro lens. So what does that mean? It means that with a full size camera and macro lens you will likely be shooting at an aperature of F16 and still the DOF area of sharpness will be only a 1/4 inch deep and F16 lets very little light into your camera compared to the average point & shoot when they use F64 or there about and make up for the light loss in the camera.

I am not saying you can't shoot with a full size camera, it is just a lot more work to get enough light and everything in focus. I place my marble on either a mid grey piece of cloth or a semi old black T shirt. This will help with getting to the correct color. I use two bulbs if shooting indoors and those bulbs are placed in cheap aluminum shields with a clamp on style holder. Cheap hardware lights but they reflect the light well. I get the lights placed within a foot of the marble on each side just in front of the marble, and adjust distance as needed. when trying the lights make sure you get the highest power you can. These natural light corrected don't use watts but they usually say equal to _watts. You want equal to 100w. Natural light is measured in Kelvins. Cameras are set with Kelvins...the hot or cold of the light. Normal daylight is somewhere in the 5000K range some cameras are set at 5000k and some a little higher for natural daylight. The lights I suggested looking at are also measured in Kelvins. Look for something in the 5000K to 5800K and depending on how the images look adjust accordingly if needed. 5000K is slightly warmer {more yellow} than 5800K which is cooler white/blue. Remember....if you chose to shoot with regular light bulbs, your colors will be off. Likely to the yellow side. Your camera settings for different light may help but you will continue to struggle. You will get better color using flash, however you will face other issues.

Use of a tripod can help greatly. If you have a point & shoot....you can still use one. In fact it will be cheaper for you than for us with heavy cameras. All you need is a small desk top tripod. If you are using a DSLR get yourself a remote shutter release to use with your tripod, as you may struggle with enough light. I find it takes to large of a bump in ISO to make it worth trying to shoot handheld with the large lenses and light conditions inside. I use my big 400mm inside at about 1/8 second w ISO 100 and it works nicely. With a remote and tripod of course. After the shot is taken and loaded on the computer it may or may not be perfect. If I have done all my minor adjustments and have got the best I could in camera and it is just a little off.....then I take it into my adjustment program. I now use Lightroom 4. In this or a program like it you can adjust things like contrast, sharpness or temperature, or even each individual color. I rarely need to do much if anything but if it does not look as it does in hand I try and get as close as I can.

Now lately.....because I am lazy and don't feel like using two cameras daily....I have been using my full size camera. The totally blacked out backgrounds in some of my images were with the point & Shoot then cut out the marble and placed them on a black background in a computer program. { I have since, resumed the use of black background in my newest images} No need to go this far for ID purposes.. The latest images were done on a used semi black T shirt set on the ground outside or on my table inside. I have not yet bought the Macro lens that I want and have been using my fullsize camera and a 400mm lens. This lens will not focus on anything closer than 5.5 feet away. It is my wildlife lens. I shoot the marbles standing 6ft away and then crop the little guy from the center of the image. I can do it this way because of great glass 400mm zoom and 24 mp. They are acceptable for now, until I am set up the way I want down the road.

So....cheap camera, two color correct lights in aluminum housings on medium gray to washed out black. Camera on auto color balance {also try daylight} setting with the color corrected lights. And play with the light distance until it works for you. It will be different for different marbles. Light.....dark....or a mix. If you find you are having trouble focusing.....either you need more light or if you have the adjustment on your camera, you may need to use spot focus. With Point & Shoots. you may have a macro setting and this will change your focusing ability. The marble. Some have seams. A straight or curved line where it appears the colors meet. I like to photograph each of those two seams {some have one, some have none} first. I shoot them in a vertical position. These seams are something we use to help with IDs. I then like to turn the marble so that I am shooting the side between the seams and then again to the opposite side. Some marbles are uninteresting on the sides between the seams. Many times the top or bottom of the marble may be preferable. Top and bottom being at the end where the seam points. To show all four angles in one image I find Photoscape very easy and free online. It does a fast and simple collage after I have cropped the marble. I try and leave a little room for the marble in the crop. If you crop to tight onto edges of the marble it is actually more difficult to view..

This is also a great way to keep a good record of marbles that you have had ID'd being you can name the collage and always return to see what characteristics it had on four separate sides all at once, when trying to ID others you may have.

I have tried to keep this easy to follow for everyone. You could get deeper into the subject for sure. My hope was only to get you started. If you have questions or would like to get a little deeper into options......my email is [email protected] I also have a website for my photography other than marbles should you like to browse what I do. PHeupel-Photography

Good luck and more importantly...have fun!

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As always, the site is a 'must-see' with spectacular work. ( :

Glad you mentioned the camera (sensor) size vs. depth-of-field relationship.

Don't think many people are aware of that, and those that are still underestimate it.

Using a smaller camera will not only be easier, but in many cases will result in a better photo.

Depth of field (which in this case just means getting the entire marble in focus) is a real

bee(marble name!)otch when you start getting into really 'close-up' situations.

In my oh so humble opinion, the absolute best thing that most people shooting close-ups

of marbles or anything else can do is to 'back up a little!' This applies both to telephones

and five thousand dollar cameras. You'll have to crop the photo a little more, but it'll look

a lot better than an uncropped photo with parts or all of the marble blurry. (And backing

up and cropping is essentially using a 'smaller' camera.)

(When I got my macro lens, I also spent a lot of money on the factory extension tube so I'd

be able to get 'even closer'. Getting even closer to a marble means that you can take a

picture which will be one big blur, but there'll be a 1/64 inch round spot that's really sharp!

So I've never used it, and pretty much feel like an idiot.) :confused-smileys-327:

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First....thanks for that, Bob. Second....You got it, these seemingly small things can make all the difference. Backing up and cropping a little more, spot on. The big macro will do nicely when you just want to show a pontil or the meeting of a seam, but you will struggle to get much more in focus. Besides, with a smaller macro lens and trying to shoot 1 to 1 you will likely be within six inches of the marble and getting in the way of light, possibly even causing shadows. Now you have half the marble in focus and a big shadow to contend with. Especially difficult if shooting outside with sunlight. =} Just back up and crop. This is where having a couple extra MP can help. The human eye can not detect the difference in detail past 6-8 MP (when viewed at standard size}, so if you are shooting a 10-12 MP camera....you can crop quite a bit before you are able to see any degradation.

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I'm wondering if you ever have a problem with some of the colors changing, sometimes rather drastically, when you transfer your photos from your camera to your computer. Sometimes my outdoor photos, usually flowers, do that. They look fine on the camera monitor, but not once they are on the computer. Then it takes alot of work to get the colors right.

Do you use a custom color profile on your computer, so the photos print out exactly the way they look on your monitor? Do you know of a good place online to learn how to do that?

How do you control white balance when shooting nature pictures outdoors, other than the generalized cloudy, sunny, flash, etc., settings?

What camera do you use for your bird pictures?

Great photos, BTW!

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Mibs, outdoors I shoot mostly Auto WB. Reason is, between the camera quality today and the ease of working it on the computer makes it a non issue except in extreme conditions and even then you will likely get closer on the computer. Each camera will read the same sittuation slightly different. With your colors changing once on the computer could be a few different issues, between your screen not being calibrated and or the viewer you are using has certain presets that are changing it. Most photo programs do this, although they can usually be adjusted or reset to your preferences. If you really want great ability to adjust your images but have no need to spend several hundreds on a full photoshop wich you will use only 10% of....I recommend LR4 or now LR5 is out. That is Lightroom4-5. It is insanely powerful and allows an unbelievable degree of adjustment. Not to mention it is only about $100. You can try the online free stuff....Gimp is great but hard to learn and most everything just simply lacks the power. I tried to go that way for a couple years.....never again. If they raised the price of LR X3 I would still buy it.

As for flower colors, red tends to blow out easily and purple is near impossible to get perfect, just the way the camera see's. LR helps with that too.

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paul .. downloaded photoscape .. and i find this program much easier than photoexplosion on many points. still in the initial .. trial and error .. mode and trying to find the solid backgrounds. your site is exceptional ... thanks for the direction ... bill



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Hi, Bill, thank you. Glad you like the site. Those are some killer marbles ya got there!

Now, in photoscape....

hit editor

bottom left hit crop

pick your image

below crop...check the box round image

below that pick color

use space bar and mouse to control outline

hit the crop button to the right of crop freely

now...hit home button

where it says "no frame" hit the arrow

in the pop up I choose black line 8

then at the bottom hit margin

in this pop up choose color

I then check the box assign same margins

and then change the first # to 25

now save your image and you are set up to do the backgrounds. Most of that you will not have to change every time unless you wish too. =}

Hope that helps.

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