All profit supporting special needs music education and Help Musicians

Photographing Saxes

altissimo

Well-Known Member
Messages
3,349
Locality
leicester
just thought it'd be a good idea to get a discussion going on the best ways to photograph saxes. Some of the members here seem to be very good at this and I wondered if we could share tips on the best way to light instruments to avoid harsh reflections and all the rest of it.
Also what's the best free software for photo editing.
Most of us have digital cameras, but not all of us know how to get the best out of them and it's useful to know how to take a decent photo...
:)
 

altissimo

Well-Known Member
Messages
3,349
Locality
leicester
my first thoughts are -
turn off the flash and use natural daylight if possible. Flash will give a lot of hard shadows and over exposed reflections, so natural light is preferable. I know there's not much daylight to be had at this time of the year, but it's better than most artificial light which will tend to give a colour cast unless you adjust the white balance on your camera or editing software. To get decent daylight, you may need to go outside or at least work next to the window, indoors is often too dark and you could end up with grainy, murky pictures
Duffused light is better than a single strong point source, you get less strong reflections.

Use a neutral, uncluttered background eg a plain white sheet draped over a chair

For close up work, get a tripod or find some way of steadying the camera and find the macro setting, if your camera has one. The closer the camera is to the instrument, the less depth of field you get. Depth of field being the amount of the thing that'll be in focus. It can also be possible to adjust the auto focus settings to determine which part of the picture the camera focusses on, although many of the auto features on modern digital cameras are very good.

Be prepared to experiment a lot and not get good results first time, at least with digital you can just delete the bad pics
 

jonf

Well-Known Member
Messages
3,784
Locality
Betelgeuse
Agree with most of the above, particuarly about using natural light. Some of the best shots of saxes I've ever taken have been in th back garden on a cloudy day. The ultimate diffused light source. A tripod is a must. As well as dealing with vibrations, there's also something about mounting the camera which encourages actually planning the shot, rahter than simply clicking away.
 

Pete Thomas

Well-Known Member
Commercial Supporter
Messages
15,524
Locality
St. Mary's
I can only give an amateurish DIY solution, but I'm very pleased with my recent results which include the PPT ad at the top of the forum.

I find that two things are important: soft lighting and cutting out reflections.

Soft (diffused) lighting stops you getting the hard edged shadows which can be really annoying. Pro photographers would have a large light with a a diffuser, but this can be bodged up by putting some kind of diffusion in front of any bright source of light, for mouthpieces it's easy as the they aren't that big and I have got decent results with four normal GU10 spotlights behind some kitchen roll tapes together and suspended in front of the light.

Alternatively you'll also get nice diffuse lighting outside on a bright but cloudy day.

Cutting out reflections in the shiny metal of the horn/mouthpiece is done by getting the angle of the light and diffusion just right.

To do this I place the mouthpiece on a flat white surface, the shine the lights from behind down at about a 45 degree angle with the diffusion paper between the light and the mouthpiece also at a 45 degree angle. Alternatively I hook up a couple of microphone stands and make a little kitchen roll diffusing tent.This way all that is reflected is the blank white diffusion paper.

Then move the mouthpiece until it looks best and take several shots from different angles.

I tend to use the auto setting on the camera as I really am amateur, but with enough light this seems to be fine, however have also recently experimented with manual settings but very much a trial and error procedure.
 
Last edited:

jbtsax

Well-Known Member
Café Supporter
Messages
8,783
Locality
Beautiful Springville, Utah USA
The hardest sax to photograph in my experience is one with a shiny silver plated finish. It's like trying to take a picture of a mirror.
 

Pete Thomas

Well-Known Member
Commercial Supporter
Messages
15,524
Locality
St. Mary's
The hardest sax to photograph in my experience is one with a shiny silver plated finish. It's like trying to take a picture of a mirror.

Incredibly difficult.

This thread has got me inspired to have another go with my kitchen roll diffusion as I'v often tried to get a good pic of the Conn engraving:

Naked-Lady-large.jpg


I have very much realised the limitations of the DIY diffusion . I'm getting better pictures than without but I can see it would be useful to actually get a proper and much larger diffuser (AKA "soft box")

Here's a tip though:

People have mentioned using natural sunlight, which can be great but you will often end up with reflections of trees, cats, the back of your house, the clothes on your washing line etc.

One way to get round this is to get a white bathtub in the garden and put the horn in that, Stephen Howard does that for his pics in the Haynes manual.
 

jbtsax

Well-Known Member
Café Supporter
Messages
8,783
Locality
Beautiful Springville, Utah USA
I don't think my wife would go for a bathtub in her garden regardless of what color it is. :) By the way, I love the silver Conn Pete. I know the Ten Commandments say, "Thou Shalt Not Covet" but I can't help myself when I see that tenor.

My friends at Cannonball helped me take this picture of my SBA alto for the "Saxpics Calendar". They have a booth that is surrounded on all sides by white translucent cloth and take the pictures through a small hole in the side. There is a set of flood lights on the outside that can be positioned in several different ways.

 

Pete Thomas

Well-Known Member
Commercial Supporter
Messages
15,524
Locality
St. Mary's
They have a booth that is surrounded on all sides by white translucent cloth and take the pictures through a small hole in the side.

So basically the horn is right inside the soft box.
 

Andrew Sanders

Northern Commissioner for Caslm
Messages
2,768
Locality
Ilkley West Yorkshire
Light tents tend to bland everything out. We tried them for photographing our glass work.
Our diy system works beautifully for glass. We diffuse the natural light with tissue paper in front of a window,
use a piece of tin foil to direct natural light onto the work, and wait for the perfect not-too-sunny, not-too-cloudy day.
 

GJ77

Senior Member
Messages
775
Locality
Dunmow, Essex.
I don't think my wife would go for a bathtub in her garden regardless of what color it is. :) By the way, I love the silver Conn Pete. I know the Ten Commandments say, "Thou Shalt Not Covet" but I can't help myself when I see that tenor.

My friends at Cannonball helped me take this picture of my SBA alto for the "Saxpics Calendar". They have a booth that is surrounded on all sides by white translucent cloth and take the pictures through a small hole in the side. There is a set of flood lights on the outside that can be positioned in several different ways.

Jesus, that's beautiful.
 

U CAN CALL ME AL

Well-Known Member
Café Supporter
Messages
1,245
Locality
Undy Monmouthshire U.K.
Annoying reflections can sometimes be eliminated using black card or material strategically placed by experimenting. I know this will probably sound strange but I have had to resort to it using strips etc. even when using a light tent.
 

jbtsax

Well-Known Member
Café Supporter
Messages
8,783
Locality
Beautiful Springville, Utah USA
So basically the horn is right inside the soft box.
It is more like the "tent" others have mentioned. If I remember correctly it was about 5' x 5' and the frame was constructed using PVC pipe so it can be disassembled when not being used. Ryan can chime in and correct me if I'm mistaken. He is the one who helped with the photography.
 

jbtsax

Well-Known Member
Café Supporter
Messages
8,783
Locality
Beautiful Springville, Utah USA
Jesus, that's beautiful.
The engraving was done by Jason Dumars. It was a European model SBA with no engraving at all and so it was like a blank canvas for him to work on. It was his idea to use Hogwart's Castle as the central image. If you can't tell. . . I am fond of showing it off. ;)
 
Last edited:

Tenor Viol

Full of frets in North Shropshire
Café Supporter
Messages
6,465
Locality
Whitchurch, North Shropshire UK
A polarising filter may help cut down the reflections as well. To avoid too much shadow, agree using diffuse light. But for some shots you will need some shadow to help with modelling.

A tripod is definitely worthwhile. If you need flash, avoid using the top-mounted flash - try to use a flash bracket to hold the flash off to one side (some flash guns you can hand hold with a suitable cable). This makes the shadows less harsh. You could also bounce the flash off a white card, or fire it through a diffuser or soft box.
 

Jamesmac

Well-Known Member
Messages
1,872
All above suggestions have merit. But I think the end result depends on the eye of the Guy/girl taking the pic. Then we have photoshop which confuses things further. But the end result still depends on the guy... etc.....
 

old git

Tremendous Bore
Messages
5,540
Locality
The Palm Tree strewn Wandle Surf Beach under the o
The answer, infra red lighting and film.
 

kevgermany

ex Landrover Nut
Café Supporter
Messages
21,914
Locality
Just north of Munich
You can't eliminate reflections - if you could, you wouldn't be able to see the sax. And this comes back to the warnings about what you're wearing/not wearing when you do the photography.

About all you can do is eliminate the overbright reflections from direct flash/or tone them down/place them better.

Light tents, or large diffuse light sources are a good way forward, which is why overcast daylight is effective. Cloudy daylight tends to be cold, meaning a colour balance adjustment is called for, but unless there's a good white area int he shot, auto cameras may not do this very well.

Another issue is getting the right balance of light between the background and the sax. Rule of thumb would be to put the background about 1/2 to 1 stop darker than the sax by illuminating it separately - maybe with a slave behind the sax. You can turn a white wall into a good light grey or other colour this way.

Ordinary flash guns can be used, but even with a diffuser a single gun is going to give you harsh, unwelcome shadows because the light is still small conpared to the object. Real problem when the gun is off axis and the background is any distance behind the sax. Easiest way around this is either to bounce the flash off a white surface (ceiling is often good) or get an umrella or two and bounce the flash out of the umbrella onto the sax. This gives a good diffuse source of light and with care you'll get minimum shadows.

Watch surroundings, especially yourself. If you look at the reflections in most sax shots, you'll see details of the room, photographer...
 

U CAN CALL ME AL

Well-Known Member
Café Supporter
Messages
1,245
Locality
Undy Monmouthshire U.K.
For detail shots close ups a macro lens or simple close up filters of varying dioptres are handy. I am fortunate to have a Micro Nikkor, bought for me as a pressie by my good lady in my photography hobby days, which allows me to get 1:1 images in old 35mm parlance.
 

jonf

Well-Known Member
Messages
3,784
Locality
Betelgeuse
The answer, infra red lighting and film.

I tried infra red film, an E4 emulsion, once, in my early 20s. Very interesting results, got some fantastic shots of Saltburn (small town on North East coast, has a great funicular)
 

Members online

Popular Discussions

Top Bottom