Saxophones Saxophone Home Photography for all

The modern digital era has made necessary for anyone on the Internet to acquire at least a minimum of photographic skills in order to be able to use pictures for a number of purposes on the web.

Of course we all know the old proverb: “ A picture is worth a thousand words “ so, in many ways taking pictures helps anyone to better describe anything also when attempting to ask for information on something that we are trying to identify or perhaps sell.

While in order to pursue this goal it is not necessary, for most of us, to become an accomplished photographer and acquire backgrounds, studio lights or an expensive camera to make what we want to show particularly “ beautiful”, it is at lest desirable that we can, at the very least, document well what we want to show by making the best use of what we have available to us.

Unfortunately, these last few years, despite digital cameras having become reasonably priced and of a very good quality indeed, many have taken to use the mobile phone instead of the camera. In some case it is very possible to use the better phones and tablets to do that but it is obvious to me that the majority of people don’t own phones which are capable to be used for this purpose and if they do, they don’t really know how to use them.

So, in order to produce usable images, I would prefer using, a very modest but proper camera, to shoot any pictures of my saxophones and I would warmly recommend you to do the same.

Here a few simple instructions to do just that.

The best way to depict a saxophone is to lay it down flat on the floor or a low table.

So many put a saxophone on a stand and take a picture, from a high viewpoint , standing beside the saxophone, shooting, at the very best a decent picture of the neck. This won’t do.

I normally place the saxophone on a low white table. The room where I shoot these pictures has white walls and has two windows on each side.

Consider the fact that generally a saxophone is made of reflective metal and it will reflect what’s around itself.
So, shooting the pictures in a room with white walls and ceiling will certainly help taking a good picture. The closer they are to the saxophone the more the metal will reflect an even surface. However if you put you saxophone is a so called “ light tent” uniformly lit on all sides, it will reflect only a white surface making it appear made of a white or gold surface but because there is no reflection you won’t perceive it as be made of metal.

Some degree of reflection is, in fact, good. Our brains translate that into "an object made of metal ".

The window(s) provide a good light source for the purpose of showing your saxophone, you don’t really need a source of artificial light. Keep things simple unless you want to study photography and get to a different level.

First of all make sure that you have a tripod. You are likely to want to use a narrow aperture and a slow shutter speed (even if you shoot automatic) and, in order not to blur the pictures with undesired motion, the only accessory that I absolutely recommend is a tripod and a sturdy one too!

Place the camera more or less on top of the saxophone or at a slight angle and focus or make sure the autofocus is actually pointed at a relevant bit of the saxophone and not the background. If your camera has a “ macro” setting, often indicated with a flower or a tulip, select it and use it.

If you can chose the aperture use one with f-stop value around 8 to 11 this will guarantee the best optical results and keep everything in focus. Since even shooting with the tripod might cause a motion blurred picture when you depress the shutter release button, use the self timer of the camera, this will allow you also to move away because otherwise your image will be reflected in the saxophone.If you see that too much of the environment is reflecting in the saxophone, you can help a little the image if you put , for example a white styrofoam panel in from of the tripod to prevent its reflection in the saxophone.

I often shoot things with myself reflected in the saxophone and don’t always protect the tripod and still achieve decent result. Experiment! Good Luck!

Conn 6M right side.jpg
 
Last edited by a moderator:

aldevis

Surrealist Contributor.
Cafe Moderator
Messages
12,039
Locality
London
A pretty stupid question:
After reading this, I feel like I really need a remote shutter (photogas) for my 5mp toycam.
In the past, to shoot my Sequoias @c9off used a laptop to control his tripod mounted camera.

Is it limited to big and expensive cameras, or even basic ones can do it?
 

milandro

Well-Known Member
Messages
2,430
Locality
the Netherlands
you don’t need a remote shutter release, you can easily use the self timer of the device ( even tablets have it, I think).

Set the shutter at whatever time is needed and the aperture or use the automatic exposure and correct with the +/- correction ( generally allows up to + or - 3 stops correction) , then set the self timer to 10 seconds and walk away from the picture with camera or device on the tripod, come back after it has taken the picture.

It generally emits a pulsing red or green light , and they you hear the shutter clicking (if it is set to produce a sound).


Anyway some cameras have electric switches, some are even programmable, some are simple “ on off” switches , some are radio activated.

LCD-Wired-Timer-Shutter-Release-Remote-Control-for-Sony-A900-A850-A700-A550-A200-A77-A65.jpg



Some other cameras have one of these old fashioned remote shutter releases.


40-100cm-Metal-Universal-Mechanical-Manual-Locking-Shutter-Release-Remote-Control-Cable-Cord-Lead-for-DSLR.jpg
 

jbtsax

Well-Known Member
Café Supporter
Messages
9,117
Locality
Beautiful Springville, Utah USA
Any tips to get the white background really white? When I try this it comes out a bit grey.
 

milandro

Well-Known Member
Messages
2,430
Locality
the Netherlands
well, the way any exposure meter “ thinks” is to expose for a surface that IT assumes it is grey, so the larger the portion of the surface it is the more underexposed it will be if it is white or overexposed it will be if it is black.

This is the reason why, generally, one gets underexposed pictures when shooting people on a snowy background.

That’s why, ever since cameras have had automatic exposures they have some way to compensate for this.

Better cameras ( but even phones) have a dial or a control slide to over or under expose images.

Digital photography actually gives you the benefit to actually SEE what the picture would look like and so you correct by turning this dial or sliding the control and checking the result.

There are other and more professional options too but implementing them implies the knowledge of photo-retouching programs.

Suffice to say that you could do this in many other ways but if you operate on a jpeg file your dynamic range is limited and if your need to correct exceeds a stop or so, you would be better off doing this on the raw files, but if you understand these terms you probably wouldn’t have the problem that you describe and you would be proficient in those things that you are telling me that you are not, so, it is pointless for me to attempt to give you any more knowledge than simply lookt at the screen and operate an exposure correction.


Good luck.
 
Last edited:

jbtsax

Well-Known Member
Café Supporter
Messages
9,117
Locality
Beautiful Springville, Utah USA
Thanks. I do have some experience with photo editing, but it seems that when I brighten the picture enough to whiten the background that the object itself appears "washed out". I recently purchased a Sony "entry level" interchangeable lens camera and so far have used only the automatic settings. I will try what you suggested the next time I photograph on a white background. As in lots of other areas in my life, I know just enough about photography to be dangerous.
 

kevgermany

ex Landrover Nut
Café Supporter
Messages
21,467
Locality
Just north of Munich
In the camera, overexpose. Experiment, plus one, plus two on the exposure compensation. But don't go so far as to kill the light in the highlights.

To get a white background it's important that the background has as much or more light than the sax. Although you probably don't want pure white, it tends to be too bright and bright areas of the sax will disappear into the background.

If you're using a photo editor(and you can do this on jpegs, but do it in one go, don't save and reopen, although saves part way through are ok and don't do any harm):

Get the white balance right by sampling a background area. If your system isn't colour calibrated, it may not look white any more.

In the curves tool move the highlight slider to the left until it's at the point that the graph line hits the top.

Adjust the black point arrow so it meets the point where the curve hits the bottom axis.

Now play.

Sample the picture to find the brightness range of the sax.

Add a point on the curve where it's a little brighter than the sax. Pull this point up and right.
Add another point below the sax brightness. Pull this point down to increase contrast.

You should have a contrasty sax, but don't overdo it - you want shadow detail.

Adjust saturation, don't overdo it.

Sharpen and save.
 

kevgermany

ex Landrover Nut
Café Supporter
Messages
21,467
Locality
Just north of Munich
In some editors you can select based on colour. Or you can use the lassoo tool to select the sax, then invert to select the non sax area.

If you can, select the 'white' background. Make sure it hasn't included the sax in the selection.
Edit the background to white... Paint fill is good, but you'll end up with no character. Shadows gone.
 

milandro

Well-Known Member
Messages
2,430
Locality
the Netherlands
Thanks. I do have some experience with photo editing, but it seems that when I brighten the picture enough to whiten the background that the object itself appears "washed out". I recently purchased a Sony "entry level" interchangeable lens camera and so far have used only the automatic settings. I will try what you suggested the next time I photograph on a white background. As in lots of other areas in my life, I know just enough about photography to be dangerous.

The correction that I am talking about applies exactly to those who, like you, use their camera mostly on automatic.

I personally would recommend using your camera with aperture priority ( which allows to chose an aperture which will give you good optical result providing sufficient depth of field such as one between f8 to 11).

I also recommend you to use the lowest of the ISO setting or one not much higher than 800 ISO.

The camera then choses the shutter speed, usually a slow one, hence the need for a tripod.

Photo editing of a jpg i but even of a RAW file although to a lesser extent) is like an elastic t shirt, when you pull on one side there is some elasticity in the material to move without deformation, but if you pull a bit more, the material you add from one place will have to come from another.

So add “ light” than you wash out contrast, add also contrast and you will reduce dynamic range. Start doing thing you don’t know or understand the product will be worse that the one you started with.

So, the best thing is to try to produce a correctly exposed picture in the first place and use a very minimum of post production if you don’t know what you are doing with it.

Since, in this case as in any other, “ a little knowledge is a dangerous thing” you better stick to this alone.

The way the display shows the image is also something that you can change. Often the image on display will be slightly different from the produced picture on the card. You can used an LCD profile which looks closer to the image that you will get. Generally in a camera menu you find a way to give more or less light to a LCD and the possibility to use a profile.

But his is probably getting all too complicated already.

Anyway, taking a course in general photography is a good idea, it will cost you little money and often shops offer them with a new camera for free.
 

milandro

Well-Known Member
Messages
2,430
Locality
the Netherlands
When I wrote this, I wrote this with the person in mind who is not a photographer or the user of photo editing software.

I am afraid than giving too much food for thought will cause indigestion.

Best is keeping things simple.
 
Last edited:

richardr

Well-Known Member
Messages
1,739
I wrote this in mind the person who is not a photographer or the user of photo editing software.
I'm the kind of person at whom Milandro aimed this resource and I like it very much. In the days of emulsion film I earned many thousands of pounds as a photo journalist, getting many of my pictures on front covers and centre-spreads. Digital photography has reduced me to a mere snapshotter because I haven't got the hang of either telling my camera's computer about the kind of picture I want or editing the result after I have captured the image. I have a Nikon D90 which I use for outdoor photography where there is plenty of available light but for anything else I have to use my pocket camera which I point-and-shoot. I agree wholeheartedly with Milandro's advice that non-experts such as me should use a compact camera for saxophone pictures.
In the camera, overexpose.
Interesting because it's the reverse of the technique for colour transparencies. I'm sure it's still best to get exposure dead right but my editors used to tell me that while they might make something out of a trannie that was slightly under-exposed, they could do nothing to correct over-exposure. Of course bracketing is the answer because nowadays we don't need to worry about the cost of film and processing.
 

milandro

Well-Known Member
Messages
2,430
Locality
the Netherlands
Well, ever since you have raw image processing, bracketing has become also something of the past really, when you couldn’t “ see” what you were going to get.

Ever since any modern digital reflex cameras offers “ live view”, you don’t need to use you compact if you have a better camera than that!

Live view shows you, on your screen, what the image would be once it is on your computer.

Correct the exposure by simply observing if the picture is well exposed.

The one small itch might be that the setting of the LCD is not the same of your monitor, so the image might look well exposed on your LCD screen but then, generally, a little darker on your monitor.

Small corrections are not impossible or very damaging. In case you are not sure do some bracketing with increments of one third of a stop lighter or darker, but at some point you will know what the “ right” exposure is.

Read about live view on your camera.

Nikon D90 Review: Full Review - Live View
 

kevgermany

ex Landrover Nut
Café Supporter
Messages
21,467
Locality
Just north of Munich
Interesting because it's the reverse of the technique for colour transparencies. I'm sure it's still best to get exposure dead right but my editors used to tell me that while they might make something out of a trannie that was slightly under-exposed, they could do nothing to correct over-exposure. Of course bracketing is the answer because nowadays we don't need to worry about the cost of film and processing.

Not in this specific case - there are a few things. One is that the subject is predominantly bright (high key) and will lead to an underexposed image in camera. So on auto you need to compensate to get the correct exposure. This hasn't changed between film and digital. However if you were shooting trannnies, the printers/editors would have compensated for you, and as you've mentioned, would have welcomed the underexposure.

The other is that the nature of digital means that shadows contain a lot less detail & more noise than highlights. So if you try and edit something underexposed back to a correct exposure, the shadows are blocked up and noisy. And it's especially an issue on the cheap compacts with small sensors and high pixel counts. Phones are worse.

Unless you want to go to incident metering, the trick is thus to increase the exposure without losing the highlight detail. Basic method is to increase the exposure with exposure compensation. Using the in-camera histogram goes a step further - increase the exposure compensation until the histogram reaches the right end of the scale. Bracketing with the exposure compensation control is another. Effectively what I suggested is bracketing, but I didn't want to go into too much detail. You'll be taking multiple shots under the same lighting conditions, so one good setting can be used for all shots, without bracketing.

There are software and editing techniques that'll combine a series of identical images shot at different exposures (bracketted) and make a well exposed image with full shadow and highlight detail (google HDR).

btw, due to diffraction, the effective limit for aperture, before degradation sets in and negates the increased depth of field from the smaller aperture is f/8 on a small sensor SLR. Digital compacts suffer more.
 

richardr

Well-Known Member
Messages
1,739
Thanks for these considered replies, Milandro.and Kev.
I don't want you to spend time and effort on replying again because the problem is me. As you may have gathered from other posts of mine, I haven't really got to grips with the modern world of digital electronics. I find the whole subject utterly boring to the extent that I haven't read my cameras' manuals sufficiently to use their full potential.
I chose a Nikon D90 because it allows me to set my own exposures, aperture and shutter speed, using its TTL metering, and with that I can do well using available light. Being able to set the ISO value without buying another roll of film is a bonus! However, I haven't learned how to use its flash properly, particularly when I need fill-in.
Live view isn't really the answer to getting the right exposure because what I see on the screen is affected by ambient light. My Nikon has an auto-bracket facility which I've learned to use but it's easier simply to go up or down a stop manually.
I still have my Nikon FM and Bronica SQA. Maybe I'd do well to get a digital back for the latter but that means buying one for a Hasselblad plus an adapter plate and it's very expensive.
My Nikon D90 has been a disappointment. For a start it came without any manual and I was told that I'd have to download it from the internet. That was fine except that the download wouldn't let me print it, so I had to spend more on buying a paper manual. After a while I began to have difficulty getting it to work with manual exposure setting. I struggled on with this for a long time, thinking it was my own ineptitude, but eventually I realised that it was a fault in the camera. By this time it was long out of guarantee so I bought a secondhand body which worked fine. However that now seems to be going the same way as my original body.
In contrast my compact camera, a Canon Ixus 85 IS, has been utterly reliable and gives me results as good as the Nikon's, except where I need to control the exposure manually, for example very bright sunlight with deep shadows.
 

milandro

Well-Known Member
Messages
2,430
Locality
the Netherlands
You can buy a simple and cheap closed viewer which allows you to use your LCSD screen like a viewfinder.

These are used by people who used such cameras to shoot film but nothing would prevent you to use it to evaluate exposure.

GGS-3X-LCD-font-b-Viewfinder-b-font-Magnification-Loupes-for-font-b-Nikon-b-font.jpg


I wouldn’t know how a prosumer camera such as yours would devolve in time and no longer offer you the possibility to be used in manual mode.

Could it be that you’ve altered some parameters or settings in time and that now maybe you might benefit from a simple “ reset” to factory standards and start all over again?

I am not an expert in your camera model although at the time I advised a friend of mine to buy it because it was a very solid camera for her to use with all the pro stuff she had from years of Nikon use.


Anyway, should you be very disenchanted with your Nikon, I would then suggest to look into the Mirrorless cameras.

These cameras have no mirror or prism and the image in the viewfinder ( with the exception of few models) if they have one is an Electronic Viewfinder.

I currently own a Fujifilm X-T1 with many lenses ( 8mm, 12mm, 18-55mm, 60macro, 50-230mm) but I also own a Fujifilm X-10 which I use for the majority of the saxophone photography by the way.
 

richardr

Well-Known Member
Messages
1,739
Thanks, Milandro. I won't bother with the screen attachment because bracketing is the easy solution to getting the exposure dead right. It takes little or no effort. Cost used to be an issue with film cameras but I always backeted where the shot mattered - the cost was easily outweighed by fees when I got my photos published. Now cost of exposures isn't an issue. For me that's taken some of the fun out of photography. Now I can shoot innumerable frames - one of them's bound to be good.

Thanks for the suggestion of getting my Nikons re-set. When they're working I get excellent results.

I have barely dipped my toes in the specialist field of saxophone photography. The one time I photographed a saxophone was in response to a request from a member of this forum. I took a couple of indoor snapshots with my Canon and posted them. They couldn't compete with some of the beautiful saxophone shots I see but they did the job.
 

milandro

Well-Known Member
Messages
2,430
Locality
the Netherlands
Well Richard, if you are into getting better results then you probably will want to try processing RAW files then.

You can recuperate heavily over and under exposed pics in a way that you couldn’t possibly do with jpgs.

Good luck!
 

Pete Thomas

Well-Known Member
Commercial Supporter
Messages
15,909
Locality
St. Mary's
When I wrote this, I wrote this with the person in mind who is not a photographer or the user of photo editing software.

I am afraid than giving too much food for thought will cause indigestion.

Best is keeping things simple.

I agree totally. Basic photo editing could be a good topic for a different resource.

But neither a photo or editing resource should be aimed at experts, there are plenty of other forums for that. What is useful here are tips and quickstarts for people who are not experts, but just want to get some decent results easily and without expensive kit.
 

richardr

Well-Known Member
Messages
1,739
you probably will want to try processing RAW files then
You've lost me there! "RAW" is the name of my tenor sax. I haven't even scratched the surface of editing pictures because I aim to shoot them right in the first place. I do make mistakes so maybe I should learn editing!
 

Featured

Top Bottom