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Violin photography


AMORI
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Can anyone suggest books or perhaps an internet site where I can find out more about Violin photograpy. I get reasonable pix but they are a bit too boring. They need some "oomph".

This pic was taken with a G5 Canon digital using natural light. I also have 35mm and 2 1/4" format cameras but prefer to use digital where possible.

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http://www.soundpostonline.com/archive/winter2001/page1.htm

That's an article Michael wrote about violin photography. Mind you, this isn't "artistic" violin porn or anything like that. He's describing the kind of business-like violin photography where you get straight-on, full-frame shots of the front, back, and scroll, just like in the good books and auction catalogs.

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The first thing is to decide who is the audience for your pictures.

If you are attempting to create an artistic picture for exhibition, that is one thing, if intended as an illustration for book about violins that would be another.

If the idea is to record it for insurance or authentication purposes, a series of shots is required and if it's for a potential buyer, the requirements are different again.

As a potential buyer, I rather like the amateurish shots with flash because they show quite well the arching and smoothness of the wood.

Book and catalog illustrations always rob the front and back of their beautiful contours and make them appear flat thus eliminating the most revealing aspect of the instrument.

You are not alone in finding violin photography challenging. The reflective nature of the surface makes it more difficult to deal with than human skin because the dynamic range of reflections is so great and you are dealing with a fundamental dilemma which is that the greater the reflection, the more the light obscures the underlying texture of the wood so, if its drama you want, be prepared to forego flame and grain for the sake of dramatic highlights.

Happy snapping

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Depends on what story you want to tell.

None of them is quite right for violin identification. Number 2 comes closesst, in that it is reasonably straight on, but it isn't enough of a close up. I can see it as a nice generic picture, the type that comes as a sample when you buy a frame. Number three and four are artsy shots, but if that's the goal then you should play with the lighting a bit more, make it more dramatic. Even lighting is good for identification, but not good for drama.

If you want a picture for a brochure or something like that, I think 2 or 4 is best. Number 2 is a scene most people could imagine in their living room. Number 4 is the most dramatic, without being too self-conscious. Number three is also dramatic, but has no context, and the blue background is unfortunate, so I don't think it is as effective (though a bit of tinkering in photoshop might fix that.)

Number one is neither particularly interesting, nor is it sufficiently straight-on to be useful for evaluation purposes. Parallax prevents accurate judgement of proportion.

Hope you meant it when you asked for feedback. This is just my opinion, your milage may vary.

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Claire, your opinion is just as important as anyone else's. Arguably more so because of your interest in art.

We are agreed that the picture must match the market. There can be no such thing as a universally 'good' photo of a violin.

Amori, I noticed you posted a pic of this violin in another thread to show the finish you had obtained with your polishing technique.

For that purpose, the picture worked well and I was able to appreciate the very satiny gloss you had obtained. That was a specific objective for the picture, but in order to assess the four pictures you post here, we need to know your intention behind them.

This violin is your 'baby' and you want to celebrate it in the best way possible. I'm sure you wouldn't dream of selling it so you just want to show it with pride.

What you have already would be great to show your relatives but someone with a deeper appreciation of violins would want detail.

Personally, I would find one enlargement of a perfectly executed mitre more revealing than a picture of the whole thing.

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Generally, my violin photography goal is to present an artistic pic that also shows some detail, like perhaps the mitre. Killing two birds with one stone? I particularly like the way some cars are photographed for use in "high-end" magazines like say, the Robb Report (or similar).

These samples are low-res but I do have hi-res versions of all of them if someone wanted to see more close up detail.

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Funnily enough, I was going to suggest studying glamour shots of cars! They certainly show what can be done with highlights and high contrast. But the difference between a violin and a car is that the paint on a car does not have the figure of wood so a highlight is always going to obscure that feature of the wood we so much admire.

What you need most is not high resolution it is dynamic range and digital photography will not give you that.

I have an old silver halide photograph of the back of Asa White's last violin. I wish you could see it. It is only 5.5" high and slightly sepia but it shows every detail of the wood and with a lens, you can see the details of the mitres. It has also been slightly lit from the sides to show the arching of the back without too much loss of the figure in the wood.

The background is pure white so nothing to distract attention from the violin. For me, that's ideal.

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The Tarisio photos are excellent - for the purpose of what they are intended for. And, I would not expect any less if I were going to buy a violin from them. But, I would like to see something a bit more "sexy"/curvaceous in some instances.

I think there is a place for both arty photo's and technical photo's. For instance, if a car brochure showed only arty photo's one would not be much wiser about what you were about to buy. So, in this instance I would like to see very detailed photo's of the car and it's features.

On the other hand, I would not be easily attracted to that brand in the first place if they only showed "technical" photo's on their advertising.

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Definitely start with B&W. Color is a whole other dimension of complexity so best to leave it out until you get some of the other issues straightened out such as composition and lighting.

B&W is also an excellent discipline for concentrating the mind on form and, who knows, you could become to violins what Ansell Adams was to landscape.

We know that color is vitally important in all aspects of violin authentication and appreciation but it is also notoriously difficult to get right in a picture. You have to worry about matching the color temperature of the lighting to the characteristic curves of the the film and then hope that even if the processing of the negative was perfect, the print would also be produced by similarly perfect exposure and processing.

No. Begin with B&W.

(That isn't a Mamiya 365 twin format by any chance?)

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