Help learning violin photography HOW TO PHOTO VIOLINS AND BOWS???

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I APARENTLY take terrible photos of violins, and would like to know how to improve my skills. I have been given very good advice by a pro, who takes amazing pics. But I would like to know how you guys do it. I'm using a 14 megapixel cannon camera, or a 16.5 megapixel cannon. They are simple $300 point and shoot cameras. I have a tripod, and several clip on work lights. I want to take photos not so that the violin LOOKS GREAT, or the GRAIN POPS, but so that everything is accurate and can be identified by photo alone.

My questions are-

1. What type of background? Where can I get it?

2. How far is violin or bow from background?

3. Flash or no Flash?

4. Zoom or no zoom?

5. What type of lighting if I do not have daylight?

6. What type of bulb? 100 what clear? Ultraviolet? I don’t know???

7. What color background?

8. How to stabilize violins and bows?

9. Please give a full description of your process of photographing a violin or a bow, so that I can visualize 10. How it is done in many different ways.

I have attached several photos I like and that I believe give great detail. I may be wrong. Please direct me to any examples of great violin photography.

Thanks for your help as always.






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Flash yes and no, no if you have a constant external light source like the umbrella thing with light (don't know the English word)

yes if you don't have the umbrella thing. In that case bounce the flash on the ceiling or above the instrument, or use the catch light reflector. If you don't have any of these use a napkin to cover the flash.

Camera settings:

Aperture F4 or higher

Shutter 1/60

Stabilise violin with a mount and photoshop it away when you're done. Or attach a cord to the scroll, make sure the cord is thick enough so the violin won't spin around but thin enough so it's hardly noticeable (thick fishing wire will do) for bows clamp it to something.

Test some settings, above is an indication for indoor photo's, light is very important when photographing instruments as you want the correct colours to show.

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in the old days one would reccomend a night class at a community college in photography, still seems like a good idea to me......

ps its not megapixels that helps, its SLR through the lense viewing with manual focus on the lens, that really makes things easier, ive never seen someone accurately photograph everything with just autofocus, scrolls for instance it always screws up

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Disclaimer: I know nothing about photography.

Are the photos in the initial post done by you? If so, they look ok to me. The two of the violin backs and the one of the middle bout area look especially good. Those three look like good representations of what the real things look like.

If "getting better" at photography means flattering the instrument you're photographing so that it looks better in the photo, with dings not showing and colors more vibrant, than the real thing, I'd say you'd have to decide what the goal is of your photography. Is it to make glamour shots (to make things look really good, even if the real thing doesn't look that good), or is it to give a clear representation of the instrument so that one might identify it easily in the photo and in real life as the same thing?

Personally, I distrust glamour shots, but suspect that most professional photos of violins are just that. I much prefer a realistic presentation of the instrument, even if that realistic presentation doesn't evoke an "oh wow" response that a glamour shot evokes.

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I simply would like to photograph violins to help with identification, and have no want to hide any flaws or make glamour shots. I want perfectly accurate photos, that portray the colors, figure, and shape of the instrument verry accuratley.

I will look into an SLR camera, and possibly find a "for dummies" class in photography.

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i have my dads used SLR nikon d70 with only 6 megapixels, however thats plenty for what were doing and you can pick one up for 300usd, which is less than a new point an shoot without SLR

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The benefit of a digital SLR it that the image sensor has about 10 times the area of a typical point and shoot, and captures much better color and detail, no matter how many megapixels you have. I use a Nikon D40 with only six megapixels, and it does everything I need very well, IMHO. I started out with a high-end Canon point and shoot camera that I had used for documentaion for several years, and with the exact same setup and technique, it just wouldn't get the look I wanted. I use a 55 - 200 zoom lens, and shoot from about 10 feet or more away from the violin. Farther for larger instruments. I frame the instruments tight with the zoom lens.

I made different stands for the fiddles, but nowadays I just use an appropriately sized glass. You can see it in the pic below, which is a cropped raw image I shot for my web site. It will get some more tweaking before it goes on the site.

I use two 500 watt 12 inch photo flood reflector lamps by Smith-Victor, placed with the bulb at the height of the scroll. Lamps are placed about 4 or 5 feet away, at a 45 degree angle on either side of the violin. You have to adjust to get the amount of reflection you want. A little bit adds dimensionality; too much obscures details.

The lamps have a "hot center" light field, so you can adjust to get even light distribution. I shoot backs with direct light to bring up the figure in the maple, and use umbrellas on the front to soften the shadows of the bridge and fingerboard.

I use the custom white balance to get the color right, and set the camera for normal contrast. Still the reds can tend to be a little strong. Violins look very different in different light, so you just have to try to get a representative image. Bracket your exposures until you get the most accurate representation of the instrument. I use manual exposure, but find that the autofocus works great. I use F8 for the best combination of sharpness and depth of field, and adjust the "shutter" to get the best exposure. I think I ended up shooting around 1/80 on the backs, and 1/30 on the fronts.

Below is a raw image, cropped and sized down, of a rather plain looking instrument for my web site.

As with making and adjusting instruments, a big part of learning is just learning to use your senses, and doing the job a lot to develop skill. I had a fairly extensive background in photography, but it still took a while to get to where I felt like I was getting what I wanted shooting violins. There's lots of room for tweaking, and I could glam the photos up a lot, but I'm mostly just looking to present an honest image these days.

I like "cheap and simple", and for me this is about the cheapest and simplest setup I could figure out to get acceptable quality images.


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Lyndon, thanks for the model number. I will look into that camera and also the other camera mentioned by Nanado,.....

I am kind of wondering what lense I should purchase??? lyndon,.. what do you use??? I see nanado uses a 55-200. Honestly this is really new to me. I have had very nice digital cameras, but all autofocus. and when I say very nice,... I mean under $650, so not that nice, but for regular point and shoot, fairly good may be a better discription.

Are lenses just "one size fits all" when it comes to ataching it to your camera? or do I have to get a lense with a certain thread pattern.

That lamp/lighting equiptment looks freaking expensive. I really don't want to invest too much other than in the camera. Honestly, I cant afford it,... but I cant afford bad photographs either.

The article on tarisio's webpage is AWSOME!!!! I really wanted to see photos of the "SETUP" and equiptment, so that I can visualize it in my head. (my head needs all the help it can get these days).

Thank you all for your profesional input, and I will be making purchases and keeping you posted on my photography progress. I will post some before photos,..(using my current point and shoot, stands, and lighting.) and after (new lamps, umbrellas, and new SLR) so that should be very interesting.

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These lights are what I use. At 500 watts, they get hot, but I don't run them very long at a time.

You can get by with the standard 18-55 lens that comes with most inexpensive Nikon digital SLRs, but the 55-200 lets you get back further and still frame your shots tightly and reduces perspective effects. At around $150, I'd give up the normal lens before letting go of the 55-200. I use it about 80% of the time for all kinds of photography.

I love my D40, although they have been discontinued for three years. Mine does everything I need it to, from point and shoot to serious photography. If I were shopping for a camera today, I'd take a serious look at a Nikon D500, very much like the D40, but with an improved image sensor, and twice as many pixels, if that sort of thing matters. (I use a little Canon pocket camera for a lot of stuff as well, when image quality is not essential.)

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