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Lighting for Violin Photography


Dwight Brown
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Would a set like this work for violin photography?

https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1422807-REG/bescor_specterk_specter_slim_line_bi_color_soft.html/qa

I have cameras coming out of my ears digital and film minox to 4x5.  I probably would use a Canon 6D (20 megapixels ) and a Canon 24 -105 f4.0 L lens.  I have a really solid Gitzo tripod and remote release.  I know I'm trying to cheap out on the lights but they are not going to get used that much.  I read Mr. Darton's paper on violin photography several times but I am stuck on a lighting kit.  I would really rather not use flash and I have a feeling really big soft boxes might be best.  I'm guessing that like doing human portraits it's probably best to use a long lens of around 100mm to avoid distortion and have a bit easier working distance.  I would be OK to go with something more expensive if need be.  If you see something on https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/browse/Lighting-Studio/ci/1161/N/4294551176  that looks like a good idea let me know.  They are my usual suppliers of photo equipment and they have a huge selection.

Thanks Guys,

 

DLB

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  • 1 year later...

I have found lighting one of the most important factors for any event I have photographed so far. What are your lighting preferences when you hit the floor? According to a friend that works for a London lighting company in London it's not that easy to have a good set up when it comes to your life. I always tend to agree with that, since I call him for a bit of help before my shoot-outs. Who's done some crazy events this guy and I'm not sure if he's telling me the truth about attending an event for Queen Elizabeth at a point.

Edited by Joananse
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I'm in the process of shooting about 50 violins for a new website: front, back, side, and details as necessary. It is really important for me to show the instrument on the screen as near as I can as it will look to the buyer in hand. I've been doing product photography with furniture and violins for a long time. It kinda depends on what you want. I want the colors to be accurate, and I want just enough highlights and modeling to show the contours and shape of the instrument, and I still want minimal distortion. I settled on strobes a few years ago. I started with continuous lights, and eventually switched to monolight strobes with umbrellas for the fronts, sometimes with hard light, without umbrellas to bring up figure in the backs, but usually the umbrella works OK. You have to close your aperture a bit when you take away the umpbrella. I just use 2ea,  $50, 120 watt-second strobes  and they work fine with umbrellas. 

I set the light stands 8 feet apart, and 4 feet out from the plane of the violin, for starters, with the light source at the height of the scroll, and I use the modeling light, and move the lights in and out, up and down a little to get the highlights where I want them. I use 30 inch umbrellas to give the quality of light I want: diffuse enough, but not too soft.

I use a legendary Nikon 105  manual focus lens, all camera settings manual for consistency from shot to shot. No TTL exposure. BTW - and this is important - I never got the color right until I shot a white balance with my strobes, even though you can set manual color balance in my camera. When I abandoned the presets and just shot a white balance with the strobes, all the color bias I had been having to correct went away, and life got a lot simpler. Camera is about 10 feet back from the violin. Don't know how far back I'll go for cellos or basses. I may end up shooting some for a wholesaler I know, and may have to switch to a wider angle.

I've tried a LOT of different setups and this is what I've settled on. I get lots of good feedback from other pros, and I'm satisfied with the results myself.

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On 3/28/2020 at 11:09 PM, Dwight Brown said:

Would a set like this work for violin photography?

https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1422807-REG/bescor_specterk_specter_slim_line_bi_color_soft.html/qa

I have cameras coming out of my ears digital and film minox to 4x5.  I probably would use a Canon 6D (20 megapixels ) and a Canon 24 -105 f4.0 L lens.  I have a really solid Gitzo tripod and remote release.  I know I'm trying to cheap out on the lights but they are not going to get used that much.  I read Mr. Darton's paper on violin photography several times but I am stuck on a lighting kit.  I would really rather not use flash and I have a feeling really big soft boxes might be best.  I'm guessing that like doing human portraits it's probably best to use a long lens of around 100mm to avoid distortion and have a bit easier working distance.  I would be OK to go with something more expensive if need be.  If you see something on https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/browse/Lighting-Studio/ci/1161/N/4294551176  that looks like a good idea let me know.  They are my usual suppliers of photo equipment and they have a huge selection.

Thanks Guys,

 

DLB

Whatever you decide on, your photographs should show the violin as it would be in daylight.  No filters, no photo editing in any way.  The buyer of your violin should not be surprised when taking the violin out of the packaging and seeing it for the first time.  Also, if there are issues with the instrument, be sure to take good pictures of any cracks or anything you consider wrong with the instrument.  I've been burned in the past by posting pictures where the pictures were high quality, but the violin still looked different in real life to the buyer.  

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33 minutes ago, ShadowStrad said:

Whatever you decide on, your photographs should show the violin as it would be in daylight.  No filters, no photo editing in any way.  The buyer of your violin should not be surprised when taking the violin out of the packaging and seeing it for the first time.  Also, if there are issues with the instrument, be sure to take good pictures of any cracks or anything you consider wrong with the instrument.  I've been burned in the past by posting pictures where the pictures were high quality, but the violin still looked different in real life to the buyer.  

Exactly. That's why I strive for accurate color as well as full lighting of all details, and good depiction of outlines, contours and modeling. I hold the violins up next to my color-corrected monitor with the instruments lit by diffuse daylight, all in an effort at getting the best representation I can. LED monitors are pretty good, these days, but they do vary, and in reality all you can ultimately do is make a file that will meet standards. Lately, with my current setup, I rarely need to do any color correction other than tiny adjustments to brightness / contrast.

Years ago, when I was shooting my own furniture catalog shots on 4x5, I learned to get it "in the camera", because no amount of retouching, or color adjustment during color separation or printing was nearly as good as getting the shot right in the first place. 

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