I created this short article for a pen turning forum, a French speaking one : www.atelierdustylo.ca
Thought I’d share with you folks here too. Comments welcomed.
I’m not professional photographer nor am I a pro pen turner either. Through some reading I have improved the quality of my pictures and although there is still some room for improvement, I’m sharing with you what I have learned.
The light tent is easy to build. I used some left over scraps of 2×4 and built 3 frames: 2 on the sides, one on top. The structure is about 12 inches x 12 inches. I placed white cardboard on the sides to reflect the light from the source. The top is also covered in white board but with a hole in the middle to let the light source shine through. I’m using white silk paper currently to act as a diffuser.
The light source consists in a lamp I bought at IKEA with a compact fluorescent bulb of the 5000-6500K color temperature. 6500K is considered daylight so it would give the truest color rendition. Two lamps would be better but this setup allows only for one because of the size.
The background is a beige suede fabric. I don’t like white backgrounds but wanted a neutral color. This all makes a lightweight setup that is easy to move around. Below the photo studio on the kitchen tables (besides my wife’s tomato planters for the garden).
Now for the tricky part. To have good color consistency, the camera needs to be white balance calibrated. Once the installation is done, a white carboard is placed in the light tent and the white is measured. (Check you camera’s manual to figure out how to do that). I don’t have a fancy camera. It’s an old Nikon 4 MP from 2002. Without proper calibration, the color of the pens will have an effect on the rest of the colors used, in this case, the background. Below, the same background used with two pens when no calibration is used.
Next, depth of field. This is adjusted by change the “F” setting on your camera (check your manuals). Crank it up to a high setting. I’m also using the Macro mode. A bigger “F”, gives more depth of field resulting in more of the picture being in focus.
Low “F” setting”:
High “F” setting:
If you look closely, you’ll notice that on the first picture, the middle of the pen is in focus, but the cap and nib are a bit fuzzy, and so is the background in front of the nib and behind the cap.
On the second picture, not only all the pen is in focus but so is all the fabric around. Magic? No, proper depth of field. Happy turning!