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Hi all. I am trying to get a good and interesting photo of my alto and tenor saxophones to show at a photo club meeting. What is the best way to go about this? I find that I get a lot of glare of of the brass surfaces from ambient lighting and flashes. Also the shape of saxophones (long and relatively thin) makes framing the picture difficult. What kinds of backgrounds are people using? I've never seen a photo of a sax for sale that was ascetically pleasing. Suggestions?
 

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Its hard to get good pictures even with the great digitals everybody has in their phones. That's why pro photogs still find work. Anyway, just like any other object that you suddenly discover is hard to photograph, its all about diffused lighting and camera settings. If we're talking about an actual digital camera, you can experiment with the different modes. With a cell phone, you're more limited.
 

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Its all about diffused lighting and camera settings.
Agreed. I suggest researching jewelry photography setups. You face the same issues except on a bigger scale. I made my own light boxes out of cardboard boxes and tissue paper used for gifts. Go to youtube and search for DIY lightboxes.

Since this is for a photography club I assume you are using a real camera and not just a cell phone, right? Decent photos can be had using a cell phone with a good camera, but the great photos require a real camera, IME.
 

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https://www.uglyhedgehog.com/

You might want to ask this question on the Ugly Hedgehog site. It's another site I visit almost daily. I go by 10MPlayer there. Hah! That should be my username here. Anyway, there are experts there on product photography who can give you tips. I'd suggest finding a neutral dark background, buy a cheap set of softbox lights. A good smartphone camera would suffice.

In my city you can rent a studio with lights and backdrops by the hour for a reasonable fee. http://elev8edstudios.com/#rates

Maybe not in Nova Scotia. I've never been there but I hear it's pretty isolated. If you want to get into photography some light kits are very cheap. You can get a nice setup under $100 US. https://www.amazon.com/Neewer-Profe...oftbox+lights&qid=1552871343&s=gateway&sr=8-3
 

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What kinds of backgrounds are people using? I've never seen a photo of a sax for sale that was ascetically pleasing. Suggestions?
I think there are two different purposes you're talking about here--one is about selling and one about aesthetically pleasing. When I'm looking to buy a saxophone, I don't care how artfully it's shot, but how sharp it is (to discern whether the engraving is original), and whether the shots cover key areas for identification. Pushed in posts, neck pulldown, shallow engraving, stamping depth, etc.

So when I shoot my sax, I just want the pictures to tell an accurate account of what it is, rather than being artistic. (Example attached below).

For that purpose, similar rules apply to general rules of photography. Rule of thirds for key focus points of the instrument, so don't split the image in half with the saxophone. Direct sunlight just creates glare and overblown highlights, so diffuse lighting--either a cloudy day, the "magic hour" of dusk/dawn, or a well-lit room with not just a single source, to avoid shadows. Color correction is important, so buyers can discern whether the lacquer color shows it's original or relacquer. If the photo is too warm then it's hard to tell the actual finish of the sax.

I don't care for backgrounds when buying a sax, for a photo club meeting the purpose is different. For a more pleasing backdrop, you can use a recovered/distressed wood desk/board, cerused oak for more interesting texture. I've seen old newspaper clippings used, but that tends to clutter the image. For selling a sax, I use a white blanket, removing creases/shadows of the background in post.

 

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Thanks all for your replies. I am using a Canon Rebel for this and some clip lights with home made diffusers. I'm using a aperture of 22 of higher to get everything in focus. This is what I have so far. Still a lot of glare View attachment 230404 so I may try the light box approach.
 

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Try setting up in your garage if you have one. Let the place flood with light but no direct sunlight. Pointed light sources are not your friend. Your shot doesnt look bad at all but more diffuse light will help a lot.

I like mid tone to darker backdrops...but not super dark.
 

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When photographing shiny objects, it is best to have VERY LARGE light sources. It doesn't matter if it is direct light such as that from a soft box, or a large bounce card.

Since you have an SLR, your best bet is to use an auxilliary flash (not the one that's built into your camera).

Point it straight up at the ceiling (or angle it, depending upon various environmental factors and let the ceiling act as a huge bounce card. If the instrument is on a stand, you can stand to the side and use a wall to bounce the light. If you have a tripod and a timer on the camera, set the camera in front of the sax on a stand, cut a 3'x4' piece of Fomecore mounting board from the lens and time the camera so that you can get out of the way before the shutter is tripped. You can buy white styrofoam insulation boards as well.

There are other methods. As long as you bounce the light from a large surface and stay out of the picture, you'll create decent pictures.

You can use bright sunlight that's filtered through sheer white drapes. That works well, depending upon how sheer the white drapes are.

AVOID direct flash. That will result in what are called specular highlights (or pin point light). This is THE WORST light source.

You can shoot through a light tent, but a good one is pretty thick (like rip stop nylon) and requires a studio light source.

Just remember: BOUNCE THE LIGHT FROM LARGE WHITE REFLECTIVE SURFACES OR USE LARGE WHITE DRAPED WINDOW LIGHT
 

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It might help if you underexpose a bit and bring the shadows and midtones up in postprocessing maybe? I haven't tried myself, so just a theory.
 

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Bigger the source the better. Unless you’re working in a studio set up and know lighting, you’re best off with a large north facing window. For glare, get a polarizing filter but use it carefully - a little goes a long way.
 

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IMO it’s a challenge to shoot an entire horn and make it interesting.

I recently picked up a new backup horn. Some of the details were nice so I tried to highlight them with a very shallow depth of field.

No special lighting ( I do have reflectors, remote triggers etc but didn’t use them)

Simply set the horn on the kitchen counter and chose a fast aperture close focusing lens to do the job. :)

I shot these with a Fuji 80mm F2.8 lens. View attachment 230416 View attachment 230418 View attachment 230410
 

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You can get artsy with a selling photo as long it meets the requirements of accurately and completely representing the horn. Some of the sales photos I have seen suffer from using apertures that are too open and hence too narrow a depth of field. This is probably from the photographer trying to use an SLR/mirrorless camera in a misguided attempt to produce a more quality photograph and not knowing to use the correct aperture.

When doing shooting of the horn for art exclusively, you can throw all of those requirements out the window. Harsh flashes, shadows, effects, focus, depth of field, color enhancement and more are all up for grabs.

As far as camera choices, modern cell phone cameras can give excellent results if care is taken to keep the lighting diffuse. I have all manner of high level photography equipment, but sometimes my iPhone 10 is not only way more convenient, but produces really excellent images rivaling those from my expensive bodies and lenses.
 

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If you are on a budget or lack equipment I have found that taking photos outdoors on a cloudy day gives very good light.
+1 That is exactly how I used to do most of my technical documentations all the way to individual ICs and their markings. If cloud covers are not available, simply being in the shade of for example a building also works. Direct sunlight is the worst.

Also, try to keep a quiet background that provides a good contrast to your object and is non-reflecting. Simple corrugated cardboard works well because it is "neutral" whereas for example both black and white mess with your exposure.
 

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Discussion Starter #19
liggy -This second set of pics from the hotel are great too. I'll try something like this as well.
 

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liggy- Love this first picture! This is the kind of thing I would like to create.
Thanks! Have fun with it. Nice to combine your passions. Every one of my attempts a shooting an entire horn have left me unsatisfied. This is more fun.
 
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