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Photographing Fur


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I have a few questions about photographing furs. And, thought this might be something of interest to some of you. Since it has nothing to do with the site, I didn't think it belonged in The Dummies forum. So, I put it here.

 

As many of you know I photograph for my ebay store and have about 300 furs to get online. So, I do not have all day to work on one listings. The way it is it is taking me a full day to list 2 or 3. The photography is taking half of the time. I need to cut this down and improve my photographs at the same time.

 

My current camera is a Kodak DX7590 5.0 mega pixels. Lens 38 - 380 mm AF 10x Optical, 2.8 to 8 f-stop. It has complete selection of manual settings. Do not use digital zoom or flash.

 

I have finally found a way to photograph outside and accomplish pretty much what I want when I use JASC Paint Shop. I do have Photoshop but right now I don't have the time or patience to learn it. (I know, I KNOW!!)

 

I am using a tripod.

 

Still have issues on getting away from ebay picture manager which just ruins the detail. But, working on that. Should be hosting my own photos soon. This is 30% of my problem with ebay pictures right now. Their compression really lowers the quality of my photos.

 

 

So, here are the issues I wondered if any of you could answer.

 

#1 If I can photograph outdoors with my current camera with the quality I want, why with professional lighting do I lose clarity and detail indoors?

 

After talking with some photography guys yesterday, I believe it is the processor of my camera, since I have adjusted all my settings in a variety or ways and combinations. (Film speed, f -stops, speed) They are recommending a Cannon Rebel Xt or something like that. It looks great, I just don't want to spend another $800 unless I have to. I also looked at the Nikon D50, but think I like the Cannon better.

 

#2 I have tried in every way I can to photograph a black sheared mink jacket. Just cannot get it to be even half way accurate. Beautiful coat. Terrible ebay pictures.

 

#3 Has anyone tried using a filter to photograph Black fur that has guardhair light reflection?

 

#4 Are there any photography books on photographing animals that might be adaptable to use for photographing fur?

 

Thanks,

 

Linda

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Linda

There is a filter for cameras called a Polarizing filter. It is usually on a ring so it can be turned to get the best results. This filter will cut back on the glare coming off the fur in the sun. This filter can only be used on a sunny day. Its basically a pair of sun glasses for your camera.

 

found a demo of the filter here

http://www.colorado.edu/physics/2000/polarization/polarizationI.html

FurUp

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I haven't used polarizing filters in digital cameras but I have in SLR's and they can be a tremendous benifit. Indeed I know there are some people who use them a good bit of the time. You just point. Turn the ring to get rid the maximum amount of reflection. And shoot.

 

There is also one other thing I have noticed. I recall a camera expert mentioning about a year ago that "It will be great when they begin to get digital cameras close to being perfected" and I know what he meant. I have saw people return from holidays and have the perfect pictures. Then, they pass theirs around that they have composed so nicely using the screen, and someone passes around the photos they took with the cheap old style camera and the digital ones are just "Not there". They are very close, but in some circumstances, the colouring is just off a bit, etc. I do think it is possible to compensate likely if you are always taking photos in the same area in the same conditions. But it will take trial and error as you are finding Linda.

 

Just somet thoughts.

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They that Polarizing filter, it should cutthe glare out. Also, if you can take a meter reading of the fur and use that meter reading for the picture. Sometimes these digital cameras take the average light reading og the object instead.

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Linda

 

I have a nikon d70, but I am entirely self-taught and probably not the best person to give advice. I do use a polarizing filter and it does help a lot. Also, a thought for shooting outside is using a reflector to bounce the light from the sun back onto your subject - fill light, if you will. It does take another person to hold the reflector, unless you have a non-windy day and can "rig" stuff well on your own. I hardly get to use a reflector outside as I am always on my own shooting. Black fur is the worst to catch in pics properly... like black velvet, it just eats up the light. I would even try adding the use of the flash to see if it brings out the details of the black fur, and if it looks no better than scrap the idea, but I usually take a few shots of the same pic with different camera settings, film speeds, etc. just to see what works best. Indoor, pro lighting... if it is not the new type of cool running bulbs that are balanced to sunlight levels (5500K, I believe) than your pics will end up looking orange/yellow for the temperature of the lights; unless you have white balance on your camera and use it, this will make you go back and tweak levels in your editing program (I do use photoshop) to make the "whites whiter." I find that you lose some integrity and clarity of the image this way, so perhaps that is why your indoor shots are lacking as opposed to the ones in the sun. I prefer to work in the sun, but it just isn't always feasible. Good luck, and if I think of something else I'll pass on the word.

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Did you notice that the walls in my Bear Den are blue?

 

This is for a good reason. It makes the fur stand out. We have tried just about every color to juxtapose the Bears against and have found that blue and purple are the best.

 

Second, lighting is critical. Most people use the Key/Back/Fill method.

Use three lights. One from the back to highlight the object from the background. One from the side at about a 45

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I think this is OK since it's over but Clyde spent an inordinate amount of time getting the "black" right. Most of the work was done in Photoshop and not the actual shoot though he did do a lot of careful shooting. All top rate digital gear.

 

http://cgi.ebay.com/FULL-PELT-MINK-SOFT-LAMBSKIN-REVERSIBLE-BLACK-JACKET_W0QQitemZ8410603821QQcategoryZ57988QQcmdZViewIte

 

He's obviously a first rate photographer in and out of the studio situation and he said this was one of the most difficult shooting he has done. "Black Fur". God I hate black!!! The absence of color .. like life without laughter.

 

OFF

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OFF,

 

I couldn't get the link to work. And, as long as we are not promoting a product to sell, I don't believe we are breaking any of the spam rules.

 

Linda

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Hi Linda,

 

Talking about professional lighting, you are saying one light or a minimum of at least three lightings. Using one light means you get also forced shadows, shadows means also "decreasing" clarity.

 

Outside photographing, the sun send allways a parallel light. Professionals are allways using a white umbrella to get a parallel light.

 

The most important thing I do believe is not using the zoom facillity, you have to use allways the 2.8 f-stop. Total zooming the lens will put on 8 f-stop. The smaller this value the better light sensitive your lens (camera) is. Don't zoom but move the camera physically!

 

Hope you will find a good solution and maybe you can tell us about your new experiences.

 

Soft regards,

 

Furmaster.

 

 

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MissT,

 

I love your photos. Your composition is just incredible. You exemplify erotic.

 

You do your own shots with a timer? Who does your editing?

 

One of our members who is not around much lately, suggested the reflection board as well, but I do most of the shots alone and I have a lot of wind to deal with here near Lake Michigan.

 

 

OFF,

 

Thank you for your advise and PM's. I am taking a look at the lens you mentioned.

 

 

Furmaster,

 

I can attest everything you said is true!

 

I have two banks of cool temp fluorescent with umbrellas in the front at mid fur height facing straight on, one overhead, slightly in front and one in the back. The back one I am not certain I m placing correctly.

 

I have to do a white light adjustment with them even though the guy I bought them from said I would not need to. Another camera "expert" said that every camera maker does that differently, so he was not surprised.

 

My camera is usually at 2.8 outside and I do not use my zoom except when I am experimenting. The digital zoom I never use.

 

On the inside shots I have tried all f-stops, ASA setting and shutter speed combinations.

 

I am convinced it is the processor in the camera just does not handle this kind of lighting well.

 

 

Worker,

 

Lots of good info.

 

Questions on light placement. Check out what I just said I do with them. If I place one at 45 degrees and one in front, what about the other side. It seems you would really need four lights? Why don't you need a fourth on the other side?

 

Lastly, with all these lights coming in at all angles, how do you keep it from throwing off the light meter in the lens?

 

 

furup and minkme,

 

A few people have mentioned the polarized filter. I am very excited about using that with the black minks. I think it could really help. Don't know why that did not occur to me before.

 

 

Earendil,

 

What kind of "cost" would I have to pay for your "help"?

 

 

White Fox,

 

I just purchased a few really great books, and one is on digital photography from someone who compared the two side-by-side. It is very interesting reading if you are into photography.

 

Since my business is internet, it is a required medium for me.

 

 

 

Thank you all for your comments. It is so nice having this forum for questions. Last Summer I ask for advise in setting up a website. When I printed it all out, it was 30 pages of incredible advice.

 

I look forward to having our picture's area up. Then we can use photos to communicate what we are discussing here.

 

Linda

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Hello Linda,

 

The only thing you can try is to borrow an other camera, we are using, with success, the Canon IXUS 700, 7.7-23.1mm / 1:2.8-4.9. This camera has not the same mega pixels as yours but before we had the IXUS 500 also with success.

 

Success,

 

Furmaster.

 

 

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When I take Bear pix I use Remote Capture.

 

I hook the camera directly to the USB port of my computer and control it from the keyboard/mouse. Every time you hit the space bar the camera takes a picture. It is displayed on the screen just a second later. If I like the shot I hit and accept it. If not I hit the space bar again and take another.

 

I the mean time, there is a dialog on the screen that shows all the camera's adjustable featrues. With my dinky, little camera I can't control the exposure directly. I control the Exposure Value. I can bump it up or down by 1/2 EV units.

 

So, what I do is put all the Bears I want to photograph in groups of similar color/fur texture and take test shots for one Bear in the group. Then I lock in the EV and shoot the others assembly line fashion.

 

If your camera has directly adjustable shutter/

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Yes, it's the USB cable that comes with the camera.

 

For my computer, using OS X, it is literally plug-and-play. Canon cameras are "Officially Blessed" by Apple. OS X already has all the drivers and software installed, out of the box. There are a few settings you have to make and that's it. Plug the camera in and the pictures download, practially by themselves. You only need to press a few keys/buttons to confirm your actions.

 

The software that controls the camera from the keyboard/mouse is called "Remote Capture". It comes from the manufacturer. My camera is one of those compact "Digital Elph" cameras from Canon. >> Canon Website <<

It often comes on the CD you get with all the drivers and information on it. If you installed those drivers with the premade installer that comes on the disk, the "Remote Capture" software is probably already on your computer. If you don't have the CD you can go to your manufacturer's website and download it.

 

Kodak doesn't usually make their own cameras. They develop the prototype then have some other company OEM it for them. I don't know what software they have for their cameras but >> THIS LINK << will show you where to go to download software for Kodak EasyShare cameras.

 

I love the "Remote Capture" software. I even used it to inspect the chimney of our fireplace for damage before I lit a fire in it for the first time! I just hooked up an extra long USB cable to my laptop then reached the camera up the flue. Minutes later, I had pictures of the inside of the flue liner right there on my screen!

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Linda

 

Thanks. I used to use a timer, but now have a tiny remote so I can still do the shooting myself; of course, I have to play with something to be a "stand-in" for me so that the camera will focus on the right area, which can be vexing doing stuff alone. I do it all myself, including the editing. There are professional reflectors you can get (I'm thinking of Photoflex http://www.photoflex.com/photoflex/index.html?products/default.asp?product=multidisc&1 , although they are pricey at times) which are larger and self-supporting. I would be willing to help you out when I plan a trip up there later this year, although it won't help now....

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Hi Linda....I take all of our web photographs as well as advertising pictures for the company I work for. I use a Canon Digital Rebel and have been able to get some high quality results with this camera...it has some features that many lower end digital cameras do not have which make product photography possible. I am not a professional by any means, but have really learned quite a bit over the past several months (and have had some ad pictures published in national trade magazines).

 

One thing that I would recommend is purchasing a photo tent to take your pictures. This will allow you to obtain shadow-free pictures and evenly balance your lighting. I would especially think that black mink would be the hardest to photograph, so reducing the amount of shadow and reflection would enable more of the texture to show through. I use a 36" x 36" in cube for my work...the largest I saw on ebay was a 60"x60" tent that would work for most of your furs. Here is a link http://cgi.ebay.com/60-PHOTO-STUDIO-TENT-SOFTBOX-DOME-2-BACKDROPS_W0QQitemZ7613333904QQcategoryZ30087QQssPageNameZWDVWQQrdZ1QQcmdZViewItem

to a 60x60 tent. I usually take my pictures against a white backdrop so that the background (if I do a good job) appears to be completely white and makes the product stand out. If I am shooting light colored items, I will sometimes use a black background to show the lighter colors better. Depending on the types of furs, you might want to use either black or white and then maybe a patterned gray or brown to raise the contrast. A circular polarizer filter could help to reduce any glare that you got off of the fur.

 

I use about 6 photo floods to light up the front, sides, top, and back of the tent. It is important to get daylight bulbs (i.e. rated in the 5500 degree kelvin range). The best light for photography is natual sunlight (which is rated at 5000-6000 degrees kelvin), so these bulbs will best replicate that light. I found some 6500 degree flourescent bulbs at Wal-Mart that work pretty well, but if you do a Google search on 5000 degree bulbs, you will find some other vendors who sell them. The new flourescent bulbs are great because they are much cooler than incadescent bulbs.

 

You should also set the camera's white balance to sunlight, which will sync the camera's exposure settings with the light that you are using. For a time I did not know to do this and consistently got a yellow cast to my pictures...fixed it and they improved vastly.

 

I adjust my camera's exposure compensation (EV settings) to improve the exposure. My digital Rebel's settings go up to a +2, and I generally shoot between +1 and +2 to get the shots that work. I take a series of pictures at each EV level to see what works best with the particular colors that I am working with and one of them will be the right one. Although it looks like I am over-exposing the image, when I do my adjustments in PhotoShop they work out well.

 

As for your camera...I really love my Digital Rebel and think that it is worth the money. You can use it in full automatic mode and take great pictures, but you can also use the manual settings to tailor it to what you need. I believe that, given the high dollar amount of what you are selling, high quality pictures will enable your customers to better see what they are buying. If you think of all the crummy ebay pictures you have seen and then compare that to the nice ones that are out there, it really does make your product stand out. Hopefully, that will result in increased sales! If you take your investment in equipment (Camera - $800, Tent - $150, lights [6 to 8 lights at about $20 each] - $150) and sell even a few more coats because of the quality of your images, you can make back your money in a few years if not sooner. Although the Rebel is complicated there are some online courses and guidebooks in how to use it that are very helpful.

 

Wow...sorry that this is so wordy, but it is the sum of all the knowledge I have earned in the past 8 months of taking product photography. I hope it is helpful.

 

Irv

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Thank you, Irv.

 

A lot of great info there.

 

I am using the cool fluorescent now.

 

I had looked at the tents but they are too small. My minks on a stand are over 60" tall. Most are 50 to 54 inches without the stand.

 

There is one thing in particular that you mentioned I would like to try and that is adjusting of the EV setting. I will try that. It suppose to rain here for the next week so that will force me back into the photo studio.

 

I also have a Black Backdrop to try with lighter furs. I have been using a blue one so far.

 

And, don't want to forget: WELCOME to the Fur Den!!!

 

Linda

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Linda;

 

I like Irv000's suggestions a lot. It's certainly one way to solve the black fur problem.

 

You can make a tent form white bed sheets or get an Awning company to make you one big enough. Just pick the fabric carefully.

 

Think I mentioned color temp. before. It's crucial. Particularly the match with the camera settings. Most even modest cameras have those controls.The Leica/Panasonic for sure.

 

OFF

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Linda:

 

One other thing I can think of is to use more lights. I searched and found about "ebay photgraphy kits" that are on ebay. They usually contain 1 to 3 lights. I have found that the more light I use, the better off I am with the pictures (I use 6 presently for the work I do now, and the product is not large at all). With a full length fur, I don't think that 3 lights will be enough to light up the entire length. Fortunately the holders are at Home Depot and you can find the bulbs rather cheaply as well. If you can't get a tent big enough (and I was thinking that might be the case last night when I posted), you can make a diffuser with white cloth...the trick is to to try to tone down the shadows as much as possible and create an even light source.

 

Fortunately, digital pictures are cheap to take so you can experiment around a bit until you get it down.

 

Irv

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Irv,

 

I have two banks with four bulbs, one overhead and one for background.

 

So, that is 10 bulbs , and they are the 5500 cool fluorescent.

 

But, did try several things today. It was a cloudy day so worked nicely for black, used a flash with black velvet turned out 100% better!

 

Also, tried some indoors shots with EV adjustment set at 2. Much better! Still want to monkey around with it and try more combinations.

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Linda...

Your idea of black should work well. There is a reason why theaters use a lot of black. ever notice a stage floor is ALWAYS black? That is to cut reflection. Reflected light is uncontrolled light. The only problem is that something like black sheared beaver can of course disappear into the background. So, then you need to find second best.

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John,

 

I just used the flash on a Black knitted fur coat. Worked GREAT!

 

I had just thought that I should not be using my flash with the furs.

 

Never occurred to me until MissT mentioned it, that for the velvet minks, sheared furs and knits, this is really a great way to pick up the texture and detailing of the fur.

 

What an improvement!

 

Linda

 

 

Thank you MissT!!!!

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woohoo! glad that the flash helped ya! that comes from me having so much black clothing in my wardrobe to shoot, ha! by the way, cloudy or overcast days are great for outdoor shots too, if you use your flash or reflectors, etc... the drastic shadows that full on sun can cause are not a worry, and most skin tones are accentuted - little tip from being just the model in my teens. also, using a large tree for the shade it affords is a good idea, and adds to the background interest, if that is applicable.

 

i was gonna mention the light cubes, but hadn't found one yet that i could climb into, being about 6 foot with heels... but rigging one is certainly a great idea. just be careful that any material you use isn't too lightweight or too heavy, as there is a delicate balance there between the weight the fabric puts on the frame you make up and too much light getting thru the material, let's say. make sense? I've tried a number of things with sheets before I could get real backdrops, and it does make a difference, just to warn ya.

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