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A general guide for using the Forum with some rules and tips
Black or very dark background?
  
  Index -> Minerals and Mineralogy
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John S. White
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PostPosted: Aug 15, 2017 14:22    Post subject: Black or very dark background?  

Here is the old stone thrower back again with a new topic that might generate some discussion. I do not mean to pick on The Mineralogical Record, after all I have a paternal relationship with the journal. That said I am using the new publication, that many non-U.S. subscribers have perhaps not seen yet, as a reference - "Mineral Collections in California." In paging through it I could not help but notice that an estimated 95% or so of the photographs have a black or very dark background. I am not at all sure that a dark background complements the specimens illustrated nearly as well as a light or white background would do, yet there are very few photographs with white backgrounds for some reason. In the hopes of supporting my theory I am attaching some photos that I have taken of minerals that I acquired very recently at the W. Springfield (Mass.) Show. Any feedback from FMFers would be greatly appreciated.


Quartz - Florida 27-8-5 (after coral) 7.5 cm) (782x800).jpg
 Mineral: Quartz var. agate
 Description:
 Viewed:  1115 Time(s)

Quartz - Florida 27-8-5 (after coral) 7.5 cm) (782x800).jpg



Quartz - Indonesia 27-8-3 (grape agate) 4 cm (649x800).jpg
 Mineral: Quartz var. grape agate
 Locality:
Mamuju area, Sulawesi Barat Province, Sulawesi, Indonesia
 Description:
 Viewed:  1123 Time(s)

Quartz - Indonesia 27-8-3 (grape agate) 4 cm (649x800).jpg



Quartz - Uruguay 27-8-1 (with calcite cap) (12 cm) (593x800).jpg
 Mineral: Quartz with a calcite cap
 Locality:
Artigas Department, Uruguay
 Description:
 Viewed:  1122 Time(s)

Quartz - Uruguay 27-8-1 (with calcite cap) (12 cm) (593x800).jpg



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Roger Warin




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PostPosted: Aug 15, 2017 14:56    Post subject: Re: Black or very dark background?  

Softness pictures and sharpness ...
Roger.
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Harjo




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PostPosted: Aug 15, 2017 14:59    Post subject: Re: Black or very dark background?  

I think sometimes a white background is best and sometimes a light coloured background is to be preferred, it all depends on the specimen and which aspects of the specimen you wish to 'reveal'.
What I always prefer is a setting where the specimen is actually standing on 'solid ground' showing a shadow on the surface on which it stands and doesn't seem to hover in the air. It's a strange mannerism that has crept into mineral photography, hovering specimens. It isn't aesthetically more pleasing as far as I'm concerned and apart from that, minerals usually don't hover.
That's why I prefer a simple crisp piece of paper rather than a glass plate.



bel-landelies-a-calcit27kl.jpg
 Description:
 Viewed:  1103 Time(s)

bel-landelies-a-calcit27kl.jpg


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Harjo




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PostPosted: Aug 15, 2017 15:00    Post subject: Re: Black or very dark background?  

Here a dark background was best ;-)


au-habachsmaragd2kl.jpg
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 Viewed:  1101 Time(s)

au-habachsmaragd2kl.jpg


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Jesse Fisher




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PostPosted: Aug 15, 2017 16:38    Post subject: Re: Black or very dark background?  

Personally, I have always favored dark backgrounds for two separate reasons. First is purely aesthetic in that I think a dark background tends to focus one's attention solely on the mineral specimen being photographed, which is usually the purpose of the photo.

Secondly, as a photographer, I find that a dark background allows me to concentrate on trying to get a proper exposure for the specimen without having to take into account the brightness of the surrounding. Particularly when photographing a specimen that is dark (or has dark portions) I think a light background can easily overwhelm the image and make it difficult to get a proper exposure on the dark portions of the specimen without the lighter portions of the photo becoming washed out. I think the second and third of John's photos are examples of this. The dark portions of the image appear to me to be underexposed and lacking in detail. One can always boost the darker portions of the image spectrum to bring out some of this detail but this has the effect of reducing contrast and making the image look rather flat. It also tends to increase the signal to noise ratio in the darker portions of the image.

Dealing with high contrast specimens is always a bit of a challenge, but I usually try to set the exposure so that I don't lose detail in the brightest portions of the image, and work from there. The first photo below is an example - if I used a bright background I would run the risk of overexposing and losing detail in the darker portions of the image, which might be underexposed. If one is photographing a specimen with a dark portion, particularly along the edge, using a completely dark background will keep this portion of the specimen from standing out. In this case, I use a circular reflector card mounted below the glass plate and behind the specimen to produce a subtle halo effect around the specimen without overwhelming the lighter portions of it. This is what I've done in the second photo.

And personally, I rather like it if the specimen seems to be floating in air. Adds a bit of "artiness" without distracting from the documentary nature of the photo.



F395-9427r.JPG
 Mineral: Fluorite, Calcite, Sphalerite
 Locality:
Minerva I Mine, Ozark-Mahoning group, Cave-in-Rock Sub-District, Hardin County, Illinois, USA
 Dimensions: 8x7x6 cm overall size
 Description:
 Viewed:  1009 Time(s)

F395-9427r.JPG



F358-7911.JPG
 Mineral: Fluorite, Quartz
 Locality:
Minas da Panasqueira, Aldeia de São Francisco de Assis, Covilhã, Castelo Branco, Cova da Beira, Centro, Portugal
 Dimensions: 5x3x2 cm overall size
 Description:
 Viewed:  1011 Time(s)

F358-7911.JPG


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John Betts




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PostPosted: Aug 15, 2017 16:41    Post subject: Re: Black or very dark background?  

I have photographed over 50,000 mineral specimens. The one thing I learned long ago: there is no formula (or background) that works for every mineral.
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Pierre Joubert




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PostPosted: Aug 16, 2017 04:21    Post subject: Re: Black or very dark background?  

I distaste black or very dark backgrounds, with one exception: photographing aquamarine specimens in the sun, with a black background in the shade behind it. The vast majority of times, I use a Sky Blue 5 background with tracing paper. This does not work with blueish mineral specimens. For minerals like amethyst quartz, where I want to show the colours better, I use white. At this stage, I only use white, Royal blue 4; Sky Blue 5 and the black ('in the shade' method).

http://drawingblog.mycoloringland.com/blue-shades/
(link normalized by FMF)

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