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A general guide for using the Forum with some rules and tips
Photographing minerals??
  
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Jason




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PostPosted: Jan 06, 2009 20:07    Post subject: Photographing minerals??  

I need a little help..I have been trying to phtograph mineral specimens and I can't seem to get the lighting right. If I can I usually phtograph outside with the natural light but lately I have been trying to phtograph inside. So far i have been using just an overhead flourescent light that works for an amatuer like me but now I want to step up on the quality of my photos. I just had a friend give me 2 600watt photographers lights to use but I don't really know how to place them to prevent glare and shadow. I think i need one more light. Do I need to build a light box to set the specimen in? I have had a few people tell me that but wasn't sure. If I use a light box do I need it covered by a white covering? Do I have to have a light on each side of the box and one behind or above the position of my camera? Any help is much appreciated. Thanks
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PostPosted: Jan 06, 2009 20:23    Post subject: Re: Photographing minerals??  

Photographing mineral crystals is a challenge because you are trying to represent the outer shape of the crystal, while at the same time showing the transparency and color of the interior of the crystal. To do the first, you have to have reflections from faces. To do the second, you have to be able to see through the faces. A paradox! Usually the best results are achieved when the set-up (the light(s) or the crystal) is rotated such that an illuminated face is just about to stop being illuminated.

Often setting up the lighting is the most time-consuming aspect of the shoot. You have to decide what you want to show, then decide how to arrange the specimen and the lighting to show it, then be able to accomplish what you have in mind to do. For a given specimen, it may be impossible, or nearly so.

Two or more lights are often required, and in addition reflectors made from metal foil or white paper may be needed to create minor highlights.

Usually, the light must be diffused using frosted acetate sheet or various other devices, to keep it from being too one-directional and prevent it from "burning out" one face while throwing no light on other faces. Bouncing a flash off a white umbrella placed over the object is a common trick for obtaining very "soft" diffused light, but it is not easy to use for mineral photography unless you can preview what you are going to get in the image.

Natural light is naturally much more diffuse, especially on an overcast day, so in some sense it is easier to get decent pictures with it. But to have full control over the process, you need to be able to move the lights around, and that's hard to do with the sun!

Be patient! Explore! Use a digital camera so the cost of film does not inhibit you from trying many possibilities. This is not at all an easy challenge, but when you get it right, it's really wonderful!

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PostPosted: Jan 06, 2009 20:25    Post subject: Re: Photographing minerals??  

Jason,

You need diffuse lighting, point those megawatt lights at the ceiling or a wall, not directly at the specimen. A light box can help, I shot my pictures on a piece of black cloth. Weathered wood also makes a great background. The type of light can also change the color that you will see. (do not use the flash on the camera)

Use a tripod, don't hold the camera in your hand. If you are close enough to the mineral, or a magnifying enough (optical not digital), make sure you use the macro (tulip) setting on your camera.

If you use autofocus, the camera will focus on the brightest spot that it sees on the sample. Also get a good (not necessarily expensive) photo program for your computer. I use Kodak Easy Share and Corel Photo 6. A lot of people use Photo Shop or Photo Shop essentials.

Then, take pictures, take more pictures, take more pictures. Each time look at what you can do to do better.

John



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Peter Megaw
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PostPosted: Jan 06, 2009 22:46    Post subject: Re: Photographing minerals??  

Jeff Scovil wrote an excellent book covering all aspects of mineral photography...check it out!
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Linda St-Cyr




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PostPosted: Jan 08, 2009 03:51    Post subject: Re: Photographing minerals??  

Jordi asked that I post my camera information and techniques for photography (see the topic, Linda St-Cyr's Favorites to see the photos: https://www.mineral-forum.com/message-board/viewtopic.php?p=3115#3115 )

I used a tripod-mounted Canon PowerShot G3, which is an older model not available today, but the most important thing about this camera is the Macro setting, the "tulip" icon as gemlover pointed out. Actually, my camera is only a 4MP camera - you won't be able to find one that crude today! I like a gray background because the colors come out closer to the original when the camera does not try to compensate for a lot of color in the background. Daylight simulating lights help to keep the color accurate, too. Since I do photography for my website, I invested in two 50 watt Solux lamps with diffusers, but I think the Reveal-brand incandescent bulbs mimic natural sunlight well enough for most photography at about 1/100 the cost. Finally, I cheated a bit - I chose two subjects that were easy to photograph: flat, opaque and colorful!

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PostPosted: Jan 08, 2009 12:32    Post subject: Re: Photographing minerals??  

There is a fantastic "Masterclass" all about lighting techniques for mineral photography by Wendell Wilson which can be found here:
https://www.minrec.org/journal.asp
(link normalized by FMF)
Scroll down to the last article listed which can be downloaded:
https://www.minrec.org/pdfs/Advanced%20Lighting%20Techniques.pdf
(link normalized by FMF)

John Betts also has some useful tips at:
https://www.johnbetts-fineminerals.com/jhbnyc/articles/photo.htm
(link normalized by FMF)

I have the book that Peter mentioned by Jeffrey Scovil and I can highly recommend it. He is famous for his fantastic photos in "The Mineralogical Record". The book is called "Photographing Minerals, Fossils, and Lapidary Materials"

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PostPosted: Jan 09, 2009 14:31    Post subject: Re: Photographing minerals??  

Thanks for the help guys! I had wondered what color background you should use and gray is a neutral color so should be good for about any spec. What about other color backgrounds for certain color minerals? I have seen jeff scovil in his pics use a few different types. Thanks for the links massonia. I will see about the scovil book too. thanks again
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Linda St-Cyr




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PostPosted: Jan 09, 2009 15:57    Post subject: Re: Photographing minerals??  

Concerning backgrounds - yes, sometimes a white or black or colored backgtound can make it easier to get a good photo, but more often what is happening is that the background color is being added AFTER the photo is taken. Doing that can emphasize different features or areas of the mineral and in some cases, actually makes the photo appear to capture the mineral's true color better.
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PostPosted: Jan 09, 2009 17:05    Post subject: Re: Photographing minerals??  

I use a black background,it's not easy to have a good black color,I under expose the photo to darken the background,and to have less aggressive light,and more details.
Once the pic is done,I use paint to make the background darker(black000000),I have to do it near everytime...

but sometimes it's not necessary to darken the background,on the "detail" photo,all is natural!



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PostPosted: Feb 06, 2009 17:07    Post subject: Re: Photographing minerals??  

Amethystguy,
You didn't tell us what model camera you are using. This is important to help us evaluate what you may be able to do. I didn't see mentioned anything about balancing the light. The Automatic WB setting on your camera may not be accurate with the light you are using and if so the colors will be off. Do you know enough about your camera to change the WB selection? All modern cameras have settings for cloudy, sun, incandescent, fluorescent light. The more sophisticated compacts, like the Nikon Coolpix 4500 and Coolpix 8400 I've used, have WB setting that allows the camera to evaluate your light source on a white or gray card background, and set the WB accordingly. Using this procedure, I NEVER have to adjust the color in Photoshop or Corel. One more thing. Does you camera allow you to change settings from Program to A (aperture priority)? THis is essential to getting enough Depth of Field to get an in focus shot. If you don't know what I'm talking about, get a camera book at the library or bookstone and read up on the definitions. That's all for now, but there's LOTS more to consider.



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John S. White
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PostPosted: Jul 18, 2009 13:50    Post subject: Re: Photographing minerals??  

Something new! I am not into the metaphysical world of minerals, but I have just learned of something quite exciting that appears on the website of a dealer in such things. It was my very good friend John Cornish who told me about this after his having been given a DVD about it at the San Francisco Show recently. To get a shortened version of the DVD please use this link:
https://www.elegantcrystals.com/2-min-Promo-Flash.html
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I think you will be impressed.

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PostPosted: Jul 18, 2009 15:01    Post subject: Re: Photographing minerals??  

A great book I just got is Meltzer, Photographing Arts, Crafts & Collectibles. This books starts with very basic concepts like how a camera works, what all the settings on a camera do, and how they influences the pictures. It describes color theory which helps you choose various background colors to highlight specific mineral colors. Finally, it talks about how to photograph specific items including glassy items, items with texture, etc. This book can be found in your local bookstore or library.

Two free programs can be used to do post-processing of pictures. Simple things can be done easily with picassa. A complicated program that people tell me duplicates all the functionality of photoshop is called gimp. Gimp is an open source project. I still have not figured out how to cut the part of the picture that is the specimen and paste it onto other backgrounds, although it is clear that this program will do it.

It seems to me that lighting is the most difficult thing to learn about photographing minerals. I have tried all sorts of things. Right now I am using a photo tent and 360 degree lighting from Steve Kaeser (www -dot- skaeser -dot- com). The tent with black and white backgrounds costs $40. I ended up buying the tent with right, left, and top lighting for $180.

Finally, I don't think some reads a book or buys some equipment and then automatically takes good pictures. Taking good pictures seems more a marathon than a sprint.
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PostPosted: Jul 21, 2009 18:03    Post subject: Re: Photographing minerals??  

I normalized the link proposed for John ( https://www.mineral-forum.com/message-board/viewtopic.php?p=6181#6181 ) to the DVD "Rainbow Secrets of the Crystals". You can use it to see it directly.

Jordi

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PostPosted: Aug 03, 2009 00:29    Post subject: Re: Photographing minerals??  

Thanks for all the tips guys! I have come back and referenced this thread a few times.
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