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Notes From The 'Net

By Doug Evans, With Loren Woodard

Hi gang !!! Well, Matt has turned me loose with a keyboard so I’ll try to entertain and inform and keep myself out of most trouble !! It’s great when on the 'net good discussions get going and many people participate. I think that is what most of the lists out there are all about !!

Matt and I had our executive hot dog and chips at the Metro Carvers Show so we could plan how to apply for a bail out with the rest of you to help buy new carving tools !! I know it’s nice outside and Springtime, but take a break and see what folks had to say about taking photos of carvings !!

Photographing Your Carvings

Let me start with Step One: Take pictures and lots of them !!!

Alex Bisso opened the discussion:

I have a recurring problem with getting good photos of carvings. My standard method of trial and error with the lighting, inside and outside works sometimes but not consistently.  On my last fish for example, I took one photo (after a couple of tries) using a piece of light blue foam from an old camping bedroll and the color and contrast came out very well.  However, when I tried to set up with a cloth maroon cloth background to take more photos, it looked good but my camera did not like it at all.  The photos were either too dark or too bright and glary and the colors did not look true.  There must be a way to set up for photos that provides a good background and lighting for true color without glare.  Can anyone suggest something simple and reliable that might work?

Byron was the first to reply with this suggestion:

Get a photo cube.  It's a white nylon cube that diffuses the light and eliminates glare.  They usually come with 4 colored backgrounds and come in different sizes.  I bought mine on eBay.   Simply search on eBay for "photo cube"  there's lots to choose from.  The best thing for photography since the invention of film.

Out of the shadows GOW Joe Dillett responded:

Always use a tripod. I always put something white in the photo, even if it's in the corner that will be cropped off, so the camera has something to use it for white balance. Shadows help define depth. I like using one light source, generally from the side, to show shadows. Natural outdoor light seems to be ideal however indoors the daylight type of bulbs yield good results.

Maura had a few suggestions of her own:

I just bought a new Nikon and the difference in my pictures is amazing.  I also thank god for digital cameras.  I often take up to 20 pics of the same thing, changing the lighting, changing positions, changing backgrounds. Then load all the pics into my pc and pick out the best one or two.

Ron Ramsey contributed a short class in photography with many useful tips :

Here are just a few of Ron’s suggestions:

If you want a professional looking photograph on a budget, follow these instructions:

  • Set up a table or sawhorses against a wall in a room where you will be able to block out all of the light or to make the room dark at night. You want to be able to control ALL of the light on your carving.  Too much light in the wrong place will cause the colors to be washed out or the carving to have too much glare in some areas. This why it's NOT RECOMMENDED TO TAKE PHOTOS OUTDOORS! (Doug - hmmm - not outdoors ??? I’m sure some will disagree !)
  • Go to a framing store and buy a large piece of medium grey poster board.  Bend the poster board so that has a curve at the back and is vertical against the wall at the top and horizontal against the table at the bottom. 
  • Use a minimum of two lights that have swivel bases and adjustable arms
  • Use CFL bulbs
  • Natural light bulbs are better if you don't plan on processing your photos on photo software
  • The bulbs should not be more than the equivalent of 40 watts incandescent
  • Cover the light bulbs with semi-transparent tracing paper taped to the lampshades.  This is to diffuse and soften the light. 
  • Take lots of photos, upload them to the computer and analyze the weaknesses

(Thanks Ron !)

Mike G then chirped in:

Great idea to write down the set up, flash setting, position( flash, camera and subject), type of lens and exposures frame number on the paper, so you will know what going on between frames and lot easier to figure out from trails and errors

Our buddy, Loren Woodward then shared his method:

For my photographs I use a home made light tent.  Lynn Diel had an article in Carving Magazine a few issues back that told how to make the light tent. My best results have come with a light blue background.  I use three lights. My light tent is wrapped with a bed sheet.  I use a clamp-on light fixture on top with a standard incandescent bulb that shines through the top of the light tent and onto the light blue back board.  I then light the front with two light that have 13 watt daylight (florescent) bulbs in them.  I direct one light on each side of the carving. 

Byron was back disagreeing in part with one of Ron’s suggestions:

I'm going to disagree with part of what you say.   Natural diffused sunlight produces the nicest pictures.  Note I said diffused.  The colors on a cloudy day pop.  Direct sunlight is not good nor is direct light of any kind.

Ron Ramsey then responded to Byron:

It's true that cloudy days can work to get great photos but you have to wait for the right day.  Where I live it's not cloudy that often and when it is, it's usually raining or snowing.  With the indoor method you can take photos on any day or night

Well gang, a lot of good, interesting suggestions. "How to take photos" is a can of worms. just like "What is the RIGHT way to sharpen your tools"!! There are more ways to take good photos than excuses of why my kids didn’t want to go to school! Hopeful you’ll give some of these ideas a try and find one or two methods you like. When you do, send me an email so we can let others know !!

I’m looking forward to getting back to more carving soon and I have a couple of projects to wrap up. I hope to see many of you in person, and will report back in the next issue with more Notes From the 'Net !!

Let the chips fly and play nice !!! - Doug Evans <dge1 AT comcast DOT net>

StaffPlease take some time and check out the wood carving lists on the Internet. There is a lot of knowledge free for the asking on all of the list serves.

For information regarding the various email lists for woodcarvers, visit The Carvers' Companion Resource Files, or click the links below.


Woodcarver's List - Woodcarving Fun -- Knotholes List - Fishcarving List2 -- House of Woodcarving

Editor's Note: Disclaimers and Cautions

  • Endorsements of products mentioned by contributors to this article should not be construed as endorsements by either the editor of this article or Woodcarver Online Magazine, unless specifically so noted.
  • Advice and opinions expressed in this article are those of the original poster named therein; when in doubt seek additional professional advice.
  • Woodcarving and shop work are potentially hazardous activities and should be undertaken only with safety a constant and primary consideration. Electrical, mechanical and other modifications in your work area should always comply with local and state codes and requirements.


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