I want to see individual threads.
December 13, 2008 9:42 AM   Subscribe

Photography tips, please: I'm photographing some flat but textured textile art, and want to capture the texture in as much detail as possible. And I don't so much know what I'm doing.

I want to be able to zoom in to the finished photo and clearly see individual threads. I'm using a Canon S60. Right now I have it set on a tripod, parallel to and about two feet away from the textile piece- any closer and not all of the 18x22 inch piece is in frame. Light is the overhead room fluroescent light plus a worklight near the tripod. So far my best results have come from just letting Auto Focus do its thing, but I suspect it could be better. The instructions in the camera's manual for Manual Focus are unhelpful; I get as far as "adjust the arrows until the image appears focused," but no matter where I adjust it, the LCD screen looks exactly the same level of grainy.

Assuming I know very little about photography, what are some techniques (or links to resources where I can read about techniques) I can use?
posted by doift to Media & Arts (14 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
Getting the light right could help. This tutorial explains the best way to light 2 dimensional objects to bring out detail. They are expecting you to have an off camera flash, but really any sort of bright light should be at least somewhat workable.
posted by pwicks at 10:13 AM on December 13, 2008


Any chance of borrowing a better camera? A DSLR is likely to give better results.

Raking light could help.
posted by DarkForest at 10:23 AM on December 13, 2008


The method of focusing has nothing to do with it. If autofocus is accurate, then use it. To get the texture, it;s all about lighting.

You need oblique lighting. Even a cheapy hardware floodlight will work. Turn off your flash, set up the light at a low angle to one side of the textured surface. Turn your ISO to as low a number as possible to prevent any sensor noise. I would shoot in aperture priority mode at f 5.6 or 8 for maximum lens sharpness, then let the camera pick the right shutter speed. Use a remote release or self-timer mode to prevent camera shake.
posted by Fuzzy Skinner at 10:28 AM on December 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


It would be better to take a second close up photo with the camera set on macro. There should be a flower icon on the back of the camera that turns on macro focusing, still in auto focus.
posted by lee at 10:46 AM on December 13, 2008


I'm hardly a pro, but I've had a similar photography challenge. What seems to work for me is to have a square-on representational shot, and a close-up shot at an acute angle, with the light coming in at an angle (raking light, thank you DarkForest) and a super-shallow DoF. This focuses attention not on the overall piece but its texture and one specific detail. I actually wound up borrowing a friend's dSLR to get the effect I wanted, since I couldn't stop down as far as I wanted with my point-n-shoot.
posted by adamrice at 11:01 AM on December 13, 2008


...a super-shallow DoF. This focuses attention not on the overall piece but its texture and one specific detail. I actually wound up borrowing a friend's dSLR to get the effect I wanted, since I couldn't stop down as far as I wanted with my point-n-shoot.

At the risk of sounding nit-picky... I think adamrice means "couldn't open up as far as I wanted."

"Stopping down" means to choose a higher f-stop (smaller aperture) which will result in greater depth of field. A shallow depth of field is achieved by choosing a lower f-stop (larger opening).

Again, not to nit-pick, but just to avoid possible future confusion.

Adamrice is correct that a shallow depth of field can indeed give a pleasing effect when shooting a texture at an angle.
posted by Fuzzy Skinner at 1:43 PM on December 13, 2008


Err, thanks Fuzzy Skinner. The small aperture = large f-stop tripped me up.
posted by adamrice at 2:45 PM on December 13, 2008


We have exactly the same problem when photographing/scanning woodblock prints - they are 'flat' objects, but have a lot of important texture. Raking light catches this texture, but it is difficult to get such light to fall evenly across the surface of the object (not having the resulting image bright at the top and dark at the bottom.)

I built a setup to work around this problem, and made a blog posting here (self link, excuse me ...) a couple of years ago, showing how it works ...
posted by woodblock100 at 3:41 PM on December 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


woodblock100, that's awesome! And the images look great! Your method reminds me that a great light source for the OP's project (and many others) is to use an old slide projector. They are available for next to nothing at garage sales and thrift stores, as well as eBay of course, and they throw a good amount of even, focused light for a long distance.

adamrice, yeah, it's a common goof. Smaller number = bigger opening goes against all logical thought. When I teach people photography, that's the thing that people invariably have the most problems with.
posted by Fuzzy Skinner at 7:00 PM on December 13, 2008


fluroescent light is green. Your photos may have a bit of a greenish cast...
posted by xammerboy at 10:28 PM on December 13, 2008


Your photos may have a bit of a greenish cast...

If she takes care to set the white balance in the camera for each shot, it should be OK ... I use a reference card to set this before shooting, and it seems to take care of the problem completely.
posted by woodblock100 at 10:40 PM on December 13, 2008


Thought I'd seen something about that just recently :)
posted by mu~ha~ha~ha~har at 1:35 AM on December 14, 2008


The further you pull the light away from the subject, the less the fall off will be. So the light will be more consistent from one side of the picture to the other.
posted by sully75 at 7:25 AM on December 14, 2008


...any closer and not all of the 18x22 inch piece is in frame...

In thinking through this a little more... there are some really good suggestions here, but lee's idea of It would be better to take a second close up photo with the camera set on macro deserves some thought.

Here's why:
If you are wanting to both have the full 18x22 inch piece in one photo, and be able to zoom in to see individual threads, you may be asking for the impossible. Or at least something very difficult, requiring a very high resolution camera. I won't even try to figure out the math (plus it will differ based on camera sensor area) but at the distance required, the individual thread may be smaller than an individual pixel in your camera. Simply put, the camera may not be able to resolve the individual threads. It depends on the thread size and the pixel size.

I thought I'd throw that in to avoid any frustration in the event you follow all the lighting and camera advice, and still don't get what you want.

Good luck!
posted by Fuzzy Skinner at 4:43 PM on December 14, 2008


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