Steve Gandy - -

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5 points to take note of...


So, our learning objectives are that after this class the participant will:

  • set their camera for optimal quality
  • arrange, add/subtract the light to flatter the subject.
  • focus carefully with the correct depth-of-field
  • capture the image correctly
  • be aware of the basic post processing edits that might be needed



QUALITY - refers to the format and the size of the image captured


Format - RAW vs. JPG

RAW is the best, JPGs should be at the highest level possible. Here's an example of a JPG that is not good. 

SIZE - RAW files will be the largest possible (Canon shooters take note this is not always true). You must choose the largest size for JPG. See the post processing area below.

RAW files are easily saved out as JPGs from common software; iPhoto, Picasa on Mac or Windows, Photoshop of all varieties.

Note: Your camera may not be capable of capturing a really high quality image. It might be too old, the sensor may be too small, it may not have been manufactured for high quality images.

HANDS-ON: Get your camera set to the highest quality and largest size now. 


LIGHT - includes 4 areas of concern

Color or White Balance (WB) - The camera can adjust for differing colors of light. So, if the image appears too warm (yellow) you can make it capture the image with cooler setting (blue). It isn't necessary to get this exactly right in camera (and it is hard to judge there anyway). Get it close and take a test shot with a known neutral item (like a gray card) in the frame. Then you can use that as the "key" image to adjust all the other shots in your software program.

HANDS-ON: Get your camera set to the correct WB. Take a photo and examine it. Is it too warm or too cool? 

Brightness or Exposure - Using Aperture Priority (to help control sharpness) is probably the best bet. But you can use Program or Manual modes too. However, you MUST know how to compensate for exposures that are not good. Bumping your exposure up (brighter +) or down (darker -) is really the only way to get it just right. 

HANDS-ON: Let's find the exposure compensation button/controls and test it. Take a photo then bump it 2 stops brighter, take another and bump it down 2 stops from Zero. Compare the images.

Learn to use this button to "compensate" for an exposure that is not quite right.

Learn to use this button to "compensate" for an exposure that is not quite right.


Quality -  In regards to light, quality basically means how harsh (contrasty, glaring, hard) it is versus how soft (glowy, wrap around, less shadowy) the light is.

You can soften the light by making it bigger and closer.  The reason the sun creates harsh shadows is that it is far away and relatively small compared to the scene and very bright. The reason a cloudy day is soft with enveloping light is that the clouds disperse and diffuse sun's light. The clouds are a giant diffuser as big as the the whole sky. So, we can use reflectors and diffusers to do the same thing with our small lights.


Direction -  In regards to the light's direction or angle...

For 3D work we probably want to surround the object with light and minimize the shadows. Or control them exactly. We'll use the lightboxes, diffusers, and reflectors.

As many lights, reflectors as needed for the look you want; left, right, up, down, up, down. Don't be afraid to move them around.

For flatwork we want to light the plane from both sides at about 45 degree angles. This allows the reflections to be mostly out of the image frame



FOCUS -  refers to the sharpness of the focal point and the apparent Depth of Field


Focus is critical! If it is off then the photo isn't going to be good enough no matter what the quality settings are or how great the light is...Manual Focus may be the better choice than auto. The image your camera captures may affect the focus sharpness if the camera is of low cost.

Choose your point of absolute focus with care. Zooming in to check focus is a really good idea. Some cameras may not allow this. If yours does, use it.

HANDS-ON: Let's find the auto/manual focus setting and learn how to adjust manually. Then let's see if your camera will allow us to zoom in on the live picture to check critical focus.

Shooting in Aperture Priority (Av on Canon, A on Nikon) allows you to increase the apparent Depth of Field if you use a small aperture (opening). Small apertures have large numbers like f/8, f/11, f/16 or f/22 because they are actually fractions. There may be some pieces that look better with a shallow depth of field, so use a large aperture (small f stop numbers like f/2.8 or f/4). This does not compensate for a poor focus however. You still need to carefully select the focus point and get it sharp!

HANDS-ON: Let's find the Aperture priority setting. And the control of the aperture. Set it  high and take a test exposure.



CAPTURE TECHNIQUE - includes tools, technique, and composition/arrangement

Tripod - Use one!

Release - cable or timer, both will keep you from moving the camera during the exposure (which will ruin your focus).

HANDS-ON: Let's find the attach our cable or find the Timer release setting. Timers can usually be adjusted in the menus as well.

Arrangement/Composition - personal preference but there are lots of ideas and examples online.


  • 2 Lights at 45 degree angles
  • no glass if possible
  • wear dark clothing for possible reflections
  • Square the camera. The camera should be level and point squarely at the image. The height should be in the middle. The distance should be just enough to allow a small border that you may crop off later. Use a measuring tape/yardstick to make sure all is as equal as you can get it within reason.
  • Square the image. The image should be hanging level; side-to-side and top-to-bottom.
  • Camera lens zoom 30 to 80mm + or -


Camera and Lights example for flatwork


Camera and Lights drawing for flatwork


  • As many lights, reflectors as needed for the look you want; left, right, up, down, up, down
  • Desired prop that has been cleaned
  • Wear dark clothing for possible reflections
  • You may need to drape the camera/photographer area to minimize reflections
  • Level the camera
  • Experiment handheld first to find the right position for the camera then place the tripod and attach
  • Camera lens zoomed to fill the frame as much as possible; macro lens, extension tubes, smaller cameras

How to use a lightbox



SIZE AND CROPPING - You've captured the largest possible image so you can use it for anything but your software will allow you to scale it down. Needed for website etc. It is much better to scale down than up. Cropping is easy too. Don't have too much negative space.

It is good to have an image that is large enough to go full screen and another copy small enough to be a thumbnail or small image on the website. 1500 pixels on the longer side is a good rule of thumb.

COLOR: Correct the white balance using your key image with the neutral object.

TWEAK: Colors, contrast, versions etc.

Details depend upon your software capability... What questions do we have?