Photography of shiny objects
You have applied all the tricks of the trade and obtained a good image on film, now you want it to be properly developed and you want a good print. If the image is not low key or high key, no problems are to be expected. Even so, select a good laboratory that uses high quality paper, so that colours are well reproduced and saturated. If the print needs to be scanned later, e.g. for reproduction in a book, use high gloss paper for the print. If you submit to a professional laboratory, the fact that you have pushed or pulled the film (consciously underexposed or overexposed) can be taken into account.
If the film image is high key or low key, then there is a chance that the print will be shifted to medium tones, unless you ask a professional laboratory rather than a round-the-corner photoshop to make the prints. After all, in the process of enlarging use is made of automatic exposure, and the exposure meter is likely to be set to render medium tones . So if you submit slide material, you can instruct the professional laboratory about any required corrections (colour cast, contrast, tonal shift, etc.). In the case of negative film it is prudent to tell whether the subject is low key, high key, whether a colour cast needs to be retained e.g. in the case of sunrise or sunset.
When judging an image on a computer screen keep the following in mind. How the image is rendered on the screen depends on the quality of your monitor and the finetuning of the colour rendition. In professional studios the brightness and colour rendition are therefore calibrated. Because the colour of environmental light may have a colour cast, it is important that you always pass judgments with the same lighting. Also allow the monitor 15 min. to warm up.
If you have made a piece of jewelry, or an enameled object, you have put a lot of effort into it and tried to make it meet the highest standards. Few artists are also good photographers, and unfortunately one can tell this from home made pictures. If you are satisfied with such a picture, that is all up to you. If you feel that what you have produced should be documented in the best possible way (why wouldn't you), there are three options open to you:
- Ask a professional photographer to take pictures and have them processed professionally.
- Invite a friend who is an accomplished amateur photographer to take the pictures. Alternatively, try to contact a club of amateur photographers and ask them to to take up the challenge of producing high quality images, and offer them some remuneration. As a rule amateur photographers who join a club strive for high quality. Photographing shiny objects is not the easiest task, and they may feel tickled by the challenge.
- Do it yourself. Certainly, why not, one is never too old to learn, and it is even a lot of fun! Your photographic equipment should be up to the task.
- The perspective of a rectangular object, such as an enamel panel, is distorted because it was not centred perpendicularly at the camera's optical axis. The eye and brain easily pick up slight perspective distortion, which is experienced as distracting (see picture on the right). Therefore inspect carefully in the view finder whether the vertical and horizontal limits of the rectangular object align with those of the viewfinder. It is best to use a tripod. A focusing screen with grid is usually quite helpful in this respect.
- All too often people take a picture of an object hanging on the wall in a room which is lit from one side. They then easily overlook the fact that the lighting is uneven. This does not matter if the only objective is to document how an object was put on display. If the image should do justice to the object of art, however, uneven lighting is a serious shortcoming. It is important to be aware of the fact that this phenomenon occurs in unevenly lit rooms. If you are taking photographs at an exhibition you may not be able to remedy this. If your camera can be fitted with an external flashlight, bouncing the light from a white ceiling may lead to more even (soft) lighting.
- There is a colour cast, for example because sunlight shines through coloured glass windows, the room has coloured walls, lighting is achieved with light sources that do not emit white light, etc. It is usually best to prevent recording a colour cast. With digital cameras adjust the colour temperature, or record in RAW format and adjust the temperature of light when digitally processing the image. With film cameras, use correction filters, or when ordering prints ask the laboratory to remove the cast by appropriate filtering. If the film or digital image does not display a colour cast, but the print does, obviously it has not been printed correctly.
- The colours in the image are dull. This usually means lack of contrast due to suboptimal lighting, or to erroneous exposure settings while taking the picture. Silver becomes dull and looks like zinc if it does not reflect a white environment, using whatever sort of reflection screen. Photography is the art of writing with light, and therefore entails the artful manipulation of light; consequently optimal lighting and exposure are of the essence. Other causes: the printing process may have been suboptimal: incorrect exposure, poor quality paper, poor quality developer (film process), poor colour filters, in digital processing a poor printer. High-gloss paper yields more brillant prints and higher colour saturation than satin and matte paper, and the image can be better reproduced by flat bed scanners.