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Photographing Small Objects

Image 1: This is the setup I used - the subject pin is sitting on a folded handkerchief.  The jug is 'frosted' plastic, not solid white.  It is the type used for distilled or spring water, it is not a milk or juice jug which tends to be opaque and would block too much light.  The entire flat part of the bottom of the jug has been removed, as well as about a 2" diameter circle at the neck.  This hole at the neck is large enough to accomodate the camera's lens barrel.

The camera is my son's Toshiba PDR-M25 2.2 Megapixel Digital Camera with a 3X Optical Zoom, that we got at Costco in June 2002 for under $200.  In addition we purchased an AC power adapter (5 volt DC output) as digital cameras tend to consume batteries very quickly if you use the LCD display panel when you compose and take pictures, and a USB card reader to make moving the images from the camera into the computer faster.  The camera comes with a USB adapter cable for connecting to the computer but we prefer the card reader technique.  I purchased the card reader for under $10 from MicroCenter.

Image 2: Here the camera is balanced on the top of the jug, which in turn is centered over the subject. I used the camera's self-timer to trigger the shot so that I wouldn't shake the camera when taking the picture.  I used the camera's flash.  Most importantly, the camera was set to 'macro' mode to permit close-ups.  Please note that macro is not the same as zoom.  Macro is needed to take photographs when the camera is less than 30" from the subject.  I took two shots - one with the camera's low resolution mode, and one with the camera's high resolution mode.

The jug serves two purposes

  • it diffuses the light from the flash so that it comes at the subject from many sides, thus reducing the harsh shadow that would be present from a raw flash so close to the camera lens and so close to the subject.
  • it supports the camera while the self-timer is running so that you can take your hand off of the camera - eliminating camera shake.  Even a small amount of camera shake will ruin a close-up photograph.
  Image 3: This is the Low-Resolution original image, straight out of the camera.  The image is 896 by 600 pixels, and the file is 45KB in size.  While the image is surprizingly small in file size, the pixel width is too large to fit this page without stretching the page and making the text invisible.  You may click the link to see the original 'low res' image.  Notice the inside corners of the jug.
Image 4: Here is the same image, but I cropped it.  Oddly enough, the size of the file has increased to 80KB because I turned off compression.  I did not bother trying to save it with compression because I do not like the 'artifacts' - the distortion visible mostly of the background such as by the tips of the cat's ears.
  Image 5: Here is the original taken at HiRes.  The image is 1792 x 1200 pixels and the file is 854KB.  The most important thing to notice is the clarity of the image that we have to start with.  Note that I am not forcing the image down to your machine - it is HUGE.  But if you want to see it, go ahead and click the link to the left.  It may take several minutes if you are on a dial-up internet connection.  Don't say I didn't warn you.
Image 6: Here I have cropped the image to only show the portion that I want.  It is 608 x 724 pixels and 287KB - still about 5 times the file size you would want for eBay.
Image 7: Here is the same image after cropping, resizing, but not compressing it.  This is 336 x 400, and 103KB - still too big a file.
Image 8: Here is the same image after cropping, resizing, and compressing.  This image is 336 x 400 and 24KB.  I think it is 'over-compressed'.  This is an approximation of what you might expect to get from eBay's PictureServices (iPix) if you were to upload the above file (Image 7) to eBay.
Image 9: I started with the HiRes original, cropped and then resized it to 500 x 544 pixels.  I then adjusted the compression until the file size comes out at 50KB.  I think that this would be an excellent image for eBay.




Here is another way of using the jug - here I use a halogen contractor's light to provide the lighting, and the jug to diffuse it.  The subject is a serving spoon, I wanted to get the hallmark on the handle.



and the result



Here are several photos of a pocket watch taken using the jug diffuser.




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