BunnyBass phototips: suggestions & ideas.
since bunnybass went online a few years ago, we've received quite a lot of e-mails asking how we take pictures of the basses in the 'pretty basses' gallery. we send questions to jon and have him answer them because he's the one that knows the most about photography. some of you may know that jon's an educational researcher, but you probably didn't know that before this he was also an artist and used to teach art in universities. so i asked him to make a page of photo tips for those of us who might want to take a nice picture or two of our basses. almost a year later, here it is!
p.s. if you wanna skip all this photography stuff and jump straight to jon's photoshop pages, click here...
Good morning - I'm going to go over some of the things that I'm usually thinking about when I take pictures of basses. All the examples on the following pages are applicable to both digital cameras and traditional film-based cameras, because the fundamentals are really the same for both. If any of this helps you to get closer to taking the kind of photographs that you like to look at, then I'd be very pleased.
At first I was writing a "Understanding Basic Lighting" kind of thing, but it was getting way too long and boring. So instead, I've decided to change it to a "Bad Example/Good Example" type thing, with the points arranged in order of "very obvious" to "not so obvious" (the first couple pages may bore you to tears - feel free to skip them. I wrote this for people who don't usually play with cameras...). Now it is less boring, but only slightly. Trying to learn the fundamental principles photography and the logic of lighting is actually more difficult in this format, but if all you want to do is take better pictures of your basses FAST, this is probably better and funner too (I know that's not a word, but it should be).
The two most common questions that I get asked is:
1) What kind of camera do you use?
2) What kind of set up are you using to take pictures?
Answering the first question is easy - since last summer, I've been using a Nikon 990 (it's a digital camera). Before that I was using a Fuji MX-2700, also a digital camera. Both these cameras are "very good" for their price. But the single most important thing in getting a decent photograph is not what kind of camera you're using (unless the camera is broken or just REALLY terrible), but rather how you use it. In that way photography is like playing bass - owning a Fodera won't make me Victor Wooten.
So in these pages I'll be showing some examples of how to use what you already have around the house to make nice pictures of your basses.
The second question is also easy to answer - I usually need only a few things to help me take pictures:
- a camera (the pictures in these example pages were taken with a Fuji MX-2700)
- an open window
- a bedsheet or a large piece of cloth, or anything else that can be used as a simple visual background
- an 8.5 x 11 inch piece of cardboard with a blank sheet of typing paper glued to one side
- a pillow - for resting your bass against or kneeling on
- a bar of soap, still wrapped or in its box - also useful for propping things up
- a chair to brace yourself against
- a guitar stand, if you have one (optional)
That's pretty much it. If you go to a camera store, the salespeople there will probably try to sell you something that'll help you take "better pictures". It may help or it may not, but if you understand the basics of manipulating light for photography, you really don't need a lot of stuff and you definately shouldn't have to buy anything in order to take nice pictures of your bass. You don't need a full-blown professional photo studio either - here's a picture of the place where i took all the pictures for this section:
This is my apartment (note the fabulous Los Angeles view outside my window). The black thing in the foreground is a fold-out foam futon that I sleep on. Instead of a sheet, I use that as my "backdrop". Not that I wouldn't benefit from having access to a nice studio - that would definately make everything faster and easier. But what you already have is probably good enough, and it's free.
Okay, so here we go.
One: Don't use flash.
Here's what I would call a typical bass-picture:
<-- Wow, what a weird bass! It's a Sukop!
Don't use flash - it'll make your finely crafted $4000 bass look stupid. Notice the ugly shadows that "outline" the contours against the back wall. Not that all shadows are bad - shadows can also be effectively used to show shape and form. But this kind, created by the on-camera flash, isn't an example of those good kinds of shadows! Also, note the glare coming off the fingerboard. Glare and reflections can also be used to good effect - especially if you want to show what kind of surface texture or lustre something has - but this is not an example of that kind of glare. This is the kind that makes things look harsh and flat. Even Gwyneth Paltrow looks bad when paparazzi capture her image with on-camera flash.
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