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Old January 30, 2012, 04:31 PM   #1
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Taking closeup pictures of brass - how to?

Periodically I find the need to take a detailed picture of a piece of brass. Often in the context of a post here for something I need clarification on. But it is always a frustrating experience.

I've got a reasonably modern small digital camera and it is just awful at getting the focus right. It always seems to focus more on the background than the brass. I suppose this might be because the brass tends to be long and skinny and therefore doesn't come across as the major component of the scene. I dunno.

Anyway, I was wondering if there are any camera experts around here that might have some helpful tips on how to do this thing correctly. Background, lighting, camera setting, distance-from-brass, that sort of thing.

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Old January 30, 2012, 04:46 PM   #2
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Most cameras have a manual control options in the settings. With these you can usually change where the focus is in the image. Most commonly, digital cameras use a combination a distance sensing and light sensing to choose where to focus. If you make the focus point ALWAYS the center, then you should be be able force the take photos in the ' not so perfect' way.
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Old January 30, 2012, 04:48 PM   #3
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You need a camera with a macro setting. I assume you are using that. Try using a neutral gray background so the case isn't made too dark. Manual exposure is an alternative there to let you get the case brightness and focus correct.

Try backing up a little and using a tripod together with the optical telephoto setting and macro functions simultaneously. That will increase depth of field a little so focus is less critical. If you can manually force it to use a higher f stop number, that will also increase depth of field, but will cause exposure to lengthen to compensate, so, again, the tripod may be needed. You can set it on the tripod then set the timer to trigger the shutter so your hands are off to reduce the shakes.
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Old January 30, 2012, 04:53 PM   #4
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These fotos were taken with my mobile phone (Motorola Droid2)

Frankly, I was surprised at the quality of the close up, but the autofocus didn't bat and eye (so to speak).
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Old January 30, 2012, 05:08 PM   #5
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As near as I can tell, from my amateur photography attempts, Unclenick has described the best method.

I took the pick below just now, using the method Unclenick described. I didn't have the best light, but its fairly clear.

Having at least a 12 megapixel camera, a tripod and a macro setting are going to be the easiest ways to take clear, detailed close ups. Using a flash on close ups also doesn't work very well, at least not for me.

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Old January 30, 2012, 05:12 PM   #6
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Old January 30, 2012, 05:42 PM   #7
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Without a camera with a macro setting, you can do this with a digital camera. Where most folks mess up is in trying to get too close to the object to take the picture and the camera cannot focus on the object. You want to be no closer to the object than your camera can focus.

Take the picture.

Using a simple photo editor, crop the image and expand the size to what you like.

If you are using a 12 megapixel camera like nate's, your cropped version will still be a higher resolution than digital cameras from just a few years ago.
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Old January 31, 2012, 09:08 AM   #8
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Go to the craft store & buy a piece of grey cardboard or foam core.
Lay the brass on this featureless grey surface to take the pictures.
Autofocus works by finding what it thinks is an edge, so if you only give it one edge that's where it will focus (within the limits of the camera that is).

Depending on your camera you may have either manual control of the settings, or be able to force the automatic to do what you want. If you have a "P-A-S-M" set of markings set it to "A", then set the highest number you can. If there is a "speed/action" & a "scenery" mode use scenery. Yes scenery even if you are taking a close up. This will give you as much extra depth as is possible, but may force you to add support to the camera as it will slow down the speed to the point you may get blur. If this happens you need more light.

Use macro, don't use flash. If you can take the pictures by a window that lights one side more than the other that helps as well.
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Old January 31, 2012, 10:44 AM   #9
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Here's a link to a site that describes making a very simple and inexpensive "light tent" for this kind of photography and has some other good tips as well:
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Old January 31, 2012, 12:42 PM   #10
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Another technique that will help get sharper pics is to use the self timer. That is what you use to set the camera then run to get in the pic yourself. By using that you remove the human shake element. Some sharp pics can be taken with lower end cameras by just working to the get the most out of them.
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Old January 31, 2012, 08:44 PM   #11
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So. Macro mode. Wow. That makes a huge difference. Shows what I get for not reading the manual

Thanks guys!
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