My photography divides into just two areas, Personal (family and holidays) and Workshop
photography, primarily for publication in the “Model Engineers’ Workshop” magazine
and my books.
I am not going to enter into details of the methods I use for my holiday photographs,
etc., as this is very much the same as most people will use. However, having had
published around 2000 workshop photographs I do have some experience in this area
though it in no way makes me an expert.
First, a little background history, whilst editor, I visited readers workshops together
with the publishers professional photographer from whom I learnt much of the basics,
but this needed two visits, once to see if it warranted inclusion in the magazine
and then again with the photographer. I decided therefor to start taking the photographs
myself to avoid this at it was expensive in terms of time and costs.
Initially, I worked with two Canon AT1 SLR film cameras, one for prints that were
used inside the magazine and the other with slide film for the cover. The publishers
at that time would not accept prints for front cover use.. I now use two Single Lens
Reflex digitals, a Canon EOS 350D and a Canon EOS 400D with output from these being
acceptable for both inside and outside the magazine.
These are around 10 megapixels which is more than enough and only really becomes
essential when one crops a small proportion out of a larger picture for publication
which could then give you the equivalent of say 2 mp.
Focus and Lighting
Just two things are vitally important, focus and lighting, perhaps adding to that
a steady hand, but I almost always use a tripod that overcomes that problem. If your
camera has manual focus then this is the way to proceed as it avoids the possibility
of the camera being confused as to which part of the scene is most important in
terms of clarity if focusing is done automatically.
We now come to lighting which is the main factor that will make or break a good picture.
I am not saying that the method I use is the only acceptable one but it is the one
that most professional photographers would use.
I use an automatic flashgun with the flash pointing into a reflector but with the
sensor on the flash unit looking towards the item being photographed. The sensor
measures the strength of light being reflected back and from that determine’s its
The purpose of the reflector is to defuse the light thereby reducing considerably
the sharpness and depth of the resulting shadows. Even with that done I also used
a small hand held flash, triggered by the main flash. To defuse this I hold it with
a loop of white paper in front of it. One advantage of a digital camera is very apparent
here as it permits one to experiment with the lighting positions being able to view
the results as they are taken. If a PC or Laptop is available in the workshop then
the result can be viewed at a larger size which is helpful but far from essential.
Safe Sync Unit
One word of warning for anyone taking the same route as me into digital photography,
that is, if you wish to continue using the flash unit you used with your film camera
then do be aware that the high voltage developed by the older flash unit will probably
play havoc with the electronics of the digital camera and a safe sync unit will be
required, the one I am using is from Wien Products, Inc. This unit mounts onto the
camera’s hot shoe and then provides a second hot shoe for mounting the flash unit.
It also has a socket to take a cable for a remote flash gun being the method I use.
The safe sync unit, whilst obviously from the US, it is available in the UK.