Sunday, 29 July 2012

On photographing books

Some random comments as a follow-up to last week's post ...
Much of what is written about studio lighting is directed at portrait photographers - books are mostly much smaller than groups of people and need a much smaller lit area.
Synchronous multiple flash photography is fine for the professional but it doesn't allow you to see effect of the lighting until after you have taken the photograph - continuous lighting is probably easier to manage for less experienced photographers.
The development of compact fluorescent bulbs means that lamp heat output is no longer a serious problem with continuous lighting.
An 85watt compact fluorescent gives a similar light output to a 500watt incandescent bulb.
Bulbs with a colour temperature of 5500K give a colour rendition that most closely matches natural light.
Umbrella lights and soft boxes are bulky and can be awkward to work with in the small space that is all many of us have for photographing our books. Simpler lamps on smaller stands that can sit on a table should be more than adequate for most book photography.
Three or four lights of these lights would be needed to eliminate all shadows but the same effect should be possible with two lights and camera flash.
Unprimed off-white canvas and black felt work well as backcloths (and can be recycled for as art canvases and box linings when no longer needed for photography).
Details of the studio lights I bought can be found here.

Monday, 23 July 2012

Snap happy

Lots of hours spent this week taking photographs for submissions to a US publisher and three juried exhibitions. The publisher's extremely tight digital image specification has meant lots of research on file formats and much much more - frustrating at the time but satisfying when it all fell into place.  This concentrated effort gave me the excuse I needed to upgrade some of my photographic equipment. I've invested in some new (larger) backcloths and basic studio lights and am reasonably satisfied with the results. It all still happens on the dining room table but  the colour rendition is much improved and the images crisper and clearer. The contrast between this image of Babushka Boxes and one that I used in an earlier post makes me feel that the upgrade has been worthwhile.

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Tinted Undercoat Required

My fascination with colour gradation and transition means that no visit to the hardware store is complete without swinging by the paint department to ogle its racks of swatches and sample cards.
Tinted Undercoat Required, which I finished last week, is nothing more than an excuse (if one were needed) to pick up and play with some ninety of these swatches. The result is a huge (for me) concertina book that stands over half a metre tall and stretches out to over two metres in length. The book has been made using covered box board panels and strips of gros grain ribbon for the hinges - a method of construction that frees the binder from the scale and accuracy constraints inherent in more traditional forms of the concertina binding.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

The Book of Ampersands

I recently reread Simon Garfield's Just My Type, a quirky book that breathes life into the arcane mysteries of fonts. I was taken (again) by the author's reflection on the delights of the ampersand - 'Done well, an & is not so much a character as a creature, an animal from the deep. Or it is a character in the other sense of the word, usually a tirelessly entertaining one, perhaps an uncle with too many magic tricks ...'
I decided that the ampersand deserved a book of its own and that I would make it. After much playing around with options, I've settled on a binding in the French Simplified style that will hopefully be heading for an exhibition at the Art Gallery of NSW later in the year. I've now printed images of 223 ampersands onto sheets; folded and cut the sheets; assembled the sections; and (this afternoon) sewn the block onto tapes. It's a great feeling to have a new work underway.