How to Photograph a Pipe

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npod

Preferred Member
Jun 11, 2017
2,813
178
Good morning, happy Saturday. Time is 6:58 at the start and 8:01 at the end of this post. Tobacco is Rattray's Red Rapparee. Let's play a game called, "Finding The Light" or conversely, "Please See My Pipe The Way I Do". Remember, the human eye has a dynamic range thousands of times greater than megapixel cameras. So how do you get that grain to pop with a phone camera? Find the light!
My model: Castello Collection Opera Shape 44
6:58 am, balcony, sun just coming up to the east. HARSH light!

Now we have to look around and dissect the shadows, find the right light. Notice the harsh demarcation between shadow and bright light, that makes camera phone very unhappy.


Off to a good start, but too much of a differential between sun and shadow, not gonna do it.

See the shadow vs the bright on the pipe? Not good, doesn't look the way my mind's eye wants it to.

Another example, too much differential in light, but we are starting to see tobacco in the chamber.

Let's keep moving and exploring.
Harsh

Backlit, yuck

Getting warmer, but a hot spot on the pipe and the grain is not the way I want you to see it

Backlit again, can't see the grain, no definition

Ooh, getting there, I found a shadow without direct sun, metering is much better, grain starting to pop.

Closer, but now hot spots and bright highlights.

SO! THIS is as good as it gets in THIS location at this TIME in THIS light.

But I'm not happy.
So! Let's take a walk and bring the dogs along. Let's go exploring outside.
Wow, just outside on the west side of the house, there are SHADOWS, nice. Already the pipe looks better and much less of a challenge to find the light. Nature is playing nice!

Look at the definition and dynamic range in the bricks! It's open.

Ooh, pretty flowers in the shade, probably a good place to take a pipe picture.

Much better! The pipe is starting to look in the photo the way I see it in real life and detailing the grain I want to show off.

BINGO! A nook with trees and shade and dew on the grass. I FOUND THE LIGHT!

A little prop, a lighter, find a good spot, light is good, compose the shot, rule of thirds, etc.
Now that is what I wanted to show. Time 8:01 am.


 

npod

Preferred Member
Jun 11, 2017
2,813
178
My phone doesn't take near the quality of pic seen here.
@davek, yes it does. All phone cameras are capable to taking good pipe pictures. It's not the camera, one just needs to find the right light and location and time of day, etc. I point this out because it is a topic I preach all the time and one I take to heart. Even the basic phone cameras can and will take good pictures.

 

metalheadycigarguy

Preferred Member
Apr 26, 2012
2,579
1
Washington State
I use my Samsung Galaxy 7, and depending on the look I'm going for use the soft light in the room, or the natural light from outside. I will also take the same photograph from different positions to get the image I'm looking for. I'm no professional, but I think I do a okay job with my photographs which I mostly post on my Instagram page.

 

woodsroad

Preferred Member
Oct 10, 2013
8,277
55
Although I'm a photographer by trade, and do a lot of location lighting in the course of a day's work, I've never set up lights to shoot any of my pipes. I mostly make pix of them with the iPhone, when the spirit (and available light) moves me.
The most important advice that I can give on the subject is to be observant of the light around you. When you see light that is pleasing to the eye and camera, take note of the source, the room, what it's reflecting off of, what direction it's coming from. Quality and quantity of light is the first thing that I look for when I'm working, it's key to making good pictures.



 

unkleyoda

Preferred Member
Aug 22, 2016
1,105
13
Your mom\\\'s house
You're all wrong!
You want dimly lit, dark backgrounds. Hold the pipe in your hand and shoot the picture toward the floor, and have the floor in focus and not the pipe. That's the way to shoot pipe pictures.

 

mikethompson

Preferred Member
Jun 26, 2016
4,065
176
I knew Dan would show up sooner or later.
Lots of good advice in this thread for sure!

 

ssjones

Moderator
Staff member
May 11, 2011
14,180
174
Maryland
I bought this light box from Ebay, $8 shipped.

https://www.ebay.com/itm/Mini-Light-Room-Photo-Studio-Photography-Lighting-Tent-Backdrop-Cube-Box-US-KY/112956762872?hash=item1a4cbf6af8:g:gL4AAOSwcjhaze6V
Using a 10 year old Casio point & shoot cast off from my daughter...

We recently bought a $600 Canon G7 MKII (well, the wife bought it ). Even with Dan's advice, I'll be damned if I can get it to take decent close up pipe pictures...

 

woodsroad

Preferred Member
Oct 10, 2013
8,277
55
Al, that's a decent photo! You just need to get the color set, it has a cyan tilt to it. Your new camera has a "custom white balance" setting. Read up on it and use it, it's pretty simple once you figure it out from the lousy instruction manual.
Next, I'd play around with different background materials in the lightbox.

 

darwin

Preferred Member
Apr 9, 2014
821
0
For those ancients among us with formerly steady hands a cell phone is not up to the task of reducing the shakes that often accompany advancing age, especially when making close-up images. A good dedicated camera is necessary for this duty, one that has built in image stabilization, whether lens based, internal, or a combination of both. Good cameras have other advantages but unfortunately one needs to be something of a photography enthusiast to want to wade through the menus and to nurture a photo learning curve. A tripod is a good solution but that is frequently not an option.
One other factor is that us old dogs who've been shooting since we were sprouts can have a tough time rewiring our brains to use photo devices that do not have good eye-level viewfinders. This problem can put the kibosh on using any and all cell phones, period.

 

olkofri

Preferred Member
Sep 9, 2017
2,327
179
I don't care for phones' cameras. I quite dislike them, even though in a pinch I find my phone's camera useful—like when something's out of place in the building and I need to send a quick text with a pic to report it.

 

woodsroad

Preferred Member
Oct 10, 2013
8,277
55
I’ve sold several photos made with my phone, photos I wouldn’t have made otherwise.

 

jpmcwjr

Preferred Member
May 12, 2015
13,880
806
Monterey Peninsula
With good phone with less than 3 years on it, you should be able to extract very good photos. Lighting is the key, and exposure set to the pipe that's being captured.

 

jpmcwjr

Preferred Member
May 12, 2015
13,880
806
Monterey Peninsula
So do many when the need is there. However, for small product type shots that won't be printed to any size—if printed at all—good camera phones are more than up to the task.
Why uncover and fire up the Maserati for a two block jaunt to the store?

 

jpmcwjr

Preferred Member
May 12, 2015
13,880
806
Monterey Peninsula
Darwin-
I am the ancient class, and have been lucky my hands are steady.
If you put the object on a table, good lighting, then prop you elbows on it, two hands on the camera, you should have good results with out setting up a tripod.

 

olkofri

Preferred Member
Sep 9, 2017
2,327
179
Because the Maserati just rocks!
It's a camera thing, jpmcwjr. I despise phones because I like the feel of the camera in my hand, looking through the viewfinder, carefully composing and lighting. I like to have control over my focal length, my depth of field. I enjoy the snapping sound the mirror makes when flipping up and down, and I love the pop and burst of light from my strobes. It's not just taking a photo, however neat it ends up looking: it's the EXPERIENCE. Same reason I prefer to shoot RAW: developing the file on the RAW processing software is a satisfying experience in itself. A point-and-shoot gadget doesn't give you that. Camera phones are the photographic equivalent of cigarettes; real cameras are pipes.
You know, you guys just gave me an idea. I've a roll of Ilford loaded on my camera for which I've not found worthy subjects. I should use it to make some photographs of pipes... I've a MM 2018 LE Reverse Calabash sitting here still unsmoked.

 

woodsroad

Preferred Member
Oct 10, 2013
8,277
55
I prefer to shoot RAW, too. But it’s not a prerequisite. I’ve had iPhone files used in annual reports, magazines, displays and yes, billboards. Clients never knew (or cared) what camera was used to make them. They hired me to make the pictures, not my camera.
For me (and my clients) it’s the photo that matters. Process is just a tool.