Canon EOS 40D DSLRI have several hobbies and one of them is photography. Though a serious amateur, I do not consider my skills anywhere close to professional level. Nor have I ever written about photography on this blog. But the more woodworking I do the more I find that photography is a part of it; either to display my creations in a portfolio or to describe woodworking techniques and joinery on my website and blog. So I have decided to write a multi part tutorial. It is targeted for woodworkers who are beginning to show an interest in digital photography with the goal of demonstrating how their photography skills can be integrated into their woodworking.

This tutorial will appear in several posts, each post a stand alone section. When the last installment is complete I will combine the posts into one web page and a document that can be downloaded for future reference. Today I will start with suggested equipment and software lists and then discuss each briefly. More detail will follow in subsequent installments.

Equipment

  1. Digital camera – preferably a digital single lens reflex (DSLR) that shoots RAW
  2. Telephoto lens – 24mm – 70mm is a good range for APS size sensors
  3. Tripod – The sturdier the better but you don’t need a professional Tripod
  4. Cardreader – preferably Firewire
  5. Extra memory cards – nice but not necessary
  6. Gray Card – absolutely essential

Software

  1. Adobe Photoshop Lightroom – Substitute Adobe Photoshop Camera Raw or native camera manufacturer’s software, but Lightroom is really head and shoulders above the rest
  2. Adobe Photoshop – Photoshop Elements also works for most situations
  3. Adobe Photoshop Elements – not necessary, unless you do not have Photoshop, but nice for managing JPEGs

Note that I did not mention a flash attachment or filters. They are not necessary for shooting projects in the shop or outside. You can accomplish almost everything you need to without them. That said, if you have the money by all means add them to your photographic tool bag. Also, I am biased to Adobe products for software and Canon for photographic equipment. However, you can accomplish the same things I will cover here with other brands, though I will use these products exclusively in the tutorial.

Camera

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 2The five things I strongly recommend in whatever camera you purchase is that it be a DSLR, shoots and stores RAW images, has a 10 second timer, has an aperture priority setting and has at least 5 mp resolution. This set of criteria is not difficult to meet since you would be hard pressed to find a DSLR on the market today that does not meet them.

Above 5 mp, resolution is not the most important purchasing criteria. Look for a camera with the least noise and best color reproduction. I will not present a lot of theory here or review cameras. Digital Photography Review is probably the best place for that. Other factors are of course cost, weight, feel, ease of menu manipulation, placement of controls, battery life and choice of attachments – especially lenses. Resolution is probably the most over valued criteria when choosing a camera. Consider what you want to do with it. If you are mostly interested in pictures for a website or blog 5 mp is more than enough; a 1920 x 1200, wide-screen computer display, is about 2.3 mp. If printing your own prints on an ink-jet is your thing, an 8″x10″ photo is 7.2 mp at a high quality resolution of 300 ppi. My cameras are both 10 mp, and I will not select my next camera body based on more mega pixels. However, 10 mp does offer an advantage. It allows a fair amount of cropping while still ending up with 5 -7 mp to work with. So for me this is the sweet spot in resolution.

As I said, my cameras are both Canon. I have a Rebel XTi with 28-135mm Ultrasonic Focusing and Stabilization lens and a EOS 40D with 24-70mm Ultrasonic Focusing and Stabilization L series lens. Since most of the picture taking I will discuss is with a tripod, stabilization is switched off.

Tripod

The Tripod is an inexpensive, but a most needed piece of equipment. You don’t need a professional tripod with a ball attachment. Go to your local camera store, for example Ritz Camera, and buy one of their best tripods for under $100. It will serve you just fine.

Cardreader

If you don’t already have a card reader get one that is Firewire compatible provided your computer supports Firewire. RAW files can be large and downloading a number of them can take a long time. Most cameras download directly via USB, but their implementations of the USB hardware are often slow. Card readers are inexpensive and a good investment.

Memory Cards

Memory cards are always a good investment. I like to have a number of high speed 2 GB cards as opposed to one or more very large 8 GB cards. I don’t trust that many pictures to one card, not because I think card reliability is bad, but because I don’t trust my handling of them. A 2 GB card holds approximately 150 RAW Canon images (it will be different for another brand) which is a reasonably long time between card changes.

Gray Card

Adobe Photoshop CS3Since we will be shooting only RAW images we need some way to correct color, that is, adjust white balance. If you don’t know what RAW or white balance is, don’t worry, I will go into each in more detail in the next installment, soon to follow. A gray card is a card that is printed with a neutral gray, half way between black and white, which will reflect 18% of a “total light spectrum”, that is daylight (the purist will say this is not technically correct, but it is close enough for our understanding). If we include this card in a test picture – of say a piece of furniture in a fluorescent lit shop – we will know the color it should be after correcting for the bluish cast of fluorescent lighting. A Kodak gray card pack-of-two can be purchased from Amazon.com for under $20. More on gray cards later.

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom

As I said I am biased toward Adobe when it comes to photographic or graphics software. Adobe is what most professionals use and it is largely an industry standard. There are many other competing brands out there and I don’t want to get into religious wars. Make your own choice, but Adobe is what I will work with in this tutorial.

Photoshop Lightroom, in my opinion, is the most value for the money one can expect in a “darkroom” software package. I use to develop and print my own 35mm film in a chemical filled darkroom. Boy, do I love digital photography. And wow, do I love Photoshop Lightroom. The combination of RAW images and Photoshop Lightroom is about 90 percent of everything a photographer needs to do. Correct color, lighting, sharpness, crop, rotate, manage a photo library – you name it – and you can do most of it with Photoshop Lightroom. What it doesn’t do is the graphics design that Photoshop does – that is, work with layers and canvasses, distort images, artistic filtering, etc. Lightroom is relatively inexpensive as graphics software goes. You can get a full featured version from Amazon.com for $272 as of this writing.

Adobe Photoshop CS4 and/or Adobe Photoshop Elements 7

Adobe Photoshop Elements 6If you can afford both packages, I recommend getting both Adobe Photoshop CS2 or later and Adobe Photoshop Elements. Adobe Photoshop CS4 full version is very pricey and is currently listing for $699. However, you can probably find deals on CS2 or CS3 that cost substantially less and upgrade later if you choose. Alternatively, get Adobe Photoshop Elements 7 currently listing at $100. Adobe Photoshop Elements is an excellent photo manager and in addition has most of the key features of Photoshop CS4. We will use these packages to isolate our creations, place them on non-distracting backgrounds, remove reflections, combine multiple separate images and display them with simulated studio lighting. It is this last feature that allows us to eliminate flash and lighting equipment from the equipment list.

I will use my own photos for this tutorial, but in the interest of making this and interactive tutorial, if I get a request from a few readers to attempt something on their photos, I will accommodate them – as long as I don’t get too many that is. This concludes the introductory installment. Each installment will be titled “Woodworkers And Digital Photography – Part 1” and numbered sequentially until the final which will be titled “Woodworkers And Digital Photography – Final Part”. This will make it easy to find all installments if you don’t follow along regularly. See you later.

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2 Responses to “Woodworkers And Digital Photography – Part 1”


  1. Ron says:

    Awesome Joe!!! This is something I will follow for sure! The woodworking is easy compared to the photography and heck your work is only as good as the picture you take so… I can’t wait for the next lesson;)

    RJ


  2. Joe says:

    Thanks Ron. I will be gone for a few days between now and New Years. But as soon as I get back I will post the next installment.

    Joe….