Tuesday, June 1, 2004

How to take fabulous photos of your jewelry without using a camera

BUDGET PHOTO SECRETS

By Marilyn Gewirtz

Recently, at a meeting of the Bead Society of Palm Beach County, one of our members brought in a beautiful album of her beaded creations. I have been trying to create an album like that for quite a while, but I don't have a digital camera. When I asked her what type of camera she had, her answer was, "I don't. My husband puts my jewelry on the scanner and scans it directly to the computer."

Wow! The answer to my dilemma! I rushed home and tried it out. To my delighted surprise, it worked. Of course, I had to fine tune it so that the pictures were presentable, but in general, I had a great set of pictures. And it is so easy!

First, I needed to block out extraneous room light. With flat pieces, such as amulet bags or flat bracelets, I used a large piece of white cardboard for this purpose. I placed the items I wanted to scan in an attractive layout, placed the cardboard on top and scanned into Photoshop. Figure A shows the results of this.

FIGURE A

A simple scanner made this incredibly clear scan. (click for larger image)

Never one to leave well enough alone, I had to experiment. I happened to have an orange file folder sitting on my desk and wanted to see what would happen with a colored background. Figure B is a sample of this. I love it.

FIGURE B

Don't be afraid to experiment with colored backgrounds. (click for larger image)

Of course, you can see a few of the folder seams and edges. A little Photoshop magic with a simple crop, or a little extra work with the Clone Stamp tool could clear that right up.

With bulkier items, however, this didn't work because too much outside light caused the sides of my picture to get black. I needed something that would cover the pieces. A sheet or pillowcase is good for this purpose. Any other opaque, solid, colored fabric will work as well.

A word of warning however. On my first try, I just draped the pillowcase and scanned. Oops! I didn't realize my scanner was so good that every wrinkle in the fabric showed. So, I ironed the fabric and tried again. Figure C is the result.

FIGURE C

A piece of cloth or a sheet makes a great background for your scan. (click for larger image)

You can leave it with the fabric as a drape in the background, or if you are a Photoshop expert you could change the background altogether.

Any way you do it, it is fun to experiment and even more fun to know you have great pictures you've taken without a camera. Even if you don't already have a scanner, this is a great budget tip, because a good scanner can cost less than a $100, where a good digital camera (and all the lighting gear necessary for shooting images of this quality) can cost a whole lot more.

Marilyn Gewirtz is 43-year old ZATZ Editor-in-Chief David Gewirtz' mom. When asked what she wanted her bio to say, she simply answered "David is my little boy." Some things never change.