Tuesday, June 1, 2004

Tagging along on a small-object product shoot


By David Gewirtz

Once you've been a writer or an editor for a while, especially if you've lived with weekly deadlines, you develop an essential skill: the ability to come up with an article topic out of thin air.

This is one such article.

It's Sunday night, and my article is due tomorrow morning. I've already written a number of articles for the other magazines and, well, I'm running out of article-writing steam. So, having that essential coming up with a topic on the fly skill, I've come up with a topic: I'm going to talk about the pictures I took for another article.

In Computing Unplugged Magazine, this week, I did a review of the Pharos GPS navigator. You can read the article at http://www.computingunplugged.com/issues/issue200406/00001299001.html. As part of the review, I had to take a number of pictures of the various GPS components.

One of the nicer aspects of this article was that it was a review of a car-based device. That meant I could take pictures outside of the studio. In fact, I could take my pictures outside. I installed the GPS into the car, and then, using my Canon Digital Rebel SLR, I climbed into the driver's seat, set the camera on macro mode, and got to shooting.

Macro mode

Let's spend a few minutes on macro mode. This is a funny name, because the word macro means "big," and yet macro mode in a camera (officially, photomacrography), means you're taking pictures of small objects. This is another way of saying close-up photography. Most cameras are unable to focus if the subject is extremely close to the lens; by using a macro lens you can come in much closer.

Most better digital cameras come with a macro mode. If you're going to be taking close-up shots of products, you'll need it. For today's shoot, all my shots were of objects less than five inches big, so I used the macro mode on the camera.

Getting a sense of scale

One of my first images was of the GPS receiver itself. You can see my first photo of the receiver in Figure A. Definitely click the link for the larger image. It's important you see this picture in its full glory.


A close-up shot of the GPS receiver has no sense of scale. (click for larger image)

If you clicked the link above for Figure A, you'll notice the GPS receiver looks great, but it looks like it's probably about 5 or 6 inches across. There was nothing to give it a sense of scale. After coming in from my shoot and looking at the pictures in Photoshop, I realized that, too. So I reshot it and used this next picture, Figure B, in the article.


In my hand, it's much clearer just how small the receiver actually is. (click for larger image)

Without question, you now know how big the object is.