In my field (failure analysis), photography is all-important. I spend a lot of time trying to get the perfect photo of a broken part. One tip I'd like to add to Jon's list is simply this:
8. Take lots and lots of photos.
As Jon mentions, with digital photography, there's no good excuse for not doing this; you can always delete the ones you don't use. I probably take at least 20-30 shots for each photo I use in a report.
Another tip, which seems obvious, but which I have sometimes forgotten, is this:
9. Take pictures before disassembly or destructive testing.
If you're going to take apart an assembly or cut up a part, make sure you take all of the pictures you need prior to doing this. Otherwise, good luck getting it back into the condition you received it!
Good points, Dave. Thanks for sharing. Years ago I visited one of the failure-analysis labs at NASA. The lab team had a rack full of power-supplies and needed to analyze why they failed. I recall they took lots and lots of photos before they did anything else
Jon, I see that your tip #3 basically suggests the old lightbox. Once upon a time in the ancient dark ages before desktop publishing, this was how anything printed got produced during what was called "paste-up," using Exacto knives. I wonder if those boxes are still sold? If not, they're pretty easy to make.
Hi, Ann. I remember the days of Xacto knives and production editors who ended up with bits of paper stuck on their sleeves. A piece of frosted glass supported by four stacks of books and incandescent bulbs underneath makes a jury-rigged lightbox. I recommend against using milky glass or white plastic, both of which absorb too much light.
The suggestions made are quite timely especially with a lot of folks submitting articles to the Gadget Freak column. I could have definitely used these photography suggestions for my book Learn Electronics with Arduino just recenty published by Apress. I'm working on a second Apress book and wiil definitely use them for improving my photographs. Thanks for the article and keep up the good work!
Thank you for these great bullet points. I studied photography years ago and always had a hard time explaining basic ways to make DIY photography look good. AS a result, I become the unofficial photographer for quick projects.
Hi, Nadine and Mr. Don. Thanks for your comments. Years ago when I shot mainly b/w photos and 35mm color slides, photographers took pains to compose a photo and try to get it as good as possible in a few shots. Digital photography lets us "shoot" images with wild abandon. So it's good to make notes about the settings, lights, and backgrounds used. Last year I took photos for a book, too, and bracketed my shots between many different aperture and exposure-time settings. Digital cameras have many, many of these settings, so you want to know what worked and what didn't when you go back and take more pictures.
Some camera manuals are sketchy at best. It took me a while to figure out if I corrected for incandescent light I could not use the built-in flash, for example.
Jon, Very good points. I'm going through the process of documenting settings for the photos I'm taking for the second book I'm writing. Glare is the biggest offense while taking pics of glossy surface devices like LCDs.
Yes, I understand that problem! I photographed components for my book, "The Hands-On XBee Lab Manual" and it took some doing to eliminate glare. A polarizing filter helped reduce glare on non-metallic surfaces, but metallic components and pins proved the most difficult. Diffuse light can help, too.
In the end, I didn't use all of the various photos I took. You don't always know what you will and won't use, so as another comment said, take plenty of photos!
Jon, With Learn Electronics with Arduino book, I probably shot over 200 photos to provide good images. So, I agree with you totally of taking plenty of photos to find good images for the target publication.
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