A few people have sent me email asking for advice on how to take photos of chess pieces. In this article I will outline some of my findings. Photos do speak a thousand words and with such a small and distributed collecting community, being able to produced decent digital images of sets is a necessity for most collectors and dealers.
I need to preface my comments with the following disclaimer. I am not a photographer by trade and my advice is based on taking a couple of thousand photos with several different cameras over an extended period of time. I hope this article will grow based on feedback I receive and any other information I come across.
Before digital cameras were generally available I tried using 35mm film cameras to take photos of sets and individual pieces. The results were not good. I would take 30 shots and maybe get one reasonable photo. This was an expensive and time consuming endeavor given the number of usable images generated. Some collectors went as far as using large box cameras on rails to try and generate good images, but again the results were still quite variable and the costs associated even higher. As a result many of the photos in the older chess collector books leave a lot to be desired in terms of detail, color and focus.
With virtually zero cost per shot, instant results and powerful software to post process photos, the tide had turned on what could be achieved in terms of photo quality.
If you have a �point and shoot� digital camera and have tried to take photos of chess piece you have noticed some of the following issues with the resulting photos:
To improve from there, think about doing some of the following:
Having enough light on the subject (preferable filtered to reduce glare) is critical. It enables one to turn the flash off and reduce the aperture size which reduce the risk of glare and increase the depth of field in focus.
Even after all this you should take each shot with a few different settings and lighting setups so you have a choice of which image to use once your download the images to your computer.
You can get decent results with a cheap 2 megapixel camera, if you have the time and patience to find the relatively narrow band of setting for the camera and the desktop studio that will produce good results. A better camera will give you more flexibility and these days more advanced cameras will compensate for the subject matter and environment more. In other worlds the band is wider in terms of setting and conditions which should save you time and give more consistent results.
When looking to buy a new camera don�t just go by the megapixel count. There are a lot of factors that determine a cameras potential. Consider sensor size and type, lens, camera adjustments both manual and automatic. There is some excellent information online in terms of camera reviews and related information. Start at www.dpreview.com
Canon G5 powershot (now superseded by the G6).
Why I selected this camera :
I have used a variety of software tools my personal preference is Adobe Photoshop. It�s a little expensive but it given you a lot of control and some very powerful features.
I keep all my large original photos (about 3mbs each) and then create an version for online publication by crop, compress and reduce their size using Photoshop until I an image approximately 1200 pixels wide and under 800k in size.
One final note for those using eBay, if� you upload large image to eBay their system automatically compresses them and reduces their size to what eBay allows. This is not ideal so if you have some nice images you wish to use on eBay it best to host them yourself and link them into your eBay listing. There is an option to do this when you are entering your items details.
I find it very satisfying to produce images that accurately portray a set of chess pieces on a scale and to a level of detail that allows others to share their thoughts and views without the images getting in the way. Hopefully we will see more dealers and collectors publishing online in the future which is a benefit to everyone in the chess collector community.
Please feel free to drop me a line with any comments to: Send comments
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