Gradient Photo Paper

Discussion in 'Woodturning Discussion Forum' started by John Terefenko, Oct 18, 2009.

  1. John Terefenko

    John Terefenko

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    Does anyone know of a resonable place to buy some gradient background photo paper??? I think I would like to try this with my photos. Thanks
     
  2. flyrod444

    flyrod444

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  3. john lucas

    john lucas

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    www.porters.com It's called Graduated background material on their website. These backgrounds are painted so they scratch really easily. Don't rotate your work while it's sitting down. pick it up and rotate it. Also don't slide the work on the back ground.
     
  4. Charles Henderson

    Charles Henderson

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    You can always give your business to your favorite local print shop. That's what I did.
     
  5. Vaughn

    Vaughn

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    Mentioned elsewhere, and Charles' post is on the same track, but I figure I'll add it here for others...

    One inexpensive alternative is to make a gradient background JPG file and take it to Kinko's. They can print it on one of their large format printers for only a few bucks.

    Here's a link to such a file...something I whipped up in about 15 seconds with Photoshop. The native size is 24" x 36", so it should print cleanly.

    Gradient Background

    Right click the link, then select "Save link as" or "Save Target As" (depending on your browser) to save the file on your computer.
     
  6. Bill Boehme

    Bill Boehme Administrator Staff Member

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    There are two brands that are commonly used: Flotone and Varitone. There are a variety of graduated backgrounds, but for photographing woodturnings, only use a neutral background -- my favorites are Studio Gray and Thunder Gray Flotone available from B&H. The cost is about $40. A colored background will screw up the color of the wood royally. I think that the Flotone has a more uniform gradient than Varitone and seems to be more durable. It is a matte finish plastic material so it can be easily cleaned. It comes in three sizes, but the 31" X 43" should be satisfactory for almost all woodturnings.

    Here are some set up suggestions:
    1. Create a "sweep" for the background paper as shown in the attached figure. Formica and foam board can be used to make the sweep. It is important that the background make a very gradual transition from the horizontal table surface to the vertical wall. It would be a mistake to drape the background so that it follows the wall and table top with a small radius at the transition as that would result in a noticeable horizontal line across the image. The turning sits on the horizontal part of the background a few inches from the bottom edge. (BTW, the light end of the background goes at the bottom)
    background.jpg
    1. Lighting is very important. DO NOT use a head-on flash from the camera as that will ruin your image with a hard edged shadow and a bright reflection off the turning. Also, it will flatten the image so that it does not appear to have any depth. There are various lighting techniques that will give good results. I think that the cheapest and possibly the best is indirect open sky light, but it is not as controllable as studio lighting and requires a bit more knowledge of lighting techniques and white balancing. A light box is very easy and cheap to set up. Also, shooting a couple hot lights into umbrella reflectors gives good results and is easy to set up, but the disadvantage is that it produces a couple hot spots on the turning if it is glossy. If shooting indoors in a light box or with hot lights, turn off all of the room lights especially if they are fluorescents as they will make it impossible to get a proper white balance in addition to messing up the lighting in general.
    2. Use a moderately long lens -- about 70 to 100 mm focal length if using an SLR camera. Place the camera about eight feet from the subject and use a very small aperture. I suggest about f/11 to f/116. This is important to get sufficient depth of field so that the entire turning is in focus. This means that a very slow shutter speed is necessary so a tripod with cable release is essential.
    3. The camera location should be elevated about 10 to 15 degrees above the top of the turning so that the top opening is visible. However, this does not mean to point the camera down because that would cause perspective distortion. Keep the camera aimed level -- or nearly level so that perspective distortion is minimized. If the camera is located eight feet from the subject then the camera should be approximately two feet above the turning.
    4. If your camera allows you to do a custom white balance, shoot a white sheet of paper or gray card to create the custom setting. A gray card can be used for exposure of making a manual exposure.
     
    Last edited: Oct 20, 2009
  7. John Terefenko

    John Terefenko

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    Ok I got my gradient paper yesterday and it came all rolled up in a tube. I pulled it out and tried to unroll it but it is so tightly wound it springs back every time. Now I do not want to ruin this expensive piece of plastic so my question for those that have this stuff how do you flatten it??? How do you store it??? How do you keep from scratching it??? I called the place I bought it and he told me he sold thousands of this stuff and I am the first to mention this problem. How those apples??? I told him to let his supplier know they are wrapping them wrong. Instead of wrapping top to bottom, they wrap them side to side. I would probably have an easier time with it curled top to bottom then side to side. Am I way out on a limb here or has this happened to others and how do you deal with it?? Thanks from confused and mad person.
     
  8. charlie knighton

    charlie knighton

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    i understand

    John,

    i am not expert picture taker, but here's my way

    put expandable window thingie in wide door frame
    put card table underneath
    drape your paper over window thingie onto card table
    use hand clamps at top/sides of paper and on paper/card table
    the paper can be draped white/gray/black or black/gray/white
    place turning on paper/card table
    take picture during daylight hours

    take several pictures/man i love not having to pay for discarded images

    good luck/this will get you started, certainly there are better ways
     
  9. Bill Boehme

    Bill Boehme Administrator Staff Member

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    I do not worry about it curling since I put it back in the tube between uses. When using it, I use small pieces of gaffers tape (similar to Gorilla Tape or duct tape) to hold the edges flat. Small spring clamps could also be used. If you are going to keep it flat, make sure that you have a place to store it where it will not get dirty or be creased by some sharp edged object. Simply hanging it, clothesline style, with clips at the bottom for weight might work.

    EDIT: John I reread your post and noticed that the background was rolled the wrong way! The guy probably says the same thing to everybody as a way of putting them off. If it were summertime, I would suggest putting it face down in the sun for a bit to "relax" the plastic, but maybe a hairdryer would also work.

    Where did you buy the background, so I can make sure not to do business with them. Did you get Flotone, Varitone, or some other brand? I have read some online complaints about Varitone, but have no personal experience using it. The ones that I have are Flotone that I got from B&H (the most reputable dealer that you will find). There are hundreds of unscrupulous photo dealers on the Internet so I just deal with those that have a good reputation. Besides B&H, I can also highly recommend Adorama.
     
    Last edited: Feb 3, 2010
  10. Bill Boehme

    Bill Boehme Administrator Staff Member

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    Charlie, the black goes at the top and white at the bottom. Otherwise, the perspective is going to look odd. The idea is to have the background fade into darkness to give the illusion of infinite depth. If you were shooting with a high key background, you would not expect to see the turning sitting on something black. Also, it is important to have shadows because it is one of the two things that give depth to a two-dimensional image (the other is perspective).
     
  11. john lucas

    john lucas

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    Ours come curled. I simply use spring clamps to clamp it to the shooting surface and then I have a pole on stands that goes behind all of that. I use the same spring clamps to clamp it to that.
    Ours come with a sheet of clear plastic over it. I always put that back over it when I roll it up. At least I do until they get marks on it, then I just use it and retouch the marks until I get sick of all the retouching.
     
  12. Bill Boehme

    Bill Boehme Administrator Staff Member

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    After rereading John's post, I saw that he was saying that it was rolled side to side. Does yours come that way?

    I could see that maybe the smallest size would be rolled that way since it is wider than tall, but the medium and large are taller than wide. I can appreciate that he is experiencing some difficulty. One solution is to have a small sheet of Formica countertop or something similar that will fully support the graduated background and then tape or clamp it around the edges.
     
  13. Steve Worcester

    Steve Worcester Admin Emeritus

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    I use a vinyl Flotone, it is rolled top to bottom.
    The idea with a black to white fade is to give you a black background at the top of the photo that is easier to achieve with a background that with light control.

    After spending a lot of time in college in the studio where you had all kinds of lighting and controls it is considerably easier in a home studio to do it with a graduated background.

    I would also add to dust off the work before shooting. You would be surprised at how many people forget that part and the dust is very visible in the final shots. Photoshop will take care of some dust (and small dimples in the background) but not all.
     
    Last edited: Feb 3, 2010
  14. charlie knighton

    charlie knighton

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    Bill,

    sometimes i like all black

    could you tell me why this picture would look better with white/gray/black, not trying to hard headed, i am interested in your opinion which should improve my photos
     

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    Last edited: Feb 3, 2010
  15. Bill Boehme

    Bill Boehme Administrator Staff Member

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    All black is good. That is what David Nittmann does with some of his basket illusion turnings and it really makes them pop.

    It is important to use some "light modifiers" with tht type of background so that the object gets good shading to reveal its depth. I think that Jamie Donaldson's web site may have some information on that. Basically, it is the use of either black poster board or aluminum foil glued on cardboard to either block or reflect light. You can play around with it a bit and get the idea of how it changes the lighting.
     
  16. john lucas

    john lucas

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    I gave up using the graduated backgrounds for 2 reasons. One was that they scratched too easily. The other reason is that white to black with "horizon line" at a certain point is not perfect for all work.
    I use Thunder Gray most of the time now. In my studio it's pretty easy to control the amount of light that hits the background and where it hits. This way I can have it black, not quite black,very dark gray or even lighter gray. I can also place the faded horizon line exactly where I need it for that piece.
    Of course if you shoot a black piece a fade to black has to be modified to separate the piece from the background.
    When I teach using my photo booth I don't have all the light modifiers that have in my studio. I simply use cardboard to cast a shadow on the back ground. That gives me a darker back ground. If I want black I simply move the background further back. In technical terms light falls off with the square of the distance. Or simply put the further away from the light is from the background the darker it will be.
    I wrote an article for American Woodturner (Summer 2002 Vol17 no2) where I used a piece of canvas. I spray painted the top 1/3 black. I then painted the lower 1/3 primer gray and faded it into the black. It didn't look very evenly faded when you stood over it but from the lower photo angle it looked as good as my expensive backgrounds.
     
  17. John Terefenko

    John Terefenko

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    I got the Varitone and got it here. http://www.phototechinc.com/graduate.htm

    The guy told me he sells 100's of these everyday and does not open the tubes. He is just a middle man. They are made in Taiwain. I probably would have a fighting chance if it were rolled top to bottom but side to side is not easy to secure. I would need a ton of clamps. He suggested rolling it up the opposite way and see what happens. I told him if I damage it I am sending it back so that he is aware of the problem. They are 31"X 43" I have put this question on a few forums and it was a toss up between the two brands that Bill mentions so I went with the least expensive.
     
  18. Bill Boehme

    Bill Boehme Administrator Staff Member

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    I am sorry to hear that, John. That is the same size as my Flotone background, but a thought just occurred to me. The Flotone background is 31 inches wide and 43 inches tall, but I think that Varitone may have two different versions -- one that is 43 inches wide and the other is 31 inches. If you got the 43 inch wide version, then it probably comes in the same size tube which means that it would be rolled side-to-side. (This is just a guess on my part).

    For anybody else considering getting the medium size 31 X 43 make sure that it is the tall version and not the wide one. I have not run into a situation where I needed anything wider than 31 inches. And it is much more useful to have the extra height because it allows you to play around with the shape of the sweep curve and not be forced into making it too steep.

    I looked at the website and I did not notice any horizontal format background in the medium size. Why would they use a longer tube and roll it side to side). My gut feel is that the guy is blowing smoke -- no physical address -- and claiming to sell hundreds of graduated backgrounds daily? -- not very likely. Since he does not have a physical presence, it is probably a one man operation in a self-storage warehouse. I tried to check him out on resellerratings.com, but can't verify the results that I got. There are many fly-by-night companies in the photo business that go under a number of different names and that is what popped up when I entered the business name. However, it could also easily be that many other companies use very similar names. I wouldn't buy from him just because of the red flags that popped up in my head (no address, cheesy web site, no written policies on returning merchandise, plus your experience in dealing with the gentleman*).

    I think that the curl could be removed with hot air. So give him a call and then hold the phone next to the background while he talks. That should do the trick. A less stressful thing might be to use a blow dryer -- not as much hot air, but may eventually get the curl out.

    * read my mind
     
  19. Bill Boehme

    Bill Boehme Administrator Staff Member

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    John, I don't know what brand you used, but the Flotone seems to be fairly durable. It can be scratched, so I try to be careful. My favorite is Studio Gray which goes from almost white at the bottom to about middle gray at the top. The graduation is outstanding with absolutely no noticeable changes along the way -- about as smooth a transition as one could expect. The other background is Thunder Gray which goes from roughly middle gray at the bottom to very dark gray at the top.

    I prefer the lighter studio gray and find that it is very easy to control how dark the background is just by adjusting the lighting positions. I posted some links to my photo gallery in another thread where the background looks fairly light. Those were done with Studio gray background. Here is another of my images, In The Style of Mondrian, also done with the same Studio Gray background, but you can see that the darkness of the background is considerably different. The shadows made the transition a bit more abrupt than I would have preferred and I am not happy with the wire stand thingy, so I may reshoot that one. I also need to figure out a good way to get some light behind the platter so that the glass "windows" don't look quite so dark.

    Your mention of light fall-off is the reason that I like to use a very gradual sweep for the background. It puts the top of the background quite some distance behind the turning. When I talked to Jamie Donaldson, he sort of pooh-poohed using anything fancier than just a simple roll of white paper or white window shade. Everybody has their own preferences and I can see the benefit of both. I like the graduated stuff just because it is fast and easy to set up without a lot of extra stuff needed. I may give his set-up a shot since it is so simple to do and costs very little -- some pieces of foam board, a window shade, some PVC pipe, duct tape, some cardboard, aluminum foil, and a halogen work light from Home Depot. Total cost is about $40.
     
  20. John Terefenko

    John Terefenko

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    Bill

    The paper is 31 wide and 43 long. That is what I told the guy why would they roll it that way. There is an address, phone number web site and the whole nine yards. They claim to be in business since 1958. I don't know how much I am going to use it. I may just use my old stand by photo tent and cloth background. I am not looking for studio perfect photos. Just was after something in case I decide to make a web site and wanted decent photos. Heck I still use a point and shoot camera. I am going to try some heat on it and see if that will relax it. Thanks everyone for the help.
     

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