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Taking Good Photo's

We receive lots of photos sent in by our customers and on the whole they are very good, but we do get many that do not do the bear in the picture any favours. He or she may be a very good example of bearmaking but it just doesn't come through in the picture. Now that digital photography is making the taking and sending of pictures so easy, I thought I might do a page with a few tips on how to avoid some of the more common mistakes.

The most common mistake is the background that is too busy or detracts from the subject.

Pictures taken at the wrong angle so that other things end up in the shot.

Roll of fabric for a backdrop.

Lets go through the steps to take a good picture of your bear. There a really two type of shots
1. those taken on a planned background (i.e. a backdrop)
2. shots with an existing background (i.e. in your garden or home).
I would like to cover the first, much of which is applicable to the second. Using a backdrop gives you a lot of control over the photo, you control what is in the picture, the colour and lighting. First you will need a back cloth not a creased sheet from the linen cupboard or an old towel. Go to your local store and purchase about 1.5 meters ( 1.5 yards) of material, it must be plain with no pattern and not the type of fabric that creases easily. It doesn't have to be expensive, but avoid colours like bright red or bright blue, not too darker shade and the roll of fabric should be minimum 1.2 meters (4 feet) wide. Ask the shop for one of the cardboard rolls that fabric comes on so you can roll your fabric and avoid folds when in use. You can store it under a bed or on the top shelf of a closet when not in use.

Curve it at the bottom so there
is not a crease in the middle
of the photo.

We are now ready to set up our studio. When taking photo's you need good lighting and the best light is natural light, using a flash close up to a subject will give very poor results. Set your camera to "No Flash". The place to set up is under your verandah or near a big window that gets lots of light. Try and avoid sunlight, overcast is much better and will give you a lot less problems with shadows. Use a table or similar to get your subject up off the ground. You need to drape your backcloth from about 750cms (2.5 feet ) above your subject so that it flows down and under the bear. I use a large cardboard box on the table and sit my roll of fabric on top of that. When you look at the front of your photo setup, the fabric should cover the table then flow up with a slight curve so there are no creases or folds visible. You are now ready to start shooting.

A flash gives very poor
results up close.

Pose your bear against the backdrop.

Too close to the back and he
will cast a shadow.

Use reflected light to fill
in any shadows.

Place your bear on the table not too close to the back of the set, pose him as if you were taking the picture of a person. Check there are no bits of fluff on your background or stray hairs on the bear, it is easier to fix them now rather than later. His eyes must look at the camera, his body can be at an angle, he can be looking up or down, but where ever his eyes look, the camera must be at that point. Check for shadows, can you see any when you look at the bear through the camera? If you can you must try to eliminate them. Sometimes you can bring the bear forward a bit so the shadow doesn't fall on the back drop. If that doesn't work you can try to reflect light to soften the shadow. To do this you will need a piece of card covered with cooking foil or a large mirrow. The size will depend on how big your bears are but about 1/2 mtr square or 18" should do the trick. You need to hold the card on the shadow side and move it about like a mirror until you find a spot were it reflects light into the shadow and softens it.

Eyes to the camera.

The picture doesn't work if the
bear looks away.

The angle is very important.

Watch the focus switch to close
up setting if necessary.

Getting your bear in focus is very important, nothing spoils a picture like being out of focus. You should take the picture with the close up or macro setting activated as well as the normal setting. Most cameras need to change from normal setting to macro (close up) at about 1 to 1.5 meters (3 - 5 feet) and this is about the distance most of your pictures will need to be taken. Make sure the bear almost fills the frame on your camera, if you are too far away you will lose quality as the unwanted part of the picture will need to be cropped. If you are too close you run the risk of cutting part of your bear out of the picture. Most cameras have a zoom function these days which you can use to move in and out to get your bear perfectly in frame. I always take a head only shot by just zooming in until the bears head fills the frame. Camera shake can be avoided by using something to steady your hand whilst taking the shot. Try placing a chair in front of the subject and sitting on it facing the wrong way ( you know the way your mother told you never to sit) and use the back of the chair to steady your aim. The closer you are to a subject the more likely that camera shake will spoil your photo.

Make sure the bear fills the frame.

 

To far away.

To close.

Use the close up setting.

Once you have mastered the background, lighting and focus you can concentrate on the composition. What look are you trying to get, what's going to be in the picture, which angles are best and does the final picture come alive. The great thing with digital photography is that it is instant and you can take lots of frames then choose the best. I would usually take at least 10 -15 shots of a bear in the hope of getting one good one. Once you have set up and solved you lighting problems you can easily take pictures of all your bears, just pop them in place pose them and shoot away. It is setting up that takes the time so once you have, you might as well make the most of it.
A word about using props in your photos, don't over do it, less is better. You want the photograph to feature your bear don't have him competing with a jungle of props. Taking pictures in natural setting is made more difficult because of the background. If you plan to take your pictures in the garden, look, for a simple backdrop. A tree trunk, autumn leaves, a stone wall, avoid backdrops that have too many different colours and textures, it will confuse the image. Sunlight is a problem as it casts very strong shadows, use an umbrella to put your bear in the shade and reduce shadows.

The bear gets lost in the props.

Once you have found the right spot to take your photos you should be
able to get good results every time.


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