I enjoy designing puzzles, building puzzles, playing with puzzles, solving puzzles, collecting puzzles, etc. But I HATE spending upwards of an hour or more removing the background from my puzzle photos. So to me the puzzle became finding a better way...
I now think I've found it and I wanted to share. This post/thread is about the photos and how they were taken (NOT the puzzle in the photos). Its just the subject/model I'm using for these pics. Yes there is a reason WHY I was taking pics of this puzzle but PLEASE wait just a few days and you'll have another place to talk about the subject of these photos.
I'm using a Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-85 4.1 megapixel camera which I've had for about 10 years so I'd expect newer cameras to be able to do at least this good as well. Now on with the show. Here is the raw/unedited picture taken straight off the camera.
As this image is a bit washed out the only editing I've done to produce what I consider the final image it to open it in a free program called IrfanView and under the Image
menu click on Auto adjust colors
. Then save it as a PNG file with the name I want. DONE!!! It took a few seconds... not hours and I love the result.
This image however isn't perfect. I wanted to see just how white the background of this image is so I opened it in paint and found indeed that away from the puzzle the backgound is perfectly white. So I tried to fill the background in with blue just to see how much of it was white. Here is the image that I got.
This shows that there are in fact shadows near the puzzle. Buts its close enough that I don't think most will ever notice and this is far far easier than manually cleaning up the background.
So how did I get this result. I'll tell you. I took this picture on my back deck in the evening while the sun was still out but the table on my back deck was in the shadow of the house. This way I didn't have direct sun light. Here is my setup. Basically a camera, a tripod, and a few sheets of white paper.
Here are my camera settings.
I've got the camera in manual mode which allows me to manually set the aperature value and the shutter speed. The aperature is set at F5.6 and the shutter speed to 1/30 of a second. This results in an image that is a bit over exposed but does wonders with regards to washing out the white background. The flower symbol tells you I'm in macro mode as that is needed to keep the puzzle in focus as its so close to the camera. The symbols to the left of the puzzle tells you I have the flash turned off. Previously I'd stated that using a flash was a good idea. I was very very wrong. See my Doctor Cube thread. You get shadows that are a pain to remove manually. The next symbol over tells you I have the camera in outside daylight mode. And the symbol that is at the top edge of the puzzle tells you I have a 2 second delay on the picture being taken after I hit the button. The reason I use this is because I want the camera to be as still as possible while the picture is being taken and this allows the picture to be taken while I'm not touching the camera. The 2272 is the resolution the picture is saved at, the highest my camera offers. And FINE is the picture quality setting. This camera has a standard and a fine setting and fine is the higher quality. I'm guessing that has to do with the image compression while its being saved as a JPG. I can also set it up to save uncompressed TIFF files but they eat up my Memory Stick in no time.
Other general tips.
(1) Set the camera as far away from the puzzle as possible such that you can zoom in on it to the point that it fills the frame with the optical zoom. Do NOT use the digital zoom as that will cost you image quality. The reason you want the camera as far away as possible is that it will keep more of the puzzle in sharp focus. Above you can see the front of the puzzle is in sharp focus but the back of the puzzle is already starting to fall out of focus.
(2) I suspect you could do even better at removing the shadows if you had something holding the puzzle up off the paper which was hidden behind the puzzle. The reason why you see the shadows near the faces of the puzzle and not near the corners is due to the faces of the puzzle blocking 50% of the ambient light from getting to the paper near their bases. At a corner point only 25% of the ambient light is blocked and this doesn't appear to be enough to keep the paper from getting washed out and becoming pure white. If the puzzle was up off the paper then the ambient light could go under the puzzle and potentially remove these shadows. To be honest they simply don't bother me as they are. Not sure if Andreas would still want these removed before an image could be added to the museum.
If you find this useful you may also enjoy my tips on how to photograph jack-o-lanterns. See this post
. There too I make the camera do all the work. I've never been one to enjoy editing.