Tuesday, October 10, 2006

How to pronounce Swarovski

This might seem like a strange post in a product photography blog. However, we hear from quite a few folks interested in bead phtography and have noticed that many of them seem to struggle when pronouncing the name "Swarovski". Swarovski makes a popular brand of "crystal" (cut glass) beads and other beautiful objects. The difficulty in pronouncing the name may come from the fact that in many Eastern European languages the "W" is pronounced like a "V" in English. However in English, a "W" is pronounced as a "W", so the English pronunciation of Swarovski is actually very easy. The best advise we have seen is to simply say, "swore-off-ski".

We can help you with the pronunciation of Swarovski, now you will need to get the spelling correct. Among the many variations of incorrect spellings we have seen are: Swarovksi, Sawrovski, Sarovski, Sswarovsky, Svarovski, Svarovsky, Swarski .

While we are on the subject. Swarovski also makes high quality optical instruments .

Monday, October 02, 2006

White Balance Settings for Fluorescent Lights

Suzanne B. recently purchased one of our light sets with daylight balanced bulbs. She asked if she should set her digital camera's white balance setting to the fluorescent setting.

Although it seems logical that fluorescent bulbs would require a digital camera's white balance to be set to the fluorescent setting, that is not the best setting for daylight balanced fluorescent bulbs. The fluorescent setting on digital cameras is normally meant to be used with the type of fluorescent bulbs found in offices and commercial buildings. Those bulbs typically have a slightly yellowish or greenish color cast. The daylight balanced bulbs which we sell (and which are typically found at photography stores) are daylight balanced bulbs. Daylight bulbs normally don't require color correction.

The standard white balance setting for daylight balanced fluorescent bulbs is Auto White Balance (typically marked as AWB). Should you find that you are getting a color cast with AWB, then you could try the Daylight setting.

If your camera has it, then Custom White Balance, is the best setting to use. The procedure for using Custom White Blanace varies depending on the specific model of camera, but it normally entails shooting a test picture with a gray or white background, then "telling" the camera to use that picture as its basis for color correction. Custom white balance takes a minute or so to set up. But it should deliver the truest colors.

And don't forget that if you set your camera to custome white balance for product phtography, be sure to return the camera to Auto White Balance for other uses, like family snapshots.

Sunday, October 01, 2006


We just returned from Photokina, the huge photography show held in Cologne, Germany every two years. The show can be overwhelming - 1,600 vendors and over 150,000 attendees.

We didn't see any real breakthrough products for product photography, although the trend to daylight balanced fluorescent lights is picking up momentum.

The most impressive technology was Fujifilm's new "Face Detection" system. The system, is supposed to allow future versions of Fuji digital cameras to automatically recognize any faces in a scene and then set the camera exposure and focus based on the position of the faces. If it works as billed, it should prevent a lot of snapshots with underexposed and out of focus people in the photo. We don't see any immediate application to product photography, but hope that it is an indication of camera maker's desire to move beyond simply adding more megapixels or more "scene" modes and instead adding truly useful features. Fuji expects to have cameras with the new technology shipping by November.

Another potentially positive development was Samsung's introduction of digital SLR cameras with built-in image stabilization. Samsung calls it OPS (optical picture stabilization) and describes it as "Shake reduction with image-sensor shift mechanism". What that means in plain English is smply that the camera's image sensor can move in order to compensate for camera movement. That should lead to sharper images. The significance of this announcement is that by building the image stabilization into the camera image stabilization will always be available. In other systems like the Canon and Nikon systems, the stabilization is built into costly lenses. So in order to get image stabilization with thoses systems special lenses are required.

We are hoping that other camera makers also build cameras with image stabilization features. Motion blur is always a potential problem with product photography, especially for close up images common in jewelry photography. So anything to help reduce motion blur, will be welcomed.

Of course, there were the usual dog and pony shows taking place in the various booths. But one that really stood out from the others was the Swarovski binocular and spotting scope distributor that had a large number of very impressive birds of prey on hand. Even though we weren't there to look for binoculars or scopes, I couldn't help but be attracted to the big birds.

This will probably be the only picture of Stephen you will ever see on this site.