Re: Photo's and Writers (long)

Subject: Re: Photo's and Writers (long)
From: "Jonathan Soukup" <JSoukup -at- at-track -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 29 Jan 2001 12:43:19 -0600

For all of the technical writing that 've been involved with, I've always used a digital camera. (I think I used my SLR once to take some pictures of circuit boards.) Most of the cameras I've been stuck with on the job have been crap. Even the one I'm using right now is pretty cruddy when you compare it to what's out there right now. But even with those cameras, I've always been able to produce approx. 3 x 4 inch black and white pictures to insert in my documents. These cameras could produce 640x480 jpegs or larger and didn't have "auto white balance". I wouldn't say it was easy to work with these cameras, but it could be done.

I do a lot odd computer work for my father's company. Last year he decided that he really wanted a digital camera to take pictures of his different products. We did a little research, spoke to anyone who would listen, and bought an Olympus C3030 Zoom. We brought it back to his greenhouse and in about 15 minutes we were taking amazing photos with it. It has a lot of complex functions on it, but basically you can set it in a point and shoot mode and get away with a lot. This camera has a macro lens on it, which allows for some really good close ups. We actually ended up reworking his website, every photo on his site was taken with that camera (

The Olympus C3030Z is a great camera, I'm not sure if you could take really good pictures of circuit boards with it, but it would come really close if it couldn't. (I've never tried it.) But it would be perfect for just about anything else you would want to photograph. When we purchased it, the going price was about $1000, with an extra memory card and USB reader, we spent around $1200. I think I saw an ad in Shutterbug magazine for like $765.

Also, Shutterbug magazine is becoming a great resource for digital photography, as well as having a number of mail order advertisers with pretty good prices.

But going back to the original question, the new digital cameras are great. Lights aren't too critical as long as you don't have any hard shadows. Then you can bring everything into Photoshop and work wonders. Even some of these $99 photo programs work pretty well. You can also buy a "copy stand" which is basically a white table with cross lighting and a mount for your camera. (see Shutterbug). That might give you some ideas on building your own table. You can also buy white background paper for about $30 that works nicely and cuts down the amount of photo editing you have to do.

You can take pictures with a good 35mm camera as well and scan the photos. It will work ok, but it's not as great as the digital camera. I believe to get really good scans from a film camera, you will have to use a slide/negative scanner. A basic model will run about $500 and will do a decent job as long as your output isn't much greater than a 5x7. For larger output, be prepared to spend $1,500 to $15,000, depending on how serious you want to get.

I'm also about to step up to a medium format (film) camera. This is what a lot of the really serious studio photographers use, (as opposed to the 35mm SLR's that photojournalist typically use). I'm thinking this will propel me to a level where I could produce the glossy marketing type material. Most of these cameras have interchangeable lens and can shoot different kinds of film, including the use of a digital back, which changes your film camera to a digital camera. It's expensive, but if that's what you do for a living, I think it's worth it.

As far as using drawings instead of photos, I can say that there are circumstances where a drawing is more appropriate. I won't argue the merits either way, but if you have the means to utilize both drawings and photos, by all means consider both.

If you haven't guessed by now, photography has been my hobby for a really long time. I've shot a lot of stuff for newspapers, and I'm doing some wedding photography here and there now. I'm thinking there's got to be a better way of making my hobby pay for itself. Perhaps some part-time technical photography just might be the ticket for now.

Thanks for all your comments and thanks for reading my rambling (there's so much to learn). I hope this will help a few folks.


>>> "Mark Emson" <mt -dot- emson -at- ntlworld -dot- com> 01/27/01 12:22PM >>>
Hi all,

Following on from Jonathan Soukup's message (Hardware Technical Writing and
Photos, 26/01/01).
It seems that many of us 'Writers' end up as photographers and illustrators
as well.
I'm in the same position and would appreciate some advice.

Despite the convenience of digital photography and my best efforts, there
are a number of draw backs, with poor resolution being the greatest problem.
What equipment do you use? In particular, what digital cameras or lenses are
good for taking shots of small components that may need to be enlarged up to
A4 or larger. I'm after personal opinions from users. All I get from the
shops is advice on what is the most expensive gear they 'think' they can
sell me.

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