• Effective immediately we will be deleting, without notice, any negative threads or posts that deal with the use of encryption and streaming of scanner audio.

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How To Take Better Pictures Of Your Setup...Photography 1101.

Feb 14, 2008
Some of the best setups can be ruined by lousy photos! As we've seen, sometimes the camera's auto mode works fine, and, wellll, sometimes it doesn't. :twisted:

That's why I thought it'd be a good idea to start a thread about how to get better pictures. I have a mild knowledge of photography and can offer some general advice that could improve some of the photos posted on this forum. I do this with the hopes that the mods will sticky this thread and that others may contribute their tips and tricks as well.


Camera Shake Versus Shutter Speed

One common thing I see resulting in blurry photos is shutter speeds that are too slow when shooting handheld, so I'll start there.

Camera shake can cause pictures to come out blurry if the shutter speed is too slow, even if the camera is focussed properly. In other words, if you hold the camera in your bare hands while shooting (rather than using a tripod with the camera's self-timer), photos will be blurry if you use too slow of a shutter speed because of the natural shiver or jiggle in your hands.

Shutter speed is measured in seconds and is most commonly seen as a fraction, like 1/20 or 1/100. The higher the denominator, the faster the shutter speed, so a speed of 1/125 is faster than 1/80 for example. There's a lot more to the story, but to keep it short, the rule is, either use a tripod with the camera's self-timer so that camera shake won't be an issue (preferred), or use a shutter speed of at least 1/60 or 1/80, and the faster, the better.

Here is an example of the difference shutter speed can make. The first shot is at 1/8 (a very slow shutter speed :roll:) and the second shot is at 1/125 (much faster! :)).

It's certainly not a perfect shot and I'm no expert, but #2 is much better. :lol:

Faster shutter speeds cause pictures to become darker, so you'll have to compensate by going into your camera settings and increasing the ISO - OR - using a lower F number (a more open aperture) such as f/2.8, f/3.2, etc. Lower F numbers or higher ISO's will make the picture brighter (among other things), so that's how you can make up for the darker pictures you get with faster shutter speeds.

More on this topic later.


Editing Software

Use software to touch-up your photos. Don't just go and post bare unprocessed pictures without editing them first! :eek: Picture #2 can be improved even further by simply using the sharpen and saturation features found in many free photo editing programs:

Now we're a step closer to getting that manufacturer-quality product photo look. :p


White Balance

If you're shooting indoors, the tendency sometimes is for pictures to come out brownish or yellowish looking, almost like you spilled coffee all over the picture. This usually happens if your lighting source is from common household light bulbs. The white balance setting in a camera lets you compensate for this, so that whites look whiter and other colors look more accurate. If you simply use the auto white balance setting however, there is a chance that the camera won't adjust the white balance properly and your colors will come out wrong.

Canon cameras for example have a white balance setting called Tungsten which works much better then Auto white balance when shooting indoors. The first picture is Auto white balance and the second shot was taken with white balance set to Tungsten:

I like the 2nd picture better because the wall looks whiter like it's supposed to (although still not perfect), and the blue backlight looks more like the blue you see with the naked eye instead of that purple-ish appearance in the first photo. By simply changing the camera's white balance setting from Auto to Tungsten (which takes 2 seconds to do), I've improved the photo.

Every camera is different of course, but adjusting the white balance setting when shooting indoors can help get rid of that amateurish-looking yellow/brown tint that throws your colors off.


Photos That Are Too Dark Or Too Bright

Exposure is the combination of your shutter speed, aperture setting, and ISO that you use to take the picture.

Most cameras have an exposure meter on the LCD display that tells you how dark or bright your picture will come out based on your exposure settings and lighting, before you even snap the photo. You want the exposure meter to be at or close to -0- to avoid a photo that is either too bright or too dark.

The faster the shutter speed (higher denominators 1/500 etc.), the darker the photo will come out. The higher the F-number (a.k.a. the aperture setting) the darker the photo will come out. The lower the ISO setting, the darker the photo will come out.

In auto mode, the camera will choose all 3 settings automatically. There is a chance the camera might automatically choose a slow shutter speed which may cause blurry pictures if you're shooting handheld instead of using a tripod. If that happens, You can put the camera into shutter-priority mode, allowing you to set the shutter speed and the camera will automatically set the other settings for you.

Or, you can use full manual mode where you set all of the settings on your own. When doing this, the goal is to try and get the exposure meter to be at exactly zero - 0 - , or close to it. If the meter is pegged to the right or showing a + number (ex. +2/3 or +1 1/3, etc.) then the picture will come out too bright :cool:. If it's pegged to the left or shows a negative number (ex. - 2), then it'll come out too dark :mad:.

If the camera chooses a fast enough shutter speed in auto mode (at least 1/60 or so), then you prolly won't have to worry about ANY of this stuff. It's when the auto mode renders you something like 1/20 that you might have to mess around with the settings to get a sharper shot if you're shooting handheld.


I'd like to get a list going of photo editing freeware that people know of. For those who really wanna get sexy, http://photography-on-the.net/forum/index.php . I plan to post more stuff but it's getting a little late right now. Certainly, others can contribute.

So why am I posting all this? I think it could be a good reference for those who want to improve their pictures, as I've seen many blurry, discolored, or dark photos posted.

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Database Admin
Jun 5, 2002
Hubert, NC
Awesome Post!!!

I agree that this should be a sticky as well.

Another thing that will make your pictures much better is:

Don't use your freakin' cell phone to take pictures of ANYTHING!!!


Premium Subscriber
Dec 13, 2000
A couple more tips about flash.
- do not shoot straight onto any shiny surface as you will get reflections.
- a Kleenex held over the flash will diffuse the light and usually results in less reflection and a more pleasing photo.

Feb 14, 2008

Viewing Other People's Camera Settings

In addition to the image itself, digital cameras record and save the camera settings (among other things) as text into the .jpg file. This collection of text data saved as part of the .jpg image file is called EXIF data, and can be seen with a number of different free software programs or web browser plug-ins.

For example, I use the FXIF plugin on my Firefox browser which allows me to right click over an image, choose Properties, and see the camera make, model, & settings used to take the shot:

The Copy button lets you copy and paste the EXIF data so that you can share it with others without having to type it all out. The EXIF data for the first shot in my original post is:

Camera Make: Canon
Camera Model: Canon EOS DIGITAL REBEL XTi
Image Date: 2008:03:14 21:56:05
Flash Used: No
Focal Length: 65.0mm
CCD Width: 2.35mm
Exposure Time: 0.125 s (1/8)
Aperture: f/8.0
ISO equiv: 100
White Balance: Manual
Metering Mode: Matrix
Exposure: Manual
Exposure Mode: Manual

There is also the Firefox Exif Viewer plug-in which is similar but gives much more detailed information.

Other programs that let you see the EXIF data are Microsoft Office Picture Manager (although it doesn't show the ISO for some reason :roll:), Opanda, and XnView, among many others.

The one big thing though is that certain image editing programs will literally REMOVE all the EXIF data if you edit the image. :eek:
Microsoft Office Picture Manager for example does this, which means that the EXIF data will be lost so that it can't be seen with an EXIF viewing program or plug-in. :mad: This is why sometimes you won't be able to get the EXIF data from some images posted on the forums. Even simply re-sizing a photo will cause all the EXIF data to be completely lost. Other programs like Photoshop or XnView however allow you to edit an image without removing the EXIF data.

More to come...
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Sep 29, 2004

I think the original poster has done a great service for those that add photos!

One thing I might add, you have to start with at least a "decent" camera. Not a junk one....

Steve/KB8FAR :lol:


Feb 14, 2008
Miscellaneous Topics

Avoid Using A Cell Phone Camera

They almost always take crappy photos. Personally, I agree with rescue161. Just don't do it, period. There is little merit to spending the high $$$ on radios but then posting a low quality image of them. Borrow a better camera from a friend, co-worker, or a family member if you have to. And besides, a better picture of a shack may get more compliments! :D

Using The Flash

In my opinion camera flash is good for some things and not for others, and taking pictures of scanners (of all things) is not one of those good things. Personally, I've always avoided the flash because of the glare and because of the tendency to wash out the color of the backlight on radios. Camera flash is also hard to predict because it's hard to tell how it'll turn out unless you really know what you're doing (which I don't! :p). The first photo is with the flash, and the second one without:

Again, I am no expert and these are both crappy photos, but I like #2 better because you can at least see the backlight. I guess flash is preference thing. cg made a good point and that kleenex thing sounds like a nifty idea! :lol:

More to come...

Sep 30, 2005
Hugo , MN
I'd also add, actually look at your photos prior to posting to make sure they aren't blurry, too dark/bright, have glare, etc. If they fall into any of those categories, don't post them. Posting pictures is no different than posting text. You should proof read text before posting, and the same consideration should be given to photos. It does no good to write something if no one can understand it because of typos or grammatical errors. The same is true for photos, it does no good if people can't see see what is supposed to be in the picture.
Dec 21, 2007
Metro Area, MI
One thing for the readers to remember any shutter speed slower than 1/60 usually gives very bad results if you hold your camera by hand. You will have to use a tripod.
Feb 14, 2008
Also, there is image stabilzation (IS) available on some cameras or lenses. It can allow you to shoot handheld at slower shutter speeds without the resulting blurriness. SLWilson makes a good point about having a decent camera, although I think the skill of the photographer is really about 90% of it. Personally, I wouldn't ever buy any camera that can't do full manual mode, otherwise most of this thread would not even be doable.

Here is an example of what a difference IS can make though. Both shots were done handheld and no flash with the exact same camera settings, so they have the same EXIF data, EXCEPT that #1 was with IS turned on and #2 was with IS turned off.

The shutter speed used on both was 1/15, so even the first photo with IS turned on will still be a bit soft, but this is just to prove a point.



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Dec 17, 2005
Grand Lake St. Marys Ohio
This is going to be one of those check back often threads. Its a day and nite difference on those pictures and the Info is just great. Scanner_freak thanks for making this one a Sticky. Threads like this are what make RR so great. I gave it 5 stars. Keep the info comin and Thanks Everyone.............Hoser
Feb 14, 2008
Close-Up Shots

A lot of cameras somewhere have a button on them with a small flower on it. Holding the camera too close to something may prevent it from focusing properly, but if you press the flower button (to put the camera in macro mode), then it might work right. I mention this only because once in a while I'll see a close up shot that looks blurry, most likely because they simply forgot to hit that flower button first. :twisted:

Here, I used the flower thing and am able to just about count the specks of dust because of it:

100% crop:


More About White Balance: Shooting In RAW Mode

Some cameras let you shoot in RAW mode which is a good thing because this allows you to correct lousy white balance if the colors come out looking wrong. Basically, when you shoot in RAW mode, the camera does not save the images as .jpg's like you're used to. Instead it saves images as RAW files. Then you upload the RAW files to the computer just like .jpg's, except that you need certain software to open and view the RAW files with.

Most editing software can't do RAW, but usually the free software that comes with the camera can. The big benefit is that when you open the RAW file with the right software, it allows you literally change the white balance and thus make your colors look better. Once you've got the white balance set where you want it in the software, then you can save it as a .jpg so the image can then be viewed with any old software program.

This way you can set the white balance after taking the photo instead of having to set it before you take the photo. With RAW shooting, you could very well just choose any white balance setting or just use auto and fuhget about, because you'll fix it rather easily in the software. If not shooting RAW though, then the camera gives you a processed .jpg file, and you're pretty much stuck with the way it comes out.

The disadvantages with RAW are that the files sizes are 2-3 times the usual .jpg's and you have to spend more time with the software converting RAW into .jpg's.

For cameras that don't do RAW, you can set a custom white balance with a white card or an 18% grey card. Personally, I just use Tungsten when shooting indoors, to keep it simple. :roll: Tungsten is like the smoker's tooth polish for your indoor photos.

(meanwhile, a lot of you by now are probably thinking geez, just snap the dang photo and be through with it...)

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Feb 14, 2008
How To Take Good Night Shots

I'm a dork and I think backlit radios in the dark really look cool, but it seems so hard to actually get a nice crisp-looking shot, God forbid. Night shots so often come out with blurry radio backlights so that you can barely see the talk group or frequency. Just look through the forums! :roll: So how do we get better shots in the dark? Well here's my method to the madness, although I sure hope someone else will chime in with a better or easier way to do it.

Number one, you need a tripod, period. If someone can figure out how to get good dark shots without a tripod, let me know because I'd love to know. Why? Because in the dark you'll have almost no choice but to use a slower shutter speed. Therefore camera shake is simply not allowed if you want any chance at all of avoiding blurriness.

Number two, you really have to do a close up shot in my opinion. The further back I stand, the blurrier the shot gets no matter what I do with the camera. I have yet to figure out a way to get a shot of an entire desk with lit up gadgets to look nice and sharp in the dark. Maybe someone on here knows how?

So here's what I did. I set up four radios like so:

Then, with the camera nice and still on the tripod, I took the shot in normal light with the camera set to automatically focus by itself. Now that I've taken the shot in normal light, the camera lens is physically in a position where it is properly focused. This allows me to set the camera to manual focus, so that when I shoot the same shot in the dark, the camera won't try to re-focus the image. The focus will just simply stay put because I know it's already in focus to begin with.

Cameras need decent lighting to focus, so if you try to focus in the dark, you're almost sure to get a blurrier picture. By doing the focusing in normal lighting first, and then taking the shot in the dark without trying to focus again in the dark, the night shot SHOULD come out nice and crisp. Well, after about 4-5 tries, here is what I got:

It's still not "tack sharp" status, but it was about the best I could do. The XTS3000 radio on the left has such a dim backlight that it didn't even show up in the photo, so I cropped it out of the picture. This is another difficulty with night shots. Not all backlights are equally bright, so some radios can barely be seen or even not at all. Taking the same shot from further away came out slightly blurrier:

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Feb 14, 2008
More About The Aperture Setting

More About The Aperture Setting

The aperture is like the iris of the camera. It determines how much or how little light is allowed through the lens before the light hits the camera sensor. The setting is the "F" number (ex. f/3.5, f/5.6, f/8.0, etc.), also called the f-stop. The lower the f-stop number, the more open the aperture is, letting in more light for a brighter picture. The higher the f-stop number, the more closed (a.k.a. "stopped down") the aperture is, which lets in less light and makes for a darker photo.

But the aperture setting not only affects the brightness, it also affects depth of field (DOF). DOF is the ability to make other objects at different distances appear more or less blurry, such as the background for example. The higher the f-stop number, the less blurry other objects at different distances will appear. The lower the f-stop number, the more
blurry other objects at different distances will appear. So what does all this mean for taking scanner pictures?

Well here's an example. I placed 3 radios about 8 inches apart from each other to demonstrate depth of field. The first shot was taken at f/2.8, considered a wide open aperture. The seconds shot was done at f/13, which is a fairly closed or stopped-down aperture setting.



In the first shot with the wider f/2.8 aperture, the other 2 radios are so blurry that you can't read anything on the display or the buttons. In the second photo, however, the other 2 radios are less blurry so that you can read them.

This is the difference that depth of field can make. If I was gonna post a picture with a desk full of radios, I'd rather a have more stopped-down aperture (a higher f/ number) so that more objects at various distances from the camera will come out less blurry, not more blurry as with a wider aperture (lower f-number).

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