Unphotogenic Lighting As A Feature

Have you ever taken a picture indoors and had unsightly black bars interrupt your otherwise gorgeous photo? They are caused by lighting which flickers in and out in its normal operation. Some people can sense it easier than others without a camera. The inconsistent light goes out so briefly that we usually cannot perceive it but run-of-the-mill camera phones scan rows of pixels in sequence, and if there are no photons to detect while some rows are scanned, those black bars are the result. Annoying, right?

What if someone dressed that bug of light up as a feature? Instead of ruining good photos, researchers at the University of California-San Diego and the University of Wisconsin-Madison have found out what different frequencies of flicker will do to a photograph. They have also experimented with cycling through red, green, and blue to give the effect of a poorly dubbed VHS.

There are ways an intelligent photographer could get around the photo-ruining effect with any smartphone. Meanwhile DSLR cameras are already immune and it won’t work in sunlight, so we are not talking about high security image protection. The neat thing is that this should be easy to replicate with some RGB strips and a controller. This exploits the row scanning of new cameras, so some older cameras are immune.

Hardware Store White Balance Reference

We live in a time in which taking pictures is preposterously easy: take out your phone (assuming it wasn’t already in your hands), point it at something, and tap the screen. The camera hardware and software in even basic smartphones today is good enough that you don’t need to give it much more thought than that to get decent pictures. But what if you want to do better than just decent?

Ideally you’d take photos lit by high temperature lights, but failing that, you might need to compensate by adjusting the white balance during post-processing. But to accurately adjust white balance you need a pure white reference point in the image. Thanks to some diligent research by the folks at the FastRawViewer blog, we now have a cheap and widely available source for a pure white reference material: PTFE pipe tape.

Alright, we know what you’re thinking: how hard could it be to find a white object? Well, if you’re talking about really white, it can actually be quite difficult. Take a walk down the paint aisle of your local hardware store and see just how many “whites” there actually are. Think the shirt your subject is wearing is really white? Think you can use the glossy white smartphone in their hand as a reference? Think again.

By taking a rubber eraser and wrapping it with a few layers of the PTFE tape, you can create a white reference that’s so cheap it’s effectively disposable. Which is good, because protecting your white reference object and keeping it clean can be a challenge in itself. But with a PTFE tape reference, you can just chuck the thing when the photo shoot is done.

Combine this cheap white reference with some of the DIY photography lighting setups we’ve covered in the past, and you’ll be well on the way to getting better images to document all your projects. Just remember to submit them to us when you’re done.

[Thanks to Keith Olson for the tip.]

A Canon Lens Adapter for the Game Boy Camera

Released in 1998, the Game Boy camera was a bit ahead of its time. This specialized Game Boy cartridge featured a 128×128 pixel CMOS sensor and took 4-color greyscale photos. The camera even rotated, allowing for selfies years before that word existed.

The fixed lens on this camera meant no zoom was possible. [Bastiaan] decided to address this shortcoming by building a Canon EF Lens Mount. The resulting build looks hilarious, but actually takes some interesting photos.

[Bastiaan] designed the mount using Rhino 3D, and printed it out on a Monoprice 3D printer. After some light disassembly, the mount can be screwed onto the Game Boy Camera. With the massive 70-200 f4 lens and 1.4x extender shown here, the camera gets a max focal distance of just over 3000 mm.

One issue with the Game Boy Camera was the limited options for doing anything with the photos. They could be transferred to other Game Boy Camera cartridges, or printed using the Game Boy Printer. Fortunately, [Brian Khuu] has a modern day solution that emulates the Game Boy Printer using an Arduino. This lets you get PNG files out of the device.

Impossibly Huge Depth of Focus in Microscope Photographs

Sometimes, less is more. Sometimes, more is more. There is a type of person who believes that if enough photos of the same subject are taken, one of them will shine above the rest as a gleaming example of what is possible with a phone camera and a steady hand. Other people know how to frame a picture before hitting the shutter button. In some cases, the best method may be snapping a handful of photos to get one good one, not by chance, but by design.

[The Thought Emporium]’s video, also below the break, is about getting crisp pictures from a DSLR camera and a microscope using focus stacking, sometimes called image stacking. The premise is to take a series of photos that each have a different part of the subject in focus. In a microscope, this range will be microscopic but in a park, that could be several meters. When the images are combined, he uses Adobe products, the areas in focus are saved while the out-of-focus areas are discarded and the result is a single photo with an impossible depth of focus. We can’t help but remember those light-field cameras which didn’t rely on moving lenses to focus but took many photos, each at a different focal range.

[The Thought Emporium] has shown us his photography passion before, as well as his affinity for taking the cells out of plants and unusual cuts from the butcher and even taking a noble stab at beating lactose intolerance.

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Building A Lightweight Softbox For Better Photography

If you want to take good photographs, you need good light. Luckily for us, you can get reels and reels of LEDs from China for pennies, power supplies are ubiquitous, and anyone can solder up a few LED strips. The missing piece of the puzzle is a good enclosure for all these LEDs, and a light diffuser.

[Eric Strebel] recently needed a softbox for some product shots, and came up with this very cheap, very good lighting solution. It’s made from aluminum so it should handle the rigors of photography, and it’s absolutely loaded with LEDs to get all that light on the subject.

The metal enclosure for this softbox is constructed from sheet aluminum that’s about 22 gauge, and folded on a brake press. This is just about the simplest project you can make with a brake and a sheet of metal, with the tabs of the enclosure held together with epoxy. The mounting for this box is simply magnets super glued to the back meant to attach to a track lighting fixture. The 5000 K LED strips are held onto the box with 3M Super 77 spray adhesive, and with that the only thing left to do is wire up all the LED strips in series.

But without some sort of diffuser, this is really only a metal box with some LEDs thrown into the mix. To get an even cast of light on his subject, [Eric] is using drawing vellum attached to the metal frame with white glue. The results are fairly striking, and this is an exceptionally light and sturdy softbox for photography.

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Shoot-And-Forget Digital Photo Frame

Digital photo frames these days require you to manage the photos stored on it or the cloud-based service tied to the frame’s manufacturer. [Henric Andersson] realized that he and his wife take a lot of photos but find little time to go through them — like photo albums of days past — and add them to any photo frame-like appliance or service. Since Google photos can do a lot of the sorting for them, he decided to incorporate that into a digital photo frame.

Using his wife’s old Viewsonic 24” 1080p monitor, he cracked it open and incorporated the screen into a 24×16 distressed wood frame — reinforcing it to account for the bulky, built-in power supply with pieces of HDF and a lot of glue. The brains behind this digital photo frame is a Raspberry Pi 3 he received from a friend. To turn the whole on/off, he built a small circuit but it turned out it wasn’t strictly necessary since everything started just fine without it.

While functionally complete, it needed one more addition. A little thing called ‘color temperature calibration’ — aka white balance.

Finding the TCS34725 RGB color sensor by Adafruit — and readily available code for easy integration — [Andersson] puzzled over how to add it to the frame. To disguise it while retaining its effectiveness, he had to glue it to the rear of the frame after drilling a hole in the top piece and sticking a plastic stick through the hole to let light through to the sensor.

To get the photos to display, [Henric Andersson] says all he did was add a few queries to Google Photos and it will display all your relevant photos that have been synced to the service. For a breakdown of that side of this hack, check out his other post with the details.

While Google Photos deftly displays photos of various orientations, sizes, and aspect ratios, we’ve featured a digital photo frame that handles the task a little differently.

Scan Your Film The 3D Printed Way

Everyone has a box or two at home somewhere full of family photographs and slides from decades past. That holiday with Uncle Joe in Florida perhaps, or an unwelcome reminder of 1987’s Christmas jumper. It’s fair to say that some memories deserve to be left to gather dust, but what about the others in a world of digital images?

You could of course buy a film scanner to digitize Uncle Joe on the beach, but aside from the dubious quality of so many of them where’s the fun in that? Instead, how about 3D printing one? That’s what [Alexander Gee] did, in the form of an adapter to fit the lens mount of his Sony camera that contains both a 50mm enlarger lens and a mount for the slide. It’s a simple enough print, but he’s made enough parts parametric for users to be able to adjust it to their own camera’s mount.

Sometimes builds do not have to be complex, push boundaries, or contain more computing power than took us to the Moon. This one is simple and well-executed, and for anyone prepared to experiment could deliver results with a variety of cameras and lenses. Of course, you have to have some film to scan before you can use it, so perhaps you’d like to try a bit of home developing.