A Short Course Book
Digital Desktop Studio Photography
The Complete Guide To Lighting and Photographing Small Objects with your Digital Camera

Case Study—An Animated Object

Kaidan makes a number of turntables used in object photography. Courtesy of Kaidan.
There are a number of programs that will combine a series of GIF images into an animated GIF. One of the easiest is unfreez. You just drag and drop your images into a window and click the Make Animated GIF button.
"Object photography" is the term we used to describe a series of photographs taken as an object is rotated on a turntable. You then use a software program to combine the series of images into an animation. Popular formats include animated GIFs and Apple's QuickTime VR. To create an animated GIF, you first convert your camera images to the GIF file format if the animator program won't do that for you automatically. You then use one of the many programs that combine the images into a single animated GIF. On eBay, you can upload up to six images in JPEG format and eBay combines them into a slide show for you.

The Assignment

The assignment is to photograph an object so it can be animated on the Internet. By taking a series of 6 pictures the object can be made to "rotate" much as if a movie were taken of it.

1. Composition

To accurately capture the series of images, you use a turntable. These range from expensive "object rigs" to plastic ones from a kitchen store. To capture the sequence to be animated, you place the object in the exact center of the turntable and rotate it a specified amount between shots. The more pictures in the series, the smoother will be the animation. If you rotate the turntable 60 degrees between each shot you can take five pictures (360 / 60 = 5). If you rotated it about 51 degrees between each shot you could take 6 images.

It's important that the item is centered on the turntable and that everything else is in a fixed position. Any movement at all while you shoot the sequence will make the object appear to bounce or move around when animated.

2. Lighting

Lighting is arranged much like it was in the last case featuring Road Runner. It's side lit by the main light through a diffuser. A light positioned directly above the toy illuminates the top of the feathers.

3. Camera Settings

Because the reflected light varies slightly as you rotate an object, automatic exposure may vary causing the background to flicker when you animate the series. To prevent this from happening, use manual exposure mode or exposure lock.

This Nixon/Agnew button shows different images when viewed at different angles. (It's called a lenticular image). There is no better way to illustrate this than with an animation. Here we took three images as we changed the button's angle to the camera. The one in the middle shows an intermediate stage.

The setup for this sequence had a main light overhead, the fill light on the side with a diffuser, and the road runner on a turntable.

To create a rotational object, you start with a series of images showing the object from various angles

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