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Photography Question 
Todd L

What camera and equipment should I buy?

I am in the process on trying to decide what camera body and lens I should buy for taking pictures of our pianos. We are a 4th generation piano restoration company and have over 90 pianos for sale - I have been using a regular sony point and shoot but I want to make our photographs stand out that much more than our competitors. I will be mainly be using the camera I buy indoors to shoot our pianos that we have for sale in our showroom. It is very important that the photos show the detail that our pianos have to offer. Many of them have carvings, exquisite veneers, etc. To really make our photos really look great, I am trying to decide what camera I should buy - 40D or XSI or XTI. Since I'll be using a tripod most the time, I'm also trying to decide whether to buy the Tamron 17-55mm lens or spend more money for the Canon 17-55mm lens. Thanks to anyone that puts their two sense in, I'd really appreciate it!

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12/17/2008 12:17:21 PM

Hi Todd,

"I want to make our photographs stand out that much more than our competitors"

Can you expand on that a bit, please? What exactly are those photos to be used for? Print advertising (magazines)? P.R.? Poster sized? If so, what size? Website use?

The gear you mentioned can shoot very good images. But can the photographer?
You never once mentioned the most important thing in photography: light. What's the light situation? Ambient light in the daytime coming in through the windows? What direction are those windows facing? Please tell us about the light.

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12/17/2008 12:48:48 PM

John P. Sandstedt
BetterPhoto Member Since: 8/8/2001
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  It's not the camera, it's the photographer. Almost any camera can be used to take the kind of pictures you need, so long as you're not in a setting where use of a vide angle lens is required. In such case, a camera that accepts interchangeable lenses is all you need.

You've identified three Canon SLRs. All of them are more than adequate so long as you know what you want to achieve and how to do it. The price difference will not make results better or worse.

Defintiely buy the Tamron and save about $200. Be sure you get the 17-50 mm, f/2.8 lens. The Canon [the expensive one, not the kit lens] has been well reviewed but, with today's lenses, it's not nearly so important to buy the lens from the camera manufacturer. Also, be wary of the 40D - be sure it's of the new lot [the original offering had lots of bugs that couldsn't be repaired, do Canon replaced them at no cost. Similar problems have not been reported with the 50D.

In the Sunday paper I saw an ad [Best Buy, Staples, Electronics Expo] for the XS with two lens for $550. If you're a typical amateur that's more than you'll need.

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12/17/2008 1:22:37 PM

Todd L  
© Todd L
Sony Cyber-shot DS...
IN reference to what I meant about our photos looking better than our competitors is that I'm not too sure exactly. I just want them to have a high end look...

The location of where the pianos are located have no windows so the only light source is from our stained glass chandeliers above our pianos. So a big question is what type of lighting do I use...Do I use flashes, etc.

The pictures will mainly be used for web but also print and when someoen is seriously interested in a particular piano I'll send them larger photos so they can view the detail.

I am the photographer and I'm still wet behind the ears. I've been doing as much research as possible, I have also hired a photographer to help once I buy the equipment to help out. I just want to make sure he's telling me the right information, etc. Of the XTI - XSI - XS, which one do you recommend? Any other info would be helpful...thanks so much.

You can view our showroom in the following picture..I have one particular spot that gives me a lot of room so I can always set up the lighting, etc.

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12/17/2008 1:39:13 PM

Pete H
BetterPhoto Member Since: 8/9/2005
  "I just want them to have a high end look..."

Todd; seriously...

This is why there are photographers out here who shoot commercially.

I could tell you how to light this..what type of camera to use etc, the equip needed; but the fact remains, unless you have not only the right equipment, but the knowledge to shoot this scene, you will be disappointed with your own efforts.

Do you really want high end?..Then pay a photographer who knows HOW to shoot this and has the right equip.

I would not shoot this with 40D or XSI or XTI etc...not if you were one of my commercial clients.

Pro results? Get a pro with pro equip!
Stop scrimping..It seems you put a lot of energy and passion into your pianos..Then why would would you leave this shot to the ill prepared.

I could shoot this Todd; but I can't build a piano.

All the best,


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12/17/2008 4:02:06 PM

Todd, if I get me a fully tooled up workshop it will still probably take me YEARS before I can build a quality piano.

Do you think making quality high-end images is different?

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12/17/2008 4:56:14 PM

John G. Clifford Jr
BetterPhoto Member Since: 8/18/2005
  I had my 1934 Kimbal Petite Baby Grand rebuilt almost 20 years ago, and I documented the rebuilding by visiting the workshop repeatedly and making photos.

I can tell you that lighting a complete piano, in the absence of external light, is a challenge. Looking at your crowded showroom shows me that taking good pictures will be a challenge as well.

In short, I have to second the suggestion that you either hire a professional photographer, or take some good photography classes on product photography and photographic lighting techniques. You're also going to have to buy some studio gear (lighting) in order to get the illumination you will need.

So... would it be cheaper to pay a local photographer several hundred dollars once a month to come in and shoot your latest inventory, or would it be cheaper to spend a couple thousand or more on the camera and lighting gear you need, plus more money on the classes you'd need to take, plus the time and effort from your other responsibilities to take these classes and then shoot the photographs?

My vote would be to hire the photographer, unless you are really into photography and looking to learn more about this because it interests you. If this is merely a business decision, then do as you would have your customers do... and let the best professional for the job do the work.

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12/17/2008 7:10:45 PM

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