Tips - Wildfowl Carving Championships
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Digital Photography (High-Resolution)
In the application of virtual competition it will be important to provide images which can be enlarged to show detail, or high-resolution images of higher pixel count than standard quality photos. Your device set to take the “highest quality” images does this if you set it to do so.

Now that you have your device set to capture the highest quality photos, it will be important to have a background which will not detract from the subject in the photo. Some use simple back-drops of cloth or large paper background meant for use in photography.

Lighting is also important. Flash photography is not always the answer when trying to photograph wildfowl carvings. If you can set up an area where indirect lighting can be used, the outcome will be much better. It may be necessary to play with the different settings on your camera or device to learn which setting works best for your circumstances.

Essential Camera Settings
Whether you are using a smartphone or a digital camera, if the settings are not correct for high quality photography, you will never get good photos of your entries. The cameras on smartphones are digital, just like the bigger digital cameras we have been using for so many years. Either will work for you if you learn how to make sure your camera is taking the highest quality images it can. This is what is needed to create photos in which the judges will be able to see the detail of your wildfowl carving. Don’t be afraid to check out the settings on your digital camera, or your smartphone camera. You are not going to break your smartphone or your digital camera. By default, most device’s camera settings are set up to save space on your phone. Because of this, the size of the image is reduced from 3000pixels wide (maybe larger) is reduced automatically, to 720pixels wide. Now the resolution of the photo you took has been compromised.

To compete in the championships, you will need your camera to be taking the highest quality (3000pixels or larger). Here are two short videos showing how to setup your camera for the best photos it can take.



Setting Up
It will be important to designate an area for your photo shoot. This can be indoors or outdoors. You will need a flat surface to place your subject on.

Back Drops
There’s no need for fancy light boxes to create professional quality photos of your decoys and wildfowl carvings. Placing a backdrop with no lines, such as an unwrinkled (pressed) sheet, or large paper back drop, will remove any distractions from your subject. These can be of various colors and even gradient (fading from one color to another) depending upon your preference. Using more than one light source will eliminate diffuse shadows. Using a flash creates shadows. Better to adjust the light settings on the camera or smartphone for the best results.

Bath towels do not offer a professional look for a backdrop because of the texture. and wrinkly unpressed sheets are a distraction from the subject, your carving. Best to use a smooth matte backdrop. These will require a support to hold the backdrop in place.

Below is a simple setup using a gradient background paper taped to a fireplace insert, and draped over a coffee table as the surface, where it is secured by more  tape. Two swing-arm lamps positioned on either side, each with 100W soft white bulbs, and a handheld digital camera. Pretty simple.

The second image is the resulting photo, when the camera was moved closer to the subject, so only the gradient background and subject are visible in the view finder or display screen of the camera or smartphone. Best to move closer with the camera, than it is to zoom in on your subject.


Varitone Graduated Background Paper is available in a variety of colors in various sizes from the on Etsy for a reasonable price starting at $20.


Options for Light Boxes
Neewer sells affordable portable/foldable light boxes ion a variety of sizes from 16”x16”, 24”x24”, 36”x36” and even larger if needed.


If photographing outside you can employ the natural sunlight to light your subject, even on a cloudy day. Direct sunlight is not recommended, but diffused sunlight works great.

Indoor photography will require lighting as well, using your flash alone will not produce good lighting, generally casting harsh shadows and highlights. One or more light sources will be best, and they don’t have to be expensive to work well.

Using a translucent light box like the Neewer, two or three swing arm lights (2 on the sides, 1 above) can be used with various types of light bulbs to get the soft lighting for photographing your three dimensional art work.

Make Your Own Light Box
You can even make your own light box at home using a large cardboard box. The top and sides are cut out and covered with translucent paper like Clearprint Vellum. The all that is needed are your two or three light sources to shine from the outside in to achieve diffused lighting for your photographs.

Build a Photo Light Box

A home-made light box with a DSLR ready to shoot.

We’ve all seen perfectly lit product photos — jewelry, watches or other small objects in glorious detail, floating on a flawless white background. How do the pros do it? They use a light box — also known as a light tent — to produce close-ups with soft, uniform light and virtually no shadows. A light box or light tent is just a small enclosure with translucent walls. When you place a flash or light just outside the walls, you get a diffused glow of light inside. A light box is perfect for showing detail in small objects, and a standard tool for pro studio photographers. Making one is cheap and easy.

What you’ll need

  • A box
  • White copy paper or translucent vellum, to line the inside of the box
  • Three pieces of translucent paper, to serve as box walls
  • Poster board, to create your seamless backdrop
  • A yardstick or measuring tape
  • Tape, to hold a lot of this together
  • A glue stick or spray adhesive
  • A carpenter’s knife or box cutter, to cut holes in the box

Get a clean box — grease or other dirt will stain the white paper and prevent the glue or tape from sticking. Pick a safe size that will give you some flexibility —- somewhere between 18×18″ and 24×24″ should do the trick.
For your walls, you can use tracing paper, tissue paper or even white cotton t-shirts. You’ll need pieces that are a little bit smaller than the box walls (for 18×18″ walls, use at least 16×16″ paper).
Buy your poster board in a rectangular shape that’s slightly less than the width of the inside of the box and twice as long. For an 18×18″ box, shoot for 16×36″ or 16×40″. It will need to bend, so get the kind that’s sort of flimsy, not extra stiff or foam-core board.


The Frame
Tape the bottom of your box securely, both inside and outside. Lay the box on one side with the opening (top) facing you. On the box wall that is facing the ceiling, use your yardstick to measure in two inches from each edge. Cut out the resulting square. Repeat this on two more sides, leaving one side uncut and intact. That intact side is the bottom. Flip the box so the intact side is on the table. You now have the frame for your light box.

Inside of the Box
Use the white copy paper and adhesive to line the inside of the box, trimming when appropriate to create a uniform white surface. Now, make the tracing paper “walls.” Tape a piece of the paper (or whatever translucent material you’re using) to the outside of each wall that has a hole in it. Lastly, add your poster board. You want whatever you’re shooting to sit comfortably on the bottom of the box. With that in mind, position the poster board so the top edge can be taped to the high edge of the back wall, then drape it down, letting it bend gently. Tape the front of the posterboard to the front lip of the floor.

Let There Be Light
You want a soft and even white light. If you can’t eliminate shadows, use them creatively. Your light source(s) should be based on your vision for the project and your level of professionalism. If you have two flashes, go for it. CFLs or adjustable desk lamps will work. Clamp lights make a good choice. They are inexpensive and can be found at a hardware store, and they take a wide variety of bulbs. Just make sure you know how to adjust your camera’s white balance, or your photos could end up with a slight green-ish, yellow-ish, or orange-ish cast, depending on the light you’re using.

It’s time to make a photo. Set up either a single light on one wall or one light on each of two walls. Place whatever you’d like to shoot (an 8-Track cassette, a Spawn action figure) on the box’s floor. Set up your camera on a tripod to minimize movement, frame your shot, adjust your aperture, and shoot. Use a tripod and a fancy lens to get dreamy macro shots.

Use the two box flaps as blinders so you can cut out or temper any peripheral or back lighting. Try different lighting combos. You have three lit panels and several ways to combine them. Attach a second layer of paper to each wall, or try thinner paper or different materials. Whatever produces the photo with the least shadow and the softest, most uniform light, wins.

Experiment 2
If you have a camera where you can hold the shutter open you can do the following. Put the camera on a tripod and point it at the subject. Open the shutter then take a flashlight and paint the subject with the light. The longer you stay on one place the brighter it will be. You will have to experiment with the aperture and how long to hold the light but you can make some cool effects. Also try lasers and colored filters over the flashlight.

Camera Types

Smartphones for Photos and Apps You Can Use
Smartphones can work great and with the right app, you can adjust the photo to your liking. Here’s an excellent video showing how you can use your smartphone and an app named SnapSeed for Android or SnapSeed for iPhone to produce your photos to professional quality.

Photographing Your 3D Art with a smartphone using SnapSeed

Here’s a three more helpful videos showing how to photograph three-dimensional art…<br>



Digital Cameras for Photos
There are many digital cameras that will perform well enough, if the camera has been set to the right settings. The most important settings will be these, generally found in the MENU of your camera.

Image Quality – Set the camera at the highest image quality (Largest file size) for the best results.
Light Setting – Be sure you have the light settings set correctly, depending upon where you are photographing. Indoor (Incandescent/Fluorescent) Outdoor (Sun or Clouds) Scrolling through your choices while looking at the screen of the camera, it will show how the setting can be affect the look of the photo. For instance, if you have the setting on an Outdoor setting, while you are indoors under incandescent/fluorescent lights, your photos will have a yellow cast to them. When switched to indoor settings, the color is corrected.
Focus – Auto-Focus works quite well when taking photos from around 8”-12”, but for anything closer, unless you are taking close-up shots of detail. For close-ups you will want to change the focus setting to “Close-up”. Your camera might even have an “Auto-Close-up” setting. Another setting you might have is “Macro” which is also for close-up photography. You will have to try all of these to find the setting that best suits how you are photographing your subject, full shots or close-up shots.
Framing – Cropping photos (cutting off the edges) individually and be time consuming. Many of the smart phones make cropping your photos easy, and some of the newer digital cameras will allow for cropping right on the camera. To avoid needing to crop, especially when using a handheld digital camera, learning to frame your shots will eliminate the need to crop.
Portrait or Landscape – Camera orientation can make a big difference. With most cameras defaulting to a landscape (wide view), changing the camera to accommodate the subject may be necessary and prudent, for the best photos. A tall thin wildfowl carving would be best photographed with the camera set up sideways, where a wide or long subject would be best photographed in the landscape position.
Tripods – Handheld cameras can produce good photos, however using a tripod to keep it steady is the best choice. They come in a variety of sizes, some simple some more complex. The GorilliaPod by Joby is sold on Amazon.


Creating a Video For Your Entry
Smartphones and Digital Cameras have video recording capabilities. Most of these devices can create high-definition video (HD) with the right settings. The 4K setting for photos and video is not necessary. Using the setting of 1080p at 60 frames per second or the equivalent will work for your 30-60 second video submission for your entry. In most cases, you will be videoing a decoy’s flotation, and in some divisions will require proof of self-righting capabilities. In the future championships, we may ask for a 30-60 second video of decorative wildfowl carvings, showing an all around view of the entry for the judges and the public to view. Learning how to take video will pay off for competition.

How to shoot great video with your smartphone

This next video is a little more in depth and very helpful if you want more control over your photos and videos using a smartphone.

How to shoot great video with your smartphone

Uploading Your Video to YouTube

YouTube accounts are free. You simply sign up for a Google account, and go to YouTube and sign in.

Go to, login, and setup a basic YouTube channel (just a basic setup of no more than 5 minutes of your time – you can always come back later to complete this until it looks like a professional YouTube channel) If you are unfamiliar with this process check this page (