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Photography/Glow in the dark photo

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QUESTION: Hi,

I have a small business where I customize sports balls.  We would like to showcase a ball that glows in the dark.  I have tried cutting off the lights and using a LED flashlight, but the results was not clear.  What is the best way to take a pics that will show the ball and the glow in the dark text?

Thanks in advance.

ANSWER: This will be difficult.  I'd try getting the ball glowing as much as possible, and have it secured so it can't move  (double sided sticky tape?)  Camera on tripod, focus on ball and then switch off autofocus.  Dim the lights way down, to where you can just barely see the ball.  Camera in Manual mode, try aperture setting at f8, ISO 1600.  Start with shutter speed of 2 seconds, check LCD and adjust brightness from there, brighter or darker.  Experiment with dark colored backgrounds for the ball--I suggest starting with something glossy black.  If you can't get what you want in one photo, you will have to resort to an HDR photo using software.


Good luck!
Kent in SD

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QUESTION: Thank you.  I have attached a pics so you can see my horrible results.

Answer
You are on the right track--you can see some glow.  This is going to take somewhat expensive professional gear.  I'd start with an f1.4 lens, such as a 50mm f1.4.  Camera would optimally be a full frame DSLR such as Nikon D750, Nikon D810, Canon 5Diii, etc.  Try bumping up ISO to 6400, f2.  Ultimately I think this will only be done using HDR software.  Photoshop Elements should be able to do it.  Photoshop CC (Creative Cloud) certainly could.  The problem here is the glow is so faint that you need a camera with a sensitive sensor, and a lens that lets in a lot of light.  It's a classic "dynamic range" problem.  A camera sensor can only see a fairly narrow range of light between really dark dark, and the brightest light.  Your best exposure so far is still too dark.  Try stopping the lens down (camera in manual mode) to something like f1.4 or f2, and ramp up ISO to 6400, check the results.  What I'm afraid is going to happen is the glow letters will only be visible if it's so dark you can't really see the ball.  If it's light enough to see the ball, the glow will be wiped out.   If this is so, I can think of two ways to overcome.  First is to have camera on tripod and take multiple shots at different exposures.  Blend the exposures using HDR software mentioned above.  Second Idea is to take a single exposure of the ball where it is still light enough to see the ball, but overall very dark.  Using software, "paint" the glowing charecters in with the brush tool.  Either of these methods might work, but it will require some knowledge of photo software.  You can experiment with the suggestions above, but you may end up having to take it to a commercial photographer.  This is actually a pretty tricky photo to do.


Good luck!
Kent in SD

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Kent Staubus

Expertise

I am an experienced outdoor photographer My knowledge base includes digital Nikons, use of flash, vintage & historical cameras, and shooting both medium format and large format film. My specialty is night photography, both with or without flash set ups. I am primarily an outdoor photographer and shoot railroads, country churches, abandoned buildings, and candid people photos. I shoot a lot of travel photos in places like Canada, Scotland, Hawaii, Iceland, and of course the Northern Plains.

Experience

Have been taking photos daily for the past 15 years, with total experience of 26 years. I have had a number of photos in magazines, including a few cover shots. I am proficient with camera gear made from the 1850s to present.

Publications
TRAINS magazine, Railroads Illustrated Magazine

Education/Credentials
Bachelor Degree from University of Kansas

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