I am continually grateful I took a chance and bought the very first Modahaus Tabletop Studio unit some years ago. It has been a great help improving my jewelry photography along with a steadily improving understanding of my camera settings. They have now come out with a new product, the Modahaus Steady Stand SS300 kit. It is for all types of cameras including mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets. The stands are specifically designed for easy scanning as well as overhead photography. I received one for review.
It consists of 3 stands at different heights and comes with a nifty messenger bag as these are all portable. They arrive flat. The first thing to do with any Modahaus unit is to crease the folds well otherwise the units will not assemble correctly. If done right, the tabs should easily snap into position.
There are small holes in all the units for smartphones and tablets. The stands have slots which can be used to cut out larger holes for camera lenses. I had trouble cutting through the tough polymer with my small utility knife! I gave up and used my scissors instead.
My compact camera easily fits through the hole I cut.
I don't have a dSLR so here is what one looks like in position as shown on this Modahaus post.
I tested out these new stands using my iPhone 5 and iPad 4 in mostly natural light, using the largest tabletop studio, the TS400, as the base. See link below for tips on smartphone jewelry photography etc. I chose to do white backgrounds - the hardest type to get right. The photos were cropped and lightened first on the device and a bit more on a photo editor (Adobe Photoshop Elements and sometimes Microsoft Office photo editor).
The small size stand was used to capture this picture of my traditionally wire wrapped cabochon which I demonstrated at a recent Grand River Bead Society event. The steady stand is perfect for such pieces. Rich colors are also easier to photograph.
It was harder going with all silver and lighter beads like my old and slightly wonky bead soup wire wrapped pendant necklace.
I also hung the necklace from the largest stand for a straight on shot.
The background of the following photo wasn't as white as I wanted largely because I had taken the bead soup pendant photo on a very overcast day.
Where the stands excel is in group shots. I tried this Prima bead collection with the medium size one initially. It is so easy to move the stand around to get the right overhead position.
The bead packages looked crowded so I switched to the largest stand for the final shot and cropped it slightly.
The next photo using the medium size one again,was taken with my basement studio's daylight CFL bulbs as the lighting (see link below for more information on how I set it up). These are earrings I made recently to send to my mother. She wanted some as gifts to give to people. I followed Lex McColl's advice and avoided the banding issue by moving the lamps about 2 feet away from the iPhone. He said the banding is due to interference with the smartphone.
The Modahaus post I mentioned before also had this cool way of using the steady stand as a peep hole mask. I didn't try it myself but it is interesting to see a professional deal with what is a "nightmare" subject for lighting and reflection control.
The left unedited photo below shows the back lit earrings using 2 stands and the right is of the earrings simply photographed from the smallest stand. The light reflection from below the second stand really helps to brighten the background.
Final photograph of the earrings.
According to the guide, using the medium and small stands is a good combination for taking photos of business cards. There are many smartphone apps which can optically read and transfer the relevant info into contact lists.
I think there must be a difference in business card sizes here compared to the UK (Modahaus is Scottish based) because I had trouble with that combination. What worked for me was the large and medium combination :
Have you ever noticed people using their iPad for photographs? Who can blame them as they probably don't have a smartphone but still want to take advantage of the iPad's superior camera capabilities. So I tested my iPad out for jewelry photography. I downloaded the camera + HD app ($4.99) for the iPad - it's by the same people who make the camera+ app I recommend for iPhones. The settings are thus familiar.
The medium stand was fine for this copper spool knitted necklace.
The large stand is absolutely fantastic for scanning documents as the distance is just right for common sized paper. The task is so much faster than on a traditional printer/scanner and there is no need to transfer because you'd be scanning directly onto the device you will be reading from. The large stand is designed such that it can support common sized tablets as well as smartphones.
I tested out scanning from one of my old Bead and Button magazines. That stack of magazines is occupying space I need so it will be good if I can scan and make pdfs of what I want to refer to in the future and get rid of the magazines. I recommend the cam scanner app which is free but ad supported. There are all sorts of settings to lighten, crop etc pictures.
You can then save the document as a PDF or even as a jPEG in iBooks, Dropbox or in Google Drive.
The only issue is the slight waviness as I didn't get the magazine quite flat enough.
You can also do tabloid scanning using the panorama technique. The Modahaus video below uses a smartphone for these music sheets.
I personally wouldn't scan music sheets on a smartphone unless you are going to transfer them to a computer - too darn small to read! But I actually do so on the iPad - no need to to transfer! I now play the piano (albeit not very well) reading directly from my iPad. If you sing or play musical instruments, I recommend the musicnotes app for purchased music sheets. There is an in app purchase for a function which lets you import PDFs you scan from your own books. Imagine your entire music collection on one mobile device! I must say turning pages is a breeze with just a tap or a flick. I fumble enough on the keys without fumbling while turning pages!
If you write tutorials like me, the overhead function is great. There is plenty of room to work in with the large stand. I can now hold the tools in a natural position! But I do have to stand unlike before when I could sit, demo and to shoot straight ahead. (Such a whiner!)
Youtube is rife with instructional videos where one cannot even see what the instructor is doing. I haven't tried it yet but doing a craft video will be so much better with a steady stand. Check out this Modahaus video which demos the potential using the original steady stand..
If you are a biologist, note that the distance setting of the smallest stand is perfect for petri dishes and well plates.
Verdict: The Steady Stand 300 kit is a terrific and versatile addition as it opens up all sorts of uses for overhead photography. But I would get a Tabletop photo studio first for jewelry photography if you do not yet own any Modahaus. Modahaus does offer a discount of 15% for bundled units.
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