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In another thread, yet another picture, badly composed, using a fraction of the frame, with bad lighting.

Should engineering degrees require a course in documentary photography and documentation in general and the use of photo editing tools to better isolate the issue at hand?

Too often the person taking the picture has a huge amount of knowledge gained from different orientations, lighting, touching the item, and then all that is supposed to be available in one photo.

Blurred ID plates where the manufacturer name and part number - asking for help with the particular item.
Close up photos of tiny details with no scale or means to understand the detail in the context of how it is used.

I still recall a guy coming back with photos from a site visit with every picture containing his blurred pinky blocking part of the scene.

RE: Photography

Not a fan of the one-man-band. Engineers do not have to be able to do all tasks. It is a trap to think that perfection in everything is a requirement. In some bygone era people stuck to their trade a little better. I'll bet there are plenty in upper management who do not do their own photography.

RE: Photography

You can't win.

Guy has a Master's? You still need to tell him to hold the camera steady.
Guy has 30 years experience. You still need to tell him to stand back to get the whole subject in the frame.
Guy has a 2000 dollar SLR camera. You still need to show him how to balance light/speed/aperture/ISO/grain.
Guy has a 3000 dollar mirrorless camera. You still need to tell him that the autofocus will prioritize the irrelevant object in the background unless he selects matrix mode and targets.

You can't win.

RE: Photography

One thing that would improve documentation photography in general is a tripod and convincing the user to use the stationary framing of the camera to look at all the corners and edges of the image and compare that to the object of interest. To isolate from what their eye is sweeping around the scene, continuously adapting to light and dark, continuously adapting focus, and continuously adapting the tiny central vision into what appears to be continuous detail.

Not only would this be valuable as a documentation skill, but in general to get engineers to see what is actually there rather than the very human tendency to focus on some small aspect and miss the larger picture.

One doesn't always need the tripod; but it slows down the photography from a hectic quick snap to a deliberative process. Time to see what is in focus, time to see what the lighting is, time to notice the speed and white balance, time to see the feet are missing in a full length portrait when there is a mile of blue sky over the person's head. And it does wonder for motion blur from a shaky hand.

RE: Photography

I agree, something a bit broader like "principles & practical application of forensic evidence gathering" would be what is worthwhile
Learn how important it is the gather evidence
Labelling evidence
take photos
Use scale devices (e.g. ruler, coin etc for sense of size)
take USEFUL notes
take control of a scene and keep the seagulls / rubberneckers away
Write a USEFUL report on a situation such that it can actually be sued in the future.

For me these are key practical skills that all engineer should be using all the time, or at the very least be on the receiving end of this information, and be able to clearly articulate to others what is required.

rant over... good topic.

Andrew O'Neill
Specialist Mechanical Engineer

RE: Photography

Yes, but then they wouldn’t meet management’s metric of 5.7 photos per minute.

RE: Photography

I do think there is significant gain to be had with just a few photography skills. Much like office productivity software, it doesn't take a lot of skills to make a huge advancement in the photographic documentation. Also, like office productivity tasks, some individuals are just slobs and don't like to pay attention to such things. Documentative photography requires slowing down a little bit to maximize the value in that moment.

Maybe you weren't interested in getting into the weeds, but I dabble in photography and my work has certainly presented challenging situations to get a useful snapshot. Here are a few of my best tips:
1) Shiny metal surfaces are brutal to photograph, and the direct flash of most cameras can make it worse. Always review your photo to make sure the glare hasn't hidden the machine finish or element of interest.
2) Focus is essential, and shiny metal surfaces do not provide any useful contrast for the camera to autofocus on. Put the point of a pen in your photo, aimed at the important feature. This will lead the viewer's eye and give the camera autofocus something to lock in on. A machinists scale can also work and provide an absolute size reference.
3) Sometimes there is plenty of visible light for our eyes but not enough for a camera sensor. Be aware that some photos require the camera to do a longer exposure and check each photo for sharpness before leaving your location.
4) We often want to get close-up, and most cameras won't focus on a very close object. It can work to move the camera back a bit and zoom in with the camera lens to get both the detail and the focus.
5) Be aware that focus does not happen from shallow to far in a photo, and the depth of the focused region gets a lot smaller when you don't have abundant outdoor light. So if there is any depth to the feature you care about: take the photos from the side so that the feature is in the width of the photo (not the depth), add light (preferably from multiple indirect sources), and make sure you have a reference marker (pen or scale) positioned to help the autofocus lock in on the correct depth.

I think most technical folks can grasp these guidelines pretty well, it's just that it's not something they're used to thinking about.

RE: Photography

For those unscripted moments....

A (really) cheap clip-on macro lens for the camera on your phone takes up a trivial amount of space in a bag of tools and only has to come in handy once to pay for itself.

Pictures of small components look much clearer when taken against a plain matt background - an unexpected additional use for a toolbag.


RE: Photography

personally, I'd prefer people concentrated on being able to do FBDs and the like

"Hoffen wir mal, dass alles gut geht !"
General Paulus, Nov 1942, outside Stalingrad after the launch of Operation Uranus.

RE: Photography

this should be part of a failure analysis lab course.

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
P.E. Metallurgy, consulting work welcomed

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