My question is – what quality photos do I have to make to make the book look good? Can I use a normal handheld camera? Or do I need professional equipment like studio, lighting etc.?
As they say, "garbage in, garbage out". What quality of photos would you expect in a martial arts book? Would high-quality, well thought-out and composed recordings improve your opinion of the book or give the impression that the book is worth your time?
you can Use a hand-held digital camera, but without the ability to control the flash lighting, you are at the mercy of lighting at the scene. Some things to keep in mind:
For example, suppose you try to capture real Kicks and punches and not poses and punches: You want to use a very short shutter speed to absolutely stop the movement at the time of the impact. Depending on the camera, a compact point-and-shoot may not provide fast enough shutter speed control.
Indoor lighting seldom provides enough light to allow enough shutter speed to freeze the movement sufficiently.
Even if you bring along many cheap lights (such as simple LED or CFL lights from the hardware store) to flood the scene, these inexpensive lights will flicker due to the AC mains frequency and cause color and / or brightness variations over every shot and certainly from shot to shot variation. Look at this directly related question that shows examples of martial arts: Do fluorescent lights and shutter speeds have a problem with the color cast?
Using incandescent bulbs largely eliminates this problem (as incandescent bulbs still light up between AC peak-to-peak AC currents, effectively compensating for variations in light intensity). However, many incandescent bulbs will give off a lot of heat and consume a lot of power. So, if any of these concerns matter, you need to know this in advance.
If you take photos outdoors to use a lot of natural light (such as in a park or garden), you will get better results on a lightly overcast or partially cloudy day than in direct sunlight. In general, when shooting in the middle of sunlight, due to the very bright and direct sunlight, lights and / or dark shadows will appear. The clouds on a cloudy day provide an excellent diffuser, through which the light from all over the sky illuminates the subject more evenly.
If I was the person who made this project, I would consider the following:
I would definitely use a tripod and a remote trigger. In this way, the photographer can move to adjust the lighting, or be in a better position to see exactly when a picture should be taken. If the camera is mounted on a tripod, more consistent images will be produced, and this will certainly be less strenuous for long exposures.
I would try to make it rotate in a dojo / martial arts studio with mirrored walls (and no dance / ballet pole on the walls). The reason is two-fold:
- You can use the mirrors to bring more light into the scene as you like. You can throw diffused light on the mirrors for more backlighting, or you can bounce direct light for more focused backlighting. If the mirrors are annoying on some shots, you can always cover them with a backdrop, leaves, etc.
- With the mirrors you can only show what is focused on the camera, but also on what is gone. I'm not familiar enough with martial arts to know if this is necessary, but I can imagine that a distant hand or posture could be seen more clearly to show how balance or impulse is important in certain techniques.
So that the photographer does not appear in the reflected mirror images, I would use a perspective lens (also referred to as a tilt-shift lens, although only the shift function would be used and no tilt), probably 90mm, if you allowed working in the studio room , See also:
Set up mirror image
What is the best approach to photographing a mirror or other highly reflective surface?
Lighting: Whether indoors or outdoors, I definitely want to control and add lighting. I would be prepared with at least two flashlights outside the camera with diffusers and probably one or two static reflectors.
Should I take the pictures myself or find a specialist?
It depends entirely on the resources available to you and your quality standards. If you are the "director" of the scene, do you have time to worry about how to take good pictures? Is the quality of the results very important?
Another consideration could be: Is it more important to finish the recordings and the book (or at least complete it) and possibly reschedule the models (martial artists) for a second photo shoot? Often "good enough" is the first time better than "perfect" to try. Perfect may prevent you from completing the project, especially if you are experiencing photography without the required knowledge.