Distorted yo-yo when photo is taken too close?

(ClockMonsterLA) #1

So I’ve pointed out this Very Bad and Lazy Photography Habit elsewhere, but I thought I’d show another example of why it matters how you photograph your yoyos, especially if you are trying to sell them. Providing potential buyers with an accurate visual representation of the yoyo is paramount (you should never assume they already know what it really looks like).

Here are two photographs of the same yoyo model. But you would never know it given how the photographs were taken:

One is an example of how to properly photograph any subject up close. The other is an example of a photograph taken by someone who either doesn’t understand optics at all, or simply doesn’t care how they represent their yoyos to the world, be it in a BST or an online gallery.

Amateur Yo-Yo Photography

Interesting. Let me do some tests on this, I am curious how strong the fisheye effect is over distance, and whether the camera / phone has an effect on the results.

(ClockMonsterLA) #3

It is basic optics. The lens on most phone cameras is pretty wide angle, which means if you put the phone only inches away from your subject, you are going to get a lot of distortion. The way to avoid this is to back way up and zoom in on the subject from a distance. Unfortunately, the zoom function of smartphones is purely digital, rather than optical, and so you tend to get grainy images as a result.

That’s why smartphone images are less than ideal when you care about the results. Use a real camera with a real lens. Either a true macro lens, or one with good telephoto properties.


Not true on higher end phones though.

(ClockMonsterLA) #5

A 2x optical zoom might help a little, but with the tiny lens elements in smartphones, it is hard to do anything that demands a truly useful telephoto range. An optical focal length range of 18mm to 35mm isn’t terribly useful except when taking photos of large scenes.

I actually find it amusing that the selfie generation is growing up not realizing how distorted they look in all their photos of themselves.


It was just a quick photo for the BST. I definitely understand optics, but thank you: ) With three young kids at home, I had about 2 seconds to take the photo.


OK so it is a bit rainy here so hard to test but I wanted to do some SCIENCE :test_tube: before I lost the light.

I took a series of pics of a YYF Genesis from far away to really close up with my iPhone XS, like so:


Those are all me getting closer and closer to the yo-yo by physically moving my phone closer to it before snapping the pic. I’ve cropped each one to roughly the same size so it is apples to apples in the final image:

Er… wow, LOL! You weren’t kidding @zslane! Even getting moderately close produces some fisheye distortion! That’s a surprising result, because look how far back I was in that series of photos!

Even using the 2x optical zoom isn’t a savior though, check it out:

That was taken at what I considered a not “too close” distance, with the 2x optical zoom like so…

but apparently it is!

(Jacob Waugh) #8

That drop of water is bugging me so badly.


So looking at this, the guidance has to be that in order to avoid distortion… you want the yo-yo to take up NOWHERE NEAR the full screen when snapping the pic.


The latter two on the right are hugely fisheyed. So maybe the rule should be, ensure the yo-yo is taking up no more than … 1/9th the frame?


If you divided your phone pic screen into an imaginary tic-tac-toe board, put the target yo-yo at the center of it, then snap the pic?

(ClockMonsterLA) #10

If you leave your subject small, then you waste all the resolution that the camera sensor is capable of recording. That’s why you want optical zoom to make the subject fill the frame without distortion and without the artifacts that come with digital zooming. A 2x optical zoom helps, but is still less than ideal IMO.


Yeah but people aren’t going to have that equipment on hand. They’ll just have their phones.

The good news is that even on the super far back photo with effectively zero fisheye, the resulting cropped image was around 500 × 500 which is still pretty good.

This does mean you will definitely need to be outside taking the pics because it will absolutely require full light to get a reasonable pic taken that far back. Phones do really bad with low light due to the small sensors, etc.


Wait, don’t the front (selfie) cameras on phones account for this? Surely those lenses are optimized for up-close stuff?

(ClockMonsterLA) #13

Yeah, I’m not saying that taking acceptable photographs is convenient, but then it never was. It just bugs me how inaccurate most photos are of yoyos these days unless they come from a vendor or from someone who takes pride in their ability to take a good photograph. A lot of yoyos with great body shapes look absolutely horrible (or look like entirely different yoyos) because people just don’t make the effort.


I would assume the selfie cameras are optimized for closer up stuff but I just tried taking a pic of the yo-yo with the selfie camera and it was way too awkward. Let me get a stand or something and try again.

Well no that’s even weirder. It is surprisingly difficult to use the selfie camera to take a pic of just the yo-yo. And selfie cameras tend to be a bit worse (lower resolution) than the back facing cameras.

(From the cranky old folks home) #15

Yep, you need a real camera with macro capability to take good closeups. (Advice From the cranky old folks home.)


It’s actually not entirely bad to use the tic-tac-toe rule… modern smartphone cameras are stupidly high resolution, producing images that are honestly too big most of the time. So taking it from farther away and cropping is more efficient.

Nobody wants a 4+ megabyte image of a yo-yo for sale in the B/S/T :wink:

I expected the “fill the frame with yo-yo” image to be mega fisheyed, and it was, but I was honestly surprised how strong this effect is… even when the yo-yo is taking up only 1/3rd or 1/4th of the frame! I would not have predicted that 1/9th of the frame is the place where fisheye kinda goes away… but is still a little visible, even at that!


I loaded the worst up-close fisheye image

into this lens distortion removal tool and I tried to eyeball it into the first pic from the farthest away:

I do think some of this could be addressed in software, as well.


This is very interesting. I always thought that most bst photos look a bit off…


OK so here’s the fisheye corrected version. Settings are

a: 1.393, b: 1.136, Fx: 0.23, Fy: 0.15, scale: 0.866, x: 1, y: 1


(ClockMonsterLA) #20

The correction gets it closer, but it is still off. There’s simply no substitute for getting it right in-camera.