Feb 16, 2009

Photos for Ebay part 1: Small Items with a Point and Shoot

A few weeks ago, I had a conversation with Malissa over at Sleepyhollow Folk Art Originals about the importance of good photos for selling items on-line. Whether you are going to ebay, etsy, or any other online marketplace, the pictures are as close as a potential buyer can get to experiencing the item you want to sell. A bad photo can limit salability, cause a perception of poor quality, and reduce the number of people who are interested.

Luckily, getting better results is easy. You do NOT need a fancy new ultra-gigapixel camera to do it either. These photos are not for printing, so high resolution is not required. Everything in this post is shot with a 3 year old 5mp camera (Kodak v530)

You already know to get rid of distracting backgrounds and prioritize the subject, so priority one is to make a nice white (or black, or anything solid) background. A bed sheet, posterboard, etc. can all work, depending on the size of the object. Drape it over a chair and voila..

Well... better than sitting on the kitchen table, but the on-camera flash is glaring and maybe I should iron the sheet....

So, what if we want to do something a little better? Instead $170 or better for a light-tent setup, run down to your favorite craft store and pick up some white foamcore, then a couple of work lights (or any light holders will do) with some flood light bulbs. High wattage is best, just watch out because they will get hot.

Now make a shooting spot (here on the floor to use chairs for propping up the foamcore.

Quick note about light... Pointing the lights directly at the object will get the most light, but also some harsh shadows, which are not helpful.

How to cut the shadows?
Point the lights into the foam core on the sides instead to make a larger light source. You lose brightness, but you will want to compensate anyway. Remember, your camera wants to turn all of that white into gray! That is why the photo above is so dark.

Here is the setup...

and the result, less shadow...

I have also corrected the exposure there by +1 in the camera.

When shooting shiny things especially, remember that the shiny bits reflect whatever color is hitting them. Surrounding the object with white (or black for darkened areas) will help.

Black backgrounds can be very effective, but as you see, you have to make sure it is clean!... Felt fabric works well for this. Foamcore shows dirt very well...

You will also want some detail shots. Here again, the on-camera flash does not help.. turn it off and let the side lighting do the work...

With the flash on...

and off...

All together, this setup is about $25 and you can stuff it all in a closet or under a bed etc. etc. If you can shoot by a nice big window on a sunny day, you can even do without a light...

don j

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