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Photographing Small Products

Many of us are doing our best to make a little extra money selling stuff on eBay or one of the other on-line auctions.  One thing that will help you make that sale is to have a good picture of your product.  Your picture should not only show what it is, but also show important details and look pleasing. 

If you go through any good magazine and look at the ads, you will see the results of professional photographers with many years of experience and a lot of expensive camera and lighting equipment at their disposal. Not to mention an assistant and an art director to help get these great pictures.  These pros get paid "big bucks" for these images, and rightfully so....  Advertisers know the picture is a big part of selling their product and don't mind paying for it.

This newsletter is not going to teach you how to do it like the pros.  There are many good books on the subject giving  you a good start.  We just want to show you how to take good pictures of small products with a simple setup and relatively inexpensive equipment. 

The equipment you need is basically the same as we talked about in our last newsletter

The basic components are:
     · Background
     · Lights
     · Camera

Choose a smooth matte finish background.  This can be seamless paper or poster board. It should be flexible so you can slope it behind the subject eliminating a harsh horizontal line behind the subject.  Shooting tables are made just for shooting small products.  If you plan on doing a lot of product shots you may want to look into one of these.

In our example we use a 250 watt reflector  light pointing into an umbrella.  We prefer continuous light (or Hot Light) for products.  Flood lights will be economical for small jobs, but the bulbs don't last long and they change color as they age.  If you are using a two light set up, when one bulb goes out, it is best to change both, so they are the same color.  Quartz bulbs will last much longer and not change color, but they will cost more initially.  Also, some quartz light are brighter.  Avoid moving these lights around when they are hot, because vibration will break the filament and cause the bulb to go out.  These lights are very hot, so be careful and turn them off if you leave the room.

You can use electronic flash (studio strobes), but it's easier to see what you are going to get with hot lights.  We also use a "fill" reflector.  A piece of white poster board will also work.  A second fill light with an umbrella can be used instead of the fill reflector.   

The camera can be either digital or film.  A digital camera is especially suited for this because it gives you a digital file which can uploaded to your auction or web site.  Most digital cameras can also be set to be balanced for the tungsten light.  If you use a film camera you will need to scan the negative or print before uploading.  Also if you use film, use a blue filter to balance the film for the tungsten light or use tungsten balanced film.  If your camera does not focus close enough to get a good close up, you may be able to use Close-Up filters to solve the problem.

Set your main light up so it is about level with the camera (or slightly above).  The fill light (or reflector) should be set off to the side and slightly behind the subject.

A Few Helpful Hints:

  • If your subject has a rough texture you want to show, set the main light off to the side more.
  • Clear glassware works best if the main light is coming from behind subject. 
  • White, gray or blue backgrounds work well with most subjects.
  • A silver reflector is helpful for showing more detail on bark objects.
  • Position your lights very close to the subject for a softer shadow.

© 2008 - Bruce Gibson maintains
This content is provided by Bruce Gibson. It may be used only in its entirety with all links included.

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