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Can you give me any tips on shooting photos for online auctions?
Photographing items for online auctions is a form of product photography. Catalog photographers shoot many items everyday—sometimes hundreds. They do this by using efficient studio setups in which items can be placed and shot in rapid order. You can get images that look like studio shots with your point-and-shoot camera using two basic setups.
Photographs of small objects such as jewelry and parts are shot with wrap-around lighting in a setup called a tent. A tent is a translucent box or dome that is lit from the sides so the subject is evenly lit. A tent also produces reflections on shiny surfaces that makes them more readable.
You can make a small tent out of a one-gallon plastic bottle. Cut off the neck so that you have a dome and then cut an opening to shoot through. Place the item inside the tent to shoot it. It is best to shoot outdoors in the sun—you will have plenty of light and you can use the sunlight white balance in your camera. You can also use your flash in the Fill Flash option to open up a bit more detail in the subject.
You often see photos on auction sites in which the item is photographed on the dining room table or floor. This clutter is distracting and makes it difficult to view the item.
Catalog photographers shooting tabletop shots use a seamless background called a throw. A throw is a curved background that creates the appearance of the subject suspended in a white space. A throw doesn’t have to be white—it can be any color—but white reads best.
A throw can be made from poster board for small objects, or a bed sheet for larger objects. If you use a bed sheet be sure to iron out any wrinkles. If you do a lot of shooting a four by eight foot sheet of Formica is handy—it is durable and clans up easily.
The best light is daylight—preferably on an overcast day or in open shade. Be sure to use the cloudy day or open shade white balance if your camera has those options. Again, you can use the camera’s Fill Flash option to open up more detail in the subject.
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