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Photographing product & auction items

Written by Gail Bjork

Take professional looking photos of items you sell on eBay and other auction sites using items around the home for your lighting studio.

There’s little question that online auctions with photos sell. Images with a professional-look attract the eyes of potential buyers even more quickly. Poor quality photos seen at auctions such as eBay stand out like sore thumbs and have one or more of these traits:

  • Poor lighting.
  • Washed out look.
  • Unsightly color cast.
  • Lack product detail.
  • Lack color contrast between the product and the background.
  • Poor choice of background material.
  • Overpowering and distracting shadows.

If you want auction item photos to stand out from the crowd, use proper lighting and follow a few basic steps. Great product photos are a lot easier to take than you think. And you don’t even need special lighting equipment.

Product photo set-up

The location where you set up is important. Find an area in or outside your home where soft, natural light falls on the product. For inside photos, set-up on a table placed near a window or open door where the outside light filters in.

Vase setup

The vase was placed inside a translucent container that was lined with a piece of white paper. The “studio” was set-up outside on a porch. The camera was set on a tripod.

Set-up preparations

Before setting a product in position, wipe it off with a lint-free cloth. Some products may need polishing or washing to look their best.

Use a suitable backdrop which complements the item. If you have a light colored product, the background should be dark. If the product color is dark, use a light background. When using fabric, smooth any folds or creases that look distracting.

Using Artificial Light

Good lighting is critical for taking product photos that are properly exposed, blur free and capture product detail. Even when you use artificial lighting, augment it by letting natural light from outside come into the room.

product lightingAvoid using the built-in digital camera flash. Uneven light and dark areas will appear on the product.

A flash can cause areas in photos to be washed out, void of detail. At may also produce harsh shadows around the sides of objects.

If the camera flash can’t be shut off, carefully tape cardboard or a similar material over it.

If you take a lot of product photos and want the best results without buying special lighting equipment, use “white light” bulbs that are formulated to simulate natural daylight indoors. Whatever type of artificial light you use to illuminate a product, be it incandescent or florescent lamps, change the white balance setting to match the light source.

Make sure the light doesn’t shine directly on the product so the surface is free from unsightly reflections. Take a few test shots and make any changes to the camera settings or placement of the lamps that may be necessary.

If lighting is such that you can’t obtain a shutter speed of at least 1/60th of a second, or the camera shake indicator comes on, use a camera support. If your camera has Image Stabilization, you may be able to hand-hold the camera at slightly lower shutter speeds and still obtain acceptable results.

For many more tips and suggestions for photographing auction items, purchase our popular ebook, Photographing Online Auction Products. It’s only $3.95 and available for immediate download.

About the author

Gail Bjork

Gail Bjork, who is passionate about digital photography, is the owner and editor of Digicamhelp.Gail is the author of three illustrated ebooks about digital photography. A number of her photos and digital photography related articles appear at other websites.In 2006, a series of her photos, People in the Louvre, were exhibited at the Underground Photo Gallery
in Iisalmi Finland. Eight of her photos taken in the Florida scrub are on permanent exhibition at Parrish Medical Center in Titusville, Florida.Gail served twelve years as an elected member of The School Board of Palm Beach County, Florida, one of the largest school districts in the U.S. She has also been the editor of a small town newspaper and a free-lance writer. Gail and her husband owned and ran several small businesses.