If you want to sell your unwanted stuff on eBay, Craig’s List, or elsewhere, some good looking product photos will certainly enhance the chance of quick selling or getting the money you ask for. Taking good product photos, especially those with seamless white background is not difficult at all. And you don’t need to purchase any specialized professional gear such as a shooting table or tent. One umbrella or softbox is all your need for the lighting part of the process.

To make one light setup work, the best arrangement is put it directly above and shoot from the side.

Setup option #1: Umbrella

Mount the flash and the umbrella together using an umbrella holder such as this shoe mount multiclamp. If you have umbrella, you should have one like this already. Now you need to point the umbrella downward in a shoot-through setup. How to do this is up to you. If you have a boom it is easy. I have used a string to suspend it from a shower curtain rod I placed over a pair of French doors.

The photo below shows you such a lighting setup. It is quite easy to get very soft light that doesn’t cause harsh reflections on the product. The large light source, very close to the subject, produces a wrap-around effect and leads to very soft shadows.


For a small item, you can just place it on a piece of white paper then start shooting. The following are a couple of photos I took with this setup (Click to view large version).

20081213_214048LND_3448 20081213_213906LND_3445 20081213_215026LND_3458 20081213_215930LND_3472 20081213_213001LND_3434 20081213_212052LND_3420 20081213_213242LND_3437

You probably noticed that the photos have gray background, not white one. You can choose to completely blow out the white background but the product you want to shoot may also be over-exposed. And since some editing work is typically unavoidable, I prefer to turn the background into pure white in editing software for a better control. To find out how to do that, please read Capture NX2 Video Tutorial: White Background Product Photo.

The following is an example of the post editing result.

Shoe mount multiclamp

Using a flat paper background severely limits the usable shooting angles. You can choose to use the same curved white background I described in the following section.

Setup option #2: Softbox

The following photo shows the setup I recently used. I taped a large piece of poster board I bought from Dollar Tree for $0.50/sheet on the wall then put the other end on a raised platform. This gives a seamless curved background in the photos. Two folded printer papers were used to bring in some fill light to the front of the item.

Softbox setup

Here are some examples after editing.

Helicopter Starblitz Flash, back Starblitz Flash, front Minolta X-700

There isn’t any significant differences between softbox and umbrella. The softbox contains light spill much better and it doesn’t have the pointy corners umbrella has. The end results you can get are quite similar.

Posted in: Tips and Techniques on December 16th, 2009. Trackback URI
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