Online Product Photography
Photography is mostly an art through which a person expresses his/her views of life and the subjects contained therein. Yet photography has many practical applications; from recording a moment in time to documenting history, presenting facts to showcasing things for sale.
Visual cues are powerful selling methods and when accompanied by text it makes them even better.
But just taking a photograph of something that you want to feature on a site like Ebay for example is not enough and if the photographs are not technically sound or if they don't show the best aspects of the product they may even be a deterrent to its purchase.
Filtered or diffused light is always the best choice for this technique since it eliminates most harsh shadows, especially from glass, plastic and any glossy material.
The light source and reflectors are best positioned at 45 degree angles to the item being photographed. Also good is to use contrast by selecting light backgrounds for dark items and dark backgrounds for light subjects. The wrong background can not only distract the attention of the audience but can hide elements such as photographing an intricately detailed brooch against a "flowery" designed tablecloth or a silvery piece of jewelry against a white cloth.
Using a tripod is almost a necessity since blur in any of the pictures can hide key aspects of your piece. There are many tripod designs; from full stand up to table tops. Choose the one that best fits your purpose.
It is also advisable to make a small light cube for smaller items. These can be easily made from Styrofoam, project boards or even cardboard lined with white paper. Here is a link to making your own inexpensive light box/cube : DIY light box/cube. If feeling a bit more professional, light boxes can be obtained for as little as $49.00
It is worth taking several shots of the subject from various angles and later examining them to choose the one that shows the "better" side. Photographs should also be cropped to eliminate as much distracting outside of the image elements as possible, after all, your intention is to make the audience focus solely on the product and nothing else.
Most photographs should be done in a close up mode so as to allow the detail and texture of the item show. For cloth subjects like stuffed pillows, futons etc, a good tip is to allow a bit of the filling material to show or include it with the main item. This allows a viewer to get the complete "picture" of the subject and its materials.
The best camera lens combination for this project are those that allow for macro shots and on which you can disable the flash since details are best shown in very close up modes and flash can be too strong for most subjects, especially in close quarters.
If your product is of a set or of many similar items, then a wide shot alongside separate close ups of each item is appropriate unless they are all of the same kind such as a toy with many parts or several similar stuffed animals in which case some close ups of the main components should suffice.
Remember that this project is for your own use in order to present potential buyers with a product, but because these images are not meant for publication or as submissions to photographic stock houses doesn't mean that you should be lax in you photographic endeavor. Technically sound and pleasing images work best in any medium and for any reason. Don't be lazy, do your best.
eBay has some great tutorials for photographing and selling your products on their site and it is worth visiting it for more site specific information and ideas.
You can also search the net for other useful articles which can help you get presentation ideas and provide information regarding other sites where your wares can be sold. Here is another very useful article regarding online product photography with an emphasis on backdrops and props.
© 2011 Luis E Gonzalez