Product Photography

To reduce clutter, we’ve been selling a few old items on eBay recently. To perk up the auction listings, I’ve engaged in some minor product photography. Here are some of Grace’s old shoes:

ebay shoes

Links from that page go to all the other auctions.

I think my pictures are a lot better than those found on other eBay shoe auctions. For the amateurs, the pictures look like they were taken by a point-and-shoot with the shoes propped up on the bed or floor. Interestingly, the professional sellers, or at least those with ridiculously high eBay ratings, are mounted a bit better, but still often have the look of an undiffused built-in flash. Arguably, if you’re selling hundreds of shoes a week, you’re not going to spend that much time shooting each one, but you’d have thought there’d be a lightbox set up for the items as well as a well-defined workflow to reduce the unit costs of the listing. You want your product to look good, not like they’ve just been dumped out of the box.

The photos I have were taken with a cheap “studio” setup consisting of a large sheet of plain white poster paper from Wal-Mart (about $2 for a 3-pack) and a sheet of tri-folded paper with a hole cut in the middle and placed around the lens to diffuse the on-camera flash. The side light was provided by the afternoon sun shining on venetian blinds. I think I needed light to the left, probably from a reflector, but didn’t think of it at the time. Arguably, this would have been a sheet of aluminum foil propped up on a chair. But I got decent results from what I had! I suppose having an SB-800 would still have been better, though what I used basically cost about $1. (In any case, I think I’m going to buy the flash unit before getting any other lens, as I have my focal lengths covered, but lighting not so much.) In terms of the camera, I used the 50mm f/1.8D lens, with aperture set at f/22 and EV adjusted to compensate for the diffused i-TTL flash. (Does the SB-800 have a switch to tell it the diffuser is on? Or does it do a pre-flash to register how the light from the flash is affecting the exposure?) A tripod was necessary, of course.

There’s also an interesting technique using “painting with light” and digital image stacking on this DPReview thread. Basically, in a dark room, remotely release the camera, while shining a flashlight on the subject from a variety of angles. Move around enough, and you effectively have omnidirectional lighting, as if you took the photo in a large light box with multiple flashes. The image stacking software is derived from astronomy applications, to shoot star photos without incurring as much light pollution or CCD heat noise by taking a number of (relatively) short shutterspeed shots and blending them in post processing.

One Response to “Product Photography”

  1. Gordon Says:

    Hey, that’s not bad! We make a living from shooting product photography, but your packshots are better than some of our competitors! Nice work!