Shooting for Online Auctions

If you have a slightly more sophisticated camera, you can get an even better result by using an external flash, preferably mounted off the camera and positioned over to one side and slightly above the camera. Using a simple diffuser will soften shadows and let scattered light bounce around inside the tabletop studio, providing a more even illumination. Even simply taping a sheet of normal A4 white printer paper in a broad curve over the front of the flash makes a dramatic difference.

This next shot was taken using a larger compact with a flash hot-shoe, and the makeshift diffuser shown above.

Once you’ve taken your photo, you can improve its appearance using a photo-editing program. Here I’ve used Adobe Photoshop Elements 5.0, but the same feature will work in Paint Shop Pro, PhotoImpact and of course the full version of Photoshop. Use CTRL + L (or Enhance > Adjust Lighting > Levels) to bring up the Levels dialogue. You’ll see a row of three eyedropper tools, with black, grey and white ink in them. Click on the right-hand one. You can use this to set the white point of the picture.

Wherever you click on the picture, the program will set the colour at that position as the new white point, and re-calculate the entire picture with a new histogram. If you click on an area of the background you can make the whole area surrounding the subject white, which looks great on a white website page. The finished picture should look something like this:

All you have to do now is crop and resize to fit the auction site's requirements, and save as a JPEG. And that’s how you make professional-looking product shots using simple materials and a £5 tripod. I will of course expect a 10 percent commission on all your auction sales from now on…

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