When you’re selling your creations online, one of the first things you’ll want to get right is photography. Even if your descriptions are less than stellar and you have fabulous photos, buyers will still be tempted. In this How To, I will take Home Photo Studio literally. This is a home photo studio that you can set-up with things you find at home and there are three basic things we'll need: 1.) camera, 2.) background, and 3.) light.
When you're starting, you don't need expensive cameras. There are successful sellers and bloggers who only use their phone cams: it's cheap because it's something you most probably already own, it’s small and easy to handle and it creates decent-sized files (SLRs can produce 10 mb files each). To sum it all up, it’s really, really very convenient because you do not need to figure out a lot of technical details to transfer or edit files. But whether you’re using your phone cam, your mom’s instant camera or your snappy SLR, you need a nice "studio" set-up which brings us to the next two materials.
If you do a quick search online, you’ll find that there are many readily available set-ups for small products. This is called a “light box.” Don’t confuse this with the artist's version used for tracing. The photographer’s light box has three sides which usually includes a changeable background and lights on the sides. With the abundance of commercial choices for sale, it can be as cheap as around $13++ or more than a couple of hundred dollars. I’ve been very tempted but I have not yet succumbed to the lure so I have not tried these products.
Instead, I use my makeshift table-top home photo studio that I can clean up as easy as saying 1, 2, 3. My equipment: the Ikea Mala Tabletop Paper Holder ($.7.99) loaded with a the Mala Drawing Paper Roll ($4.99). I’ve had that one roll for years and I have not used it up! These two are all-purpose items that I like having around. I use the paper to wrap sculptures I’ve made, to quickly draw on, wrap gifts and of course, as a background for photos. Having this long paper on a roll also helps save it. After I’m done, I can just roll it back up, ready for the next use. The length of the paper also helps with bigger items. Sometimes, you just need it longer to create that infinite background that looks so good. Infinite background is when you don’t see any line where the wall and floor meets. It’s a small trick that will instantly elevate your product photography to a new level!
Wait, I did promise that this would be made with everything you already have at home. Okay, so instead of paper, we'll use cloth. The easiest material I can think of is bedsheets. You can experiment with any color you like but for this article, I'm using an old, plain, light cream colored bedsheet. To set it up, choose a table that’s beside a nice window where plenty of light shines through. I would shoot in the early morning or afternoon light. These timeframes have softer light coming through. Do not take photos when there is stark, blinding sun, usually between 11:00 am – 3:00 p.m. This would create harsh shadows that you do not want.
I would place the Mala, or in this case, the bedsheet, on top of two (or three, depending on how tall your product is) empty boxes (come on admit it, you have several amazon boxes lying around somewhere) and let it drape down the front with enough to cover the table before it. Before you secure that bedsheet, be sure that it's wrinkle free. Iron it first if you must. Wrinkles create shadows and we do not want shadows. At the top, sandwich the bedsheet between two books (or anything heavy enough) and the boxes to make sure it does not slide off and make sure it flows down smoothly.
Now that your background is ready, let’s talk about lights. With natural light, streaming from the window, you’re good to go. Simply place your product on the table, center it in your background and shoot. This little purple guy was taken around 4:00 p.m. with the only light source coming from the window on the left side. Take note of the background, there is no corner connecting the "wall" to the "floor." This is because our bedsheet is flowing nicely down from the top of the boxes to the table top, creating one color background from the wall to the floor – this is what we call an infinite background.
If you need more light, you can always use a flashlight. A flashlight may be too bright but you can soften it up by shining the light through a plastic bag. If you place the flashlight too near your subject, it will create a hard, round circle of light. If you put a plastic bag over it (you can double it up if it's still too bright) and add more distance between the light and your subject, it will produce a nice, diffused light.
On the left, we have the light from a flashlight shining bright and hard. It is too near the object and is not softened by a plastic bag. On the right, we have the soft, diffused light from the same flashlight. A plastic bag is over it and it is farther from the object.
I place my subject in the middle of my bedsheet background, held the plastic bag-covered flashlight in my right hand, hold it an angle almost above but still in front of the product, held my phone in my left hand, framed it and shot.
There you go, an easy, home photo studio with materials you can find at home. There are a lot of things you can buy like lights, light boxes, phone camera tripods and more, and they will help make even better photos but if you don't have the budget for it, you can certainly make great photos from what you have. 'Hope that helps!