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... Writing Descriptions
...Taking Good Pictures: Part I
...Taking Good Pictures: Part II

How to take pictures that sell merchandise - part 1

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Print catalogs spend thousands of dollars to hire professional photographers to take pictures of their merchandise for them. They do this because good pictures of merchandise will sell the merchandise. This section will outline some techniques that will help you take great pictures. The most important thing about taking pictures is, if you don't like the picture, no one else will either. Good pictures are obvious.

First, you'll need a camera.  Camera models change all the time and people's needs are different, so we don't recommend a specific camera, but here are some things to consider when evaluating cameras.  You will probably be taking closeups of things and will need to load the images from your camera onto your computer:

  • Is the camera able to take closeups without additional lenses?

  • How many images can be stored on the camera at one time?

  • How are images transmitted to your computer? Some use a cable to download the images, others have a removable disk.

  • Are images automatically produced at 72 lines per inch and how big are the image files?

So now you have a camera, what do you do?

The easiest way to photograph small items is using what is called a "table top" setup. You will need a table that is large enough to hold your largest "small" item. A strong card table can work quite well. The advantage of a card table is that you can fold it up and put it away when you are done, but any table will do. Set this table up so that one side of the table is up against a blank wall. It's probably a good idea to keep it away from any bright light source, like a window with direct sunlight or a bright room light.

Now you will need some sheets of poster paper. These will be used to form a "seamless" background for your merchandise to be photographed on. If you can get the paper in a roll, that would be great. Some photography stores sell background paper in rolls they call it "seamless" paper. You can use any color you want, but I recommend getting black and white. The paper needs to be wide enough to cover the table width of the table and long enough to cover the length of the table and go 2 to 3 feet up the wall, or higher than the height of the object being photographed (See graphic #2). You can tape the paper to the wall and tape the edges to the table. The paper can curve where the wall and the table meet.

To light the merchandise on the table, I use two "Swing arm desk lamps" these are inexpensive lamps that are available at most hardware stores. The clamp on version (not shown) cost about $6 to $10 each. The version with a base (See graphic #3) run about $20 each. I use the clamp on lamps. I screw them onto the edge of the table at the front of the table. Make sure you get the metal version of these lamps and that they are rated for at least 100 Watts each. The plastic lamps will melt. Get 2, 100 watt spot light bulbs. Spot lights will give you more control over where you can point your light. Place your item to be photographed in the center of the table. Then adjust the lights so that they are pointing toward the front of the item. Attach the lamps to the side front edges of the table as shown in graphic #4. The arms on the lights are very easy to adjust. Remember you have 2 lamps to work with. I usually set the lamps so that they are pointing from the front of the table toward the back.

Each lamp being at a 45 degree angle (See graphic #5) Adjust their position until the item being photographed is well lit. Don't forget, you can also change the color of the background paper as well. The one big problem with using regular spot lights is that the digital camera or the film you are taking the pictures with will give the items photographed a yellowish glow. You can compensate for this with the software you are using, but this takes time. The easy way to fix this is to put a filter on the camera called an 80A filter. This filter screws onto the front of your camera lens. If you can't find the filter, you can also use photographic "Gels" that you place over the spot lights. This will give the light a blue tint, which will get rid of the yellow in your pictures. Gels are made of a heat resistant plastic. They are available at most photo stores. You can use paper clips or clothes pins to attach them to the front of your lamps. Don't use tape, it will melt or start a fire.

Make sure the camera is in focus. Make sure the the item being photographed takes up most of the view finder you are looking through.

If you have more ideas concerning this subject, comments, or suggestions for future topics, we want to hear them.  Please email us at support@tias.com.

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