Community for Improving & Educating Photographers

How I Shot It: Ebay Products

Figure 1. Sample simple product shot for increased interest.

How I Shot It: Ebay Products

I tend to try a lot of used equipment out to see whether I can use it in my workflow. I usually purchase something on eBay or Craigslist and if the item isn’t what I expected, I sell them back on eBay or Craigslist. The nice thing is, I usually don’t lose money on these deals and at times I make money! Why? I buy items that I know I can sell for the same price or more AND I use quality photos to help promote my offerings. Here’s how I shoot product shots for items I sell on eBay…
Figure 2. You can see the White Seamless paper from the rack sweep across the table.
First there are a few tools you will need:

* 4 Foot wide white paper. You can use craft paper or white seamless.
* Flat surface at least 4 feet wide
* Gaffers tape or painters tape (something that is residue free once you remove it)
* Camera and Kit lens
* At least 1 flash and light modifier. I use two.
* Probably a light stand or C-Clamp (again I use both)
* Radio triggers or your cameras flash triggering capability

In Figure 2, you’ll find a picture of the setup I have in my garage using many of the items mentioned above. I have the luxury of having a hanging rack in my garage that happens to be about 7 feet off the floor. To this rack, I attached a piece of PVC pipe that I put a roll of 4’ white seamless paper on. This happens to be slightly behind the worktable I use for shooting, cleaning camera gear, packing my camera bags, etc. My table happens to be a 4’x8’ plastic fold up. When I want to shoot a product shoot for selling something, I just unroll some of the paper down over the table and tape the ends to the front edge of the table closest to me. I create a “sweep” of the paper at the back edge of the paper. This sweep helps create a “seamless” edge from the table surface to the newly created back “wall” surface.
What should you do if you do not have a place to hang a rack of paper? If you have a wall in the house that you can put the table in front of, you can just tape the paper to the wall and sweep it over the dining room table!

Moving on to lighting. As you can see in Figure 1, there is no edge of the paper to see - just a clean white (slightly grey) surface under the product. This is why the “sweep” is so important. To light my products I use two off-camera flashes. One flash you can just make out at the top of Figure 2 is hanging upside down and is being shot through a small 12” x 18” softbox – in this case a Photoflex Q93 (a better look is in Figure 3). The second light is camera right and is another off-camera flash shooting through a 33” translucent umbrella. Both of the flashes are typically about the same power, except that the upper one is about 1 stop higher in power. This is due to distance and shooting into the softbox. As you can see, the softbox is illuminating the back of the paper while the umbrella is illuminating the subject. I like using an umbrella up front as it has brilliant light wrapping capabilities to produce very little shadows but creates nice highlights on the subject as well. Any shadows that are produced tend to be very soft in nature.
Figure 3.  Flash in a Photoflex softbox being held to a ladder via a Manfrotto C-Clamp.
What is really great about this setup and using flashes to light my subject is that the camera settings can be very consistent every time I use this set-up. Here are my general camera settings:

* Camera set to ISO 200
* Camera Shutter Speed about 1/160th of a second
* Lens Aperture set to F/8
* Flash is generally about 1/8th power for my setup – but will vary depending on achieving enough light for the F/8 aperture

I use a light meter to help me get my flashes set up to the right settings for F/8, but this isn’t a necessity. Oh, and here’s why I use F/8 rather than some larger opening - F/8 gives sufficient depth of field to make most small objects appear in complete focus to allow the viewer to read and see the condition of the item(s) clearly. If you go back up to Figure 1 – you’ll see that you can read the dials on the top of the camera even though they are the farthest away from the focus point which happens to be the lens.

Here are some other important tips when doing shots for selling items:

* Take an overall shot of everything included in the box and the box itself – people like to know if they are getting all of the original items.
* If say you are selling a camera – take an individual picture of at least the four main surfaces: Front, Back, Top, and Bottom – include the sides if there is important detail there.
* If you are including additional accessories – take individual shots of them as well.
* Be sure to accurately describe your item, believe or not, I always include a small statement as to why I am selling the item. For example - I am selling this camera to purchase a different lens for my main gear. This type of statement let’s people know that there’s nothing wrong with the item – you just have other needs.

I hope this type of setup and tips helps you along and get’s you the higher bid for the items you may be selling. Don’t forget to check out the product photography and lighting classes here! Feel free to ask questions in the comments section below. Thanks for reading and happy shooting.