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Friday, August 8, 2014

Sell Your Stuff Like a Pro

Summarizing today's post: Taking professional photographs to make your stuff sell online thru various online venues, off-camera lighting, macro photography.

50mm, ISO 100, f/3.5, 1/250th of a sec, strobe 1/128th power
Today I am going to teach you how to defy the laws of physics and make things float in space. Yes really! (Well, not REALLY...but almost.) I will demonstrate to you a neat little trick using things around your house to build a professional miniature studio. In this little mini-studio you can work photography magic.

Now why in the world would you want to make things float in space you ask? Good question...bare with me.

I went thru a phase several years back where I was selling a few things here and there on eBay. I needed some extra spending money, and I was trying to sell off some things I didn't need anymore. The main thing I learned from that experience is that if I took the time to take a quality photograph of the item I was selling, it sold a lot quicker. The effort paid off.

It's funny how things work your life sometimes "doubles back" and touches another part in the past. At the time when I was all 'into' selling my unwanted stuff online, I really didn't think that anyone would be interested in how I photographed the item in my listing. But now, 10 years or so later...I thought you might be interested.

So this post is for anyone who has ever dabbled into selling their "stuff" online thru eBay, Amazon, Craigslist, etc. Also, this information would interest you if you have precious items you simply want to photograph in an isolated environment for other reasons (and there are endless reasons). Then there's those who will take this info, run with it, and just have fun with their imagination. 

Okay, let's build that miniature photography studio first. I'm going to show you some snapshots of the building process (nothing high-quality about these images...just for demonstration purposes only)...


Find yourself an old cardboard box in decent shape. Mine is approx 18in x 30in x 24in.


Grab a stack of plain white copy/printer paper and some scotch tape.

Start from the back of the box and tape your sheets of paper side by side. Be neat, but it doesn't have to be perfect by any means.

This is what you'll wind up with. Notice at the bottom, back of my box, the paper is curved to meet the floor. This is how you achieve the illusion of a seamless background. I have also pulled the flaps of my box straight in this photo.

You have now built your very own photography studio! Now you have an isolated environment--free of clutter--that any item of choice can be set in and photographed. The free of clutter part is a huge part of the equation. 

Now here's where we make your item shine. Let's use Winnie the Pooh and Tigger (in my above photograph) as an example. To the left is a pull-back shot to show you my set up. 

Placing them in the center of the studio and not too close to the back wall (the backdrop) is the best. 

To make them "float on air", I had to achieve two things. First I had to "fuzz the background" (called shallow depth-of-field) by using a wide aperture, f/3.5 on my camera. This achieves crystal clear focus only on them. The key is to keep the viewer's eye only on your item. 

Second, I had to surround them in light. Now this is where our white-covered walls and ceiling comes into play. Using off-camera lighting (more on that here), I placed my strobe inside the studio off into the rear corner and aimed almost straight up. Set at 1/128th power (it doesn't take much in such a small space), that was plenty of light.

While I would never sell Winnie the Pooh or Tigger, (these are our son's prized bath time toys!), you can use this same set up to take a winning photographs of anything you'd like to sell. Unwanted jewelry, precious stones, cookware, clothes, name it. This will absolutely set you apart in the world of eBay, Amazon, Craigslist (etc, etc.)

50mm, ISO 100, f/3.5, 1/250th of a sec, strobe at 1/128th power
Here's one last example for you...the Green Goblin. Again, not for sale (Gavin would kill me!), but if it were I'm sure I would have no problem getting bids on eBay with a photo like this. Lego lovers would be all over this thing begging their parents to buy it for them. What a cool-looking toy.

I hope you have picked up some tips and tricks (and maybe even a little inspiration) to get out your unwanted stuff and make a few bucks. If you have nothing to sell, I still encourage you to try this little's a great way to hone your photography skills. 

Next week I will be touching on Macro Photography (which is a good part of what we have been discussing today), so stay tuned!

Resource: Never sold anything on online? Here's a beginner's guide from Forbes to get you started. Click here

Thanks for reading!


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1 comment:

  1. SIDENOTE: You can achieve similar results with a point-and-shoot camera believe it or not! All you need to do is be a little more creative. Find the "whitest light" possible (a bright flashlight or spotlight will work) and shine it into your studio, but not right on your item. The idea is to light your item with indirect light. Then turn your flash OFF on your camera and play. You'll have to adjust things a bit, but the results will be very similar to mine. Have fun!