Jefferson Swivel and Secretary

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Taking Quality photos of your work pt. 1

After spending time and money to have my furniture photographed by a professional photographer, I decided I'd give it a try myself. I had went to the photographer a few times, and she did an outstanding job, but it was such a chore to drag 4-6 chairs and large cabinets to her studio to have it all done. I saw the background she used and the lighting and honestly it didn't look all that hard to try on my own.                                                                                                  

First I bought a back drop which is really just a 9' wide x 36' long roll of heavy paper on a cardboard tube at the local camera shop, they come in several colors, I choose black, cost $40. Then I bought a couple cheap lights off Ebay that came with the umbrellas, another $40 for the pair. I already had a inexpensive Kodak digital camera that takes a 12 mega pixel photo, around $120 new. I was pretty well set other than a tripod that was $25 at "Wally World".  So for the cost of a couple trips to the photographers studio I had what works just about as well and I can do it at home, in the shop where the furniture already is. Now to see if it would work.

    I have never really done any kind of picture taking except for the basic stuff, family photos, kids as they grow up and the like. When your trying to get good quality photos of your work for a magazine or just to put on a web site, lighting is key. At first I had to play with lights for a couple hours checking where the shadows were and if there was any glare, etc. After some monkeying around and adjusting the light angles, it's really not to hard to get pretty nice photos. The photo of the Jefferson Swivel and the Slant lid Secretary on the opening pages of this blog is one of the first I did. You can see how well it turned out. Another I did recently is the Shaker Table above. While I have a shadow behind the table somewhat, it still turned out pretty clear.  

    I now have a place in my shop were I can pull the backdrop down tape it to the floor, set my piece on it and within an hour or less get several photos at different angles that look, in my opinion, almost as good as the pros did without spending the time loading, unloading, setting up, photographing, loading back up, and waiting a week or so to get the photos plus a $100 an hour fee. I wouldn't call myself a photographer by any means, but I do call myself a do-it-yourself cheap skate.


  1. Good post. This is a subject that's been a thorn in my side since I started. What about a link for those lights?

  2. Matthew,
    I bought mine a couple years ago off Ebay. I would try there first. If you can't find cheap ones, use those halogen lights you buy at the big box stores or those incandescent aluminum cone clip on lights, under $20, I did that before I got my umbrella ones and it worked just fine. You have to play with the shadows a bit but it's not bad.

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