Whether you intend to display your collection online or not, you’ll probably want high-quality photos to share with other collectors, or for eBay or insurance purposes. Here’s some tips:
- Use a digital camera. Digital allows you to easily backup your photos and email them without scanning. And the quality is just as high as film cameras.
- Be consistent. Once you find a set-up that works (lighting, background color, camera settings etc), stick with it. That way if you later decide to display your collection online, your items will look like they belong together.
- Take multiple shots of each item. This will ensure that you get at least one great one. Also get close-ups of key features, like manufacturer’s marks or design details. If an item has accessories, get separate shots of those plus a shot of them with the item.
- Frame your shots carefully. Fill the frame with each item, but not so much that you clip off any part of it. Experiment with different camera angles (above, side, head-on etc.). Keep your item centered if possible.
- Get your camera settings right. Shoot at your camera’s highest resolution, and set your camera so the date doesn’t appear in the photo. For close-ups, use your camera’s macro or close-up mode (usually an icon showing a flower) for crisper detail.
- Use uncluttered, neutral-colored backgrounds. Anything that distracts from your item is bad, so use a simple background. White or light backgrounds are best - patterned ones are the worst. Try a bath towel or solid colored sheet to create a smooth, studio-like backdrop. Use the same background for all your items if possible.
- Get the lighting right. Lighting is critical to getting great shots. Get as much diffuse (indirect) light as possible on your subject. Don’t use a direct flash, which can wash out color and cast harsh shadows. Outdoors, shoot in the shade in the morning or evening to avoid harsh midday sunlight. Indoors, let in as much light as possible by opening all blinds and curtains. Bring additional lights into the room, perhaps even placing a lamp to one side of your item. Try using a white poster board alongside your item to reflect light into shadowed areas. Finally, be conscious of where you’re standing - don’t block light or cast shadows with your body - and don’t shoot into the light, which will create a silhouette effect.
- Avoid shaking. Use a tripod if possible, or one of the newer digital cameras with image stabilization capabilities.
- After the shoot. Crop your photos, but don’t go too crazy with Photoshop! Be sure to keep a copy of all originals. And make backup copies of all your digital photo files (on DVD or CD-ROM), and store them in a different location.
For additional photo tips and resources: