Hello Steve,

I'd like to know if you could tell me how people take these kind of photos?


Do they remove the background or use clever lighting to do it?  The reason for asking is that I'm planning on returning to Australia and starting a online shop on EBay selling similar goods and photos like theses help sell the product has the customer isn't distracted by the background and can only see the relative item and it also make you look more professional.


Hi Charles -

Back in the archives somewhere there is a long running email I had with an eBay reseller who wanted to learn the same thing.  Here's the meat of what to do.

1.  A point and shoot works good for small product photography, because of the small sensor you have almost unlimited DOF (depth of field) at wider apertures and will be able to get away with less powerful and costly lights.  A DSLR would be what a professional uses, but the lenses necessary to get an adequate DOF become very expensive.  I know this its counter intuitive to use a point and shoot.. but there ya go..

2.  Whatever camera you use, use it on a solid tripod with an external shutter release.  This helps if you must use long shutter speeds (due to less powerful less costly lights) and  it helps the framing remain consistent from shot to shot.

3.  Build a set of white poster board.  For small products it's very simple, a back, a floor, and possibly some sides.  Meter long white poster board from Tesco is adequate and about 20 baht each piece.

4.  The reflection on the bottom can and should be achieved by laying a piece of visqueen (shiny clear plastic sheeting) over the white floor.. this should also be about 20-30 baht per piece.  You'll need one piece.

5.  You'll need two pairs of lights.  One pair of lights should light the background only.  These should be brighter than your subject by 1-2 stops.  This way it "blows out" the background making it a "white nothing" which is the look you want.  Failure to do this results in pink, brown, grey, or other color tinges and a sloppy mess.  The second set of lights are used to illuminate your subject. (in this case the toy helicopter).

6.  The camera should be in manual mode.  The subject should be about 1 meter from the background.. this gives a good distance for the lights to work.  Any closer and you'll have all sorts of problems getting the look you desire.

7.  Depending on the quality if your lights and the adjustments on them.. you can use the camera to expose the background, and the subject lights variable power control to expose the subject.  Or.. if no variable controls you might find it easier to do it the other way around.

8.  In place of studio quality lights you can buy small quartz table/work lamps for a few hundred baht each.  Just make sure to do a custom white balance to match the light temperature of the lights and get the correct color.  Florescent lights will be a lot cooler to work with and will be okay as well.. though they're a lot less powerful.  The lights will always be on with this kind of lighting.  And no, a flash unit will not work for the look you desire.  Studio strobes will, but not a regular flash unit.

9.  With cheap shop lights.. you can 'vary the power' by buying models with built in dimmers, or by simply moving the light closer/further from the background/subject..

10.  Because you'll need to play around with light placement, distances, etc.. I recommend working tethered.  A good tethering program is DSLR Remote from Breeze Systems.. or if your point and shoot comes with tethering software.. working tethered really speeds up the process.  LR 3 Beta 2 has tethering built in for a limited number of Nikon and Canon cameras and it's currently free for beta users.

11.  If you'll be selling a lot of products online I recommend you build a set and leave it set up.  Tape it together, put everything in a part of the house will you can let it be, and even dedicate a point and shoot and inexpensive tripod to the cause.  Leave your DSLR gear free for your regular photography.  This way every time you get a new product to catalog you just set it in the exact same spot every time.. easy stuff once it's set up.

And yes.. everything is negotiable about this.. but I can't and won't cover everything.  Any variation from this procedure is going to bring on some serious headaches.. so try and stick with this.

Good Luck




So as a follow up to the info you sent me on sensors I have the following questions:

1.  The Canon S90 has a 1/1.7” (inch?)  43.3 mm  sq sensor and the Sony has a 1/2.3” (inch?) , 28.5 mm  sq sensor.

So the bigger, therefore, better sensor is the Canon 1/2.3 “? What is confusing to me are the descriptions  1/1.7” and  1/2.3. What do they mean? I do not see any relationship to the mm sq.


The "bigger" sensor is the Canon 1/1.7" yes.  They're ratios. Here is a calculator someone made up to help:


2.  Therefore the bigger mm sq sensor combined with more mega pixels should mean a better quality picture?  Does this sound correct to you? I just restated the information I received from you.


Not necessarily.  Image quality is determined by more factors than merely sensor size.  Any given size sensor is divided up into millions of pixels.  Megapixels.  The more megapixels the sensor is divided up into, the smaller each pixel site will be.. and the smaller each pixel site is then 'generally' the lower the IQ.  This is because a smaller pixel captures less light than a larger pixel.  In camera algorithms then further process the data to remove noise, add contrast, color, etc, and these algorithms can greatly affect image quality.  There are also other factors such as pixel binning, the angle of each individual photo site, and more.. there is an entire science involved with sensor technology.

However, it's usually very safe to say a larger sensor produces better image quality (knowing the above caveats) and that generally the bigger the photo site the better the image quality.  So.. a 1/1.7 sensor with 10.1mp's will 'generally' produce better quality pictures, especially at lower light levels, than a 1/1.7 sensor with 15mp's.  All else being equal.. which it rarely is.  Though.. you can safely weight the sensor size and the size of the pixel as the two biggest factors by far.. algorithms and the other voodoo involved are much less effectual.


    1. On your high end cameras what size sensor and how many mega pixels do you have?

On a DSLR we have four major sizes of sensors. 

      1. Full frame "36x24mm's" which is the same size at 35mm film  (Canon 5d (12mp), 5d Mark II(21mp), 1ds(11mp), 1ds Mark II(16.1mp), 1ds Mark III(21.1mp), Nikon D700(12mp), Nikon D3(12mp), Nikon D3s(12mp), Nikon D3x (24mp), Sony A900(24mp), A850(24mp).
      2. 1.3x crop frames APS-H, 27.9x18.6mm.  (Canon 1d(4mp), 1d Mark II(8mp), 1d Mark IIn(8mp), 1d Mark III(10.1), 1d Mark IV(16.1mp).
      3. 1.5 and 1.6 crop frames APS-C, 23.6x15.7mm (Nikon, Pentax, Sony), and 22.2x14.8mm (Canon), and these are all the rest of the DSLRs out there from Canon, Nikon, Pentax, Sony, ranging from 1-18mp currently.
      4. And finally we have the 4/3's sensors which are fairly new.  They measure 17.3x13mm and are becoming very popular on pocket/travel sized DSLRs from Olympus and Panasonic.


Thank you advance for you continuing help with all my questions concerning  photography issues.

By the way because there was no weekly column this week can I get a refund on the subscription price? 555

You bet.  We'll get right on that.. :)


Please submit your questions to QandA@Bkkimages.com  All questions will be answered and most will show up in the weekly column.