When your stock photography just isn’t cutting it and you need to bust out the camera and take some actual photos yourself, you will want those pics to look the best they can. Not everyone has a tool chest full of studio strobe lights, ring flashes or expensive lenses, but quality photos for use online can be obtained with minimal hardware and time. Taking better digital pictures takes practice and a little knowledge of the camera. For this example the subject to photograph will be flat artwork or posters too large to scan.
A simple to use, cheap tripod can drastically improve your photographs. A tripod can cut down on and even eliminate shaking of the camera during shutter release. By using a remote trigger to trip the shutter you get rid of shake.
If you do not have a tripod you can get creative and set up some books on a chair or step ladder. To get an angle you can use towels or soft material to tilt the camera.
Depending on what your subject is that your shooting your lighting requirements will be different. If you are shooting artwork at home sunlight or natural light is best, when possible. Whether you are shooting photos outdoors or in a room filled with natural light through a window, this is the best choice for capturing most artwork.
When natural light isn’t an option setting up some directional lighting will be necessary. If you have 2 lights of somewhat equal brightness or strength set them up on opposite sides of the artwork to be photographed. The light is best when it is not directly on the artwork but bouncing off of something like a wall or ceiling first.
If you are shooting a 3 dimensional object then strong directional lighting works best. Try playing with the various angles of the lighting. Have one come from behind it and another softer and at another angle, the best option will reveal itself when you are experimenting.
This is a simple lighting setup I created using normal everyday lights:
Avoid using a flash to photograph your artwork. The flash can cause overexposure from the reflection and create white spots on the final image.
If your lighting just isn’t cutting it and a flash is needed then play with the flash options on your camera to get the best effect for your situation.
Sometimes taping a soft white paper towel overthe flash bulb can diffuse the light just enough to remove any glare from reflections on your subject.
If you are photographing something other than flat 2 dimensional artwork, like a sculpture or a piece of jewelery, a background will be a good way to make the image unified. A neutral or grey background will be optimal to not distract from the subject. Pay attention to backgrounds. Walls are pretty boring; cluttered backgrounds distract. Images that contain many different colors and lots of small detail suffer most when compressed for use online. Plain backgrounds, especially behind faces, help an image reduce well without becoming confusing.
Here is an example of a clean white background versus a more busier looking background:
One of the best tips is to keep it simple! You can almost always improve your digital pictures by zooming in and cutting out all distractions and excess clutter. Also it is better to take lots of pictures than too few. With digital cameras, unwanted photos can easily be deleted.
Save for Web
After the shots are saved and loaded on your computer you may want to go into Photoshop or any image editing software and make some minor image adjustments. May you want to make the shadows darker or crop a photo tighter.
After your image looks good you want to save it for the web. In Photoshop this is an option under the File menu. This compresses the image and saves it at a resolution of 72 ppi for the screen. You can alter the settings to find the best compromise between image quality and file size.