.69 budget backdrop for perfect eBay product photos :: Connected Photographer
Thursday, July 1, 2004

The $0.69 budget backdrop for perfect eBay product photos


By David Gewirtz

Sometimes, the art of photography can be hard, complex, and very expensive. Sometimes, it's so simple, and so inexpensive, it almost seems too easy. Making a perfect backdrop for small product photos is one of those things that's both incredibly easy and amazingly inexpensive.

I recently had to do a quick product shoot for Computing Unplugged where I wanted to compare the size of two new Pocket PC handhelds, the Dell Axim X30 and the Navman PiN, as shown in Figure A.


The two handhelds, side-by-side, makes for an easy comparison. (click for larger image)

As you can see, the result looks pretty much like it came from a standard, professional product shoot. Personally, I think I overexposed the nameplate in the middle of the PiN, but, as always, I was on deadline and the images look good enough and definitely got the story across.

I must have used some fancy studio gear, right? You might think I used a professional lighting setup, a gang of floodlights, and a specially manufactured backdrop, designed specifically for product photography. You'd be wrong.

I used a $0.69 piece of white cardboard and some tape, as shown in Figure B.


I taped a piece of white cardboard to my desk and a box. (click for larger image)

It turns out, this approach makes for an excellent small product backdrop. In this case, we're looking at an 8.5" x 11" piece of card stock and some blue painter's tape. By taping the card stock down to the box and the desk, I got a nice gentle curving backdrop behind the products I was shooting.

To be fair, I cheated on the shot a bit. I didn't set up a full lighting rig. I just used available light, augmented by the flash on the camera. This isn't the best way to light a product shoot (we'll talk about that another week), but it was fast and got the job done.

By the way, do notice the blue tape, shown in Figure C.


This is painter's tape and it doesn't leave residue behind. (click for larger image)

Painter's tape, like gaffer's tape, is extremely useful in that it doesn't leave a residue behind. 3M guarantees no residue as long as the tape is removed before three days. I bought my roll of painter's tape some time ago at the local Home Depot. It's about $4 for a roll that'll last you a very long time.

In fact, the tape peels off so well, and so cleanly, it even peeled right off the cardboard, neither leaving a residue, nor damaging the cardboard itself. So, not only can you use a $0.69 piece of cardboard for your backdrop, you can reuse it over and over.

I also used my handy backdrop to shoot the tape image, above. You might notice a blue cast on the background, which I probably should have gotten rid of using Photoshop. Again, for the purposes of getting the article done on deadline, I just ignored it. Normally, I'd take another few minutes and either tune the camera's white balance or tweak the image in Photoshop, as I did with the Pocket PC shot.