On quick product photography, white background, macro and background removal

Nothing beats a good white background for products. The white background it is the contemporary gold standard for product shots.

When I scored a 100*100cm sheet of shiny white perspex and took a quick test shot. The product shown here was snapped on my phone, with no post processing at all, and I dare say that it is web ready for a DIY ebay type listings. That's pretty good for value and speed.

With studio lighting and simple photo editing, the results get even better.

When you need to shoot something bigger, something that does not fit onto a tabletop, then you will need a large roll of white paper.

When you need to shoot something smaller, like jewellery or nuts and bolts, use macro reversal ring.

The $5 Macro Reversal Ring adapter (ebay) lets you flip the lens back to front. The benefit is that you can do get much closer to your subject, without spending big bucks on a dedicated macro lens that would almost never be used. The ring packs away without taking up much space at all, and when you need it there it is. Normally my 50mm f1.8 lets me get as close as 0.6m to the subject, which is about from your hand to your elbow -- but when used with the ring I can get as close as about 10cm. Focusing is impossible, so just move the camera. And the depth of field (DoF) is quite unforgiving, so use your aperture wisely (high f stop).

Here is an example photographed with the macro reversal ring.

For a full range of object close ups, forget the ring. Instead use macro extension tubes.

2017 update:

Back in 2014 we had fewer lighting options than in 2017. The go-to method for lighting tabletop shoots was flash units -- studio flash or speedlights.

Now LED lights are a very viable option. Ebay is full of LED gadgets, LED panels, LED strips, and DIY components.

I came across an LED tracing light, which is like a light box used by illustrators. A quick test shot with my ordinary phone demonstrated that the LED panel when matched for size with the subject can produces excellent results in no time. I placed a small object on the panel, held up a white sheet of paper above it, and shot with one hand.

At this point the photo is pretty much ready for a typical e-commerce catalog. However, to produce a true transparent background for graphic design or web you will need a PNG file with the background removed. Open the photo in GIMP follow a few extra steps:  1) press U for magic wand tool and select the white background area, 2) B to add a path node anywhere, 3) Select menu, Path from selection, 4) remove a few out of place path nodes, 5) on the path tool options panel click path to select, 6) Select, feather by 3 pixels, 7) delete, 8) File export as PNG.