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Shop Tip: A Stupidly Simple Way to Shoot Excellent Photos of Small Parts

The following shop tip will explain how I turned my kitchen stove into a tabletop photography studio … in less than 2 minutes. The resulting photos were far superior to anything I’ve ever photographed before. This quick tip will help you take more professional looking photos of your machining projects, as well as any items you might want to sell on eBay.

Shop Tip Professional Quality Photos in 60 seconds

Pro-Quality Photo of my QCTP Tool Holder Clips – With a 60 Second Setup.

If you’re anything like me than you probably have trouble taking quality photos of your machining projects. When it comes time to photograph small parts it takes me 10 minutes clean a spot on the workbench, and then another 10 minutes to set up decent lighting, and then if I’m lucky I can get a decent photo.

Then the other day I was trying to produce a quality photograph of my fist product for the Store and it occurred to me to try something different. It turns out that all I needed was a bit of time at the stove in the kitchen.

Using the Stove as a Photo Studio

Using the stove and a piece of copy paper to create a “Photo Studio” in 60 seconds.

The stove is perfect because it provides a clean workspace free of clutter (my wife keeps a clean kitchen), and it provides ample overhead lighting. Our overhead oven hood has two light settings, dim and bright. The bright setting provides plenty of light to illuminate the part without the need for a flash.

Next all I needed was a clean piece of copy paper to set the part on. I intentionally allowed the edge of the copy paper to ride up the back side of the stove (where all the nobs are). That way it functions a lot like a real tabletop photography studio.

Table Top Photo Studio in Your Kitchen

By the way, these little photo studios are inexpensive and great if you sell a lot of items on eBay. You can buy them for as little as $30 on Amazon. But for me, they’d just be another thing to store when not in use.

I’d rather grab a clean piece of copy paper from the office and be snapping photos in 60 seconds. However, the next time I’m out shopping I’m going to be on the lookout for a flexible piece of white or colored plastic that I can easily wipe dirt and grease off of between photos. I noticed that the copy paper gets dirty quickly … but then again, it’s cheap and east to grab a clean sheet.

One final note, I’m not a photographer. I’m sure those of you who are can pick apart my “Pro” photo and talk all about how it can be improved with key lights, a macro (micro?) lens, or whatever. That’s not the point. I took the photo using my phone’s camera and with no extra lighting setup – which is the same way I take most of my shop photos … which usually look amateurish. So with one little change to my routine I went from having extremely amateur photo results, so something a lot more polished. And I’m delighted with the results.

However, if you have any additional tips that you’d like to share or criticisms of my technique, please feel free to educate me. Just be gentle …

One final reason this technique is excellent: I didn’t even have to clean a spot on my workbench. And that’s always cause for a celebration!

So how do you photograph your bits and bobs? Please share your tips via the forum discussion attached to the is post (link below).

 

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About Tyler

Tyler is a hobby machinist and 3D printing aficionado. He teaches computer programming and web development at Highline near Seattle. Tyler founded Projects In Metal in 2008 because he was frustrated by the lack of free plans available for hobby machinists.

4 comments

  1. Hi Tyler:

     

    Nice use of existing resources to solve a difficult problem. The paper as a seamless background is a great idea because unlike a photo tent, when it gets dirty you can easily and inexpensively replace it. My photo tent eventually got so dirty from photographing ebay items that I had to throw it out. 

     

    One thing that will help a lot is to have two portable lights that can shine down at 45 degrees from the horizontal. This will help you control shadows. 

     

    I hope I didn’t use too many characters in my reply. I heard loud and clear that we are now limited in our responses.

     

    Barry Young

  2. Hi Barry,

    Where’d ya hear that you were limited in the length your responses? No such limit exists. Feel free to be as verbose as you like. I always am!

    The only thing I can think of that you might be referring to is that I changed the email settings so that they are limited to a few hundred characters. So now, instead of a pages long email, members get a truncated version with a link to the original post. But that’s only because some people complained that the emails were long and full of images that took a while to download (maybe they’re still on dialup?).

    Anyway, thanks for the tip. I might find some clip/trouble lights that I can store in a kitchen cupboard so that they are handy at a moment’s notice.

    CFL’s? LEDs? Doesn’t matter? I’d rather not use incandescent bulbs because they get so blasted hot and they’re so inefficient.

  3. Oh jeez, if there is a character limit, I’m screwed!

     

    ;)

    -Chris

  4. Hi Tyler,

    for me your photo’s look professional enough, thanks man for the tip, I’ll try it today.

    Jan.