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A ShortCourse Book
Digital Desktop Studio Photography

Digital Desktop Studio Photography

Digital Desktop Studio Photography

The complete guide to lighting and photographing small objects with your digital camera. This book discusses many of the professional secrets of tabletop photography so your results, whether you are photographing for eBay or for a brochure, will be more dramatic and more effective. You are introduced both to the techniques and equipment used in tabletop and product photography and learn how to use inexpensive lights, reflectors, diffusers, and other equipment to get professional results. This guide is available as a traditional 122 page large-format (8.5 by 11) spiral bound book printed in black and white, and as a full-color, fully searchable PDF eBook you can order on a CD or download instantly.

Because so many of the concepts in this book have to do with color, we strongly recommend that you buy the CD, either alone or in combination with the printed book. The CD has a full-color eBook. The printed book is available only in black and white.


This book is all about lighting and photographing small objects with your digital camera although the principles you learn will also serve just as well with larger subjects. It's for small business people, artists, naturalists, collectors, writers, and anyone else who wants to take high-quality studio pictures under controlled conditions. It presents a totally new approach to studio photography made possible by the two most important ways that digital cameras are revolutionizing studio photography for the better:
  • Many digital cameras allow you to preview your picture on the LCD monitor built into your camera, and all allow you to review your results immediately. This makes studio photography very interactive. You can explore and experiment to your heart's content—and there are no film costs. With some imagination and the techniques discussed in this book, you'll get the image you want.
  • The camera's white balance setting lets you shoot under almost any light. You no longer need expensive and complex strobes to get good results. You can now use simple and inexpensive tungsten, quartz, or fluorescent bulbs with reflectors. Not only are the results as good, but with the lights on all of the time, you can see the effect they are having as you arrange your setup.
These two things, all by themselves, remove the guesswork from studio photography. If you have had any fears about trying to do your own studio photography, you can now lay those fears aside. Another piece of good news is that you don't need a special camera. The digital camera you already own will probably be fine.

This book is comprehensive and explains camera settings used in studio photography and describes lighting and other studio equipment. It presents sixteen cases studies so you can see how a professional studio photographer thinks about the images he's taking and see the techniques he uses. Finally, there is a section that answers all of your questions about image sizes, and one that shows you how to add images to eBay listings. While putting all of this information together, we have continually kept two things in mind:

  • We have been conscious of your budget because most of us have more creativity then money. We describe professional equipment, but also show you how to get equally good results using inexpensive materials you can find at your local office, hardware, or art supply store.
  • We have been conscious of your space limitations because most of us are trying to squeeze a studio into our already full house, apartment, or office. We'll show you how to work on top of a desk or collapsible card table. We'll highlight equipment that you can knock down for easy storage, or put to other uses when not photographing.
With the development of tools such as digital cameras and page layout programs, and the vast expansion of low-cost marketing outlets, a new era of self-publishing has arrived. All by yourself, you can now create illustrated catalogs, Web sites, portfolios, on-line auction listings, and eBooks to share information about, or sell, all kinds of objects from anaglyphs to zeotropes.

We've tried to make this book a gateway into the new, and much easier and less expensive world of studio photography. We hope it guides you to the results you want in your own studio work. For links to our recommended products, be sure to visit us at

The book is designed to work with the the books on the site. The book explains how to get better pictures but you'll find more on that subject on the site. In addition, there is lots of information on the site about what you can do with your pictures after you've taken them.


Preface ...3

Chapter 1
The Camera in the Digital Desktop Studio ...5

TChoosing the Camera ...6
Choosing the Lens or Amount of Zoom ...7
Focusing ...9
Controlling Depth of Field ...10
Selecting an Image Size ...13
Selecting an Image Quality ...16
Controlling Exposures ...19
Metering the Setup ...22
Metering and Middle Gray ...23
Using Exposure Compensation ...24
Other Camera Features ...27
Controlling Brightness—Histograms ...28
Controlling Colors—White Balance ...30
Putting it All Together—Exposure and White Balance ...32

Chapter 2
The Digital Desktop Photo Studio ...34

Using the Camera’s Built-in Flash ...35
Using an External Flash ...36
External Flash Accessories ...37
Controlling Flash Exposures ...38
Using Continuous Lights ...39
Using Strobes ...41
Connecting the Camera and Lights ...42
Understanding Hard and Soft Light ...43
Using Fill Cards and Reflectors ...45
Using Diffusers ...47
Other Lighting Controls ...49
Choosing a Background ...50
Supporting the Camera ...52
Collecting Studio Stuff ...54
Creating the Studio ...55
Positioning the Camera ...60
Positioning Lights—Introduction ...63
The Main Light ...64
The Fill Light ...65
The Background Light ...66
The Rim Light ...67
Getting Ready—Cleaning the Item 68

Chapter 3
Case Studies from the Digital Desktop Studio ...69

Thinking About Your Photograph ...70
Case Study—The Road Runner ...72
Case Study—A Kodak Truck Bank ...74
Case Study—A Neon Flamingo ...76
Case Study—A Reflective Stainless Steel
Coffee Holder ...78
Case Study—A Textured Leather Battery Wallet ...80
Case Study—Two Dimensional Flat Art ...82
Case Study—Objects Behind Glass ...84
Case Study—A Reflective Silver Chalice ...86
Case Study—A Translucent Bottle ...88
Case Study—Transparent Crystal ...90
Case Study—A Part Opaque and
Part Translucent Mineral ...92
Case Study—A Product With Its Packaging ...94
Case Study—A Chinese Porcelain Vase ...96
Case Study—An Animated Object ...98
Case Study—A Turquoise Necklace ...100
Case Study—A Snapping Turtle ...102

Chapter 4
Displaying and Printing Digital Photos ...104

Pixels and Image Sizes ...105
Displaying Images ...107
Printing Images ...110
Understanding Pixels per Inch ...112
Color Depth and File Size ...113

Chapter 5
Placing Photos on eBay ...115

Preparing Photos ...116
Getting Started ...117
Using eBay Picture Services ...118
Using Other Hosting Services ...121


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