Cheap Professional Photography


Introduction: Cheap Professional Photography

Many people want to take good pictures of things. For instance, if you want to publish an Instructable, you would want to take superb photographs. Well, I'm on the low budget side of things when it comes to hobbies so when documenting things I really don't want to spend much on taking pictures. Well, if you're like me, or if you're not, this Instructable is for you. I intend this for beginners who are just getting started and need an easy and cheap way to go. However, if you are a more experienced photographer, I would really appreciate if you could comment with tips or anything to help "rookies" get started. Thanks and enjoy!

Step 1: Stuff

I'll try to keep this simple. There are three steps to get a good picture, Stuff, Setup, and Snap.

Step One - Stuff

When taking pictures, Good Lighting is Essential. Nothing is worse than seeing a picture with bad lighting. Since we're on the cheap side, most times I use sunlight. Other than that, I use and ordinary 12v adjustable reading lamp. Positioned correctly, it almost doesn't matter what light you use.

Next, you want a good background. There are many tutorials on how to make a cheap light box or other things like that. You can use one but I don't. I don't want all that hassle. I use plain old white poster paper. It's very cheap, you can roll it up, and it's replaceable. You can use a wide variety of colors too. Make sure, however, that you use the paper kind, not the cardboard kind. In reality, If you're taking a picture of something small, you can even use printer paper.

You will also need stability. If you don't have a steady hand, which most of us don't, you can use a tripod. Don't have one? Don't fret, just make one! There are many Instructables on this site. In fact, I just published one, Instructables. Aside from bad lighting, nothing is worse than a blurry photo.

Oh and you'll need a camera too. Any old digital camera will do if used correctly. Don't have one? Use your phone. I've seen great pictures taken with phones. Like I said, as long as you have good lighting and stability, it's going to turn out great.

Step 2: Setup

So now you have all your stuff. What now?

Now what you need is a good setup to use. I use this one:

Find a nice edge of the room somewhere. If it's daytime, try for somewhere with good sunlight. If not, Try to look for a place with lots of light. Yes, we do have our lamp but it will only do so much. Next place your poster paper on that corner. Look at the pictures, you'll want the paper to be curved to create a corner-less effect. Place the object you are photographing on the paper. Next, plug the lamp and position it so than your object is well lit. Setup your camera tripod and you're done!

***Update: I now use a coffee filter as a light diffuser for my 12v lamp. I works great! It makes pictures seem like daylight***

Step 3: Snap

Now you can take your pictures. Depending on what you are shooting, you should probably use your camera's macro function. My camera automatically does macro when I get close to something. On most cameras however, you can activate macro by pushing the button or turning the settings wheel to the option with a flower.

Try to make good use of the camera's auto focus. Sometimes though, the camera might not be focusing well. If that's the case, you might need to take out the tripod and get close. Just make sure that you're stable so that the photograph isn't blurry. 

Bear in mind, flash casts hard light and shadows that can sometimes be unpleasant when doing this kind of photography. Though sometimes it is good. Try taking a shot with flash and without flash so that you have more options. You might want to try to center your object too.

Take a bunch of pictures if you can, not just one, try different angles, flash, no-flash, different lamp positions, and different object positions. It's not like you're wasting film. When you go on your computer you can chose which ones you like. 

Last but not least, read some of the comments down below. People will probably add great tips to help you on your way.

Look at the samples I took. Cheers!



    • Woodworking Contest

      Woodworking Contest
    • Clocks Contest

      Clocks Contest
    • Planter Challenge

      Planter Challenge

    We have a be nice policy.
    Please be positive and constructive.




    I see your using a 35mm camera. Just out of curiosity why do you like 35mm compared to digital cameras? 5 stars btw

    2 replies

    A couple reasons:

    I was using my digital to take the pictures and I needed a camera to be a 'model'

    I also like using my Film camera for professional projects because I find the image quality to be much better that the image of a digital SLR.

    Thanks for the comment

    Hmm yes yes but have you ever thought that the image quality relies on the settings it has and the megapixels or maybe even the printer?

     I believe that your opinion of never using flash for product/macro photography can be somewhat misleading.  Using flash can provide many benefits, especially for product/macro photography. I agree with gmoon, maybe suggestion to diffuse or bounce the flash.

    Here's an example of a lens I'm selling, background is poster paper like in your tutorial. Flash was bounced off white ceiling (For the SLR people - f8 1/200 50mm)

    4 replies

    you can also get macro flashes that are mounted on the lens. the ring shape of them gives more even lighting. and just out of interest, what fitting is the lens?

    completely forgot about this post, was a whole year ago... but yeah, that. here we call them falsh rings macro flashes, all sorts of different things really.

    Oh yeah your right it was a year ago!

    it's a bit more expensive than a coffee filter, but you could use a daylight bulb instead. also this technique can be scaled up for larger subject.

    also Webcams and film cameras can be used but you have to scan the film in afterwards

    Nice Instructable, I'll probably use most of these tips. Thanks!

     The auto focus does have options, it can be made to prioritise focusing in the middle of the screen, or the sides, i myself prefer manual focus, my old film camera had that, my current digital doesn't, soon i'll get a super zoom bridge :D

    Tip: I think if you have another spotlight (lamp) on the other side, you can eliminate the shadow... just try it !

    Hahaha Thanks. The idea dawned on me as I was making a video for a school project and needed a tripod. I've made an Instructable for it if you want to check it out in depth. Cheers!

    Nice 'ible, very like the setup I use sometimes for quick macro shots, just a big A2 sheet and a halogen spot, similar to yours but with less of a shade.

    Two things I'd add are that newer CFLs don't combine well with sunlight, the white balance can't adjust between the two light sources and ends up with a yellow cast. Halogens give lovely lighting and you can also get great shadows using one of these.

    Also The flash can be used, if you rig up a simple diffuser for it, though getting it right is trickier than using a proper flashgun.  Though a tripod isn't entirely necessary, if you want crisp macros with full depth of field you will need one unless you have some serious lighting stuff about...  

    2 replies

    If you look at my projects, most of the pictures taken on my workbench are illuminated by daylight from the window, with the fluorescent tube over the window switched on.

    I meant the small CFL style ones that are closer to tungsten than standard CFLS, though it may just be camera dependent... 

    It's "professional photography" if you get paid for it...

    Not a bad set of tips. But flash is used all the time professionally. Perhaps you should change that to "avoid direct or on-camera flash", rather than flash (strobes) in general...

    Also, you could increase the shadow detail and reduce the foreground shadow with reflectors on each side of the camera. "Pros" often use small mirrors too, for "tabletop" shots--to selectively bounce a little light into specific spots, or to create a highlight on reflective objects...

    Nice instructable. Always follow these two basics: use a freaking tripod, and get decent lighting. I use one A2 or A1 sized paper for photography, or if I don't have that a freshly ironed sheet.
    Very good photos :)