How to Take Good Photos




About: Awesome Gear I've designed myself.

As I’ve been making instructables I’ve been trying to improve on the quality of the pictures I take. What you’ll read here is what I’ve learned over the past year about taking photos and how to make my “light box”.

The pictures you see are random items photographed in my “light box”. Each picture is also shown with the brightness increased a little through adobe photo shop. All other pictures on this instuctable are "as is" without any modification. My camera is a Cannon Power Shot. It cost me about $200.00.

Step 1: Natural Pictures

What I mean by natural photos are pictures that are taken without any effort to filter light. All these pictures are taken in direct sunlight. Because of that the shadows are very prominent. This could be a good thing especially if you want an out door’sy feel to it.

Taking pictures of small items in direct sunlight doesn’t do so well. The shadow is often as big as the piece you’re photographing and distracts from what you’re trying to capture. So what to do? Stay outdoors but get to some shade.

Step 2: Sunlight Shaded Pictures

All these picture were taking outdoors though in shade. The benefit to creating shade outdoors is you get the natural illumination of the sun without the shadows.

In the salamander picture you can see how bright the sunlight is if you look at the very back of the picture. I was holding a sheet of notebook paper to create the shade.

In the Xbox Cufflinks picture I had taped a piece of computer paper to my car and stood in the shadow casted from my house over the driveway.

The scull ring picture is taken in my garage with the garage door open. You can tell which way the sunlight is coming in by the brightest part of the picture.

The I heart bacon buckle was placed on the trunk of my car again using the shade from my house. 

The butterfly bracelet was photographed on my back patio. If you look past the piece you can see how bright the sun is.

I’ve noticed that if you take a macro picture while the item is too close the background (ie: a sheet of paper) the overall tint of the photo will be darkened.

Step 3: Pictures in a Dark Areas

To get a black background all you need is one light. Point the light towards the dark side of the room and place the item between the light and the darkness.

All these photos were taken in my garage. If you were to turn on more lights you’d see the garage door less then 10 feet away.

Step 4: Pictures Indoors

Indoor pictures don’t do very well. You’ll get an unnatural tint to the photos and the lighting doesn’t do much for a good contrast.

However, if that’s all you’ve have to work with at the time, I’d recommend using a paper towel held over the item to help diffuse the light.

Step 5: Choosing a Good Background

In my opinion the first four pictures aren’t very good. Here’s why.

Both the woven ring and the two tone heart are photographed on my hand. While this may help contrast the picture takes on a reddish tint from it.

The flower was photographed on a dinner plate. Reflective on top of reflective is distracting.

The linked hearts were photographed on a faux leather wallet. I think a different combination of colors would’ve made for a better photo.

I do like the last picture though. I think it contrasts well and highlights what I want you to look at.

Step 6: My "light Box"

So here’s the secret to a shadow free picture; a light box. But it doesn’t really have to be a box. All you need is a few simple items.

Scotch tape
Four paper towels
A sheet of computer paper
Something to tape the paper to, I’m using a paint can
A couple lamps

Take the paper and tape it to your stand so there’s a curve in the page. Take two paper towels and cover the back half of the stand and paper. Take another two paper towels and cover the front half. Direct two lamps so that they shine from each side at a 45 degree angle down onto the “light box”.

What you’ve done is illuminated a small area by using the paper towels to diffuse light. Now when you take a picture you can do it without casting shadows. Of course if the item your photographing if bigger than the sheet of computer paper you’ll have to modify the setup. To further brighten the photos you can use photo shop to adjust the brightness. If you don’t have photoshop you can buy “white light” bulbs or adjust how close you have the lamps to your box.

Keep in mind the camera has to be within the shadow of the box to take a good picture. You could also use the same setup in sunlight. Just by looking at the setup you'd think the picture would come out very dark but the camera adjusts pretty well.

Thanks for reading.



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    23 Discussions


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks for writing this one. I am always working on my pictures. Have you ever tried using an old milk jug? The plastic is supposed to diffuse the light evenly.

    2 replies
    Tsu Dho Nimhehudwill

    Reply 1 year ago

    Any translucent white sheet material or container will work as a diffuser.

    Milk jugs, frosted plastic food storage boxes, or inside a paper lantern.


    1 year ago

    Hi, When I uploaded my images, some were rotated and I don't know how to rotate them in the editor. Is this possible? Thanks!


    2 years ago

    Many thanks for sharing.? I m new on DIY so still i need to learn ho it works....?


    7 years ago on Introduction

    I've recently put a few electronic goods on eBay, and this Instructable has helped so much. I'm always striving for better looking photos, and my normal approach is a light box with four desk lamps surrounding it. This time I thought I'd try your approach for outdoor lighting, and it worked a charm! The pictures came up great, I used Gimp to either auto colour correct or manually change the brightness and contrast to polish up each shot and they look so much better than anything I could have done inside.

    Thank you!

    5 replies

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    I love to hear it. I'm glad this worked out for you. Maybe you could post a photo? Thanks for commenting.


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    There are two iPods here, the one with the crack that I managed to get some nice macro shots out of.

    Sorry that there are so many :P

    Thanks again!

    8g_4.JPG8g_5 back.JPG8g_6 top back.JPG8g_7 dock.JPG8g_8 button.JPG8g_9 sleep.JPG8g_10 volume.JPG8g_11 front on.JPG16g_2.JPG16g_6 crack.JPG16g_7 crack side.JPG16g_8 crack side.JPG16g_9 top back.JPG16g_10 dock.JPG16g_11 volume.JPG16g_12 top back.JPG16g_13 front on crack.JPG16g_14 angled crack.JPG16g_15 crack side.JPG16g_16 side crack full.JPG

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    These are all taken outdoors against a sheet of white paper.

    They were all colour corrected with Gimp.

    action pig

    7 years ago on Step 6

    Nice 'ible! I'm taking notes, I take terrible photos.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Great instructables as always! Been a while since I've looked at your work.

    I never had time to thank you for that butterfly pendant... so Thanks! It's really a master piece.

    I've been thinking about posting an instructable about photo shooting for some weeks now, you gave me the drive to do it.

    It's will be about Flash photography and making something from design to reality :).

    1 reply

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks. Glad you like the butterfly. And I'll keep posted for your instructable.