Additional research by Jena Ardell.
Studies show that professional-looking product shots will net you higher bids when auctioning items on eBay. When it comes to smaller objects, a still-life tent is all you need to get the even, reflection- and shadow-free images you need to look professional doing eBay photography. In its Still Life Equipment department, Adorama carries a variety of still-life tents so you can photograph objects as small as a ring or as large as a laptop or toaster, depending on tent size. Tents range from 10 inches of shooting space to over 30 inches. Most still-life tents collapse into a small pouch or disc for easy carrying, weigh next to nothing, and can be set up anywhere. Some even come with lights and a tripod.
Ideally, two light sources should shine directly on the outside of the tent on either side. The light bounces around inside the tent, bringing out wonderful details even in very dark items. You could, in a pinch, use a tent outside in direct sunlight; the sun’s harsh rays will be diffused enough to create good lighting in the tent as harsh shadows are eliminated.
I use the $69 Adorama-priced Westcott Photo Basics 30-inch DigiTent and a pair of inexpensive incandescent studio lights and reflectors. I set it up on my kitchen table and shoot away with digital camera. Any camera that can focus within 5-6 inches will do. I always keep my camera on a tripod to eliminate camera shake.
The Interfit 36-inch Pop-Up Box Still Life Tent Kit comes with a pair of 500-watt tungsten lights and stands. You’ll still need to supply your own tripod and camera, but at an Adorama price of $250 you’ll have basically everything you’ll need. (What’s up with the blue background? It’s a Chroma key. In Photoshop, select the blue background and use the paintbucket tool to replace it with white.)
The JTL DL-220 Web Tent Kit, available from Adorama for $369.95 is another great deal for beginners because it includes a still-life tent, a CamHolder, two Versalight J-110A Monolights and two light stands for $369.95. With some camera and/or tripod maneuvering, this versatile tent allows you to shoot from three different angles without moving the objects you are photographing.
If the Interfit outfit is too rich for your blood but you prefer a self-contained kit, the $49.95 Adorama DeShadow Box, which includes a 16x16-inch soft light box, halogen lamps, blue background sweep, and tabletop tripod. This is fine if you’re using a compact camera and just want something quick and easy...and very inexpensive.
The Lastolite 24" ePhotomaker Self-contained Still Life Tent is the perfect impromptu tabletop setup for on-the-go shooters and online sellers. It's lightweight, portable and can easily be packed for travel. In a pinch, this $79.95 Adorama-priced surface and be used outside in natural light or open sade. You can create a mini "cove" backdrop wherever you go!
If jewelry, stamps, gems or other small items is your thing, you may be better off with a dome, Cloud Dome, a plexiglass light diffuser, available from Adorama for $149.95. It’s ideal if you’re shooting down on a small item. One light source shining on the side of the tent will provide sufficient illumination.
After you find your ideal still life tent, you're going to need something to hold your objects steady. MK Digital Direct's Standard Accessory Kit, $98 at Adorama, includes everything needed to hold small objects, like jewlery, in place with display stands, holding wax and composition plates; all of these are useful tools for a product photographer.