Taking Photographs

Posted on 15 December 2009. Filed under: Rant and Rave Time | Tags: |

One of the tasks that must be done for any online shop is to take photographs of each item. Now, there’s debate among the online bookselling community about which is best – scans or photographs. Some people like scans as they’re easy to do while others prefer photographs. I prefer photos as you can get a 3D image and therefore can see any major problems with the spine or edges of the book. As a photo is part of the description I feel it’s important to show as much detail as possible and I feel it’s just not possible with scans to show the spine or edges. Anyway, that’s my theory and I’ve been ascribing to this theory since starting to sell books on eBay in January 2005.

I took some photos today and was fixing them up just now when I thought it might be an interesting thing for people to know about. Maybe I’m wrong but I’ll write anyway and see if I get comments either good or bad.

Where you take your photos will depend on your set up and where you can create very good indirect lighting. I’ve experimented with all sorts of lighting styles and staging to find my photos are not quite good enough when I take them inside. So, to further my experiments and try to make my photos better I’ve started taking my things outside. I take my little folding table and a tablecloth as a backcloth, my camera and tripod, and also boxes of books. I spend a few moments putting everything together and finally take my photos before moving everything back inside. We have a level driveway and so I’ve been doing them there with success and some amount of pleasure until today. The problem is that you need indirect lighting and that works well in the driveway if the sun is behind a cloud. I ignored the sun today and have noticed some of the photos have patches of light where the sun was spilling around the leaves. So, not only do I have to avoid going outside for my photos when it’s raining (or is still damp after raining), but I also have to avoid going out in direct sunlight…unless I can solve that problem and I do have a thought that maybe I can move everything under the garage door. I’ll look at that next time I need to take photos.

The next step is to move them onto the computer, that’s easy as I can plug the camera directly into the computer with a mini usb cable and just copy them across using Explorer. Then comes the longer process of fixing them so that they’re straight and small enough for easy downloading onto a customer’s computer. Generally, when I take a photo I find the best way is to turn it 90 degrees to the camera so it’s on it’s side and then rotate the image when I open the file in Paint Shop Pro. The only challenge there is that 90 degrees is not always straight as I take photos with my distance glasses and I can’t always tell if the book is straight and have to rotate the image by something approximating 90 degrees. I’m getting good at this and often turn it the exact amount the first time but sometimes I miss and have to adjust it further. After that I crop it so only the book is in the photo, then resize it and finally export as jpeg to reduce the size of the file still further. My aim is to have a person on dial-up be able to view a photo in less than three seconds.

I generally take a number of boxes of photos at once, today was a short session and I only did a box and a half but I have taken up to 200 photos in a session which is about five boxes. Yes, my back was rather sore after that. Manipulating the images only take a few seconds, probably as much as 15 seconds per image and I open as many files at once as my computer will let me to streamline the process.

Going back to the scanning issue for a moment. The other reason I don’t scan is purely logistics. As I discussed (yes, okay, ranted) in previous blogs I work at the dining room table and the table is rather full at any given moment. If I scanned books I’d have to either take everything into someone else’s room, where there’s even less space, and use their computer or bring the scanner into my ‘office’ after clearing space for it. Personally, I prefer to take photos even though it looks like there’s more physical work.

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