Jen Kiaba, a.k.a Jenkiabaphotography, is a self-proclaimed camera addict and seasoned photographer. I recently asked her a few questions to help you choose the right camera to shoot your product photos.
What kind of camera would you suggest for an Etsy seller who’s just starting out, and has a limited budget?
If you’re just starting out in the handmade world, probably the last thing you want to do is shell out a sizable pile of money for a camera. You know you need good photos, but will a more expensive camera really ensure that you get those great photos? The answer is “No.” Promise! To prove this, I decided to give myself a little challenge and put several cameras to the test. The goal was to see if I could get great photos no matter what. At the moment I own three digital cameras (yes, I know — it’s a sickness). These are all older cameras as well, to prove the point that you don’t have to run to the mall and buy the newest camera on the market. A gently used camera is a great tool to begin with to learn the basics of photography! The first contender is a mid-level professional camera: a Canon 30D, which retails for about $800 online. This is the camera that I shoot all of my professional gigs with at the moment. It’s a bit pricey for the Etsy seller just starting out, but I wanted to use this baby as a basis of comparison.
The second camera is a Fujifilm FinePix F30. With a little bit of online digging you can find this one for about $250. This is an amazing camera! If I could show up at all of my professional gigs with this camera and not get laughed out of town, I might try it. You have a full range of control with the exception of a true manual mode. There is a lot of bang for your buck here.
The last camera I tested today is a Nikon CoolPix L4. You can get this baby for $15 online! This camera came into my life when my sister moved to New York City and left it behind. Your exposure is fully automatic, but there seem to be all kinds of fun goodies to play with here.
Around 11 a.m. I found a window with some southern exposure, put a gauzy white sheet over the window to diffuse the light, and snapped some pictures of a vintage locket. I took two photos with each camera and then did a quick edit using Picnik.
The Fujifilm camera allowed me to get really close AND blur out my background by shooting in Aperture Priority mode and shooting with the widest aperture possible (in this case f2.8, which is really amazing!).
The Nikon doesn’t give you that kind of fine-tuned aperture control because the exposure is fully automatic; however you could try mimicking that lovely blurred effect with Picnik’s Focal Soften tool. The Macro setting also didn’t allow me to get quite as close as the Fuji camera did, but the results were still pretty great!
Check out the image comparison and see for yourself. Which camera would you choose? The Fujifilm FinePix F30 is still my favorite, but I was pretty blown away by the Nikon CoolPix L4 as well. And for $15, you really can’t go wrong!
Are there features that are more important than others they should look for?
If you are in the market for a different model of camera, I would suggest looking for something with at least 4 megapixels (you don’t need much more for Etsy or for printing up promotional materials), the ability to change your white balance, a macro mode and preferably an aperture priority mode. If you would like to read a great comparison of the top camera models for 2009, check out this post by Engadget Labs: The best point-and-shoot camera for under $400.
What kind of lighting would you suggest?
Natural lighting will always be your best friend. With a thin white sheet (or even a thin white vinyl shower curtain from the dollar store) and a window, you are in business. If your camera allows you to change your white balance to incandescent, this will give you the opportunity to shoot indoors in the evening if you don’t get the opportunity to photograph using daylight. However you must make sure to have strong enough lights — inexpensive flood lamps work well in this case. Just make sure that they don’t get too close to anything flammable.
If you aren’t able to photograph during daylight hours, then it would also behoove you to look into making a photo lightbox. Here’s a blog post I did last year: How to Make a DIY $10 Macro Light Tent!
Do you have any online resources you would suggest to a new photographer?
I highly recommend Digital Photography Tips for Beginners from Digital-photography-school.com.This site offers a whole series of articles dedicated to walking a new photographer through the basics in layman’s language. The articles are so accessible and friendly, and I think new photographers will begin to enjoy taking photos for their shop once photography has been demystified for them!
Are you in love with your digital camera? Let us know in the comments below!