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dan96max Oct 1, 2009 8:50 AM

need some help bad
I work at a salvage yard that does a lot of business online. Currently we use small cannon digital camera's. We're one of the few salvage yards in the country that takes pictures of everything we have.

I'm having a problem though and I've just run out of ideas on how to over come this. We have a garage and a warehouse, the smaller ware house parts we have (starters, alternators, etc.) they all look good when we take pictures of them. We have good lighting and pretty competent people taking the pictures.

The problem is in our garage. We take pictures of all engines and transmissions. Our pictures are terrible. The lighting is off, some pictures come out yellowish, some pictures with flash make the parts look rusted. If we turn the auto flash off then the pictures come out with the right lighting but their blurry I assume from the longer exposure time.

So my questions really come down to these

What can I do to improve lighting in a dim garage?

Is there a good light and camera combination that could make taking pictures easy? Our garage guys are mechanics and not very competent with technology like our ware house guys are. If we change to a different camera, we'd prefer inexpensive because they do get abused in a garage environment.

As you can see from the examples below, our background is an issue, it gets scratched and greasy from the parts. Does anyone know some thing else we could use for flooring that may be more resistant?

Some of our pictures
Listing #1
Listing #2
Listing #3

Our parts obviously need to be better cleaned BEFORE taking pictures instead of before their shipped. We're making improvements as far as that goes. But any help would be great. Our smaller competitors are taking some really good pics.


TCav Oct 1, 2009 9:04 AM

First, I'd set the custom white balance. This should take care of the color variations you're getting. Second, I'd use a tripod. Since the subject doesn't move, the motion blur is from camera shake. Using a tripod will allow you to take shots with very long shutter speeds but still get sharp images. Third, I'd use butcher paper for the background. You can tear off as much as you need, and throw it away when your done.

dan96max Oct 1, 2009 9:38 AM

Let me run this by you, Just kind of brain storming.

I was looking at industrial turn tables. I can find them in the $300-$400 range

We tile or paint the floor, and then use the turn table. The floor should stay clean because the parts are actually touching the turn table. We can coat the turn table with something to make it washable. Then the parts are always in the same place with the same variables (height, lighting etc). We can set up a permanent tripod with the camera so all they have to do is put the part there, spin it, push the button and be done. Does it look like We would need to make changes in lighting? right now we just have long florescent lights above it.

TCav Oct 1, 2009 11:10 AM

If you can keep the turntable still during the long exposure times, that should work.

You should get an 18% gray card (i.e.: or ) for setting your white balance and exposure.

I was thinking that wide, white butcher paper (i.e.: Shoplet Select Butcher Paper Rolls 48 ) would help with the lighting as well as covering the floor (or the turntable.) The white paper would reflect light onto surfaces that might not receive much direct light, making it easier to see details (as long as you used an 18% gray card to set the exposure.)

With a P&S digicam, your aperture and ISO are limited, so that leaves shutter speed. The tripod will make that workable, so the florescent lights would be fine (but of course, more is better) so long as you handle the white balance.

BillDrew Oct 3, 2009 11:22 AM

There have been many books written about lighting and setting up backgrounds - check out your local library for starters.

TCav's suggestion to get a tripod is right on. There is very little else more important, though if you are going to go with a turntable you can do a bit better. The thread on a tripod is simply 1/4 - 20, a fairly standard kind of bolt. Once you figure out where you want the camera, simply weld up something with a 1/2-20 bolt set in the right place.

For exposure and white balance, just do a bunch of experimenting and look at the results with an EXIF reader so you can see what the setting were. I'd guess that you could dial in exposure and white balance with less than a couple of hours work.

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