Thursday, May 13, 2010

A Toilet Humor Guide to Taking Beautiful Pictures when You're Broke

Studio lighting. Umbrellas. Photo boxes. 1,000+ Digital SLR cameras with lenses. It's the same story every time I have asked someone how they get such great photos. But, on my budget and with my prices being often lower than the cost of materials, I can't really justify spending that much.

But, I found a solution.

What you need:
1 - digital point-and-shoot camera, preferable 10+ Megapixels
1 - bathroom with white walls and windows
1 - sheet of poster board or scrapbook paper
1 - commode

Friends, if you don't have those items... well, there's nothing I can do for you.

Here's what I've been doing. I put a sheet of 12 x 12 scrapbook paper upside-down on my toilet so that the bright white side is showing. Not the seat, but the cover over the back tank. If you don't have white walls, improvise. Put up a couple sheets of poster board. Any white-walled, closed in room with lots of natural light will focus like a giant lightbox. In other rooms in my house, where the walls are different colors and the floors are hardwood, the lighting has that ugly brownish-yellow hue that makes your pictures look so n00b.

[ Disclaimer: I feel I have established my competence with regards to my propensity to utilize appropriate vocabulary; therefore, I am claiming poetic license to use words like n00b. ]

Take your pictures when a lot of sunlight is pouring in through your windows. If I take pictures in my bedroom, the best time for me to take pictures is in the early morning; however, I am very rarely up in time for that. If I'm taking pictures in the afternoon or early evening, I use the bathroom. Hell, I even put the lid down on the toilet and have a seat while I'm taking pictures. The more white you put around your items, the more light bounces off of it and the more accurate your photos colors will be. Your eyes aren't seeing what your camera sees, so use the viewfinder to see how your pictures are looking.

Make sure that when you're taking your pictures that you use the correct "white balance" function. Most point-and-shoot cameras costing under $200 have four white-balance settings: sunlight, incandescent, flourescent, and tungsten. In your camera's menu, you can change the white balance setting between the two very quickly. If your pictures have a yellowish hue, then set the white balance to "tungsten." If your pictures have a bluish hue, try incandescent. If the light is bright enough, your "auto" white balance setting should be sufficient.

The most important setting on your camera is the close-up mode. Usually, the setting on your camera (either accessed by the digital menu or by turning the settings wheel on the top of your camera) is a picture of a flower. If you want those striking, detailed close-up pictures for your small items, then you're going to need to use your micro mode.

Lastly, if you're in the market for a reasonably-priced digital camera, I just went through a trial-and-error period in which I purchased (and returned) the following brands: Olympus, Kodak, Sanyo, Nikon, and Sony. The worst of the worst was the Olympus. When I held the camera, I could just feel the cheapness radiating from it. It was a 14MP camera, but I've seen tracphones take better pictures. The Kodak ran a close second to the Olympus for shittiest quality. It was slow to focus, slow to boot up, and I ended up trashing about as many pictures as I used. The Nikon, and surprisingly the Sanyo, took fantastic pictures and seemed to be great cameras; however, they just weren't performing at the rate I was hoping in relation to close-ups and ease of use. If you take a lot of pictures in a short period of time, constantly transitioning between "auto" mode and close-ups, then speed and practicality matter. The fifth and last camera I tried was the 14MP Sony Cybershot SteadyShot DSC-W330. I was amazed immediately, especially with the close-ups. I don't have to switch between picture modes, lighting settings, white balance, or any other setting.

This camera is about $159 and can be purchased at most major retailers (Wal-mart, Best Buy, Target, etc.) or online.

If you have any room with lots of natural light, then you might not have to use the back of the toilet. I wish you the best of luck with your photographs, and I hope this has been helpful for those of you out there with a limited budget. Let me know if you try any of these tips and they work for you.


  1. This is awesome! You posted a WTF forum judging people's shops on Etsy and this was a link you added. Love it so much I marked you and hearted your shop. Keep up the great work!

  2. Thanks for taking the time to do this- I've been improving my pics by trial and error (and reading in the forums) but never knew about the white balance settings. Much appreciated. -FreshUrbanVintage on Etsy