Online Auction Strategies: Taking Better Photos with the EZ Cube

By David Steiner
AuctionBytes.com

August 10, 2003

Several months ago, I wrote an article illustrating how to make an inexpensive seamless background for taking auction pictures (http://www.auctionbytes.com/cab/abu/y202/m11/abu0082/s02). A “seamless” eliminates distracting hard shadows behind the subject you’re photographing, giving your item a more professional look (and hopefully increasing bids on your auctions). The beauty of the seamless I suggested was that it only cost a few dollars to make and also folded up nicely for easy storage.

The EZcube is a photographic-nylon light tent that not only provides a seamless “sweep” background, but is also translucent. This allows diffused light to enter the inside of the tent from all sides, giving a soft, even light to the item you’re photographing. Here’s a page I created that shows an EZcube in action: http://www.auctionbytes.com/cab/pages/ezcube

The EZcube takes less than a minute to set up and simply entails pulling the expandable tent from its soft case, unfolding it, and attaching the “sweep” inside the cube by its Velcro tabs. (The sweep is a piece of nylon that attaches to the inside of the EZcube to make a seamless background.)

You can set up lights on either side – or do what I did, which was take the EZcube outside and let the sunlight filter through the light tent. The larger of the two available models opens up to a 30″x30″x30″ cube, which I found to be more than adequate for most of the items I sell. Dougherty’s site also sells a 20″x20″x20″ polyester light tent for smaller items.

The EZcube comes with a nylon panel that attaches to the front of light tent. The panel has a slit in the center that allows you to insert the lens of your camera and take pictures. This is very handy if you’re shooting something highly reflective and want to surround it 360 degrees. No more reflections in shiny metal teapots!

The front flap also diffuses light being thrown toward the front of your item. For example, I enabled the flash on my camera, and used the nylon panel to diffuse the flash so that no “hotspots” of light appeared on my item.

Another option is to put a piece of colored cardboard inside the EZcube, in place of the nylon sweep. That gives your pictures some variety, in case you get tired of the same white background. In fact, even though the nylon sweep is machine washable, Dougherty recommends using cardboard inside the tent to keep from soiling the material.

The most challenging aspect of the EZcube is folding it up to fit back into its 16″x4″ case for storage. There’s definitely a trick to it (the technique is outlined step-by-step here: http://www.tabletopstudio.com/documents/Folding-the-cube.htm). But once you’ve mastered it, you’ll be folding it like a pro!

I have to say that in nearly 5 years of doing online auctions, this is one of the most useful tools I’ve seen come along.

David Steiner