I've recently upgraded to a Nikon D3400 Single Lens Kit (18-55mm) from a Pentax Optio A10. Aside from family photos, I would also use the Pentax take photos of DVD cases (for listing on ebay) using the macro setting. To avoid the flash obscuring the text on the case, I would take the photo at a angle to the surface on which the DVD rests. The photos with the Pentax were ok (better than my phone) but a little dark so I'd change the brightness and contrast in GIMP. I've tried to take the same photos with the Nikon but the text at the top and bottom of the case is blurred with the macro setting. I've experimented with different aperture settings and I found the smallest aperture with the 35mm zoom setting seems to work a little better. Do I need to get a different lens?


4 Answers 4


Any flatbed scanner, such as that in a $75 all-in-one printer, will do a better job photographing DVD cases than a D5 or a Hasselblad.

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    The plastic wrapping of most such DVD cases reflects the light of the scanner.
    – Michael C
    Jul 28, 2017 at 21:53
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    @MichaelClark not in an objectionable way, because 1) the light is of the same width as the scan head and comoving with it, meaning that any glare doesn't concentrate in a single point, and 2) unless it's a terrible piece of crap, the scanner is physically designed to minimize glare. Usually the only time you get a problem is when scanning something non-flat.
    – hobbs
    Jul 29, 2017 at 1:21
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    @MichaelClark Scanners are designed around the fact that scanner's light will be reflected. Light reflected in the way that's not optimal will hardly hit a sensor at all. And there is no external light to worry about.
    – Mołot
    Jul 29, 2017 at 10:12
  • That always works perfectly, doesn't it? (In my experience - no, it doesn't.)
    – Michael C
    Jul 29, 2017 at 12:07
  • @MichaelClark no one here says anything about perfection, only about being better at the task due to being designed for such task. You are refuting something no one but you wrote here.
    – Mołot
    Jul 30, 2017 at 10:36

To avoid the flash obscuring the text on the case, I would take the photo at a angle to the surface on which the DVD rests.

Sounds like you're probably using the built-in flash on your camera. A better solution would be to take the photo straight on, and arrange the illumination so that the subject is lit from an angle. That might mean using an off-camera flash unit, or just some constant light source. DVD cases aren't known for moving very quickly, so you can trade shutter speed for light intensity and get a decent shot without a lot of light.

Since you're taking photos for eBay listings, what you probably want is a nice plain background with diffuse light. A small light box would be ideal for this kind of thing. You can aim a few cheap work lights at the sides of the box, put the product inside, and get good lighting for your product with little effort. You can use off-camera flashes in place of the work lights if you want, but you don't need to go to that expense.

I've experimented with different aperture settings and I found the smallest aperture with the 35mm zoom setting seems to work a little better.

Yes, smaller apertures will give you more depth of field. Smaller apertures also reduce the light available from the flash, so there's a tradeoff there.

Do I need to get a different lens?

No. A typical kit lens should be fine for what you're doing. Look into different lighting options first.


When doing close-up work, you need to keep the camera square with the subject. This is because the range of sharp focus, near-to-far, is super shallow. We are talking about depth-of-field. This is what we call the range of acceptable focus. Your approach is wrong! Instead of angling the work to avoid glare from reflections from the flash, you should change the method you are using to light the subject.

First try to do your imaging outdoors in open shade. Open shade is that area shaded by a building or patio cover or umbrella. If open shade does not work for you, than construct a highly diffused indoor lighting setup. I suggest “tent” lighting. A white sheet or a white translucent plastic panel from the hardware store will do the trick. Place some LED lamps above this diffuser and Voila! You have created a defused lighting setup.

You might still get some unwanted glare, but this can be mitigated by mounting a polarizing filter on your camera lens. Once the polarizing filter is mounted and you are using continuous lighting, you control glare and reflections by rotating the polarizing filter. These filters screw into the front of your lens, however, they are loosely attached, so you can rotate them as you focus and compose.

The rotation allows the polarizing filter to be adjusted by you so that you get the maximum effect. It won’t do you any harm to look up polarizing filters on the internet, so you can better understand how photographers use then to alleviate reflections.

  • 1
    A camera with movements is an alternative to keeping the subject square to the camera.
    – user50888
    Jul 28, 2017 at 17:48
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    @ ben rudgers -- A camera with movements is an expensive alternative but such heavy duty hardware is overkill for this project. All one needs to do is maintain parallelism, camera to subject. A diffused light source will eliminate glare and reflections from polished surfaces as will a polarizing filter. Jul 28, 2017 at 18:41
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    A used camera with movements can be obtained for about the same price as a new entry level DSLR or the cost of moderately priced photographic lighting gear. Indeed a used DSLR compatible lens with movements can be obtained for a similar cost to moderately priced photographic lighting gear. Yes, there are less expensive alternatives.
    – user50888
    Jul 28, 2017 at 19:23
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    @ ben rudgers -- This task can be preformed with his existing camera. He can use natural sunlight or makeshift indoor lighting. This is not rocket science. He is likely inexperienced and thus we need to keep this simple. An adjustable camera with movements solves the alignment problem but likely not the reflection problem. Anyway, maybe he will follow your advise. Jul 28, 2017 at 19:35
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    @benrudgers But there's no need to buy anything, as Alan's answer explains. Jul 28, 2017 at 21:45

You can try using your lens on 55 mm and f9 or f8 aperture. This should give you enough depth of field for your shots.

If it is not enough, try not to take the photo at an angle but rather parallel. You won't be able to use the built in flash as you will get reflections but try using natural light(for example shoot in front of a window).

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