How to Take Better Pictures

Not a tutorial.  I am really not qualified.  I'm experimenting and would like your opinions and help if you have some help to give!  edited to add, on a budget would be excellent, too!

One of the most annoying things about keeping a blog plodding along, is to be able to take photographs.  On the off chance I actually have something product related to post about, I only have the weekend to take pictures.  Primarily, it's the only time I have and secondly, I like to take pictures in natural light.  Pictures taken indoors, like the one below actually don't look that great in terms of color accuracy.  That nail polish on the left looks pretty one dimensional and everything else looks yellow.
That's Esteé Lauder nail polish in Black Iris.  It's one of my favorite polishes.  A dramatic blackened plum that is cool, creamy and opaque.  It reads mostly black in this picture.  It's again in indoor lighting.  Though I have strong yellow tones in my skin, my fingers are not that yellow.
Thinking I might improve the quality of pictures, I thought a light box might help me make more consistent pictures.  I used the tutorial here.  I made a good frame, but will need to re-make it with some better cloth and a sturdier piece of paper for the backdrop, but for the purposes of getting a gauge, I was set.

Here is Black Iris again in the light tent.  I think the coolness comes through better and the color overall seems more accurate.  The pinkiness in my skin is actually accurate.
But how does the tent perform against natural light?

Here is my little mini Diptyque Cannelle candle, which blergh!  I don't like Cinnamon scents, I realize.  Anyway, indoors, but in relatively bright natural light.
And now the candle, after burning some, inside the tent.  Kind of yellow, but that creamy white wax is a little more accurate to the cooler cream in the above picture.
So I am kind of liking the color accuracy feature, so I dug out my old pictures of a post I did on Addiction Ready to Wear Palette in Departure.  Probably one of the most amazing things about this particular palette is its Japanese-typical complexity in the shimmer.  This picture below was taken in bright natural light and outdoors.  Look at the crazy shimmer in the pans.

Now the same pans but in the tent (after several loving uses).  While again, the accuracy of the ones look pretty darn good, you see none of the shimmer I love about this palette.  Also the light reflects strongly especially off the periwinkle shade making it gleaming white, as opposed to all the other shimmery bits you see in the outdoor picture.
How about swatches on the skin?  The top picture is my outdoor, natural lighting picture and the one directly below is the one done in the light tent.
Where did the twinklies go?

Do you see any differences among the indoor, light tent and outside pictures?  Is there a preference you have?

I'm a sucker for all the pretty shimmer bits, especially in eye shadows and definitely want to make sure I'm getting the right color accuracy.  I'm torn between having the flexibility to take pictures outside of a 1 hour weekend window (still -5 F windchill out there) and capturing what are the neatest complexity of products I like.  Maybe I need to stick with more crab features.

Also been researching for a new camera purchase and perhaps investing in a decent macro lens.  I am the unofficially-designated "photographer" in my family so I'm always toting a camera around.  I think I've paid dues in the family and also on the blog to merit an upgrade.  But again, not sure with my lack of knowledge and practice I would be able to really take advantage of all the features and benefits.

Amateur photographers and blogger friends, what's your take on how to take better pictures and how do you figure out lighting when winter skies just say NO?

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