Photographing my jewelry is one of my greatest ongoing challenges. Like many Etsy sellers, photography is not really my thing, but it’s a critical part of my selling process.
My house is dark inside and surrounded by a jungle of tropical plants so ‘shoot near a window’ doesn’t work for me. I struggle to get crisp colours and a clean background.
But after months of trial and error, and hundreds of grey, gloomy photos, I came up with a solution that’s working pretty well for me—and it’s really simple.
Here’s a bracelet I photographed using my new system:
Not too shabby is it? There are loads of websites that show you how to make light boxes from cardboard boxes and tracing paper. And then there are those wrinkly-looking photography ‘cubes’ – but none of them do it for me, so I created my own one.
Drumroll….here it is:
1. A shiny new plastic storage container from Target – it’s about 14 inches deep.
2. A piece a very white, firm paper. I bought a whole pad-full from Michael’s so if the paper gets dirty I can just tear out a fresh page.
3. A piece of white foam board.
The plastic box works like tracing paper—it lets a lot of light in, but softens it and reduces harsh reflections.
The paper is firm enough to make a great mini infinity curve giving me a smooth background with no ‘corners’. I stick the paper to the box with a bit of tape. That’s another great thing about using a plastic box…you can stick stuff all over it and rip it off again without damaging the box.
I place the foam board under the plastic box to reflect much-needed light up onto the sides of the box. I have to do my photography outside, so I choose a shady spot with no direct sunlight. I often shoot before 11am when the light is not directly above.
In the scenario above I have the whole set-up resting on a fold-up luggage rack from Bed, Bath and Beyond. I like that I can easily collapse the rack and store it behind my closet door—light isn’t the only thing there’s a shortage of in my house.
Sometimes I use a slightly different set-up: I shoot on the patio, which is partially covered, and I position an OTT-Lite (bought from Michael’s) on each side of the box for extra light. The plastic diffuses and softens the light.
Here’s another image I took in my handmade lightbox, and then lightened it a little using picmonkey.com. I stuck the thread to the sides of the box using packaging tape. You can’t easily do that in a cardboard lightbox or a crinkly cube!
Finally, here’s another finished shot that I took in the lightbox. I lightened it and brightened it in PhotoShop, but you can see by the original below it that it didn’t need much work. I could have lightened it just as effectively in picmonkey.com.
Follow-up Notes to questions about this post:
The ‘columns’: People have asked about the little white columns in the third photo—that thing is a Chain Sta. It’s designed to hold thread or jewelry chain in place while you’re working with it, but I use it for many other crafty things too. It has two little posts to hook chain on, and little jaws for holding thread or wire. The thread I use for hanging things on is this transparent, slightly stretchy plastic cord used for making bracelets.
My camera: For all the photos above I used a Casio Exilim that I got from Costco for just $190. It’s old and scratched up now, but it does the job. If you can look at the photo below without laughing you’ll see my little Casio perching rather majestically on a tripod. The secret is in the tripod! Buy a decent tripod, not a cheap wobbly one—your photo quality will improve immediately.
I set the camera on automatic except for the EV setting which I adjust to +03 or +07 to lighten the photos. Note that not all my photos are taken on this camera. Some of the mannequin photos in my Etsy store were taken with a friend’s Canon D60.
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