Quirky Oak Artisan Jewelry

Hand crafted jewelry: bracelets, necklaces and more.


How to make a lightbox for photographing jewelry.

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:

A bracelet I photographed on my handmade lightbox.

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:

Lightbox made from a plastic box and paper.Like I said, it’s really simple.

My materials:

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.

OTT-Lite setup.

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!

Drippz hanging in my lightbox to be photographed.

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.

MaryJane Necklace Lightened

Lightened photo

The original photograph, shot outdoors in my handmade lightbox

The original photograph, shot outdoors in my handmade lightbox

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.

The camera I use for photographing my jewelry.

My impressive camera setup makes professional photographers green with envy  😉

Cheers, Caro
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