Tips on Photographing Your Handcrafted Sterling Silver Jewelry

The best way to do this is, of course, digitally. Taking good quality pictures of jewelry for most is an unsolved mystery. However, there are some simple techniques used by the professional, which even amateur photographers can use to obtain dramatic results with minimal effort. The following examples show the basic setup that should allow anyone to achieve results they can be proud of.
The camera that I use is a Canon A520 Digital. It’s not too expensive, and if you go to our website you’ll see, it takes great pictures. The basic setup I use includes an “Ezcube” light tent to soften the shadows and eliminate glare, while providing a clean and clutter free background. I also use true color daylight balanced compact fluorescent bulbs as the main light source and clear acrylic risers to provide reflections for an added “professional touch”.
The keys to good jewelry photography are sharpness, lighting, and exposure.
It is worth getting out your camera’s manual to find out how to put the camera in “spot focus” mode. The normal focus mode of digital cameras is some sort of average focus mode. That means that the camera will look at a wide area of a scene and base the focus on that area. Since you want to control where the camera is focusing, it’s better for jewelry photography to put the camera into spot focus mode, this will allow you to control more precisely what the camera will be focusing on. However, even in spot focus mode many digital cameras can’t really “lock-in” on a small shiny object like gemstone jewelry using auto focus. So unfortunately, for close-up jewelry photography, you need a camera with good manual focus capability.
Another key to a sharp image is a tripod. It is absolutely essential to use a tripod or similar camera support when shooting jewelry. A sturdy tripod is better than a flimsy one, but any tripod is many times better than no tripod. Use a tripod.
Another key to good jewelry photography is the lighting. Normally diffuse (soft) lighting works best for jewelry. You have probably already discovered that an on-camera flash does not lead to good jewelry photos. Not only is the camera’s flash too bright at such a close distance, but it is probably in the wrong position to actually light up the jewelry properly. An on camera flash will also create harsh and distracting shadows. Rather than flash, I like to use continuous lighting for product photography. Using continuous lights makes it easier to visualize what the final image will be like. I prefer daylight balanced compact fluorescent bulbs for lighting. These bulbs provide nice, natural-colored light and they produce very little heat so they can be left on for long photo sessions without over heating the photographer and everything else in the room. Even fluorescent light bulbs will need to be diffused and for that I, again, use a light tent as the diffuser. A small light tent makes it easy to reduce glare and control shadows for jewelry photography.
Proper exposure is also a key to good jewelry photography. If your background is actually white but appears grey in your image or if everything in your image appears darker than you would like, the image has been underexposed. It doesn’t mean you need more lights or bigger lights, it means you need to let more light get to your camera’s image sensor.
The most likely reason not enough light is getting to the camera’s image sensor is that the camera’s auto exposure mechanism has set the exposure too low. The camera’s auto exposure system doesn’t expect to see a very light background. Since it assumes the background is grey rather than white, it exposes the image to achieve a grey background rather than a white background. The result is that everything in the image appears darker than it should.
The solution is quite simple. Adjust your camera’s exposure compensation setting to slightly overexpose the image. [Nearly every digital camera has an exposure compensation setting, but you may need to read your camera’s user manual to find how to adjust yours]. Once you locate the controls for exposure compensation simply increase the exposure until the image looks correct. When photographing against a white background you will normally need to increase the exposure by about 1 to 1 1/3. (Camera makers make this confusing by labeling the exposure adjustment setting as EV, Exposure Value.)
If you are comfortable with photography and understand how the camera’s aperture and shutter speed affect the exposure, you will want to pay attention to how the camera adjusts the exposure. If the camera increases the aperture it will decrease the depth of field.
A quick review:
  1. In order to ensure your images are sharp, make sure you know how to focus your camera. Digital cameras with auto focus are often difficult to focus precisely, especially when shooting small objects. Read your owner’s manual and be sure you understand how your camera’s auto focus operates. Most digital cameras are designed to easily focus on large objects but have difficulty on small subjects.
  2. Use a tripod, even the slightest movement when you are taking a picture will cause motion blur. The closer you get to an object the more obvious the motion blur becomes. Even an inexpensive tripod will make a big difference in the sharpness of your images. If you are going to be shooting a lot of images, it makes sense to invest in a good, stable tripod.
  3. To get the largest area of your subject in focus put your camera in aperture priority mode and set the aperture to the highest number possible.
  4. Use soft lighting. Your camera’s built-in flash will rarely give good results for product photography. For soft lighting either shoot outside on an overcast day or use a light tent or soft box.
  5. Use imaging software. Even inexpensive software like Photoshop Elements™ can make product photography much easier. It may seem like it’s faster to use an image exactly as it was shot. But in reality, it is difficult to shoot an image exactly how you would like it to appear in it’s final form. Imaging software allows you to crop an image, resize it, adjust the exposure, and even sharpen the image less than 60 seconds.
I hope this help a little bit in your quest to take great jewelry photos.

The Ultimate Guide to Jewelry Photography

If you are interested in jewelry photography, chances are you have already been involved in other styles of photography. You have probably quickly learned that there are several techniques utilized for photographing different types of objects or subjects so that the results deliver the most optimal, sharp, colorful and detailed image possible.
Photo Credit Gnilenkov Aleksey 
Additionally, different types of cameras and equipment can also be utilized for various subjects, and this also holds true with jewelry photography. It is not necessarily important to spend thousands on a camera and related equipment to capture dramatic shots; what is important are the techniques involved, which can mean the difference between jewelry that appears flat and unremarkable, and a piece that sparkles and dazzles the eye.
Getting the shot right every time takes practice. When shooting jewelry, there are some basic rules that should always be followed. It is important to find ways to ensure that there is no glare and that shadows are minimized. Additionally, jewelry often appears best against a clean background of a neutral color, or a background that best compliments the piece. There are also different props that can be used to better display pieces such as necklaces, earrings or bracelets.
Basic Rules for a Great Shot
Photo Credit Gnilenkov Aleksey

 There are three critical components to a ensuring a great photo:
  1. Lighting
  2. Focus
  3. Exposure
Understanding how each of these affects a photo and learning how best to use them to your advantage will enable you to take professional, high quality shots worthy of any major magazine pictorial or advertising campaign.
Lighting Essentials
Examining lighting first, there are essential pieces of equipment that you’ll want to obtain. These include:
Light Tent
Photo Credit Alison Christine

This item is a cube-like stand that is open on the side in which you will be placing and photographing the pieces. The EZcube light tent is one of the more popular light tents available. The purpose of the light tent is to provide you with a soft light setting, and helps to control reflections and interference from other light sources and shadows in the room.
A new EZcube design also allows you to hang items such as necklaces from the center if you don’t have to utilize a prop to hold them. Light tents are available in various sizes.
Basic colored backdrops to rest jewelry upon or use as a background. White and black are most typical, but other colors might add a more dramatic effect to certain pieces. Materials include cloth, acrylic, and others. The acrylic can be used to add a nice reflection effect to the photo.
A Tabletop Light Set
Photo Credit Hozae

There are a wide variety of lights to choose from, and some that add more effects to specific types of jewelry, but the most basic lights you will definitely want to acquire are a set of floodlights that utilize daylight color CFL bulbs. These bulbs are designed to provide a soft, simulated natural daylight lighting effect, which helps to eliminate the need for color correction most of the time. An additional benefit of the CFL bulbs is that they are designed to produce much less heat than other bulbs.
  • Tip: Using the tabletop light set also eliminates the need for using the flash on your camera, which typically does not lead to great photos when shooting jewelry. The flash is too bright and adds harsh shadows or contrast to the jewelry when shooting so closely.
  • Tip: Try to get adjustable stands for your lights as well, so that you can position them correctly for the various pieces.
How to Position Your Lights
Many light sets come with only two lights, and that is really all that is necessary to get a good shot. Don’t be fooled into purchasing a larger set by thinking that more lights means a better shot. There may very well be instances in the future where you may want to add a third light, but for now, two is standard and feasible.
Simply place a light on either side of your light tent, and aim the lights at the jewelry so that any glare is eliminated and your piece is presented in a flattering manner.
  • Tip: Using a stronger light on one side can sometimes produce a more dramatic effect. If you do not have another light that is more powerful, you can try simply moving one light closer to the piece.
Additional Lighting Accessories and Options
There are other lights and bulbs that may be purchased that will enable you to produce more dramatic effects in your shots with specific pieces of jewelry, such as diamonds and gems, in which you really want to accentuate the facets. If you really plan on getting the most from your shots, you may want to invest in a few of these lights, such as the Diamond Dazzler LED bulb.
  • Tip: Make sure that the bulbs in use in all your light sources are consistent in model and color or you may have trouble getting a shot without odd coloring.
  • Tip: You can purchase lighting kits containing all of the above elements, instead of getting each component individually. If you are just beginning to get involved in jewelry photography, purchasing a kit can be an economical and easy introduction to the equipment.
Photo Credit Davedehetre

Focus Basics
Focus is of course an important element of all photography, especially when shooting jewelry, in which you really want to capture the detail. One of the biggest agitators of good focus is an unsteady hand. Even the slightest movement can cause you to lose a significant amount of detail in your shot. So it is important to invest in a tripod for your camera.
Camera Focus Settings
Almost all cameras available on the market today come with several different focus settings. When shooting close-ups of jewelry, you’ll more often than not want to be able to manually focus your camera or utilize a “spot focus” mode. This enables the camera to focus solely on the jewelry at the center of your shot, with a reduction in interference from other surrounding details and items. Using the manual focus will grant you the most control.
The Best Camera?
Photo Credit

There really is no right answer to this question. Keep in mind that focus is one of the most important components of jewelry photography, so a digital camera that offers you a true manual focus is definitely going to be important criteria when you attempt to choose. For true manual focus, look for cameras described as SLR cameras. These types of cameras often allow for lenses to be changed as well, which can come in handy as you grow your profession and aim to take more diverse types of shots.
Additional criteria or options to look for:
Photo Credit Andrewrennie
  • Small aperture – enables a wider area of focus
  • A lens or ability to use lenses with macro focuses – enables you to shoot close-ups with more precision and won’t interfere with lighting by being too close
  • Fitting for a tripod
  • At least 10 megapixels
  • Remote shutter release – reduces the amount of blur that may occur, even with the use of a tripod
  • Capability to easily connect the camera to a computer to upload and adjust photos if necessary
Exposure Basic
Photo Credit Paparutzi

The ability to control your camera’s exposure value (EV) is an important element in ensuring your jewelry photos are not too dark or too light. Because most cameras automatically compensate for shooting subjects set against very bright backgrounds, you will need to manually adjust your camera’s EV in order to ensure that you take the best possible shot.
You can begin by using the preset EV settings on your camera to see the results, and then select the setting that appears to deliver the most detailed, well-lit shot, without appearing too dark or washed out. As you gain more experience using your camera and become more familiar with the lighting equipment, you will quickly be able to determine the best EV setting for certain shots without having to experiment.
Using Photo Imaging Software to Fix Lighting and Exposure
Sometimes, even with the right EV settings, the right lighting, and the right focus, you may still get an image that needs a little work in order for it to be perfect. This is where photo image editing software such as Photoshop can save the day and make a good shot great.
Tip: Adobe Photoshop is the most popular and widely used software, but you may able to achieve excellent results with the editing options on your own camera, or on your photo layout program such as Apple’s iPhoto, which allows for a wide suite of corrections.
Using image editing software, you can adjust lighting levels, contrast, sharpness, color balance, color saturation, and much more to really produce an image that “wows”.
There are of course many other aspects of jewelry photography that you will discover with experience, but understanding these basics and learning how to utilize the equipment and your camera properly will ensure that you are well on your way to capturing great images.

Glass Photography

Nothing can make you quite as crazy as a photographer than glass.  It is, without a doubt, one of the most difficult things to photograph really well.
Glass is a nightmare for a camera.  It reflects everything, it displays bizarre catch lights and can seem nearly impossible to focus properly.
And yet you won’t be a professional photographer very long, particularly in advertising photography, before you’re confronted with a job involving glass.
Soft side lighting and a frosty glass to dampen catch lights – photo by Kristofer2

The temptation is to get frustrated and figure you’ll take care of the imperfections in post processing.
When you get there you’ll discover that glass is nearly as insanely difficult to get right in post as it is in the studio.  So your best bet is to shoot right in the studio and minimize the post corrections.
The first step is cutting down as much ambient light as possible.  That means dark backgrounds and draping your stand in black.
The next step is lighting.  A studio flash with a modeling light works for me.  The two best angles for lighting glass are directly above and directly behind and below the image plane.  That will yield consistently good photographs, provided the glass is empty or the liquid nearly clear.
Liquids add a whole new dimension.  First, you have to figure out how to get it in the glass without splashing the sides.  Try that sometime.  I experimented for quite a while before going down to the hardware store and buying a small hand pump.  You can also use a cardboard tube from a paper towel roll and pour the liquid into that (I don’t recommend drinking it afterwards).
For this type of shoot you’ll need to use some type of table top box like an EZcube.  You can get both dark and gradient backgrounds for your EZcube and it will save you a huge amount of trouble.
Place a light on each side of the soft side panels and you’ll get a great look almost every time.  Swap in a dark background for clear glass.
For clear glass on a gradient, you’ll need some dark paper rolls at the bottom to keep the bottom of the glass from disappearing into the lighter part of the gradient.  It cuts down the on the light from the sides and the glass will pick up black highlights, just enough to separate it from the light gradient.
With colored glass you have it made.  Put a gray gradient in your EZcube and you’ll be done in 20 minutes.  That will yield adequate results but if you really want to make colored glass pop, you’ll need another tool of the trade.
Another secret to shooting glass is having a daylight balanced flat panel.  It’s worth the investment as you’ll be using it for jewelry and other small objects.  Use it in or out of your EZcube and you’ll discover it adds really nice highlights to your glass subjects.
Even with the right gear, you’ll still find glass objects present constant challenges.  Just keep at it, and you’ll eventually learn how to turn in some amazing shots.

Four Steps Of Product Photography – Improve Your E-Commerce Design With Brilliant Product Photos

1. Prepare Product

To take quality photographs, the complexity and time required will depend greatly on the type of product you’re shooting. Some of the easiest products to photograph are solid objects such as cups and toys; you may just have to give them a good polish before shooting.
Clothing, textiles and other items that can bend, stretch and wrinkle are much harder to photograph and could require hours of ironing and arranging to get a perfect result. Details, like whether a shirt collar is straight, will determine whether the photographs look like they were shot in a serious studio or by an amateur with a point-and-shoot camera.
Whatever the product, inspect it carefully for tears, stains, chips and other imperfections before beginning.

2. Light

To get a great-looking photo, lighting is crucial. Fortunately, with many products, you don’t need much equipment to get a well-lit balanced exposure. For objects the size of a digital camera or smaller, you can use an EZcube® light tent with two small 30-watt bulbs on either side. For larger items, such as clothing, two 60-watt soft boxes on either side of the product should suffice. Also consider using a light reflector to get rid of any shadows and obvious highlights.

EZcube: TableTop Studio

Kuhl Lite: TableTop Studio

3. Set Your Camera

Watch out for noticeable light reflections on shiny surfaces. Even though most product photos look very staged, you don’t want yours to look too artificial.
Obviously, you’ll need a camera to take pictures, so make sure you have one. It doesn’t have to be the best or most expensive on the market, but it should at least have manual focus and shutter and aperture controls. These are all standard on most SLR cameras.
Once you’ve arranged the product and lighting equipment, take a few test shots until you get an exposure that isn’t too bright or too dark. Keep track of the shutter speed and aperture settings of your best photos, and use them again in future to maintain consistency. If you aren’t sure how things like shutter speed, aperture and lens focal length affect images, you might want to do some basic research.
If you understand the basics of photography but your photos still don’t look quite right, don’t worry, because you may have to change several in-camera settings before getting the kind of shots you want.
If your pictures look soft or don’t enlarge well, make sure the ISO setting on your camera is as low as possible. The ISO setting affects the light sensitivity of a camera’s photo sensor. By setting yours to 100 or 200, you’ll get a higher-resolution shot with less grain and pixellation. While you’re at it, change the camera’s image size to the highest possible setting. Most cameras default to a medium-sized resolution (around 1500 x 850 pixels).
Next, make sure the white balance is set to handle the kind of light you’re working in. Most cameras have modes for incandescent, fluorescent, direct sunlight and cloudy environments, and you should adjust your camera’s white balance according to these different conditions. If the white balance controls are off, your images might either look too bright or have a sickly yellow cast, especially if your product is white.
Color control settings are important to consider as well. Most digital cameras allow you to select several degrees of color saturation, ranging from muted to normal to vibrant. If your product is already colorful (flowers, for example), a less saturated setting would probably work better. This is especially true with red, which many digital cameras (even high-end ones) have difficulty processing.
Finally, make sure the image format is appropriate. If you’re just putting the photos online, high-resolution JPEGs are probably fine. RAW files, on the other hand, carry more data because they aren’t compressed like JPEG or TIFF files, and they carry fewer digital artifacts; but they take up more space and require special codices and converters to be viewed and edited. Some cameras have a “RAW + high-res JPEG” setting, which gives you both compressed and uncompressed versions of an image. Do a little research on your camera when deciding which format to use, because some models are automatically set to give a softer focus in JPEG mode.

4. Edit the Photos

This is the final and perhaps most important step of product photography. This is when you really take your photos to the next level and make them pop. If you’ve gotten the lighting right and your camera properly configured, then you are well on your way to great photos. Factors such as unwanted colors and objects that couldn’t be removed during the shoot, though, will require some adjustment.
Surrounding a product in white space is common practice. This makes the photo convenient to use on websites and in catalogs because it won’t clash with other elements. To make a product float freely in white space, you have to remove the background with masking in your photo editing program. As common as it is, it is often done poorly, making an otherwise fine photo look amateurish. Masking properly takes time, especially when you are not working with straight lines. Photoshop CS4 has a great “Refine edge” tool that makes it much easier to correct crooked lines.
Many people also use a variety of artistic effects in Photoshop and other bitmap editors to subtly manipulate their photos. One such effect is the soft or selective focus, which, as the name implies, softens a portion of the photo while leaving other areas sharp. This is great for creating the illusion of depth and size, and the trick is often used for pictures of food, jewelry and watches (see the examples above). Depending on your lens, you can get a similar in-camera effect by setting the aperture low and zooming in on the product from a distance.
Also, depending on the product and the look you’re aiming for, you could also experiment with the perspective controls in Photoshop. Most people assume this tool is only good for tall buildings and scenes with noticeable vanishing points, but you can also use it to make geometric objects such as tables and desks appear overpowering, especially when photographed from a low angle.

Jewelry Photography Tips

There are many reasons why you might want to photograph your jewelry. Perhaps you run a business and need to photograph your products for your website; maybe you have a special heirloom you want to immortalise for posterity; or you might just want to experiment and have some fun.
Whatever your reasons, jewelry photography can be surprisingly difficult – simply placing it on a table and snapping away is likely to result in a series of dull, lifeless, uninspiring photos that doesn’t show your jewelry in its best light.
Taking photos of jewelry requires some careful preparation and the patience to experiment with variations of lighting, positioning, and composition. By doing so, you’ll ensure that your photos come out sharp and stunning.

It’s All About Lighting

I can’t over-stress how important lighting is in jewelry photography. Hard, dark shadows (like those produced by your camera’s flash) can easily overpower the delicacy of the jewelry, distracting your attention away from what really matters. For this reason it’s important to light your jewelry with a soft light, and from all directions.
Fabric bracelet with bunny picture on it
Diffuse lighting reduces distracting shadows. Image by Allison Fomich.
The best way to achieve this is by using a light tent. To use it you simply place your jewelry inside, and set up your lighting on the outside. The thin walls allow the light through, but also scatter it, creating a diffused, soft light which lights the jewelry from all directions.

Set Up Your Camera

A tripod is an essential bit of kit for jewelry photography. You will be shooting very close up, and possibly using quite long exposure times. This makes camera shake a real possibility, and blur can easily ruin a jewelry photo.

Pair of gold rings on a dark surface
Use sharp focusing and a narrow depth of field to focus the viewer’s attention. Image by Jeff Belmonte.
Focusing – use your camera’s point focusing mode, or better still use full manual focusing. Focus on the most important part of the jewelry, such as the gem on a ring or the face on a watch.
Aperture – the aperture size depends on the effect you want. If you want your jewelry to be completely in focus, use a small aperture. If you want just a part of your jewelry to be sharp, with the rest blurred, use a wider aperture. Experiment with different sizes to see which shows off your jewelry best. Personally I like to use an aperture small enough to keep the entire piece of jewelry in focus, but large enough to blur the background. Most digital SLRs offer an aperture priority mode which is perfect for this.

Exposure time – if your camera is in automatic mode, it will try to compensate for the very light background by reducing the exposure time. This will leave you will a dull, grey image. If you have manual mode, use this instead and keep increasing the exposure time until you get a photo with the right colour background. If you are stuck with auto mode, use your camera’s exposure compensation to brighten the scene up.

Post Processing

Jewelry photography calls for absolute perfection and, no matter how carefully you set up your photo, it is rare to achieve it straight out of the camera. Use a software package like Photoshop or GIMP to crop your image, adjust the levels, and sharpen everything up.

Taking It A Step Further

Once you’ve mastered the basics you can move on to some more adventurous stuff:
Place your jewelry on a reflective surface, such as a black or white acrylic “riser”, to add a reflection underneath your jewelry. This technique is commonly used by professional jewelry photographers.

Pair of earrings on a reflective black surface
Experiment with creative compositions, and use different backgrounds and surfaces to alter the feel of your shots. Image by Jonathan Cohen.

Rather than just lying your jewelry down, use a small blob of wax to make is stand up. This can be particularly effective for items of jewelry such as broaches or pendants, allowing you to show off their detail in a different way.

How To Creating Stunning Jewellery Images

The keys to great jewellery photography are:
  • Light Diffusion – use an EZcube® light tent for perfect light diffusion, thereby reducing or eliminating reflections, shadows, hotspots and glare.
  • Perfect Daylight Lighting – TableTop Studio’s perfect daylight compact fluorescent lighting is ideal. Our 5000K bulbs provide lovely natural white light. They produce very little heat so they can be left on for long photo sessions without over heating the light tent, camera or the photographer. Continuous lighting is essential – an on-camera flash does not lead to good jewellery photos. Not only is the camera’s flash too bright at such a close distance, but it is probably in the wrong position to actually light up the jewellery properly. Further, when using flash you are unable to see how the final image will appear until the flash goes off, leading to much wasted time in trial and error.
  • Add Sparkle – use a Sparkler Light (all colours of gemstones) or Diamond Dazzler (extra brilliance for all colourless gemstones). These specialist lights are positioned at the front so that you see the stones sparkle. The Sparkler Light can add depth and quality to the image. The Diamond Dazzler adds an extra dazzle and brings out the fire of diamonds.
  • Focus – use spot focus mode (see your camera manual). It’s better for close up photography to put the camera into spot focus mode, this will allow you to see exactly what the camera will be focusing on. For jewellery photography you ideally need a camera with good macro focus capability.
  • Exposure – appropriate exposure is essential (see your camera manual).
  • Reflections – add soft and subtle reflections on a white reflective background or dramatic reflections on a black background using a Reflective Riser.
Jewellery Gallery

Five Simple Steps to Better Product Photography

In order to ensure your images are sharp, make sure you know how to focus your camera.   Digital cameras with auto focus are often difficult to focus precisely, especially when shooting small objects.  Read your owner’s manual and be sure you understand how your camera’s auto focus operates. Most digital cameras are designed to easily focus on large objects but have difficulty on small subjects. It is often useful to put your camera in spot focus mode.  Spot focus will give you more control over what part of a scene the camera is actually focusing on.
Even the slightest movement while taking a picture will cause motion blur.  The closer you get to an object the more obvious the motion blur becomes. Even an inexpensive tripod will make a big difference in the sharpness of your images. For really sharp images it makes sense to invest in a good, sturdy tripod. If your camera has a remote shutter release then use it, if not then use the camera’s built-in timer to minimize camera shake.
To get the largest area of your subject in focus put your camera in aperture priority mode and set the aperture to the highest number possible. The closer you get to your subject the more important this becomes.
Your camera’s built-in flash will rarely give good results for product photography. For soft lighting either shoot outside on an overcast day or use a light tent  like the EZcube®. Diffused Daylight Studio Lighting can be ideal if you need to shoot indoors whatever the weather.

Even inexpensive software like Photoshop Elements™ can make your product photography much easier. It may seem like it’s faster to use an image exactly as it was shot.  But in reality, it is difficult to shoot an image precisely how you would like it to appear in it’s final form.  Image editing software allows you to crop an image, adjust it’s exposure, sharpen the image and then resize it, often in less than 60 seconds. 
The biggest difference between an amateur’s product snapshot and a professional’s product image are sharpness and lighting. Steps 1, 2 and 3 will improve the sharpness of your images, while Step 4 will improve your lighting.  A minute spent editing an image will improve it further.  Because these few steps seem so basic, it’s tempting to ignore them.  However, if you take the time to follow them, you will see a huge improvement in the quality of your images.

How to Use a Light Tent for Small Product Photography

Many crafters, cooks, and artists want to take high quality photographs of their own creations, whether to feature them in a blog post, offer them for sale online, or just share them with friends. The trick to getting these kinds of product shots easily and reliably is to use a light tent. This article will cover the fundamentals of shooting with a light tent to help you capture bright, high quality product photographs every time.


What is a Light Tent?

A light tent or light box is a contraption with translucent sides that diffuses light coming from multiple sources. This allows for even, nearly shadow-less lighting against a simple, solid background.

light tent, photography, DIY, product photography

Shooting with a Light Tent

The standard set-up for light tent photography is to place the tent on some kind of table or end table, with the light sources directly opposite each other on each side and the tripod centred in front. Placing the tent up on a table makes it easier to see and manoeuvre, as well as easier to use your tripod for shooting.
The backdrop is attached at the top inside the tent and should fall freely down into a gentle curve at the back and then across the bottom of the tent. You want to be sure that you backdrop is clean and free of debris and wrinkles. If using a fabric backdrop, be sure to iron it for a completely smooth look. (If you roll your backdrops up on a cardboard tube after shooting, you should be able to keep them wrinkle-free for next time.) Consider keeping a lint roller or small blower handy for dealing with the inevitable dust and debris.

light tent, photography, how to, product photography

Now you are ready to start photographing! Place your subject carefully inside the tent, and start with it in the exact centre. Moving your subject forward or backwards relative to the light can change the lighting and shadows. Experiment to get the look you want. You can also experiment with pointing the lights slightly at an angle, rather than straight on at the tent. Be sure to leave space between your subject and the walls, so that you can zoom in or position your camera to see only the backdrop and not any edges.
Consider the ambient lighting and adjust as needed. I have found very little difference between shooting midday in diffused indoor light and shooting at night with only the lights themselves for light. You do want to avoid direct sunlight shining in or at your tent, as it will be difficult to balance such a powerful light source.

light tent photography, how to, bokeh heart

Camera Set-up

Set your camera securely on the tripod and use either the 2-second timer or a remote shutter release to ensure that you tripod remains steady. (If you are using a lens with image stabilization, vibration reduction, or vibration control, turn the switch to off.) The tripod will allow you to use longer shutter speeds with crisp results.
Begin by shooting in aperture priority mode with an ISO of 100 (or the lowest value for your camera). Choose your aperture based on the look that you want to achieve in the image (a wide aperture like f/1.8 for a narrow depth of field and a lot of blur or a narrow aperture like f/22 for a wide depth of field and crisp focus across the entire subject). Food photographs often utilize wide apertures and selective blur to make food look more appealing, while product shots of crafts and handmade goods look best with a narrow aperture to keep the entire item into focus. IF you want to avoid blur in the foreground (the bit directly in front of your object) – set your focus using the part of your subject that is closest to the camera.
Consider also using exposure compensation to shoot a series of three shots, bracketed at -1, 0, and +1 exposure, so you can see which gives you the best results. (For white backgrounds, you may get better results around +1; while for black backgrounds, you will get better results around -1. If a full stop is too dark or too light, try a half or a third of a stop.)

light tent photography, exposure compensation, camera lens, Tamron, Tamron 18-270mm, light tent, product photography

Post-Processing Considerations

It can be difficult to get the background of your shots perfectly white or perfectly black while also keeping your subject properly exposed. In those situations, you may want to do some additional post-processing to ensure that your whites stay white and your blacks stay black. The following description relies on tools available in Adobe Photoshop, but you should be able to do many of these same procedures using other software products.
If you are shooting in RAW, adjust the white balance of your image first so that your whites look white and not yellow. Most light bulbs will list the colour temperature of the light they produce, which you can use as a guide for setting the white balance. You can also set the white balance manually by shooting a white card and calibrating from that image (or if you know your background is pure white or black use the colour picker in the RAW processor to neutralize any tint).
Use your histogram as a guide when processing. While standard photography advice recommends against having your histogram touch the edges of the scale (clipping), this is what you want to achieve in product shots. Clipping your background (whether on the left for black, or on the right for white) will create an entirely homogenous look to your background and focus all attention on your subject.

scarf, photography, Photoshop, post-processing, highlight clipping,

In Photoshop you can use the Levels tool to adjust either end of the histogram. Holding down the Alt (Option for Mac) key while adjusting the sliders allows you to see which areas of the photograph are being clipped, as shown in the image above. Move the slider in towards the center until the background is uniformly clipped but the subject is not. If your subject is too affected by this action, then you may need to scale back your adjustment.
If you are having trouble achieving a uniformly white background on your product shots, consider adding a thin border to your final image. While a not-quite-white background, on a shot displayed against a pure white background on a web page runs the risk of looking dingy. However, a slightly grey background with a black border can make the background shade appear intentional.

photography, bourbon, product photography, light tent, how to

Here’s a final image from the vase of flowers in the first image at the top of the article.