Photograph Your Jewelry with a Do-It-Yourself Light Box

May 20, 2008

Quick Dash, Low Cash Photo Studio

It may be that I'm the result of Depression-era parents or that I'm just plain cheap. I rely on elbow grease and baking soda to clean the bathroom; we use clothespins to keep our chip bags shut; plastic bags work great the second time around; you won't find that many pieces of clothing in my closet that cost more than $20; and my workout "club" doubles as the laundry room.


This frugality spills over into all parts of my life, including my creative world. Not to say that I'm not sitting on a small fortune of beads, buttons, metal, yarn, and tools! But if there's a cheap way to get something done, I do it.

I struggled for a long time to find a way to get good indoor lighting for photography without having to invest in special lights and a photo dome. Before, I'd wait for a nice day and shoot as much as I could outside. But that's not always feasible, especially in Minnesota, where it's cloudy half the year and raining a good portion of the rest. 

I played around with different scenarios quite a bit and found that the setup that gave me the most flexibility and least headache was pretty low-tech: two 60W task lights pointed at each other over a white paper "corner" I made with sheets of white card stock. This configuration reduces the amount of shadow coming off the pieces when I shoot them. It works well for me, too, in that I can instantly set it up on my messy worktable and break it down just as quickly--no storage.

When shooting with this light box, I make sure to set the white balance menu in my camera to "tungsten" to compensate for the yellowy light. I also up the exposure to +1 so the piece doesn't go dark.


Do you have some quick dash/low cash in-house photo studio tips you’d like to share? Post them on the website! 

Jean Campbell writes about beading and life every Wednesday on Beading Daily. If you have comments or questions for Jean, please post them on the website. Thanks!

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on Jun 4, 2008 2:08 AM

Pingback from  How to take (nice) pictures of beaded jewelry « Under a tree

on Jun 5, 2008 2:14 PM

Not to knock the 'Cloud Dome' (which is a really nice piece of equipment that I can't afford either) but a eally cost-effective way to get a similar diffusing effect when photographing shiny things (like our favorite beads) is to use a veterinary 'e-collar'.

This is one of those conical, plastic collars that the vet puts on your dog to keep him/her from biting, gnawing, scratching or pulling their stitches.  (It also makes them look like they get great tv reception.....)

These collars are made of a translucent plastic that transmits a fairly neutral colored light, but changes those harsh glare spots into nice, soft highlights.

To use it, you just tuck in a couple of tabs (they're sold flat, and store nicely thataways) which make it into something resembling a conical lampshade, which you just set down over your bead, direct the lights to shine through the plastic and point the camera through what would be the neck hole.

If you can't get them at your local pet superstore, any vet's office should be able to sell you one. (and they're actually easier to find than a cheap lampshade, and transmit more light!).  

My dog seems to prefer this use than it's original intended use..........

brightcircle wrote
on Mar 25, 2009 1:53 PM
Hey, I'll have to try that conical dog collar substitute for the Cloud Dome! IAs my beadwork can get pretty large-scale and my photography style might not lend itself to the small space inside the collar, 'm unsure how effective it would be photographing my jewelry, but it would be great for photographing my beads or smaller pieces.
Leana@3 wrote
on Apr 8, 2009 1:34 PM
Thanks, Jean! Very helpful and for little or no $$ @ all, my photos are better. I much prefer to put the bucks into gemstone beads and again, Thank YOU!!! Leana
Dragonstar wrote
on May 7, 2009 12:55 AM
What about really light colored beads? would you change the color of the paper to a dark color? Black even? I have also wondered about using a plain fabric behind the beadwork. Something that does not have a shine to it. Thanks for any input. Sally
bellapiazza wrote
on Feb 7, 2012 8:39 AM

I had similar challenges and also created a DIY lightbox a few years back.  Posted to share and with several comments and additional helpful tips and ideas:


Bella Piazza Jewelry