Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Playing with Light

Photography and getting my little pieces presented is one of my least favourite things to do. I've read heaps of things on this. I've tried heaps of things. I always come back to there has just got to be a better (and less expensive) way to do things. 

Now that autumn is here that means for a lot of folks a there will be a limited amount of natural light for photos over the next few months. So what do we do? How do we compensate for the light in the grey days of winter?

Enter Carol Bradley Designs and her post and links to Boo Jewels, truly excellent tips on her experience of getting great jewelry photos.  Boo Jewels  is not only a jewelry designer but a photographer as well.  She's got lots of information in there in a very easily understood language of just what your camera is doing and what you can do with your camera. Which is fabulous for me because sometimes I just zone right out when it comes to technical stuff.

Back when I was in Texas, I did a lot of my photos in relatively low light. Mostly because the natural light was so intense that I had to or all of my photos were over exposed and had deep distracting shadows. So while I was there I did a few experiments based on the tutorial by Boo Jewels.

Two of the things I picked up on straight away were reflecting light and changing your Ev setting on your camera. Mostly because I could reflect light with a cheapo 5 minute hand crafted fix and I actually knew where my Ev setting (that's an exposure compensation setting) was on my point and shoot camera. 

So what I did was set up a tiny little experiment. I photograph most of my jewelrey components on a colour background because I think white is sort of boring for the pieces I make. This green that you see up there is one of the colours I find most pleasing for bronze pieces. It's also one of the most difficult I use to get good and true colour on a computer monitor. But I can't help it, I like how it looks with golden colours of bronze.

So basically, I bounced light around and compesated for indoor exposure. Easy peasy. The first photo, top left is without any 'enhancement', just my normal factory setting on the camera. I usually go in and edit these types of photos to make them brighter.  The top right uses a reflector to bounce light onto the piece. Still kind of dark. The bottom two use and Ev setting of 1 (normal is 0) to compensate for low lighting. The difference is that in the bottom right photo I used a reflector to shine light back onto the pendant. (More on that later, promise) See how they get lighter and brighter?

None of these photos were edited in photoshop or other types of software. These are straight out of my camera. You could and probably would go in and do this.

I know a lot of you photograph jewelry and components on a white background. This is the same sequence, 1) top left, camera factory settings, 2) top right,  light bounced back with added reflector, 3) bottom left,  exposure compensation, 4) bottom right, exposure compensation plus light reflected back onto the component.

And here is that same set of photos adjusted in a photo editing program to be brighter. It works but I still feel like it is over exposed and lacking depth. So I think this is really just a start.

So here's the photo set up. I use an inexpensive clamp lamp from the hardware store fitted with a daylight bulb, one of those spiral types.Those bulbs last forever. I think I've been using this one day in and day out for about 4 years now. It is clamped to the back of  a chair in my dining room. The reflector is on the right and is a piece of kitchen foil scrunched up and then smoothed out and wrapped around a Whitman's Sampler Chocolate box. The chocolates are long gone and I really would like some more. The background paper is scrap book paper from the craft store. Low tech, not very elegant. Easy peasy!

Go check out the tutorial from Boo Jewels. There's heaps more information and ideas there.

How do you use light to photograph your work?

What will you do when the grey days of winter come around?

I'd love to here how you set up your photography!


Abeille à miel said...

What a great post, thank you! I've been playing around with photographing my jewelry and have to agree - the stark white doesn't work for everything. I'm going to try out the setup you explained, as it looks like it might work for me.

We live in a redwood forest, and the light changes very quickly. I love photographing outside but the window to do so can be small. So experimenting with indoor techniques has taught me so much.

Thanks again! :)

MaCarroll Beads said...

Thanks for the tips. I have a makeshift photo booth that I put together last year. I used 4 ceiling tiles (for drop ceiling) that a square and the fit right together. I used a glue gun and in 20 minutes, I had a photo booth. I painted the inside to make mine a little brighter white, but I'm not sure that did anything. The one step I didn't follow was the lighting that I think I will try this year. The tutorial (not including the ceiling tiles, but tag board) also said to cut two circles in the sides and shine the bright light in.... the type that you have for construction or under an automobile when you need portable bright light. I'll let you know how it works. So far, my favorite place to take pictures is outside.

KJ said...

I use the same foil technique for a reflector, but mine is not crumpled and I used cork tiles. The crumpling probably makes the light more diffuse.

I like the colored paper. For my neutral base I use a silver toned (lightly textured) non-stick pizza pan I picked up at Walmart. This bounces the light up. Generally, I do not get a mirrored reflection of the piece of jewelry. Usually that is sufficient for indoor lighting near a window in daylight.

mairedodd said...

i love natural light, but as you mention - seasons can make that tricky... you also are limited as to when you can photograph things during the day... these tips make sense... i find the shine of resin, enamel and shiny metal to be a challenge... i had also once read that you can put parchment paper over a window to cut down on glare... thanks leann - i love how you showed the 4 photos together to give a great comparative example...

SummersStudio said...

I should add that I think you could probably use the reflector to bounce natural light from a window back onto the object you are photographing. I haven't tried it though.

Alice said...

My husband bought a light tent for my birthday last year, but I still prefer the light that comes in our windows on the north side of the house. But on rainy days and in the winter I make use of the light tent. I'm still trying to learn all the features on my camera and am excited to participate in Kerry Bogert's Snaptastic ecourse!

Thanks for the link. I'm headed there now to check it out.

Izzy said...

Photographing copper in any light is a pain. You get shine no matter how much you try and sometimes I just have to give in. I'm lucky to have four large windows in our living room and as long as the sun is on the other side of the house I have great natural light. However, I haven't been happy with my shop shots for a while now (I tend to be lazy when it comes to posting on Etsy) so I decided that since I have to change titles, tags and descriptions because of all the new Etsy changes I miens well change the photos. So I read, read more and read even more. Finally ended up upping the aperture on my macro lens and wow. I also changed my glass tile background to a painters tarp from HD. I'm actually pretty pleased. Well, today that is, I'll probably change them again and again and again later on down the road. Thanks for all the tips. Great post!

somethingunique said...

thanks so much for the tips..i am so new to taking photos of my jewelry and only have a cannon power shot/macro...yesterday i purchased a square tray a piece of scrapbook paper fits just perfect and it has about 4" sides so when you set up your beads and such they dont fall off if you have to move the tray and the tray has a natural wood grain background...nice for pictures too..but i like using scrapbook paper too,change it for different pictures..i am still trying to figure out how to photo shiny metal..i do personal hand stamping and the glare of the shiny metal reflects back so its hard to see the stamping..i have Boo's tutorial just have to make time to read it i guess, i'll stay tuned for more tips from you
ttfn Lana :)

Kelli said...

I invested in a Cloud Dome a couple years ago. I tend to take most of my pics at night, so natural light is out.

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