Learn about photography lighting options for your finished jewelry. Halstead's Product Photographer, Bethany, gives some great tips on how to make your jewelry photography beautiful while staying on budget.
Tip #1: Be sure you have plenty of light when shooting - it is easier and better to darken a scene than to brighten it.
Good lighting is vital when photographing your jewelry in your home or studio. There are three basic lighting options to choose from when setting up your lighting studio: natural lighting, a soft box light kit (referred to as a light box in the video following this article) and a light tent. Keep in mind it is good practice to use a consistent if not permanent setup in order to have harmonious jewelry photos. Your photos will represent your jewelry and your brand better if your jewelry photographs are all lit and shot in the same way.
Natural lighting is a great option for home or studio shooting for one main reason: it's free! Using natural light for your jewelry photography can yield some great results, however it comes with several drawbacks. Time of year, weather, time of day and other variables can all change how and when you take your photos. These inconsistencies can interrupt your shooting schedule and can cause too much variation in your product shots.
When shooting in natural light, try to pick a spot that gets the most dependable lighting. An east or west facing window usually works best as these will get more direct morning/late afternoon light. Try to shoot at the same time of day, when the light is at the best angle for your shot and the brightest. Brighter light gives you more to work with. It is much better for photo quality to speed up your shutter speed and compensate for too much brightness than it is to use a longer shutter speed to compensate for too much darkness. This would also require using a tripod to obtain a clear photo. Artificially brightening the scene can cause noise and poor quality in your photos.
You can use a diffuser screen (or a large sheet of semi-transparent white paper or cloth) to help soften the light. Use one or more reflectors to bounce the light coming from behind/beside your piece to illuminate the front. These can be purchased or homemade from something shiny like aluminum foil. If you have the space for your camera to be set up you may also aim your piece towards your window/light source, however make sure the light on the front is not too harsh (you may still need to reflect light on some areas of your piece). You will have to experiment with your setup, time and place in order to achieve the best results.
Soft Box Light Kit
Having a soft box setup in your home/studio is the option we most recommend. It can offer quality and even light, and at a fairly affordable price. Most soft box light kits start around $40 and go up from there. In general, the more money you can invest, the better the quality and greater the versatility of your kit. An ideal kit would come with a fairly large-sized soft box (or two), floor stand, multiple bulbs inside the soft box and some kind of light intensity adjustment. For jewelry photography 5000K daylight bulbs work best; power will be based on your purchased light's specifications.
Soft Box lights are great for getting consistently well-lit photos of your jewelry. The price is comparatively low for setup as opposed to other lighting options. The kit is also easy to set up in smaller spaces. If you only have one light, a reflector will still be necessary to bounce light back to the front of your jewelry pieces. The overall price and quality of a soft box light kit are what make it our recommended setup for your home/studio jewelry photography.
Tip #2: Use a reflector to bounce light back at your item to fill any dark areas.
The third option for your home/studio photography setup is a light tent (preferably the white soft box pop-up variety). Light tents generally start around $20 and go up based on quality and size. Some come bundled with lights as well. A light tent with quality lights will yield the best and most consistent results for your photographs. The brightness and light diffusion a light tent affords mean your jewelry will be well-lit without harsh light or shadows. Uniform photographs are also easily achieved with a light tent. Light tent setups generally tend to cost a bit more money than the other options as 3-4 light sources are needed to get good lighting in addition to the tent itself. The setup will also take up more space and will have limited space for moving/shooting inside the tent itself.
It is important to carefully consider what will work best with your skills, resources and space for photographing your jewelry. Take your time once you have set up your photography space to experiment with what makes for the best photos. Make sure you have the ability to reach consistency with your product/detail photos. Quality photos are a great tool to reach quality sales results!
Catch Hilary in the Halstead photo studio with more tips on photography lighting for jewelry: