Monday, May 19, 2014

My Current Bead Photography Setup

So, I see lots of great beads online that don't show to their full potential because a poorly lit photograph. I know my pictures are far from the best out there, but I'm always trying to improve and for now I'm reasonably happy with them. I wanted to share my photography setup in hopes that it might be helpful for someone.
My set up has evolved quite a bit over the years, but I try to use what I already have. That's why I have a wooden box with three lightbulbs attached. You don't need the box, you just need three light sources with good light bulbs. I do like that the white box helps the light reflect. The bulbs I'm using were purchase from Walmart in a four pack for 10 bucks. They're daylight and the brightest Walmart had. When I take pictures, I wait a few minutes for the lights to fully warm up. 

I bought the light tent from amazon for $15 I think. It was the smallest size, but there are many available. It will help diffuse the light, so you don't have harsh white light bulb spots on your beads. To diffuse the light even more, I have sheets of tracing paper on the light bulbs.

I use a tripod for my camera. I have pretty steady hands, but this takes the guesswork out of it. I also set my camera for a 2 second timer, so my hands pushing the button don't cause a shake.

You can use whatever you want for the background, but I really like this sheet of gradient paper. I made a gradient in photoshop and then had a printing service like winkflash print it on matte photo paper. I think it cost me less than $3 to have it shipped. I'm sure there are better things out there, but I hear that the acrylic backgrounds scratch easily and they're kinda pricey. I like the reflective look of them, but sometimes I find them distracting.

This is the camera I use. It probably is overkill, but I bought it when I first started selling beads. Looking back, I think the lighting makes more of a difference in my pictures, but I'm still very happy with this camera. It's a rebel xs and I use a cheap camray closeup filter. I'd love to try a macro lens, but I can't justify the price right now.
I use the manual setting on the camera with a 2 second self timer delay. The settings are on f10 and 1/25. I check the lighting meter thingie and adjust it if needed when I take each picture, but since I use the same photo setup each time, I rarely need to adjust it. I'm very big on technical terms as you can see.  I also set a custom white balance using my camera's settings. 

What works for me, might not work for you. To figure out the settings that worked best for me, I took pictures of the same beads in a ton of different settings and decided which ones looked best to me. I also got feedback from others, since I'm biased on my own beads.

Once I've taken the bead pictures, I use photoshop to crop the picture, adjust levels and sharpen the picture if needed. This can easily be done in a more simple program. I just had a copy of photoshop.

Here's a bead example with this set up