Monday, August 1, 2011

Natural Light Jewelry Photography with the Modahaus Portable Studio Set Up

By on Monday, August 01, 2011 16 Comments

Okay, you're all going to have to indulge me here. I was so excited when I bought my Modahaus I could hardly wait to try it out.

This first picture I took for last week's giveaway post was the most decent jewelry pix I've ever done with the least amount of effort!

I've had more time to experiment with the portable studio set up over the weekend. The two lucky winners of the giveaway which I will randomly pick later today and other new owners might be interested to see additional pictures and tips.

If you hate taking pictures of your jewelry, and I know some of you do, then natural light photography using the colored polymer sheets is your best bet.  No fiddling with lights and camera settings. No post editing with Photoshop either apart from cropping. Why spend time photographing and editing when you'd rather be creating jewelry?

For this photo shoot, I used my Lumix camera in automatic mode with the timer setting since I have tripods (mini and the Modopocket). If you have just a point and shoot, select the macro function and make sure your white balance is set to shady or indoors.

The Modahaus is quick to set up but I took a bit longer than the video demonstration! It pays not to rush as you might accidentally over bend the tabs at the side. Considering how awkward it is to fold up my large pop-up light tent, the Modahaus is a breeze to set up and pack away in its sleeve.

I also took a leaf out of Lex's book and set up my laptop on the same table as the Modahaus. Gee, my 17 inch laptop looks huge next to it!  That's how compact it is. I have a PC whereas Lex has a Mac with probably a program which streams the photos into the computer.  I just tethered the cable whenever I needed to download a batch. This method made it easy to review bigger pictures and decide if I needed to take more or not.

Just in case, I used an old white sheet so the wooden table or the green table cloth I normally have won't affect the colors.  I also used 2 bull dog clips on the reorientated Modahaus to hang my necklace.  I spaced them apart until I got the desired suspended length. The combined weight made the set up unstable so I just propped it up from behind with a clear glass jar.

The necklace I chose to photograph is the one which I had the most trouble with, probably because it is practically all shiny silver. You can see the dull original pictures in my shop which I have yet to replace. To liven it up, I used another tip from Lex. I sandwiched 3 sheets underneath the translucent flap of the Modahaus - opaque white at the bottom, then red, then the blue with the shiny side down - to get purple! 

No light tunnel, necklace suspended from the top
I rather liked the transitioning colors created by the infinity curve, so I partially suspended the necklace from the side using just one bull dog clip to try and capture that effect.

I prefer this picture as the composition was more relaxed and the shiny silver produced some lovely reflections off the polymer sheets. The softly transitioning colors created by the infinity curve made the photo also less rigid than the one above.

No light tunnel, necklace suspended from the side
The decision to use a light tunnel or not will depend on the piece and your personal preferences.

with light tunnel
Earrings can be photographed flat but I always like to include pictures of them hanging especially if they are chandeliers.  You can hang them from props like many do or if you're masochistic, from fishing lines for the no-props look.  No fishing lines for me, I want something quick!

In last week's post, I mentioned my idea of popping out the glass of a small picture frame for earring pictures.  It does work but don't place the glass directly on the Modahaus. The edges might still be sharp. I managed to scratch my Modahaus a little when I was experimenting with potential supports. What worked was the double alligator/crocodile clip stand which I sometimes use for bracelet making. Nothing like getting double use out of your tools and equipment! (Update : check Lex's photo for how he does it)

No light tunnel, camera on mini-tripod
I muted the blue sheet by placing it under the translucent one. The resulting picture though had a lot of reflections :

 So I tried the white card stock-with- a-hole-for-the-lens trick which many photographers use :

And viola, almost no reflections! The hanging earrings appear against what looks like a lovely blue sky on a sunny cloudless day!

It is possible to use a white background with natural light but you will need to do one more step - photo editing.  This is what the earrings look like with the opaque white sheet and the light tunnel:

White opaque background, light tunnel, unedited
Dull and underwhelming, isn't it?  I happened to send it to Lex who lightened the background with a photo-editor (below).  You can easily do that yourself as outlined in this past post.

Photo-edited to lighten background
What if you have an old camera with no macro and don't have a camera stand?  You can still do it! Lex sent me this handheld experimental picture of an amethyst necklace. He deliberately used an old camera, a Canon Compact 7 to help him "get into the zone" i.e. understand the difficulties we non-professionals face.  As the camera has no macro, he did a slight zoom in to frame the necklace.

White opaque background, no light tunnel
He says to avoid direct sunlight (bright rays) but one way to soften the harsh cast of such light is by photographing with net or voile curtains drawn across the window. You can see the gentle striations of the background due to the curtains which add visual interest to the picture.

See how the back earring of my earrings pictures is softly out of focus ?  I kind of like that artistic look. But professional photographers like Lex tend to avoid such shallow depth of field/focus pictures. They try and get the whole piece into focus. They either use focus stacking techniques (ugh - we're not going there) or simply by decreasing the aperture. (This is not possible for most point and shoot cameras)

In automatic mode, my camera has a very large aperture (f 3.3 - 4.0) for macro shots which gives me sharp foregrounds and out of focus backgrounds. But for Lex's amethyst necklace, he used a smaller aperture of f 6.3 so the whole necklace is seen clearly. If you have a digital SLR or something like my Lumix, you can do this too.

Thanks, Lex for the tips and lessons! More?

Before You Go :
Original Post by THE BEADING GEM
Jewelry Making Tips - Jewelry Business Tips 



  1. Thanks for the further info on using this system to take photographs. It Actually, I was most taken with the double alligator clip stand, which you use for making bracelets and adapted for use in taking photos. Where can I find one of these? Or is it homemade?

  2. Great photos. I take terrible pictures so I appreciate your tips!

  3. No, it is not homemade. You should be able to buy it from a hobby supply, electronics or hardware store. I googled and found something similar in Amazon -

    It's cheap at about $8. I find it handy to string a chain type bracelet across when you are adding dangles.

  4. The pics look great esp the use of infinity curve...
    and great tips...I always filter natural light with a steel mesh(window pane) or I use voile curtains if the lights too harsh..but the thing with curtains is sometimes you get streaks of light in the picture

  5. Great post Pearl. The pictures look fabulous. Thanks for posting that.

  6. Thanks for the follow up on the Modahaus. I've been thinking about purchasing one and these tips may have "tipped" the scale. I've been sort of unsuccessfully trying to photograph earrings. And you really covered that. Many thanks.

  7. I've just updated the post linking to Lex's photo in my Facebook page album on how to use fishing line with the Modahaus.

  8. Hi, Pearl!

    You really sound excited about the Modahaus Studio and you just rubbed on me some more!
    Now I'm thinking my birthday will be in September and some of my b-day money will have to go to one of these! Or maybe DH will get a very direct hint as what to give me! lol

    Thanks for another great post!

    Cris, from DeCris Creations - Blog
    DeCris Creations on Artfire

  9. My Modahaus was a belated birthday gift for me as I received some birthday money! I would think we jewelry artisans are easy to buy for!

  10. Thanks for the great tips! Photos look amazing!

  11. FABULOUS post, Pearl! I learned a lot!
    I just started making my etched jewelry (samples to you later), and really need all this info and tips to get really good photos to put on Etsy. Thank you so much!

  12. Very cool tips Pearl! My husband is training our daughter to do our jewelry photography and I think that they would both really enjoy some of these ideas. Especially the no-reflections on the glass idea. Will make sure they see this post!

  13. Another fantastic post filled with detailed and very useful information. Most helpful for all of us jewelry makers struggling with photography. I really like the way the Modahaus can adapt to different shooting situations and the way the different color sheets can be layered to create new colors and effects.

  14. Awesome post Pearl! I'm loving all these tips you guys are giving us. So many new things to try with my cardboard box!! What are these polymer clay sheets of which you speak?

  15. I'm referring to the polymer sheets of the Modahaus. But many of you are right. Most of these tips are applicable to whatever set up you have. Pearl

  16. Absolutely fabulous! I have been hesitant [actually scared is a better word] about taking pictures of my jewelry and this article answered many questions. I am sending it to my son who takes many photos of small items to post and I am SURE it will help him.