Sunday, June 3, 2012

Review - Modahaus TableTop Studio Pro TS216 for Jewelry Photography

By on Sunday, June 03, 2012 5 Comments

Over the past year, my jewelry photography has improved by leaps and bounds.  I attribute this to two things - knowing how to use the settings of my compact camera properly and the Modahaus tabletop studio set-ups I use. They are super for helping photographers get good pictures, even amateurs like ourselves. Tips from a professional photographer don't hurt either!

The latest version of the original set up I bought has been released and I received one for review. I was definitely curious as to what the refinements were compared to the first version and how it could help jewelry artisans in particular.

For starters, there is now a Smartcase rather like the Smart Wallets of the Steady Stands.  As you can see, the new cover is sturdier and slightly smaller than the original black bag. There are locking tabs to keep it close.

The main unit is the same size as the first version. I initially wasn't that keen on the new side tabs and slits of  the white and colored sheets because it took just a little bit longer to slide the tabs in.  But with subsequent use, I found they do indeed help the sheets to sit more securely.

The modifications also include additional hook tabs for hanging necklaces. This saves from having to use binder clips. Shown below is the tunnel which is formed from a slightly reflective white sheet. The diffused light is bounced around inside which thus helps lighten pictures.

Swarovski Crystal Butterflies on Wire Crochet 
What is great is that the Smart Case doubles as an alternative and more roomy tunnel as shown in the first picture above. There are slits in the case which slips over the tabs of the main unit to keep it in place.

I tried out the fishing line idea which Lex McColl, the Modahaus inventor, shared with us before.  But I was lousy at tying it properly so I resorted to just tying a line right around the unit. I propped up the line with clips on either side with another weighing down the back to keep it taut.

But this caused the problem of swinging earrings such that it was difficult to keep them from flipping every  which way but the way I wanted!

So in the end, I just used an awl to puncture two small holes in the side panels approximately 3 inches down from the top. I located the holes close to the back panel so that the earrings will lay closer and won't swing as much. Threading the line through those holes also meant I didn't need the two side clips any more. I still had to weigh down the back of the line to make the line taut.

While the Smart Case doesn't reflect much light, it does a good job of diffusing light. I also tested it outside on my sunny deck. Here is my makeshift studio table otherwise known as my laundry basket!

Trying to take jewelry pictures in harsh sunlight produces heavily shadowed results. The fishing line I used to hang the earrings on wasn't obvious but its shadow is a dead giveaway as shown below!

In bright sunlight with no diffusing
Here is what the same earrings look like when shot with the diffusing tunnel.

In bright sunlight with the Smartcase

One idea I had was whether the Smartcase on edge could act as a diffuser (below left) for when I used the Steady Stand 100 on the 216 when taking pictures in the dark using just my Ott Lite lamp.

The short answer to that is, no.  Even less light gets through with the Smartcase making the picture look duller and yellower even though my camera settings were the same for both pictures below. (Note that the Ott Lite with the Steady Stand seems darker than my earlier attempts using the reflective tunnel so I might have to purchase a bright lamp after all.)

Steady Stand on ProTS216 with Smartcase
Steady Stand only on ProTS216 

In conclusion, I do like the new modifications. One extra feature  I would like to see are additional slits or holes for earring line attachment. Now that would be the icing on the cake.

A new guide for the updated version is also available.

Lex read this post and said : "I don't think your Ott light needs to be brighter.
Shooting a silver wire crochet pendant on a white background is a real challenge. I think in the last two shots you have the light almost directly on the piece with no diffusion through the Steady Stand side walls. This gives you blown white highlights as the light is reflecting directly in the silver. The background will always be darker than those blown highlights unless you overexpose the background but you'll then loose the silver detail.

That subject on a white background is a real challenge using any level of Camera and certainly pushing the limits of exposure control with a compact camera.If you rest the white translucent backdrop against the side of the Steady Stand so the light is diffused through two 'close' layers that will give you good diffused light with minimal light loss. You'll need to reset your custom white balance when you do this as that WILL change as you saw when you used the Smartcase.

Having two layers of diffuser a 'distance' apart is a very effective technique for cutting down light as well as diffusing light. Something you might use if you are shooting in direct sunlight.

I'd also suggest introducing some black strips of card so you can pick up reflections of that in the metalwork. Remember that one? That will allow you to push the exposure and achieve a whiter background whilst still retaining detail in the silver wire.

It's often a natural conclusion that you need more light when your background is dark but it is not the case.

It's great you're experimenting with light and discovering the effects that has. A great way to learn.

Here is the last image on your post with the blue cast removed. All I did was in Photoshop>Image>Adjustments >Selective colour>White and reduced Cyan a few notches.
No Adjustment to exposure. You could achieve the same result in camera just by resetting the custom white balance. I think that is a great exposure for a very tricky subject.

Any colour cast can really flatten an otherwise good exposure.


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



  1. What, no giveaway? Lol, you and Lex have been spoiling us.

    Now I want one of these new ones, but I don't see them on the site yet. Any idea when they'll be up for sale?

  2. We are just teasing you. There are upcoming giveaways planned for the fall.

    Will check with Lex about the availability of the new ones.

  3. They are available - he just hasn't updated the product picture!

  4. This is such a great series--so hands-on informative.

  5. It is really also a journey about trying to improve jewelry photography!