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Natural Light Jewelry Photography with White Backgrounds Tutorial

 Did you miss last week's fabulous giveaway for two Modahaus Table Top Studio 216s? Well, there is still time as the contest doesn't end until 6 pm EST today!  So check my blog after that time to see if you win!

This size of studio is perfect for most jewelry artisans. However, if you make very large pieces or take a lot of grouped shots, pictures of cakes and craft items or even small pets and tiny babies, consider the larger ones.

Lex has just activated a discount /promotion code (Pearl) which runs until October 31 applicable to any studio set-up.  The discount will also apply retroactively to anyone who purchased in the past week.

As promised, here is the second tutorial, another exclusive for this blog by Lex, the professional photographer and creator of the Modahaus. This builds on the tricks and tips from last week's tutorial.  The black card tip is very useful if you work with a lot of silver, clear crystals or glass.

If you are serious about improving your jewelry photography, don't miss these lessons!

by Lex McColl
Attempts at shooting on a white background can be a bit disheartening if you are trying this for the first time and if you use the plonk and shoot method you’ll probably have a result similar to this.

This is the camera meter again assuming we are shooting an outing to the local park again and it has exposed the predominant white background as a dull gray.

But we know how to sort this don’t we! Exposure compensation! But hang on, are we in the + / - 2 notch zone yet? More like + 3 notches out I’d say.

Here’s the easy new trick we’ll add to our repertoire. Spot Metering. The camera's default metering is ‘evaluative’ or ‘average’ and it takes in the large expanse of white background, hence the dull gray result.

Spot metering selects a central spot area which is where our subject is located. So, including our previous settings, ISO 80 or 100, 2 sec shutter delay, using the light tunnel for smooth shadows and reflections and even light, we now select spot metering. If your camera has no spot meter, use center weighted meter. (Check your camera manual).

Shown below is what the settings look like on a Lumix (Pearl's camera) - spot meter has only one small round dot compared to many little squares, large square or facial lock.

Compose the shot, shoot and viola! We have a promising result, in the zone, shown in image on the left. Not quite there yet but we know how to sort that. Exposure compensation. In this case + 6 clicks (1.33 notches) had us spot on with exposure – image on right.

I deliberately chose a tricky subject here. A silver bangle on a white background. The highlight areas essentially appear as white so we have white against white – very tricky to hold the shape of the piece against the background but we’ve managed it, just!

So, as we have too much white in the reflections of the silver let’s add in some black. All we do is slide in a couple of pieces of black (or gray) card down the inside sides of the light tunnel and, hey presto! As the image below shows we have introduced much more shape, detail and definition of the piece – how easy was that? We now have enough detail in the piece to increase the exposure by about 2 clicks if we wanted a pure white background.

Pearl's blue passion flower inspired filigree earrings had a lot of reflective silver so she tried the light tunnel and black card trick to improve the picture.

without black card vs with black card
She also took these pictures of her coiled wire and crystal pendant necklace. She used her Lumix camera in automatic mode to take the left picture. For the one on the right she used  aperture priority mode set at f6.3, increased the exposure compensation and spot metered right on the dark blue crystal. The settings made the picture sharper and brighter without having to use a photo editing program to improve it.

In this group shot we used the Modahaus Studio Pro 400 with opaque white backdrop forming the background and the translucent white backdrop used as a ‘light cone’ performing the same function as the light tunnel. The larger Studio Pro 600 can be used in the same way.

Just to show it is not always increasing the exposure compensation, the image below required compensation of minus 2 clicks. This was because the spot metering area was directly over the dark area of the woven metal bangle.

Exposure compensation is not always required when shooting on a white background. The image below required no compensation at all and was shot at maximum aperture for shallow depth of field. Almost a plonk and shoot shot.

I mentioned before how easy it is to elevate the Modahaus Studio 216 by placing it on top of a large book or directory. This can help give you a different perspective on your piece when using a mini tripod on a tabletop as the shot below demonstrates.

You may be wondering why I’ve not mentioned macro setting before now. That is because none of the above shots needed macro to lock on focus.

Most compact cameras these days have macro that only works when the lens zoom is at its widest point and most have quite a wide angle at this end of the zoom. This means the camera can be very close to the subject when using macro. This might be fine if your shooting creepy crawlies but it’s not ideal for a lot of jewelry especially if it’s reflective.

Instead of using macro, move the camera further back from the piece and then zoom in a bit to compose and check focus is locking. This gives a better perspective to the shot as well. Shooting smaller pieces like rings might benefit from using macro. In this shot of a brooch below I used macro.

I’ve trusted the cameras auto white balance (AWB) for all of these shots as we’re using natural daylight but if you experience any color casts to your images make sure you take measures to correct the cast as a color cast can really flatten your images.

The easiest method is to try your cameras alternative white balance settings such as ‘Daylight’ ‘Cloudy’ ‘Shade’ ‘Indoors’ or anything sounding similar. Different cameras have different descriptions. If this doesn’t do the trick then you need to set custom white balance, which is quite easy but the method differs from camera to camera.

 Pearl’s previous post showed this method below left for suspending earrings using the Modahaus Desktop Studio 216. I’ve since discovered another method when shooting on a white background. Using the opaque white backdrop as a base, lay the translucent white backdrop over but keep the top edge a few inches short of the top of the support and simply hook your earrings over the top edge of the translucent backdrop. Works quite well I think.

Remember, there are only two pages in your camera's manual you need to look at from time to time. The index page and the page with the particular feature you are checking out. Cameras are just loaded with too many features these days. This Powershot 220 has a ‘Wind Filter” What’s that all about?

Well that concludes part 2 and I hope it’s helped you on the path to showing your creations in a better light. I’m on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube if you’d like to connect and the posts go in to more detail on product photography techniques. Good luck in the giveaway.

Any questions, fire away,

Before You Go :

Original Post by THE BEADING GEM
Jewelry Making Tips - Jewelry Business Tips 


  1. Hi Pearl! Thanks again for a great tutorial. My light box doesn't diffuse the light properly with a bulb. It does great with sunlight. I need to tweak it I think with light sources from more than one angle. Winter is long and without the natural light my pictures are looking drab.

  2. Thanks both to Pearl and Lex for the great information. Too much to take in all at once but saved for future information. My pictures are getting better and better. Now I can spend more time creating.

  3. another great post...esp loved the black card trick...will try it sometime...Also a request - can additional info be given for exposure related areas for people who dont use an digital SLR and hence ant change the aperture

  4. I can't wait to try some of these tips. Wish I had a Modahaus!

  5. Hi Pearl,

    Taking great photos to highlight beautiful jewelry is a pleasure and sometimes a pain! Thanks for all your tips to make the photography a fun part of the jewelry making experience.


  6. Thanks, Pearl and Lex! I can tell this information is going to be really helpful. I'm going to email this to my husband/photographer straight away. :)

  7. I just wanted to thank you Beading Gem for sharing this brilliant site ....Modahaus is such a cool and easy way to photograph jewelry ...I watched all the videos and read all the info on your blog pertaining to this system of photography and wanted to send a thank you your way...bye for now....Jacqueline

  8. My photos could really use help but I am beginning to think I first need to take a course in "Camera Lingo 101". When I start reading directions for improved photography results and they're talking about apertures and ISO speeds etc. it's like a foreign language to me.

  9. Check your camera's manual and experiment with the settings!

  10. Hi Pearl and Lex,

    I so look forward on help in learning how to take better pics.
    The "Manual" suggestion to check it out first with the index was super now how many times do we NOT do that. Also the idea of inserting the small logo in center is like Lex said better focus and Branding!

    Have a great day,Doris Price

  11. The advice in all of your photography blogs has been VERY helpful, but it wasn't until I re-read this one that my photos improved dramatically. The first picture on this listing ( shows how changing something so simple as the changing to Spot Metering can make a picture soooo much better. Thank you again and again!

  12. Wonderful, Pat! Your necklace is so much sharper for it! I'm glad the posts have been helpful.

  13. Very helpful info ! I have such a hard time photographing my beadwork...I have stopped trying.thanks. for the hints on settings...I will give them a try next time I attempt to photograph. One of your snazzy photo booths would sure make it easier !

  14. I readed your tips once, but I will read them again to remember better, as they are very helpful and good. I also make jewelry, and I take pictures. I hope to improve my work, as I can see now I was doing everything completely wrong! :-)

  15. I am sure your photography will improve as mine did when I paid heed to this professional photographer's advice.

  16. Can anyone tell me the best pure white paper or board or material to get. I want to shoot my jewellery with a white background with out a lot of adjusting after i put it on the computer for my web site. please help some one and where to get it please

  17. In order to do that, you will have to make sure you adjust your camera settings as shown above. The reason why pictures of jewelry on any white background (use paper, cardboard, mattboard, even try a dollar store white tray) looks dark or blue is because the camera isn't getting enough light (use exposure compensation) or the white balance is not correct (use cloudy for indoor pictures). Do that and you will have less post editing to do.

  18. Hi Pearl!

    I tried to use the discount code on the modahaus site but it is saying it is invalid. Is there another code or something I need to know?

    Thanks and love the tutorials!


    1. Hi Rachel, please contact Modahaus directly-

  19. I am re reading this after an year of struggling with camera language - now that I understand it better - I had to attend a beginners photography course to do that, it all suddenly makes sense. Thank you for a fab post

  20. Understanding your camera is the first hurdle! It is a continuous learning process at least for me!

  21. Great tutorial; thank you very much.

  22. awesome tutorial, amazing.. I use the tulip feature on my camera, is this the macro feature as well

    1. Yes, it is the macro function. A must as you are taking a photo of something so small! Enjoy improving your photography. Also check out my How to Photograph Jewelry webinar.

  23. Thank you, Pearl and Lex, for all of this's a lot to consider...I plan to try a few of these tips - the light cone the black paper are particularly interesting.


  24. Hi Pearl,

    may I ask you where you bought the two pins that you use in vertical cone light tunnel please?

    Many thanks.


    1. This tutorial is by Modahuas not me. So the pin and other jewelry pieces in the conical photo are sourced by Lex who is based in the U.K. Did you want me to ask? There is no guarantee he will remember as this post is quite old.


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