by Rena Klingenberg.
Indirect natural light is an ideal lighting for jewelry photos. But when you can’t coordinate the sun with your photo shoot, daylight light bulbs are a good substitute.
I’ve been using “Ecosmart” brand 40-watt equivalent Daylight Compact Fluorescent bulbs when I don’t have sunlight.
(I don’t have any affiliation with this light bulb company, and I’m sure there are many brands of similar bulbs you can use – but these have worked well for me.)
I got them at Home Depot in the regular light bulb aisle, and they were pretty low priced – under $4 for a pack of two light bulbs.
Diffusing the Light
from Your Light Bulbs
As with any light source, it’s important to keep the light bulbs from casting a glare on your jewelry.
You’ll have the easiest time getting good results if you use some sort of light box, photo tent, diffuser, cloud dome, etc. between the light bulbs and your jewels.
(See these easy, cheap ways to make your own light box for photographing jewelry.)
Simply set up your translucent light box and pose your jewelry inside it, on your choice of background.
Then on the outside of the box place two or more lamps with daylight bulbs, pointing at opposite sides of the box for complete illumination.
Using Light Bulbs
Without a Light Box or Tent
If you want to shoot without a light box, you can also experiment with using your light bulbs to illuminate the general area of your photo shoot (similar to the way natural, indirect sunlight comes through a window).
You might try filtering the lights through white lampshades or other white, translucent items. (Just be careful not to get anything too close to hot light bulbs.)
Also experiment with the number of bulbs you use, and where / how close you place them to your jewelry.
Lamps for Your Light Bulb
When photographing jewelry with artificial light, it’s really helpful to have lamps that can be positioned in different ways so you can point the light exactly where you want it.
Try adjustable lamps such as:
- Goose-neck lamps that can bent in all sorts of directions.
- Clip-on lamps that can be aimed and adjusted.
- Folding clamp-on desk lamps.
I use these adjustable two-headed lamps that I also use in my jewelry booth.
Also, be safe – make sure the lamps are rated for the wattage of your light bulbs.
More Tips for Good Jewelry Photos
Never use camera flash for jewelry photos.
And as always, you’ll get the best photos if you have your camera on a tripod and use your camera’s timer or remote shutter release, so the camera is perfectly still when the photo is taken.
See Tips for Photographing Jewelry for more hints and how-to’s.
Lamps for light bulbs
I find your article for light bulbs very interesting and helpful. I have one question: what kind lamp base do you use that is low enough for your light box?
Lamps I use for photographing jewelry
Thanks, Christa! I use these two-headed, adjustable lamps that I also use in my jewelry booth.
The two heads swivel all around and can be tipped in any direction.
One thing you can do if you don’t have a lamp that adjusts easily:
Place your light box up on a higher or lower surface than the the lamps, so you can get your lamplight at the best angle for your jewelry photo shoot.
My lamps came from Walmart several years ago. If they don’t carry that exact lamp anymore, other places in the U.S. to look for something similar are:
– office supply places like Staples and Office Depot
– home improvement places like Lowe’s and Home Depot
– Sam’s Club
– Harbor Freight Tools
– some local hardware stores like Ace or Rose’s
Also be sure to check the websites for the stores I just mentioned above – usually they carry a MUCH bigger variety of merchandise online, and most big store chains have a “click and pickup” service where you can order the item online and then pick it up at your local store within a few days – WITHOUT having to pay for shipping.
I hope this helps! 🙂
Thanks, Rena for the suggestions. Unfortunately I live in Bermuda and we don’t have any of these stores. I will try our local hardware store.
I was having a problem with strong shaddows, solution was to hold a sheet of white paper either between my teeth or place beside the camera. It made the pearls glow nicely.
Reflector for photography
Great idea for a reflector, Eileen! Thanks for sharing that idea.