Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Lighting Lighting Lighting

This is my current lighting setup.  Two hardware lights and a lamp, all equipped with sunlight bulbs.  I covered the openings of the two hardware lamps with photocopier paper (two sheets per lamp) and taped two sheets around the lamp to diffuse the light and eliminate glare spots.

I laid more photocopier paper on the bottom.  That is what the beads will sit upon as they are being photographed. For pottery I will move the lamps slightly back and use graduated background paper I recently purchased from B&H Photo..

This is probably about as inexpensive as it can get.  I have struggled with lighting and photography for as long as I have had my two Etsy stores.  I think taking pictures it is just as hard (or harder) than creating beads and pottery.

That's where being a member of a team on Etsy is so amazing.  I am a member of two teams, The Etsy Mud Team and the Beads Of Clay team.  All the members are incredibly helpful.   Most have photography down to a fine art and are extremely willing to look at other's setups and make helpful suggestions.  The mentoring is fantastic! They have helped me through some really bad photo setups. Looking through my first sales in my shops, it is easy to see where I started.  It's difficult to train the eye as to what is a good photo from a bad photo when you are not sure what a good photo is supposed to look like.  I have been looking in design magazines to get a better idea and I have realized that the photos I've taken the last couple of years are nice and bright, but the lighting is harsh and glaring.  The goal is to take a picture that accurately represents the item, but make it pleasing to the eye.  That leads to lots of questions.  Is it better to take photos inside or outside?  How much lighting is too much and how little is too little?  How should a shot be framed/cropped?  How important is perspective?  What is a good graphic's program? What is a good camera?  Flash? No flash?  First things first: lighting.

For myself, I have had to decide whether or not I want to take photos inside or outside.  I would prefer to take photos outside, but it can be cloudy for days on end in the winter. In the summer, I don't have proper shade.  It would take just as long to set up and take down outside as it would inside.  Plus, I seem to have the same problem with glare outside as I do inside (Example: Third photo on my blog post here). 

And after the picture is taken, it must be processed. In the past, I have utilized many programs for processing the photos.  I have a very old edition of Paintshop Pro.  I have installed Gimp (freeware) as well as Picasa (freeware). For a while I was importing the photos with Picasa, processing the cropping and brightness with Paintshop Pro, then adjusting the contrast with Gimp.  Currently I'm using Picasa exclusively.  My next article will be about that. 


  1. I love these posts with photo tips. Winchell Clayworks is doing a good series right now. I'm anxious for the next post. I have Picasa but I haven't used it much because I don't know how. I like your setup. I have everything. I just need to cover my lamps with paper. Do you have any problems with the heat from the lights?

  2. Thanks, Cindy, I will have to go and check out Winchell Clayworks articles. I'm still learning myself.

    So far I have not noticed a big heat output from the lamps, but I don't think I would leave the house or room very long with them on.

    Picasa seems to be about experimenting. I used it yesterday and the usual buttons I press didn't do such a great job, but the auto-contrast worked well, and usually the glow works better.

    I seem to have to tone down the saturation every time I finish using the glow function, but I do appreciate that it will go back to the right color.

  3. I did a lot of looking into alternate approaches to using a light box a few months ago when we were experiencing so much dreary weather I could no longer take my photos in the large front window as I had done all winter. I finally bought a light tent and use a huge light used for treating SAD on the outside of the tent. I works better than before, but still a long way from perfect.

    I'm really glad to read this. Wish I would have read it sooner! Simple is good for me! This background paper really sounds intriguing and I think I much go in search of some of that to try! Thanks for all the wonderful ideas! -Sharyl

    P.S. I also have a photo editing program still in the box where it's been for 6 months. Bet it would work better on the PC. Or I could try Picasso too. Glad to hear you like that one! --Sharyl

  4. Try the one you purchased first because it might be better than Picasso. It took me a long time to decide to like Picasso, but now I like it.