Taking part in Macro Monday is one thing, but taking decent photographs of jewellery for my Etsy shop proved a tad more difficult. I just couldn’t get enough light on the subject without a lot of hard shadows.
Now, hard shadows can be great in terms of a pleasing photograph, but when you need to show details like the actual colour and reflectivity of beads, the way a clasp works, or the knots you’re using in micro-macrame, those shadows can be a damn nuisance.
If you click the Etsy link, you’ll see that nobody has bought a single thing from my little shop, which part of me doesn’t find at all surprising, since there are so many people out there making jewellery which is far, far better than mine. On the other hand, my bits of jewellery have tended to sell very well in charity auctions, where it fetches higher prices than those I’m putting on Etsy, and I’ve made a few spontaneous sales from people who’ve seen my stuff and just asked if they can buy a piece or two.
So I’ve asked a few Etsy people what they thought, and one suggestion was that I needed to improve my photos by using a light ‘box’ or light tent.
I did an internet search, and found that some people were making their own, so that’s what I did, and I thought you all might be interested in the result.
First, I found a large, strong, cardboard box. I also needed packing tape, large sheets of semi-opaque paper (I used baking parchment, but tracing paper would be even better), a ruler, marker pen, sharp cutting blade and a pair of scissors, and to finish, a piece of pristine white card. Here’s how much card you’ll need: lay your box on its side, and measure the width of the inside of the box, by 150% of the length (so if your box is 24 inches from top opening to the bottom, you’ll need 36 inches of card, and it will need to fit snugly into the width of the box).
Are you ready to start? Measure about an inch and a half in from all of the edges on three sides of the box length, and draw lines in marker to cut along, like so -
Cut along the lines, being careful not to crush the box. My box had polystyrene inserts at top and bottom, and I left the bottom one in place for strength, and pushed the other just inside the top opening to support it while I made the cuts.
Clean up the edges (if necessary) with scissors and bind them with packing tape. I used silver duct tape, actually, but clear, strong tape would be probably be better.
Next, cut three sheets of your tracing paper (or baking parchment).Â Each sheet should be a little larger than the windows that you’ve cut into the box, because the next thing to do is tape a sheet carefully over each opening, so you end up with something like this -
Whether you end up with a mug inside is entirely up to you, at this stage, but since it’s there, you can see how soft its shadow has become, with the sun shining through the parchment – and that’s with it lit quite strongly from one side.
Cut your pristine white card (I used ticketing board) and just lay it inside the box, so you get a beautiful clean curve from the bottom edge at the front, rightÂ up to the top of the back.Â This will be the background for your photographs, which is why you need it to be pristine, with no creases or dirty marks. You really don’t need to tape it, if the card is strong enough, it will just stay in place by natural tension, and this way you can replace it with black or coloured card to give you different background options. If you want or need to tape it, just the front edge will do.
There. All done!
And up at the top?Â That’s my first picture taken using this box outside on the patio table with natural light only – and hand held using a compact digital camera. Pretty good, huh?
Well? Why are you still here? Go find a box and make one – I have to get busy re-photographing all my Etsy stuff!