Tuesday, October 27, 2009


I am photographing some of my pieces today, It's been too long! I really need to get into the habit of photographing ALL of my pieces before I sell them, but I'm usually making pieces up till the last minute & then they're off to shows or the gallery or whatever.

Anyway... I THOUGHT I had written about my photography before, but I'm not finding the post, so here I am. :o)

I get alot of comments about my photography... everything from what camera I use to whether or not I have my beads professionally photographed. Wow...that one makes me happy! :o)

Photographing beads is not as easy as you'd think. I have a pretty good eye, so that helps, but I used to photograph my beads on a white background & then when I went to edit them, I would first try to make the background white again & it would usually completely wash out the colors in my beads. I never could figure that one out... so I eventually started just trying to get the colors of my beads right & then would PAINT the background around my beads white, trying to keep the shadowing right & all of that. Talk about a hassle & definitely not perfect.

Two things happened at about the same time in early 2008...
First, my local lampworking group took a little field trip up to Jeff Barber's place for a little photography lesson. He's a great teacher & had all sorts of great info & tips. The NUMBER ONE thing I learned from Jeff that I had no clue about was about the SPOT METER on my camera. (Read your camera's manual to find your spot meter) The spot meter reads ONLY the light on the subject, (aka my bead) & ignores the light around it, so that the light exposure on the bead is PERFECT every time. No more tweaking to get the coloring right after the fact, period. Jeff also photographs on a black background & his images are very rich looking, I figure that this might help my beads as well.

Jeff also recommends at least 5oook 30 watt daylight bulbs. This is what I use:
5400k 30 watt daylight photo compact fluorescent umbrella shaped spiral bulbs. I found them from this seller on eBay. Pricey, but worth it (actually, these are a really good price for these bulbs...2 for $20!). Photo bulbs make all the difference.

Coming away from Jeff's, my bead images almost instantly started looking 100% better. I was thrilled!!

The second person that I credit for improving my photo quality is
Lori Flanders of Isabel's Rose (Loriola on LE). She posted a photo tutorial in her blog that included her fabulous "spotlight" gradient/black background that makes it look like your beads are under a spotlight. It's brilliant & works like a charm. THANK YOU LORI! She certainly deserves all of the credit for this one.

Some days I have my background sheet sitting on a chair by my back window, some days I use my portable table top photo studio ($40 including shipping...great quality!). I just love this...so easy to set up & so easy just to fold up & put away. (I use these lights AND lights w/ the bulbs I mentioned above) I also take most of my photographs from above my pieces while they're laying on the background, this studio is easy to tip backwards so that the sides & top seen below become 3 sides w/ no top so I can get in on top of my pieces w/ my camera.
I HAVE to mention, while talking about tabletop photo studios, that my first photo "tent" was a black one, like this...
this is a big DON'T!
...they're advertised to be "Great for products such as jewelry, watches, crystals & highly reflective objects" & that "white tents makes it easy for unwanted reflections". Hmmmmmmmmmm... just think about what kind of a reflection you're going to have on your highly reflective glass beads when your light is coming through a white rectangular window in your black tent?? Do I need to tell you?? It's kind of obvious. Okay, I'll tell you. You get oh-so natural RECTANGULAR reflections on your highly reflective glass beads. Need I say more? :o)

As far as my camera goes... it's an old one (2004... that's OLD as far as digital cameras go!)... Kodak EasyShare DX7590, 5-megapixel, 10x zoom. It's a great camera, really it is (obviously it is), I'd just like to update it someday soon!

Here's a progression of photographing a bead...from white background w/ no spot metering, to using the spot meter, to the black background.

White background, no spot meter, no tweaking.
I added a white border so you can see how it would look on a white background website.

White background, no spot meter, bead tweaking. See how background doesn't get white enough?
I added a white border so you can see how it would look on a white background website.

White background, no spot meter, tweaked the background to make it white. Bead color is off now. If it were a light bead it would be all washed out at this point

White background with spot meter, no tweaking. White background makes spot meter read too much light all over. Not horrible, but you lose the edge of the silver w/ the white background. Plus if this had been a light colored bead, the white background wouldn't have worked at all.

Black background with spot meter, no tweaking...

Black background with spot meter, no color tweaking whatsoever... just lightened it up very slightly. Nice. :o) Lighting could've been better to start with but these were just quick shots...
The one thing that used to frustrate me w/ this camera is that in MACRO mode (the "flower" mode), when I tried to get a close up picture by zooming in, it was ALWAYS fuzzy. I could not get a clear close up picture to save my life. What I eventually figured out was that in MACRO mode, you CAN'T use zoom (at least not w/ my camera). I can bring the camera super close to my subject (4" or so!) & get an ultra sharp picture in MACRO mode as long as I don't ZOOM.

SOMEDAY: A BASIC (very basic) lesson in Photoshopping...


Unknown said...

Thanks for the great photo tips, Julie! I can't wait to try these out. Your images and beads are beautiful. :-)

Julie said...

You're welcome, Patty. & thank you!!

Jen Judd said...

This is fantastic! I've heard most of those things before, but never had the references to sources which is very helpful. Plus, the different steps you've followed really shows the dramatic difference.

I have one of those photo cubes, but just got frustrated because it was so dark...go figure, you get different lightbulbs! haaaaaaaaa I can't wait to try out some new techniques!!

Julie said...

Thanks Jen! Simple tips helped me take my bead pictures from a whole lot of nothing to what they are now
(check out my first year's gallery, LOL)... happy to pass it on!!

Annie Jackson said...

Hi Julie!! It's Annie ( Hollowbead )from the St.Louis weekend!! Kim give me this great site - thanks SOOO much for the photo info. I so need it.
See you in May!!

Julie said...

Hi Annie!! So glad that Kim directed you to this blog post! Hope it's helpful, ask if you have any questions.

Can't wait till May! So happy you're joining us!

~ Julie

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