Saturday, June 16, 2012

Studio Saturday - Lighting and Photography Experiments with Songbeads

Welcome to Studio Saturday! Each week one of our contributors gives you a sneak peek into their studio, creative process or inspirations. We ask a related question of our readers and hope you'll leave comments! As an incentive we offer a free prize each week to bribe you to use that keyboard. The following week we choose a random winner.
This weeks winner is Linda Landig. Congratulations! You have won a set of buttons from Tari Sasser!
Send Tari an email with your address and she will get them right out to you.

This week we visit the studio of Rebecca Anderson of Songbeads.

There have been some exciting arrivals in the Songbead Studio over the past few weeks. And no, I'm not talking about the travelling studio I told you about at my last Studio Saturday, I'm talking about actual bricks and mortar this time around. 

Since I began selling on etsy about a year ago now, my main bugbear has been photography. I know I am not alone in this, and although I have definitely made improvements since beginning my jewellery selling journey on folksy 3 years ago now, I know I still have far to go. 

Most of the info I have read says that really, natural light is the way to go if at all possible. And this is what I have done so far but....I live in Manchester in the UK. Where is rains 11 months out of 12, is overcast or humid for the 12th. It can be a little like living in a Tuppaware box, as one of my good friends describes it - grey, fuzzy and a little bit damp! So natural light is a tricky thing to rely on...we do get some 'bright but cloudy' days which are perfect and on those, I am genuinely happy with many of my pictures. But those days are few and far between.

So.....drum roll please....let me introduce you to the new additions to Songbead Studios - 2 fancy pants photography lights with even fancier pants umbrellas attached! I tried just the lights first but they were just too direct so the umbrellas arrived a couple of weeks later. 

My new light, set up in the music room - where I teach my private singing pupils, complete with electric piano to the left, my cello and my sister's tartan-cased violin to the right! We are a musical family. My jewellery is all photographed at the moment on a little battered old school desk I recently bought on ebay. 

It has some very characterful graffiti on it, some of which I like for photographing with:

and some of which I'm less keen on:
Sorry Lisa, whoever you are!

These photos are all from my first 'shoot' (see, I am a professional. I use words like 'photo shoot'!). Certainly not perfect but hopefully getting somewhere. I realised afterwards that I left the main light on in the I think that's the first thing I can fix next time. I think that will improve the colour tones of these shots. 

 A new bracelet, inspired by this wonderful Design Seeds Palette; lampwork by Moogin; bronze by TheaToo; Czech glass from all over but those very cool resin beads are from Smitten Beads

 Polymer rounds by BeadsByEarthTones; patinated links by MissFickleMedia

Lampwork from BeadsByLaura , stunning and tiny (2mm!) labradorite rounds from PreciousSparkleBeads

These earrings and bracelet shots are not perfect but I can definitely see where I'm going with these. I have even and consistent lighting I can work with. Now to play around with positioning and angling of the lights. 

 And I did get a few really cool shots which I am really pleased with, like this one here, featuring (slowing becoming my signature) copper poppy headpins from DaisyChainExtra along with stunning Czech glass from FiveSisters.

So what's your top photography tip? What do you stuggle with, or what have you overcome in terms of photography? Leave a comment to be in with the chance of winning my turquoise and copper poppy earrings.

Rebecca is a Scottish jewellery designer and singer, currently living in Manchester, England. You can read more about beads and singing at her blog, and see more of her jewellery at


Marlene Brady said...

Beautiful! The photos and jewelry are stunning. Thank you for sharing.

Unknown said...

Lighting is currently my biggest issue, and then positioning.

Carol Creech said...

Hi Rebecca,

I love reading about your photography tips! I just opened my Etsy shop in January of this year and am also trying to stay on top of getting great photos. I have a white windowsill that gets some great morning light, so I try to do most of my photos there (for bracelets, mainly), but like you said, on cloudy/rainy days, it's tough! It's also a narrow space, so I need to find something larger/better for bigger pieces like the small journals I make. I have experimented with some things, but am still searching for the right balance of surface/lighting. Thanks for the opportunity to win the earrings - they are beautiful!

Anonymous said...

I'm still learning about photography. Here in Melbourne we seem to either have the wet rainy dark days or too bright too many shadows days, so I nned to put more effort into learning what to do! I do like your photos though, well done!

EmandaJ said...

Here in North Texas we have an abundant supply of bright natural light. I have a small tip for color correcting those photos. Expect to crop your photos and shoot a bit wider than necessary. Outside of what you expect as your finished photo but within your wider frame, have a small piece of white paper. When you crop and edit your photos, use that piece of white as your color balance. Even if it s an overcast day, you will get purer colors.

Anonymous said...

This is such a great post. I can always learn more about good photography. I've had to big 'aha' moments. First, to shoot outside on my porch, where there is good natural light. Second, use a simple-to-use photo editing app. Loved Picnik, learning to love PicMonkey.

I also like using a consistent background, so my pictures have a recognizable look to them. In my case, the wood planks of the porch. Looks good with almost all my pieces.

Deborah said...

Great "follow-along-with-my-experiment" post! Photography is NOT my strong suit - I have days where I get FABULOUS shots outside, usually in shade on a bright day; other times, though it seems to me the conditions are the same, the results are not.

I have heard all about "macro, macro, macro!" for jewelry close-ups - honestly, after extensive test-shots, I can't tell any difference whatsoever.

I do SO appreciate your taking the time to demonstrate here - and the opportunity to win those GORGEOUS earrings thanks SO much!

Aileen Clarke Crafts said...

Wow! These lights really work Rebecca! I especially like the refelction of the turquoise glass on the desk and those poppy head pins.
I am fortunate in that we have three big windows that face south and east in our cottage and a big low, wide windowsill so no matter the weather (Scottish weather at that!) I can usually get ok pics. Winter can be a problem though. If I don't have my photos taken by 2pm I've had it.
I used to photograph against while mountboard but got fed up with the blue tinge that kept appearing so I now use the wooden windowsill and an asortment of drift wood and stones as props. I keep an eye out for useful things in vintage and second hand shops to use as props as well. As lond as they are inkeeping with the pieces and don't detract, I think props can work well. I use flowers a lot too.

Erin S said...

I'm lucky enough to be married to a professional photographer, so he does all my shots. :-)

A Polymer Penchant said...

I think your photographs look fantastic. I hear you on the sunlight being at a premium. I've got to get researching some workable lighting options for my home. Thanks for the tips

Tiffany Noro said...

If you guys ever want to shoot on a solid background look into lightboxes. You can get them pretty cheap and they diffuse light really well, just like your umbrellas are doing.

Also, if you have the option, shoot in RAW on your camera and open the pictures in Photoshop. You'll be able to mess with some of the settings post-shooting, bringing the colors truer to form (which is the hardest part of photography). I find this to be the most useful thing I do to make sure my pictures are accurate.

Beti Horvath said...

Ah, Photography! I am just starting my journey to great jewelry shots. I am trying to soak up tips like a sponge. My camera adjusts to full manual, and so I am constantly fiddling. Then I go outside and put it on auto, and some days I get great shots, and others ...not. Still playing!

Monique (A Half-Baked Notion) said...

Rebecca, thank you for your pointers and encouragement. Your jewellry photos are very fresh and personal. I am at the beginning of my photography learning curve. My best tip is to pick the brain of a friend with skills (in my case that will be my Sis/BFF). She is self-taught but always astounds me with her great shots. There is nothing like hands-on instruction.

Becky Pancake said...

Thanx Rebecca, I think your pics look great. Congrats on the new setup. I too have just started taking pics of my jewelry for posting. My next book purchase will be about photographing jewelry. One tip I have is when I don't have good natural light I put on my Ott light before taking pics & I get better results with that. It works great for picking bead colors & beading at night. & now I use it for pics too. Thanx for the chance to win the lovely earrings.

Unknown said...

The pics look great, and thanks for sharing your setup! I would just love those earrings, so please, please, please pick me!

Bobbie said...

The photos are looking terrific - I am particularly smitten with the final photo, where there's a little puddle of reflected blue under those gorgeous beads.

LiliKrist said...

All the things about photographing always in high cost, just wondering, can I subtitute the tools using more common tools? Such as for the lamp, can I use ordinary lamp with high watt or the umbrella too =)

Shai Williams said...

I struggle with getting good pics in general. I also live where the sunny days are few and far between so I went out and got me a light tent. I still didn't care for my pics so I just went out and purchased a new camera yesterday. I haven't had a chance to try it out with my jewelry yet but I am hoping that it will really help since my other one was an older point & shoot.

Ann said...

When I was photographing my jewelry in the harsh Arizona sunlight I used a white paper umbrella to provide a nice even diffused light. I just could not use it on windy days!


Carolyn said...

Love your jewelry and the way it looks in the pictures. I haven't done much photography with my jewelry, will be glad to try out everyone's hints.

Thank you for the chance to win your lovely earrings.


Catherine Sorensen said...

Love how you found a wood desk for your background! I had been using the deck boards as a new background...but it was just too distracting.

Lighting is the hardest to overcome, but bright overcast days are the best for jewelry!

Instead of a plain white background, I actually use cream cardstock. The warmer tones flatter all colors and wires, even silver & is easy to work with.

Anonymous said...

I use a macro box I made based on this tutorial:

If it's sunny I can use it in direct sun, if it's night I have a flood lamp (gets to be hot work). My camera is able to adjust the white balance so the artificial light is not too bad.

I think the biggest difference using macro makes is to cause the background to be blurry so I tend to take some pictures with and some without depending on the effect I'm going for. (Basically I take loads of pictures and choose the best ones - hurray for digital cameras.)

I love the texture of the desk in your pictures, and the turquoise glow in your final one.

Pat Gray said...

Just spotted this post - man I wish I had the room for this set up! The photos are beautiful - and the jewelry is pretty cool too...!