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Soft lighting
Underlighting translucent beads
Depth of field
Exposure for a white background

Creating a dramatic black reflection
Prop up tall focal beads with wax
Tricks to capture the shine of your beads
Swarovski type bead photography
Advanced bead photo techniques
Bead Photography Tools 

Taking good quality pictures of glass beads can be very simple if you have the proper setup.  Here are some simple techniques which even amateur photographers can use to obtain dramatic results with minimal effort.  The following examples show the basic setup that should allow anyone to achieve results they can be proud of.

To simplify our setup we used an EZcube® combined with an illuminated flat panel to provide soft, diffused lighting & underlighting.  We used TableTop Studio's ShortEZ lights, equipped with daylight balanced compact fluorescent bulbs, as the main light source. All of these lights are the same 5000k color temperature and match nicely.

The keys to good glass bead photography are focus, exposure, diffuse lighting, and in some special cases underlighting.  It is worth getting your camera's manual out to find out how to put the camera in "spot focus" mode.  The normal focus mode of most digital cameras is some sort of average focus mode.  That means that the camera will try to look at an area and base the focus on an area of what it sees.  It's better for close up photography to put the camera into spot focus mode, this will allow you to see exactly what the camera will  be focusing on. Getting the camera to focus properly on the beads entails some effort, but the results should be worth it. A final word on focus.  The above steps assume that you are using your camera's auto focus feature.

A couple of words about tripods and product photography. Use one. As you get closer to an object any motion of the camera is greatly magnified.  Even a surgeon probably doesn't  have hands steady enough to take a good product photo without using a tripod.  A sturdy tripod is essential for sharp images.

We mentioned above that the other key to some glass bead photography is the under lighting.  The Illuminated flat panel we chose to use for our underlighting, matches the 5000k daylight color of the ShortEZ lightset we used. Whatever lights you choose, it is critical that the color temperature of all your lighting matches. The illuminated flat panel is not necessary for most product photography, and will do little or nothing at all for most. However for translucent glass with the right degree of transparency, the underlighting can give you almost magical results, highlighting inner glass details that would otherwise go unnoticed.

Now lets look at some specific situations.



Combining Underlighting & soft light
Underlighting video

When photographing glass beads, there are often details inside the glass that are not revealed by traditional lighting techniques alone. In special cases, underlighting can be just what you need to draw attention to those details.

Without an EZcube® or illuminated flat panel, the beads appear opaque, and cast unflattering shadows due to the harsh, unsoftened light.

Using an EZcube® softens the light and eliminates the harsh reflections and shadows.

With the addition of the illuminated light panel, our final image emphasizes the unique transparent details of each bead.

Without an EZcube the shadows and
reflections are harsh.

Click on above image to see the results

Click on above image to see the results


Under lighting & greater depth of field

The area in which everything looks sharp is called depth of field. Objects within the depth of field become less sharp the farther they are from the plane of critical focus.

By raising the tripod and moving it closer, shooting almost straight down, all of the necklace will be in the same plane of focus.

This way when you focus on one section of the necklace, the rest of the necklace is also at about the same focal distance from the camera.

The 17" necklace fits snuggly on the
 6 x 8" illuminated surface, a bit too close
to the edge for cropping.

By unclasping the necklace, and
repositioning it, we can easily crop out the edge of the light panel in the final image.

Here we see most of our beads are in focus.

Exposure setting for a white background


Handmade pet portrait bead by L & S Arts

When shooting against a white background, your camera will automatically underexpose because it is tricked into thinking there is more light than there really is. For the white to apear white we need to adjust the cameras exposure setting.

The first photo with cameras default setting E.V. 0., is way too dark. {underexposed}.

The second image I set the camera to E.V. +1.0 to brighten the image.

In the third image, I bumped up the E.V. to +2.0 for the whitest background. Be careful not too overexpose or the bright colors will begin look washed out.

E.V. 0.0 too dark-underexposed

E.V. +1.0 brighter

E.V. +2.0 brightest exposure

Standing up tall focal beads or pendants using wax


Handmade bead by CYNTHIA TAYLOR

Wax is a great invisible hand when it comes to standing up tall focal beads or pendants. There are many different types of wax that can be used.  By standing the bead upright, the shiny black acrylic reflects the most prominent design area of the bead, the front side.

Just place a small bead of wax on the bottom of your focal bead or pendant to stand it upright.

Remember a little goes a long way. To clean up I wipe as much as possible off my acrylic stand with a dry paper towel. Then I use a little Windex to remove the remaining smudge.

The wax should hold instantly and remain in place overnight even. Some of my setups lasted for days, without tipping. The same wax can also be reused again and again.

Creating a dramatic reflection using "black ice"

Handmade marble by MICHAEL PETURA

A shiny black acrylic platform creates a dramatic reflection of any bead or marble placed on top. Once again I used a tiny bead of wax to hold the marble in place.

By inserting a black piece of paper along the back and inside roof of the cube we can eliminate all of the unwanted tent reflections. If we do not ad a piece of black paper the white tent will be reflected clearly on the black surface. The result is a pure black background with a dramatic reflection.


Making your beads appear more shiny

Handmade glass bead by artist LEAH FAIRBANKS

When shooting with a diffuser sometimes items do not appear as shiny as you would like. The softened light is so even, there are no areas of sharp light contrast, which is what our eyes look for to determine an objects shininess.

The photo below/left shows the soft light that can make a very shiny object appear dull and non reflective.

By using a piece of black paper, we cut a rectangular shape out of it and shine the light through that side of the tent.

This rectangle will produce a rectangular shaped highlight as shown to the left. This sharp rectangle of bright contrast is what our eyes look for in shiny objects. You can also have some fun and cut a window shape.

Here the glass bead does not appear to be
shiny due to the soft light

Setup with light shining through black rectangle

Making your beads appear more precious

Here's a quick and EZ way to add a touch of glamour to your images in post production. You can often see this effect used on the jewelry shopping TV shows, in luxury car brochures, and in printed or televised ads for cars, diamonds, and other precious objects.

These star effects in the past have been created using a special camera filter that attaches to your camera lens. To get a different star you needed a different lens filter.

But now this star effect is a simple jpg file that can be dragged and dropped onto your final image. Many different styles to choose from, and so easy to use.

Clear and simple video tutorial that will have you productive within minutes. Here is an example of how it works...


 Bead PhotographyTools

EZcube® light tent
For soft, diffused lighting, softer shadows, and reflection control.

Tabletopstudio ShortEZ lights

  • 10" Flood lights with stand mounts
  • Adjustable tabletop size light stands
  • "Daylight color" CFL bulbs

    Illuminated flat panel
  • underlighting for special effects
  • "Daylight color" 5000k

    White & Black Acrylic 9"x9"x3"
    For use as a background that creates
    professional looking reflections.

    Graduated backgrounds
    For underlighting & special effects

    * Photoshop/Photoshop Elements
    * These items are sold separately
  • Tabletopstudio Store

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