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Project in development: Inexpensive way to shoot jewelry. LED lighting.

Project in development: Inexpensive way to shoot jewelry. LED lighting.

All inclusive week in Cancun resort in Mexico is over, and now it is time to put all gained calories back to work:-) So, next day after arrival I went to a studio and continue to work on our DIY-lighting for jewelry project (e-book).

And to get you in the loop, here what has happened before we went to a vacation: The idea of using¬†fluorescent¬†“ghetto” lighting was abandoned¬†, as it was too complicated to keep light spread in control without any pro equipment like softboxes, etc. ¬†Remember the idea of the project we are¬†working¬†on: to develop inexpensive, easy to use lighting setup for jewelry photographers from a beginner to a “pro on a budget”, meaning softboxes are not the option, with its $100 starting price of each.

Therefore, I decided to go with household LED lighting bulbs. They are more expencive ($30-$60 for each) than fluorescent lighting, but much more friendly for a photographer’s use. B y friendly I mean that they produce more directional, easier to modify light.

These are the LED screw-in bulbs I am talking about:

LED fixtures for studio photographer

LED lights for jewelry photography

As you see,¬†I’ve¬†selected¬†different bulbs: single and multiple¬†emitter¬†based. Single emitter bulb gives better control of the light beam, and multiple LEDs in one fixture can work better for¬†faceted¬†gems, acting like a¬†multiple light source and suppose to produce nice sparks, when used without any diffuser.¬†(still have mot confirmed it on a real life example though)

BTW, that little screw-in piece is a dimmer, which cost about $6. All the pieces I bought in Lowes  (construction store), refusing eBay. Yes, the similar lamps are selling on eBay for much less (Chinese ones), but I am afraid they may not be consistent in color temperature.

Here is how these LEDs look when turned on:

LED lights for jewelry photographer

Obviously, color temperature must be the same on all the lights. I’ve picked 3000K, as there was more different lights available on this color temp, comparing to 5000K. In general, it does not matter what color temp it would be, as soon as it is the same for all lights used in a shot.

Now, why I said LEDs are much easier to work with? let me show you a pattern of the beam these bulbs produce without any light modifier around the bulb:

Jewelry photography with-LED-lightis-lighting-setup-example1

Very uniform graduated spread, exactly what is needed to create smooth reflections on glossy metal surfaces.  Another view of the light pattern on a diffuser (notice a little ring sitting on a stick:-):

Jewelry photography with LED lights example diffusion pattren

Such nice gradient, and it is very easy to manipulate with!

Let me show you how it works in real, based on a  jewelry piece (silver bracelet) shot below:

example silver shot 1 LED light source

This is as-is, uncleaned image composed with only one light source (single emitter LED light) and one diffuser. Nothing spectacular in the image alone, but if you have worked with silver before you should see what I mean. $36 dollar light, $3 diffuser  (I use Savage translucent plastic, can be found in my BHPhotovideo public wishlist) and you got pretty good starting point for a great light setup for jewelry.

The intencity of the gradient is easily regulated by the distance between the light source and the diffuser,¬†there¬†is nothing new in this, right? ;-)¬†BTW, the lighting setup for the bracelet was exactly the same as I’ve showed on the image above it, with exception of the subject was hung and the spot on diffuser was slightly different.

I did not spend more time to get a “hero shot” of the bracelet, but instead I did this Swarovski crystal necklace close-up shot:

Swarovsky Chrystal example of jewelry photography with LED

For this shot I had 3 LED ligfht sources and another DIY light modifier which cost me $6 :-) ¬†Can’t show you more, as this will go directly to the e-book. ¬†But if you know how to read¬†reflections, you¬†can¬†easily guess what light modifier was used here.

13 responses on "Project in development: Inexpensive way to shoot jewelry. LED lighting."

  1. Hi there Alex

    Is your e-book available at this point?



  2. Hi Alex, I’ve been trying to contact you. I am very interested in taking your ‘ Jewelry photography course online. But would like to know, what lights to purchase. As I am based in Bali ( Island ) it is hard for me to get good setups here, So I would have to import. ( wich takes time).
    So my questions is, in your course, Do you recommend to buy softboxes, strobes , or would a good set up with LED be enough?
    I can buy LED here in Bali, but if you recommend me to buy other lights, I like to order them right away. So I can start with your course and put things in practice this month.

    If LED would be ok, then 3000K spots, but how many Lumens ?
    Hope to hear from you, as I love to start, thank you !

  3. Alex, those are incredibly crisp images. What camera + lens were they shot with?
    I recently purchase a Canon SX50 HS only because I could get close up shots without having to invest in an expensive lens. You think I might get similar quality like your pics?

  4. This is pretty good thanx,
    was looking for something like this..
    what about shooting just polished diamonds ?
    straight up shots to show inclusions ,need to know how to light it up ?

  5. These lamps look great tools for a budget-friendly studio work. Alex, will you please be kind enough to give us how we can order those LEDs online? I spent a good effort to locate them on the net however, no chance so far. Thanks!

    • Sinan,
      I’ve seen the similar lED on eBay. Also, Homedepot.com and Lowes.com has them. I am not sure where have you searched, because when I enter “120V LED household bulb” on Google, it shows so many options to buy…

  6. I can’t wait for your DIY-lighting for jewelry project. How’s it going?

  7. Thank you, thank, you, thank you for all your tips and tricks! As an English-literature-major-turned-self-taught photographer, I have the hardest time with light, light angles, reflections, etc. (physics is beyond me). I found your site when I got a job shooting some jewelry (I had no idea what I was getting into), and it’s helped tremendously. I can’t wait for your e-book – I’m definitely on a budget, have no softboxes, and am struggling!

  8. when will this ebook be out?

  9. very impressive tutorials,
    easily one can understand the methods,
    Especially i like to experiment with DIY
    Dramatic results..
    thank you so much for your service to the photography world!!

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