Light tents and cat hair and shadows and bright lamps ...

(... please sing to the tune of "My Favorite Things" from "The Sound of Music").
Only these are not necessarily my favorite things. The May/June blog carnival at the Jewelry Artisans Community has the topic "Photography". What is your photo setup, what backgrounds do you like, how do you edit your pictures, what camera do you use?

When I started out taking digital pictures - that was before I had an online shop - I had an HP camera. I don't remember the model, but I bought it used from another university employee. We met in the dark of the morning like agents on a bridge and exchanged the goods. Even digital compact cameras were still very expensive back then, even used ones.
Eventually my camera started turning all pictures a lovely purple where there was no purple. I'll never forget how a jewelry forum member told me I was trying to milk a dead dinosaur. I still had hopes that with my finding out the secrets of white balance and exposure I would find the magic cure and that it was my fault, but alas, that wasn't the problem. I had to say goodbye.
I got my Canon PowerShot SX100IS almost exactly 11 years ago and - knock on wood - I'm still quite happy with it. Of course it has one or the other problem, but those are usually things that I can deal with in photo editing.
I use an online editor called PicMonkey. I used to edit with Picnik, but they left me (and everyone else meaning they closed down to move on to other stuff). PicMonkey had a lot of features that were similar to Picnik, so I didn't have to learn everything all over again. I am completely clueless about for example Photoshop or Gimp or what else is out there, so I hope the Monkey will stay with me.

Now let's get to my photo setup which is almost as old as my camera and consists of a light tent, two daylight lamps, white cardboard, a smaller black acrylic glass stand and a bigger black acrylic glass disk (actually I have a smaller light tent as well which is staring down at me from top of the cabinet next to me, but I can't remember why I ever got it, so I'll pretend it's not there, shhh).
That should already tell you something about my favorite background. I like a black background although I took my first pictures on a white one (so my HP camera could turn that purple as well). The stand is already my second one. I used a lot of props when I had the first one, deco rocks and glasses and bowls, and I wasn't very careful with it, so it got scratches which I then had to edit out. Very annoying.
I wasn't that much better with the second one, also it was too small for some of my big necklaces, so it now serves the purpose of holding the black disk which doesn't completely fit into my tent as you can see.

Yes, my light tent IS sagging. I tend to store stuff on it like my fake grass that I use for critter pictures. In fact I cleared some stuff off to take this picture.
Maybe you are now surprised about those shadows and wonder how I deal with them when taking photos.

This is what I see when I sit in front of my light tent.
You can see the light coming through the fabric on the left and you see something darker in the middle and something on the right.
I said part of my setup is white cardboard. The tent came with some different fabric backgrounds, but we didn't get along. I also never got used to the fabric you could attach to the front. It had just a small space in the center for you to put your camera through. As you can see, I tried it out, that's why there's velcro along the opening which is only good for catching cat hair now.
Instead I put a bigger piece of cardboard inside which covers the back and the top of the tent and thus makes for a nicer reflection in the acrylic glass. I also have a smaller one on the right because the combination of reflection and light always manages to bring my stained glass windows into the game. By moving the cardboard pieces I can make the shadows look different and always get a diffuse light area on the left, but sometimes, depending on the size of the jewelry, I still have to deal with the "light slits" on the right. That's one occasion for PicMonkey's "Clone" and "Dodge" or "Burn" ... if my beloved "Wrinkle Remover" fails, that is.
I'm doing all of this quite intuitively as I'm absolutely no pro and will never be.

I also want you to meet my trusted friend, the microfiber cloth. Acrylic glass LOVES dust and cat hair. One nanosecond of distraction, and there is both, so I always have one of these cloths around to dust before I take a picture. It usually doesn't get rid of them all because the queue of volunteers is so long that they sometimes shove each other for the chance of getting on that black disk first.
That's where PicMonkey's "Shine Reduce" comes in which I can't find in the new version, though. If that doesn't do it, it's back to the features mentioned above.

I'm sorry if I robbed you of all illusions of my professionalism here ;-) but it's working for me, and that's what it's all about, right? I think these may be the strangest pictures I ever posted in my blog!

What have the other JAC members got to offer?
I'll add the links as soon as I get them.

Jewelry Art by Dawn


JewelryArtByDawn said...

Cat, thank you so much for sharing your photo set-up. I'm always so impressed by the quality of your photos - I mean, honestly, they are magazine quality, cat hairs and all! Kidding, I've never seen even a speck of dust in your pictures let along a cat hair! Now, you've got me thinking that I really should invest in a light tent although even with that, I don't think my photos will ever be as good as yours.

I found it interesting that we both use Canon Power Shots and also cool that you've been using the same camera for all these years. I adored my first Power Shot and would still be using it except for a small piece of debris that somehow ended up inside the camera lens and started leaving black dots on my photos. Darn, I miss that little camera!

Cat said...

See, the Wrinkle Remover works! It's funny, I would never use it on the picture of a face, but perfect for cat hair.

I would love to be able to use natural light more often, Dawn, both has its advantages and disadvantages.