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Lighting for digital photographs

Hi all, was just testing out my new digital camera but only had a
standard indoor (yellow) light available at the time…so everything
came out yellowish. I was able to compensate with photoshop with
good results, but is there any other kind of easily available indoor
lighting I can use to get more natural coloring? When I lived in
the states 14 years ago, I had a blue, tungsten daylight bulb, but
cannot get them here and when I was home visiting in the spring, Ritz
said you couldn’t get them any more. Will Halogen work better, for

Ganoksin’s related pages - Jewelry Photography:


Jeanne Rhodes Moen
Kristiansand, Norway

Your digital camera may have settings to compensate for lighting.
Another solution is to buy light bulbs that are already the right
color. I purchased flourescent light bulbs that have a color
temperature of 5100 degrees Kelvin. I found these online at
<> The colorhas worked well for photographing jewelry.

Will Halogen work better, for example? 

Hello Jeanne,

Do indeed check out the photography related pages at Ganoksin.
There’s lot’s of good info there. For the most part it is what helped
me solve my lighting problems. I’d also recommend Amy O’Connell’s
"Basic Jewelry Photography" pages at for good additional info and
pictures of her setup.

That said, yes, halogen(s) can be a great solution to the lighting
problem, assuming that we’re talking about doing occasional photo
setups as opposed to all day every day. After reading the Ganoksin and
Orchid material I went out and bought some halogen yard lamps at a
hardware store and mounted them on 2 x 2 inch sticks for positioning.
I paid about $15 for a 300w lamp and the same for a pair of 150w that
I (occasionally) use as side and fill lights.

I found that these particular halogens are slightly yellow compared
to daylight but not a lot and with the white balance that many (most?
all?) good digital cameras come with it’s almost certain that you’ll
be able to color balance in the shoot as opposed to Photoshop. I
found it helps to use bulbs from the same manufacturer in all of the
lamps. That way you don’t color shift noticeably when you turn an
additional lamp on or off.

The next problem you’ll likely face is light diffusion in order to
avoid hot-spots (those halogens are real burners!) and get a better
quality shot. I poked around, tried a bunch of things I’d read and
then gave up and bought a cheapo white bed sheet that wasn’t too
blueish. I’m sure there’s a thousand reasons why that’s too
bush-league for words but the sheet only cost me $6 and I like the
photos I’m getting. A couple things worth mentioning are that (1) I
drape the sheet overtop of what I’m shooting not over the lights as
that would be a serious fire hazard, and (2) I fully understand that
without white balance, such as I have on my Nikon 5700, the
halogens-and-a-bed-sheet approach might not be so clever.

So, lighting problems more than solved for around $40, excluding the
wood and clamps that I had beforehand. Add a few of those economy
sheet-of-glass picture frames and some colored construction or art
paper and you’re pretty much set insofar as shooting surfaces and
backdrops. Works for me!

Trevor F.

I use standard halogen lamps-- they seem ok


Here is a link to a photo that I posted on a photo critique website.
For this photo, I used 3 halogen desk lamps from Big Lots- Less than
$10 each. I placed the pen in a ‘cocoon’ from Calumet Photography for
about $60, and placed 1 light on each side and one underneath. Make
sure you have any flourescents in the room turned out as they will
tend to cast a green tone on your photos. Place the cocoon ontop of a
piece of glass or clear to frosted plastic and put the light a few
inches underneath so as to not melt anything(halogens get hot
quickly). The only Photoshopping this required was cropping and a
slight contrast adjust. Shot at about 1/3sec exposure, at F4, with
macro button turned on, from about 1 ft away. I used a Minolta
Dimage 7i-5MP.

Ed in Kokomo

Jeanne, read your camera literature and/or check on the www for
regarding “white balance.” (That has nothing to do with
racism <g.>)

Most digital cameras have a way to ‘define’ the color of your
lighting setup (whether daylight, household incandescent lamps,
halogen, or even fluorescent) as ‘white’, and your photos will appear
to have been taken in a balanced light.

David Barzilay
Lord of the Rings
607 S Hill St Ste 850
Los Angeles, CA 90014-1718

I used 3 halogen desk lamps from Big Lots- Less than $10 each. 


May I ask, what’s the wattage of the halogen bulbs?

Also, I have something called a “cocoon” which cost me @ $129. Is
yours something made of a translucent, somewhat flexible plastic that
literally zips together? This thing takes up quite a lot of space
when it’s set up on a table. Perhaps you could take a picture of your
gizmo and post it for us ?

That shot looks really good to me. Good job!


I just purchased a “broad spectrum” light (similar to the Ott light
but different brand) for my husband and it occurred to me that this
might also be used as a light source when photographing. Ours has a
reostat which might also be useful. Has anyone tried this?

I just purchased a “broad spectrum” light (similar to the Ott light
but different brand)

This was the type of lamp used when I took the Cloud Dome workshop.

Donna in VA

I remember a lot of very useful info on photography a while back.
This new discussion caught my eye since I got a neat set of halogen
"work lights" last Christmas, a “suggested” gift kindly provided by
my understanding wife. Seems Trevor has these sorts of lights. Will
do!!! These do work quite well as long as “white balance” is set
into the digital camera beforehand. This simply means an adjustment
to “white balance” with a piece of white paper in the place of the
items to be photographed. Works quite well for me and much better
than adjusting “temperature” in either Photoshop or JASC PaintShop.
(the latter program is much, much less costly than the Adobe
software and will do just what your want in 99% of image
correction.) I use both Photoshop and PSP8 and generally prefer to
get the balance right in the first place, using the digital camera
menu to set it to the light source.

At work, now here is a simple set up that does work quite well.
You can see an image taken using this method at.wait, I will have to
load that to a website and will try to do that in a day or two. The
current one needs logins. Sorry. I work at a bench. I take “jewelers
antitarnish tissue”, tape an end to the forward surface of the lamp,
pull the tissue back a bit leaving a slight loop beneath the
fluorescent bulbs and tape that end to the rear of the lamp. Then the
rest comes down and forward on the bench to form a sort of place to
set the items to be photographed. This is an “on the spot” solution
but when I take a “white balance” setting under the now diffused
lamp; the shots are frankly amazing for such a simple set up. Sure,
the image is not the almost view camera results from “diamondeddy2”
(congrats on that image of the pen!).

I have a cloud dome, used mostly for eBay type images. This is a bit
much for the limited space and “sudden need” for a pic at work. So,
at work, I use the simple jewelers tissue, bench lamp and white
balance to get a decent image. With a bit of adjustment and
experiment(not much needed) you can get a better than decent image.
The tissue diffuses the already somewhat diffused light from the
bench lamp. Still, assigning a white balance to start with is the
most critical step.

God Bless.

Here is a link to an old website storage page for an image taken
using the method of “bench lamp and jeweler tissue”.


Someone inquired this morning about the cocoon, and the power of
halogen lighting that I used for the ink pen photo. I am at a
different pc right now so I don’t know who that was, but here’s the
answer anyway. Here is a link to a photo of the cocoon.

It is setting on a piece of plastic used for flourescent ceiling
lights. The plastic is set up on 2 cardboard boxes, and a halogen
clip-on type desk lamp with a gooseneck is laying underneath. Then
there is a halogen desklamp on each side of the ‘cocoon’. All 3 lamps
are 20watts each. The cocoon has 3 holes for camera positioning, and
is big enough inside to place most jewelry items and even small
figurines, and other nonjewelry items. There are 3 sizes available
from Calumet Photo. This is the smaller version for regular $69.95-on
sale a week or so ago for $59.95. They also give a nice little online
tutorial in its use that has been useful. I’m sure others have the
same thing available too. They also have a tent available, that looks
like a witches hat, in 3-4 different sizes too. It probably works
just as well as the cocoon. But I am very pleased with this for now
and will be using it for website pics and ebay too. Not affiliated
with Calumet or the maker of the cocoon.

Ed in Kokomo

I often use and Ott light or its equivalent for jewelry photography
and find the colors are very true and if the day is very dark,
better than daylight.

Jan McClellan

I used the halogen worklights for a time before I got the photoflood
lights I have now. I had to make sure my camera was not too close to
the lights, and “too close” was not all that close. Otherwise, the
heat (or other radiation) from the lights showed up on my digital
camera as a strong red band, rendering the photo useless. It took a
lot of jockeying to find a position that worked consistently for the
different kinds of pieces I was photographing. But it was a cheap
solution and I got good pictures.

One other warning if you go this route: these lights are extremely
hot. Don’t put anything flammable close to them, and always turn them
off when you leave the room.

Courtney Graham Hipp
cgHipp Jewelry Designs

  Someone inquired this morning about the cocoon, and the power of
halogen lighting that I used for the ink pen photo. 

Hi, Ed - That was me. Thanks for the photo! Yes, that is the same
cocoon I have, but mine is the biggest (I guess) and the only one
available in All the Land (Los Angeles?!), apparently, when I was
searching for something for a screaming - urgent deadline and had no
time to shop online price and wait for shipping. I bought it @ 2
years ago. It does work pretty well, especially to “float” smaller
items like bracelets, earrings, etc. - I sometimes have to shoot
larger neck pieces on a display form, though, and I have trouble with
the corners or edges appearing in the shot.

I have a clear Lucite “table” which I had made at a local plastics
store to cover my phone/fax machine (Anti-Ballistic Cat Shield -
kitties mosey across the keypad while I’m on the phone and disconnect
the call…It’s deliberate. They’re Burmese, and they know what their
doing…). Aaaaanyway, I discovered that it just fit perfectly inside
the cocoon, so I will shoot smaller pieces on that. I hadn’t thought
to create a space underneath the cocoon itself for a third light,
however, and that’s a great idea. I also am surprised that you are
able to use such low wattage so effectively, since the same guy who
sold me the cocoon also sold me a couple of honkin’ big photo bulbs
for which I had to buy large, metal clamp-on hoods. And these babies
burn really, really hot. They also require a pole and bar apparatus
which I improvised by commandeering a small rolling clothes rack I
happened to have. It all works, but, needless to say, this
arrangement can’t stay permanently and conveniently set up in my
limited space - and there’s my problem.

Recently, I saw the “witch’s hat” tent you mentioned at a local
camera store. I’m waiting for a report on its use by a friend who
bought it. At least it’s fabric, and appears to collapse to pretty
much nothing for storage.

Thanks again - in fact to everyone who has contributed to this
thread -It’s proving to be very helpful!


Margery, I think the key to such low powered halogen lighting is #1,
the F-stop setting, which opens and closes the aperture , controlling
the amount of light that enters the camera. The higher the number F
stop, the less light enters, hence F3 lets in more light than F11.
#2 is the shutter speed. The longer the shutter speed , the longer
the film, or digital media is exposed to the lighted subject. The ink
pen shot was done with an F-stop of 3.5, so a pretty wide open
aperture, allowing plenty of light into the camera. And the shutter
speed was set to 1/3 second, allowing a nice long exposure to the
subject. But remember, any shutter speed slower than about 1/30th
second will require a tripod to hold the camera perfectly still.
Also, use either a remote switch or a timer , to avoid any camera
shake as the shot is taken. At these slow shutter speeds, even the
lightest of touches to hit the button , will creat some shake and
affect the picture quality. Low light requires slower shutter speed,
more wide open apertures(smaller number), and complete steadiness to
achieve good results.

The light from underneath helps alot in creating a nice floating
affect. When the seams of the cocoon show, use Photoshop or any of a
gazillion different image editing programs to clone them out. Also,
shooting from a nice close range will eliminate alot of the
background, or with software, take the item and place it into the
background of your choice. Sometimes I shoot simply fabrics or items
with various textures or patterns, just to use for “doctored” shots
at a later date. I keep a rather extensive catalog of backgrounds
that I have either shot, bought, or created in PS.

Ed in Kokomo

I’m surprised that no one has mentioned the Cloud Dome in this
discussion. It has made my photos 100% better - instantly! They even
offer a very helpful workshop. Please check them out before you buy
anything else.

A satisfied Cloud Dome customer,

Allison Birney
LouiLoui Designs

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I find it interesting that getting the camera to reproduce what you
see is so difficult. I have been trying for a while to get decent
photos of some stones I have to share them with distant friends. I
use an Olympus D-550 3.2 megapizel camera and have experimented with
everything around the house. The best photo I have achieved so far
was done with a cheap WalMart halogen lamp and a piece of white
fibrous foam for a background. The color is quite close (it took a
little contrast change to get it right). I took over 30 pictures to
get one that I gelt was usable. The stone is 20 X 15 and is set in
sterling - not by me as I am just a person enamored by gem stones.

One other I liked was taken using a Corel white cereal bowl for a
base (and to diffuse the light).

Ganoksin’s related pages - Jewelry Photography:

Glenn Vaughn