TOOLS How to: A special photo lighting setup

I've noticed a particular photographic lighting style of jewelry used in the better quality publications. There's usually a black background but with a very soft bright spot highlighting the jewelry.

Table Top Studio calls their kit for this particular style "Black Ice" Jewelry Photography Kit. I thought it was very cool.

However, not being a professional photographer, I saw no justification to spend lots of money for the special kit. Plus, I love seeing if I could make my own.

I think the results could be better, especially if I had used the pro equipment. But considering I used the things I already had around the house, these results will do until my skills and budget improve.


click photo to see larger image

  Equipment I Used

Aside from my camera (Canon PowerShot A640), camera tripod and various clamps, I used the following items:

3 clamp lights with reflectors, bulbs with high lumens (like 2600 or above)

1 12" x 15" opaque black acrylic sheet

Note: Since some have had trouble locating black acrylic I thought a substitution of placing a clear acrylic sheet on top of black paper might work. It creates a different effect; a kind of double shadow . Extending that scenario, I also tried multiple sheets (see photo at bottom of page).

2 12" x 15" translucent chopping mats. These act as light diffusers, when you're not using them as chopping mats.
1 translucent vinyl shower curtain (not with a pattern like the one shown here, just a plain sheet). This will also act as a light diffuser.
24" x 30" canvas stretcher (or a basic wooden frame)

  Views of this photographic setup

Right front view of setup

You can see the camera on its tripod aimed at the pendant which is laying on the black acrylic sheet.

The glowy panel just behind that is a strip cut from the translucent shower curtain. The strip is clamped to the canvas stretcher, which is clamped to the table. One of the three lights is behind the curtain, casting a soft spot of light.

There are two additional lights on left and right sides. Each light sits behind a chopping mat, which diffuses the light.

It's the reflection of the diffused/soft spot from that lamp that is captured on the black acrylic sheet . You need to play with the angles the acrylic sheet, the height of the back light and the position of the camera so the soft spotlight can be seen on the acrylic sheet in the location you want.


Left front view of setup

Back view of setup


black acrylic sheet creates a single clear shadow. clear acrylic over black paper, creates a double shadow. multiple clear acrylic layers over black paper, creates some surprising effects. Looks sort of like it's floating on an oil slick. That's a-moire. ;-)



Last update to this page:2 Dec 08. Send comments, questions or suggestions to Desiree McCrorey.