Jewelry Photography Tips for Etsy | Cheap Homemade Lightbox Tutorial

Photographing Jewelry

1) Tips on taking closeup photographs of your polymer clay beads and jewelry for posting on the web.

2) How to make an inexpensive light box so you can take photos of your jewellery items with seamless backgrounds.

Today’s Polymer Clay Q+A topics were submitted by Krista Bernier and Lisa. Their questions should remind us all about how important it is to take good photos of your jewelry… whether you are selling your work on Etsy, posting pictures to your blog or just uploading photos to a Flickr account.

I once read an article by a jewelry artist who was having trouble selling her stuff on Etsy. So she decided to replace her old photos with new more professional looking ones. Many of her pieces started selling right away, and she was convinced that the quality of her pics had everything to do with the increased level of activity. I’m not surprised.

I’ve seen some horrible pictures at many Etsy Stores. Blurry out of focus photos that are taken way too far back from the jewelry item being shot. Pictures with a million things going on to distract the eye from where it should be focused. And poor lighting… really poor lighting!

I am very lucky to have my husband Doug who takes way better pictures of my stuff that I ever could. He’s the chief videographer as well. Anyway… on to Krista’s question:

Q-1: Hi Cindy! Can you tell me how to get really close up pictures of beads and canes. No matter how much light or where I stand, I can not get them that close. I have a really great camera, top of the line Kodak so I do not feel that is the problem. Any help would be greatly appreciated. ~Krista Bernier

        A-1:After a bit of bit of back and forth dialog, we found out that Krista’s camera was the Kodak z650. This camera will definitely work for doing closeups, even if the lighting isn’t optimal. On many cameras there is a little button with a flower icon that will automatically make the necessary adjustments for taking close up shots.

Another tip for doing closeups is to NOT use any zoom. Just put the camera on a tripod and move the camera towards your bead or piece of jewelry instead.

Krista responded via email with this…  “Well I was not aware of the flower icon, but that helped a ton! I tried a couple pictures and they are much closer without zooming. I just get a bad glare from the flash or shadows from the camera. But I think now that I know where to start, I can figure out the rest through trial and error. Thank you so much. I would have never guessed that button was there.”

Q-2: What is the best way to light your jewelry for taking pictures to post online? ~Lisa

        A-2: Once you have your camera figured out, the next thing to learn about is proper lighting and backgrounds. I recently came across this cool tutorial from The Strobist Blog, on how to build a cheap lightbox for taking studio photos of small items like jewelery and beads.

All you need to build this miniature photo studio is a cardboard box, some tracing paper, tape and an x-acto knife. A wide and long strip of paper is attached inside of the box to form a seamless backdrop. It’s best if you go to the Strobist’s blog to see his tutorial. He does a great job of explaining everything step by step.

He also suggests that it’s a good idea to have both a white and a black backdrop so you have two different colored backgrounds to use depending on the look you are going for. I think this is where your artistic side can kick in. Why not try a piece of fabric, or a chunk of leather? Or maybe try some sheets of scrapbooking paper or handmade paper?

Whatever gets the effect you want and the originality you need. Be careful not to let your background compete with your jewelry though. It should support your piece, not take away from it.

One more idea popped into my head while writing this. I could see a cardboard box with all its sides cut out, getting a little flimsy. Especially if you had to move it around a lot. What if you used a plastic bin instead? That would be stronger!

If the plastic bin is made with white semi-transparent sides, that may even be enough to let enough light filter through to your subject without even having to make cutouts in the sides of the bin. Will have to give that a try.

Thank you to Krista and Lisa for the great questions. If this article was helpful, please let me know in the comments section below. The topics covered in today’s Polymer Clay Q+A were:

  • Jewelry Photography Tips for Taking Closeups <AND>
  • Making a Homemade Lightbox Tutorial… Cheap!

Cindy Lietz SignaturePolymer Clay Tutor



  1. Krista, 22 August, 2008

    Great post! I can’t wait to start building my new light box! = )

  2. Cindy Lietz, 23 August, 2008

    Send some pictures of your work Krista… We’d all love to see them!

    Cindy’s last post..Traditional Rosary Beads Very Different From Rose Petal Fimo Beads

  3. Kimberlee, 23 August, 2008

    Wonderful post! This self-contained set-up might make my photographing go faster because it will reduce set up time, which currently includes clearing off a place on my desk to do it!

  4. Cindy Lietz, 24 August, 2008

    Same goes for us Kimberlee! I think having a mini studio all set up and ready to go with make the process of taking pictures, a lot less of a pain in the butt!

    Cindy Lietz’s last blog post..A Polymer Clay Tutorial About Adding Fimo Cane Slices to Round Beads

  5. Barbara, 26 August, 2008

    I have found this site very useful, watching the video clips is great, you learn more than just reading it in a book, and I can’t wait to try the light box been strugling with my photo’s for ages. Thanks so much

    from Babs

  6. Cindy Lietz, 26 August, 2008

    Thanks Babs! Yeah taking photo’s of jewelry can be tricky! Let me know how it goes with the light box!

    Cindy Lietz’s last blog post..Blue Flower Earrings – A Jewelry Making Project Using Premo Sculpey

  7. Debi, 04 November, 2008

    I am so excited to create my new lightbox. I will be putting some of my polymer “hanging dolls” and jewelry on etsy. I have a craft fair coming up in 3 weeks and whatever does not sell (hopefully “all” will sell) I will be taking pics and listing on etsy. i have just started blogging and it is great to speak the poymer clay lingo.

    i just set up my blog site – and my “hanging dolls” are pictured there – sure would love some feedback, not really sure how to go about that.


  8. Cindy Lietz, 06 November, 2008

    Thank you Debi! Photos are very important to your sales. I’ve had a little trouble with taking good shots but I keep working on it. Good luck on your craft sale! Thanks for popping by!

  9. Cindy Lietz, 02 April, 2009

    This just in…

    A member (Jaime) of the blog community here, as well as at the Library site, found a great deal on a photography light box at the Harbor Freight website. It’s $39.99 and comes with a tripod, 2 lights and a carrying case.

    Thanks for sharing Jaime. And it was good that you emailed me the info rather than trying to post it directly. Postings with links get shuffled off pretty quick to my blog junk folder which I never check… too much weird stuff in the there from all of the spammers.

    Hopefully this tip will benefit some of the visitors that end up landing on this page and that are in the market for a photo light box.

  10. Farida Dowler, 14 July, 2009

    Thank you for this post. I am always grateful when people share their knowledge and experience for the greater good.

  11. Lorraine Coetzee, 18 February, 2011

    Cindy, thank you so much for this article.XX

  12. Martin B, 30 September, 2011

    Wonderful post! This self-contained set-up might make my photographing go faster. Photos are very important to your sales. Thank you for this post. I am always grateful when people share their knowledge and experience for the greater good.

  13. Marion Rayner, 09 February, 2012

    Thanks for this very useful link Cindy, looking forward to making my own lightbox. Not quite sure where to get stand-alone flash from in the UK, or how to connect these to a digital camera so they ‘go off’ at the same time. If anyone has this information that would be fantastic!
    Thanks also to everyone who has such super tips and ideas! This is such a great blog!

  14. Polymer Clay Tutor Doug Lietz, 09 February, 2012

    Hi Marion – with a light box, it’s best to use constant lights that are not connected to the flash function on your camera. With constant lighting it’s much easier to set up the shot before the picture is actually taken.

  15. Jocelyn C, 10 November, 2013

    Mr. Peabody used the “wayback machine,” lol! Would wonder if you could add this to a video or redo the blog with more pictures?

    Also would love to see a blog and comments on vision, and how we set up our best work environments for various pieces of the work. Safety tips, types of lighting, types of magnification, colors used in work areas for contrast, etc.

    As an aging baby boomer, who will continue to dabble, would like to be sure my work area is set up to maximize the time I get to play there.

  16. David Mike, 03 August, 2018

    Thanks for sharing with us your easy jewelry photography tips. Waiting for your next post. I am really so crazy about your blog.

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