Shadowless Jewelry Photography with a Light Table

I was talking with my veterinarian this evening about photographing his wife’s custom jewelry projects. He’s tried a number of lighting schemes, and I suggested the following underlighting setup that I’ve had good luck with for doing high-key tabletop imaging.

The setup looks like this:

The light table is from Amvona.com and though it has a flexible translucent white plastic sweep, I put a second piece of frosted acrylic over it for a matte finish.  (The light table sweep that comes with the table is really shiny on one side, and a bit less on the other). Using a 20×30 piece of foam core (<$2.00 at your local craft store) as a reflector below the table, I get a nice even distribution of light from an SB-800 Speedlight on the floor behind the table.  Using the foam core reflector minimizes hotspots. The key light is a second SB-800 in a 3′ octagonal softbox (another Amvona purchase).  Could have as easily used a shoot thru umbrella, but I already had the softbox setup and was too lazy to setup another stand / umbrella combo.

In the case of translucent subjects, i.e. gemstones, beads, glass, etc., color and internal structure is best shown off by backlighting. So the underlighting configuration works really well.  Adjust the output of the underlight (the SB-800 on the floor) to control the saturation…lowering the light output until the background is still white, but the stones are colorful.  Overexposing the background tends to wash out the color of the stones as well.

The octabox, or shoot thru umbrella gives a nice diffuse key light for illuminating the non-translucent parts.  If you have large reflective surfaces, an enclosed light tent might be in order to minimize reflections from the surrounding room.  (You’d be surprised what gets reflected)!

You don’t need to spend a lot of money for a setup like this.  Here’s another example using the same frosted acrylic tabletop, but suspended over a pair of sawhorses.  In this example, I used a piece of white ripstop nylon from my local fabric store as a background, lighting it from behind with a third SB-800.

Here’s the result of the above setup:

And other flowers with the same setup:

Hope that gets you started!

Share and Enjoy!

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