Light Tents, Lightboxes, and Softboxes – What’s the Best for Jewelry Photography
Published on: November 25, 2018
Last updated: October 27, 2020
In this blog post, we aim to educate you on the differences between light tents, lightboxes, and softboxes for jewelry photography. Depending on your situation, you may lean towards using one or the other. Read below to find out which setup works for your jewelry photography!
It is no longer acceptable to photograph a poor image to upload to your website, share with your followers or send to customers. We are in the digital age where quality content reigns supreme. Poor jewelry images can damage your business. The irony is that jewelry has the poorest online representation when compared to other product categories. Experts believe that jewelry, more so fine jewelry, is driven by emotion. And to invoke emotion, it requires highly visual experience, in the form of jewelry photography and videos.
Jewelry photography, a niche category of product photography, requires very special lighting conditions to bring the piece of jewelry to life. Jewelry exhibit special properties including being incredibly tiny to shoot, often with reflective surfaces and facetted gemstones that interact differently under different lighting conditions.
The lighting conditions required to bring a jewelry piece to life include a mixture of soft, diffused lights at color-corrected temperatures, reflectors, and backdrops. That’s when you’d use a light tent, a lightbox or softboxes for your jewelry photography. Each setup brings various degrees of success and complexity.
Light tents are usually made from white fabric and wire mesh with the sole purpose of distributing light evenly across your subject matter. In the case of jewelry photography, distributed, soft light works amazingly well against reflective surfaces. Light tents can be purchased relatively cheaply online and can be set up extremely easy – just pop it up. The difficult part is actually setting up your light sources.
You should only use LEDs for jewelry photography. The issue with using another source of lighting such as fluorescent lighting is that the wavelengths of light produced are much wider and inconsistent and are based on the electrical current flowing through the tubes. The result is that you’ll have flickering which affects the quality of your jewelry images. On the other hand, LEDs are controlled to produce a narrower, specific wavelength of light to create consistent results. LEDs will cost more than fluorescent lights to purchase; however, you’ll have the added benefit of a longer lifespan of about 2-3x You can purchase LED bulbs for under $20 each.
Overall, you will spend around $100 for a light tent and lighting (depending on how many bulbs you buy), which is great if you are on a budget for DIY jewelry photography. The downside is that you will spend plenty of time setting up your lighting for each jewelry piece and this may not be a viable option especially if you have more important things to attend to in your jewelry business. You may also find that you’ll be fiddling with your camera settings, which once again, adds time to your photography process.
Lightboxes are fixed lighting environments to bring consistency with your photography. In the case of jewelry photography, there are very few that will bring the results you want with your jewelry images. And there’s a very common saying – you get what you pay. Absolutely avoid cheap “pop up” lightboxes available on the market. They are simply not designed for jewelry. If you are on a budget, we recommend you check out our guide on how to photograph jewelry at home. As a jeweler, it is important to understand that the time you spend photographing your jewelry, is a time not spent promoting your business. Therefore, a quick, simple solution that produces amazing and consistent results is required.
The Gem Lightbox is the world’s first smartphone jewelry lightbox that has been invented for jewelers by jewelers to address these key issues of speed, consistency and quality results when shooting jewelry. The Gem Lightbox operates by turning on the power, placing your jewelry inside and shooting. You can watch the demo video below of shooting your typical shots for e-commerce.
We at Picup Media believe that a professional camera is not required for jewelry photography. In fact, your smartphone camera is more than enough to capture the details of your jewelry. And if your smartphone model is within the last 3 years, you’ll achieve optimal results! The smartphone and retouching combination provides a seamless process whereby any images captured are retouched to a studio-quality standard for jewelry e-commerce purposes. It is a more cost and time-effective alternative to hiring a jewelry photographer.
Using your smartphone also means you can instantly share your jewelry images to your customers and followers on social media. You’d rather be able to post consistently daily rather than wait once every few days or weeks to schedule a photo shoot of your jewelry.
Below is a video of creating video content for Instagram using the Gem Lightbox Turntable.
Softboxes are lights made specifically for photography and can be easily manipulated by the photographer to produce the desired effects. Softboxes are used by professionals in larger studio setups and can be used in conjunction with light tents. This may not be viable for many jewelers given the limitation of space inside a jewelry shop. Unless you have the luxury and time to play with photography equipment and setups, as well as learn photography techniques, we suggest going with using a simple light tent setup or a lightbox.