How to Get Great Lighting Without Spending a Dime

This is the picture I got:

This is the setup I used:

The key to good pictures is good lighting. The biggest and best softlight box available is an overcast sky or open shade, no direct sun. I have lots of lighting equipment, but no place to keep it set up. It is much easier and quicker for me to just do this outdoor setup.

The background is just a piece of white bed sheet. I wrap it around a large cardboard tube to prevent wrinkles when not in use. I tape it to the back window and have it fall with a gentle curve onto the table top. I open up +1 EV to get it brighter. I follow basic rules of composition:

1. When shooting a square or rectangular object, shoot it at an angle. A straight on shot is too flat; an angle shot is more dynamic.
2. When one looks at a picture, one usually looks at the top left and then across and down to the lower right hand corner. That is the way the elements in the picture should flow.
3. Vertical elements in the picture should be vertical, i.e. parallel to the side. Otherwise the picture will look crooked.
4. Get close enough to fill the frame with the item and still maintain good focus.

The camera I used was a Sony Mavica FD73 digital camera.


This is another picture I took using the same setup:

This film holder is another example of how a rectangular object can look much more dynamic when shot at an angle. Notice how the base of the holder (vertical) is parallel with the side of the picture. Otherwise, as I said before, the picture would look crooked or askew.

Note: there is a slight blue tint to the background in this picture due to reflectance from a bright, blue sky. I found it pleasing so I left it in.

The above setup will work for smaller items such as coins or jewelry, also, but this may be better (and you don't have to go out into the cold):

The above diagram is from The Handbook for Scientific Photography, by Alfred A. Blaker1977

A white cardbord works well for the reflector. There may be reflections on the glass from the jewelry placed on it. The light from the bottom may eliminate that or you could place a piece of tissue paper on the glass. This setup would also throw light through a gem stone accentuating it better. The one thing you want to avoid are distractions such as hard shadows or a busy background.

(two color stone)

To see other pictures taken with the Sony Mavica FD73 Click here

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