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A Picture taken on fully automatic under tungsten light, notice the orange tinge to the picture and the fact that it is also underexposed (i.e. too dark)
This picture now has had the white balance adjusted, notice the fact that although the picture is still underexposed the white paper is now grey rather than orange

Photography is an entire subject that could take up a whole Wiki all by itself. What follows here are some hints and tips for beadmakers wishing to get good photographs of their beads or glass work.

It is generally regarded that the better your original image (off the camera) the better the final result will be. Yes you can adjust pictures in Photoshop afterwards but the final quality of the image will suffer (see final pictures). For the best image quality you should aim for an image that is as close to how you would like it before it even touches Photoshop. Then all you need to do in there is a bit of sharpening (perhaps) cropping and maybe adding a watermark.


Problems with glass

Generally speaking glass is actually quite a difficult subject to photograph due to its reflective nature, but given a few simple tips a bit of patience and some quite simple equipment it is possible to get very good results.

Basic Set-up

The same as above, but now with one stop of exposure compensation added. Notice that the white paper is still a slight shade of grey...we need a bit more
The same as above, but now with two stop of exposure compensation added. Notice that the white paper is now much closer to white, but has a slight pink tinge. This is because the camera is not adjusting quite right for the light...

The basic set-up required to photograph beads is actually very simple.

  • A light source (desk light or window).
  • White piece of paper.
  • A Digital Camera.
  • Oh yes and some glass work to photograph.

You do not really need more than this to take basic good quality photographs of your work.

When taking pictures with this type of equipment it is important to set up the camera correctly to get the best shot, because if you just turn your camera on and take a picture you will generally be very disappointed with the result.

There are two setting that are very important that you understand to be able to take good bead photographs.

  • White Balance
  • Exposure Compensation

White balance

What is white?

As many of you may know there are many types of white, our eyes are very good at compensating for different light colours and different shades of white, and we just know that something is white. Cameras on the other hand are dumb, and have to be told what white is, otherwise they will get it wrong. Therefore the white balance setting in a camera is to make sure white is actually a white and not yellowy orange or blue.

Most cameras do this automatically when you take pictures, but quite often get it wrong, especially if there is a lot of one colour in the scene. Higher end cameras will often allow you to take a picture of something grey or white and set the cameras white balance from that picture, many low end cameras often have this feature as well, so it is well worth checking your user manual for "Manual white balance".

In real life, due to the nature of white not always being pure white I would thoroughly recommend buying a grey card from the likes of Jessops. This is calibrated to be a mid grey (often called 18% grey card) and is ideal for setting the white balance and also for getting the correct exposure as the brightness of the card is also calibrated. But if you do not have one don't worry a piece of the whitest paper you can find will be fine.

Despite the fact that white balance makes sure that white is white it should not be confused with

Exposure Compensation

The final version that has been slightly adjusted in a photo editor, to remove the slight colour cast, and brightened just a little bit
A corrected version of the original under exposed and incorrect white balance version of the photo, but corrected in a photo editor. This is as close as I could get it to the correct look. Notice that the colour is not as vibrant as the picture above and that the shadows have a slight orange tinge. Although this may be acceptable the correct version is far superior.

This ensures that white is white and not grey!!!

Basically this setting allows you to over/under expose your pictures, that may sound wrong but the reason you would need this is because all cameras have to work out the correct exposure for a given scene.

The problem comes when what you are photographing is a picture of a bead on a white piece of paper and this is certainly not typical, and the camera will under expose it. (as wrong as it might seem this is the correct behaviour as most scenes that you photograph will average out to a mid grey in terms of brightness).

Many people think that under exposed pictures like the ones shown on the right are due to not having enough light, but that is wrong, adding more lights will not solve this problem. To correct this you need to "fool" the camera into over exposing the image so that white paper actually looks white and not grey. (remember this is not to be confused with white balance as described above)

By changing the exposure compensation to add 1 or 2 stops, that picture of a bead on a white piece of paper will be white and not grey and the colours in you beads will be much more vibrant, thus removing the necessity to process all your pictures in Photoshop.


You can see the results of these techniques in the photographs on the right. The final two pictures are quite similar but the first one is a very slightly corrected version of the best shot from the series, just to correct a small amount of colour cast and brighten it just a bit more, as +2 stops was not quite enough, but my camera only allowed me to add 2 stops. I could have used manual mode, but we will go into that later. The final picture is a photoshopped version of the first underexposed and bad white balance picture at the top.

Although this does not look too bad the colour vibrancy is not as good, and the grain of the camera is also visible and detracts from the image. The picture is just not as sharp or as crisp, especially when viewed large or printed.

Click on the images to see larger versions...

Light cubes

To help with photography and reduce reflections you can use a light cube.

These are translucent boxes, usually made from cloth, that allow you to photograph your work in an easy way. You still need to follow all the instructions above, but be warned that unless you introduce deliberate reflections your glass will appear dull or matt

Further information

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