Simple Bead Photography

Photographing my beads has always been an inexact science, with a lot of guesswork, hit-and-miss, and retakes. The challenge is getting a good, clear, close-up picture of an object that's highly reflective, and at the same time, full of depth and interior detail. I've tried a lot of things over the years; full sunlight, with and without flash, indirect sunlight on various backgrounds, makeshift light boxes made from translucent white "Tupperware", and most recently, plain, bare tabletops.

The quality of light in any given location makes a big difference. Seattle light often needs a lot of artificial help, but natural light is always better. Ashland light was good when I shot under the white roof of the EZ Up canopy I used as a studio, but I had to time it right so the tree shadows didn't interfere.

Taos light is bright, pure, and intense, because of the 7,000 foot elevation. I used to get pretty good results here if I went outside on a sunny day (which is most days), and let the plastic "light box" filter some of the rays. The downside to that method is ripping winds in the spring, and freezing cold temperatures in the winter. So starting here again, and doing almost everything differently than I've done in the past, I've been looking for another way to take bead pictures in Taos.

I tried the picnic table, because it gives me the option of full or indirect sunlight, depending on whether I set the beads on the table top, or the bench. I like the peeling paint background for an arty effect, but I really think it distracts from the beads themselves. Besides, it takes me outside again, and that's something I really want to avoid.

So, I was sitting here in the trailer the other day, wondering where to take my next batch of pictures, enjoying the nice, soft light coming in through the windows behind me and next to me at the little dinette table, and blam-o! Of course, as usual, the answer was literally right under my nose.

The light at the table is perfect. Nice and bright for most of the day, but not too harsh, and the table top is a nondescript grey-ish white with a matte finish that reflects some light while still absorbing shadows. All I have to do is shove a few things out of the way, lay the beads out one by one, and snap away. Most of the time I don't use the flash, but it really depends on the bead. My little Olympus pocket camera, set on macro, works as well as my larger, fancier Sony. I make a few small adjustments in iPhoto, to get the exposure and color as accurate as possible, and that's it. Another simple solution to the rescue.

Once again, the simplest solution is the best. Isn't that the theme of my life right now--simplicity? I wonder why I sometimes put so much effort into complicating things.


  1. Just found your blog, by way of a comment from Nellie on A Camp Host housewife's blog. I am looking forward to reading the earlier posts!

    The interesting thing is hat when I looked at your list of blog links I saw Patty Larkinsmith. Although we are not close friends, I do know her and her work! Small world!

    I am an artist. I want to go full time someday and take part of my business with me. We market online.

  2. Great post Kim. First a fall it's good to have you back in the land of enchantment. Welcome home. I love your post on photography and I think you're right the simplest solution is the best. Dial soul of that last bead. That's really something cool, keep making those. I also wanted to say I'm so glad you went back to making beads. Love ya. Holly

  3. Sorry for the weird words - Dial Soul? !!! I'm using Vlingo so I don't have to type. This kind of stuff happens. Trying to say I also loved that last bead. Ahh technology! !!

  4. Love that your last photo is your Fresnel bead, Kim! It sums up clarity! ;) I LOVE mine!


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