How Former Jeweler Cindy Lichfield Gets Jewelry Photography Right

The reflective sparkle of polished diamonds makes them one of the trickiest subjects in the stratosphere to photograph. Add a precious metal to that equation, and you may be better off leaving the job of photographing your jewelry to a Leica-wielding expert.

But former jeweler Cindy Lichfield, who struggled with ugly glare and hot spots in her product photos for years, wasn’t willing to fork over hundreds of dollars to a professional for quality eBay photos every time she debuted a new collection.

Instead, she started shooting her wares under a white Tupperware bowl, figuring that its curved shape would act as a light diffuser.

She was right. The concept was so effective, in fact, that she went on to invent the Photo Dome, a mobile light-diffusing dome with a camera bracket that spreads pure white light evenly over any small object—thus eradicating flare, glare, and distracting hot spots.

The Nimbus Cloud Dome system (photos courtesy of Nimbus Cloud Dome)

Now Lichfield has updated her dome with a new bracket designed specifically for smartphones such as the iPhone and the Android.  

The Nimbus Cloud Dome is a complete small product studio, featuring the acrylic dome itself, a small studio stand that allows you to back-light your products, and a set of free downloadable backgrounds you can print on your home printer and pop underneath your pieces for even more professional-looking results.

A pendant shot in the dome with an iPhone 4s

“Until this year, the phone cameras weren’t good enough to take professional-looking photos,” explains Lichfield, who’s based in Lafayette, Colo., and teaches product photography. “But with the dawn of the iPhone 4S and other phones with 8-megapixel cameras, it was time to create this. You can take the picture, edit it on your phone on an app like Camera+ and push it right on to Facebook.”

Whether you’re using the dome—which features a light-scattering parabolic curve—or not, Lichfield recommends shooting your merchandise with the purest while light you can find.

A pocket watch shot in the dome with an iPhone 4s.

“With photography all you’re doing is painting with light, and if you take photos with a yellow light, your jewelry will look yellow. I always tell people, ‘Don’t even wear a purple t-shirt when you’re shooting; it might reflect onto the jewelry.’ Keep your environment as white as possible.”

The Nimbus Cloud Dome set, which will retail for $79 on CloudDome.com starting next week, is available now for a limited time for $60 on its Kickstarter page (though the product won’t ship for a few weeks). And really, both prices are a pittance compared to the sky-high rates most product photographers charge. Happy shooting.

JCK Magazine Editor