Bead Photography

by Shannon Brickey

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Click here for photos from the Presentation.

Making glass beads and exploring torch work techniques is mesmerizing work. Photographing that work may be more challenging than one would hope. Sometimes, just changing your thinking will help to deal with specific challenges inherit in photographing small, round, sometimes reflective beads. Your first step is to find the magic in your work. What makes your work unique?

 There is no one perfect photography solution for everybody. Cameras, lighting, and software can make glasswork seem like an inexpensive endeavor (ok, so itís a tossup). Photographing glass beads with Kristy Nijenkamp for the ISGB postcard helped me learn a lot more about my camera. I wasnít born being able to change the white balance, control the exposure, or even take good pictures the first time around. I recommend you find your cameraís owners manual which can save time in the long run.

 There are many options in setting up your area for photographing beads. I also photograph larger glass objects, so you may not need everything I have. I use a tent to diffuse light from freestanding lamps. I put my camera on a tripod both to stabilize it (helpful in low lighting conditions) and to keep my cameraís vantage point (where Iím shooting from) consistent. I talked to one bead maker who photographs beads on her kitchen table with natural light and the photos are great. Find what works for you. 

 Keep the background neutral. What background works well with your bead? A light background may not work with a light bead. Transparency can also be a challenge. Viewing websites and books on glass beads can help you come to a decision on the best background for your work.

 Sometimes I use a close-up lens. My camera has a fancy focusing system that at times works for me, but other times I have used manual focus with better results. If your work looks distorted in your photographs and you have a zoom lens, you may have more luck physically moving the camera back, then zooming in for the shot.

 Secure your work. Have you ever tried photographing a round bead that wasnít secured? Kristy and I used a small piece of kneaded eraser to keep the bead from moving and also to show its strongest side. Try not to let your method for securing show, either by hiding it or editing it out with a program like PhotoShop.

 Nobody knows your work like you do. Spend the time to make it shine!

 Basic Considerations of Photographing Glass Beads

  • Background
  • Lighting
  • Unique Qualities of a Specific Bead/Object
  • Processing Digital Images

 Challenges of Photographing Glass

  • Size (may require a close-up lens)
  • Stabilizing work (securing itís not rolling around, you can choose the side you want to show)
  • Sharp Focus (tripod, auto focus or manual)
  • Correct Exposure (bracketing)
  • White Balance (matches your lighting conditions)

Qualities of Glass

  • Transparency
  • Color
  • Contrast
  • Texture
  • Pattern
  • Shape


  • Digital Camera
  • Tripod
  • Lights
  • Tent
  • Frosted Glass
  • Gradated Background
  • Photoshop or other image editor
  • Patience

Click here for photos from the Presentation.


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