How to Photograph Shiny Items with a Cloud Dome

5 of 10 in Series: The Essentials of Preparing and Uploading Your eBay Images

eBay is a perfect venue to sell collectibles, things like antiques or rare coins. The problem with coins and other shiny objects is that digital pictures will often make your beautiful silver coins look gold!

The deal is lighting — specifically, the need for ambient lighting. Ambient light (light that occurs naturally) is the best light for photographing many types of items, especially shiny items.

Enter the Cloud Dome, a giant bowl that you place upside-down over the object you want to photograph. This bowl evenly diffuses ambient room light over the surface area of the object. This way, you can produce quality digital images in average room lighting. The Cloud Dome also helps with the following:

  • Eliminating camera shake: When taking close-focus, highly zoomed-in pictures, holding your camera steady is of utmost importance. Using a tripod is difficult with close-up pictures, so using a Cloud Dome is the best option because your camera mounts directly to the Dome and is held as still as if you were using a tripod.

  • Consistent lighting: When you use flash or flood lighting alone (without a Cloud Dome) for pictures of metallic objects, your photographs can include shiny hotspots from reflections (off walls and ceilings), washed-out areas from the glare of the lights, shadows, and loss of proper color.

How to shoot with the Cloud Dome

The Cloud Dome looks like a giant Tupperware bowl with a camera mount attached. The image next to it shows the new Cloud Dome for smartphone cameras, the Nimbus.

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Follow these steps to take a picture with the Cloud Dome:

  1. Attach your camera to the Cloud Dome’s mount with the lens positioned so that it peers into the hole at the top of the dome.

  2. Place your item on top of a contrasting background.

  3. Place the dome with camera attached over your item.

  4. Check the item’s position through your camera’s viewfinder or LCD screen.

    If the item is not in the center, center it. If you feel you need additional lighting to bring out a highlight, use a lamp outside the dome.

  5. Focus your camera and shoot the picture.

Many items benefit from being photographed through a Cloud Dome, especially the following:

  • Jewelry: Taking pictures with the Dome keeps the gold color gold and the silver color silver. Also, using the Cloud Dome helps your camera pick up details such as engraving and the metal surrounding cloisonné work. It also gives pearls and gold their unique luster and soft reflection.

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  • Gems and stones: To achieve a special look, you can use a Cloud Dome accessory, a reversible gold-and-silver reflector. Especially when you use the silver side, facets of diamonds glisten as if they were in the pinpoint lights at the jeweler’s. You may also want to focus a floodlight or lamp on the outside of the dome for extra sparkle.

  • Coins and stamps: The Cloud Dome allows you to hold the camera steady for extreme close-ups. It also allows you to photograph coins without getting any coloration that is not on the coin. For both coins and stamps, the Cloud Dome helps you achieve sharp focus and true color.

  • Holographic or metallic accented items: If you’ve ever tried to photograph collector cards, you know that the metal accents glare and holograms are impossible to capture. Also, the glossy coatings confuse the camera’s light sensors, causing overexposed highlights.

  • Reflective objects: Items such as silverware or even computer chips reflect a lot of light when lit properly for photos. The Cloud Dome diffuses the light so that the pictures become clear.

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Tips for taking Cloud Dome pictures

Surprisingly, there’s little learning curve to using a Cloud Dome. What may take you more time is discovering the tips and tricks that help you achieve professional-looking results.

  • Focus, focus: Due to the focus limitations of many of today’s digital cameras, using the Cloud Dome with the extension collar often helps (often sold along with the dome), which allows you to have your camera 17 inches away from the item if you’re photographing on a flat surface.

  • Get in close to your item: When attempting macro (extreme close-up) photography, the Cloud Dome holds your camera still while you shoot the picture. If you prefer, after you’ve centered your item, stand away and take the picture using your camera’s self-timer.

  • Find upstanding items: If your item is vertical and doesn’t lend itself to being photographed flat, use the Cloud Dome’s angled collar, which allows you to shoot the item from an angle instead of from the top.

  • Keep background where it belongs: When selecting a background for your item, choose a contrasting background that reflects the light properly for your item. Make it a solid color; white is always safe, and black can add dramatic highlights.

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