How to pick the best lighting for your antiques stock photography

How to pick the best lighting for your antiques stock photography

Tuesday 28th November 2023 at 09:34

By Emma

Ring lights vs soft box lights

Militaria Web Design review ring lights vs box lights

Technology never stands still, and neither do we! We have come a long way in the last 19 years, making selling online easy for hundreds of antique, vintage and art dealers.

Good photography and video are vital in selling stock online. Whether you use an iPhone or digital camera, your lighting has to be spot-on. In previous photography blogs, we covered aperture and the importance of good lighting in photographing your stock.

This month, we compare the two most common options for your lighting: the traditional softbox and the modern ring light.

It is important to remember that photography is the process of capturing light. The better the light quality, the better the picture quality.

Large photography soft box

What does a light box or softbox do?

If you use LED lights to shoot in a dimly lit space, you might find the lights can be too bright and create harsh shadows. Softboxes can help you make this hard light more evenly distributed and natural-looking.

Softboxes are constructed for light diffusion: filling in shadows and creating a well-lit, warm effect.

These softboxes are usually placed to the side of the camera, at a 45 to 60-degree angle, and at around a 30-degree angle, to the top of the object.

What to look for when buying a softbox?

The main thing to think about is size. The size will determine the light spread and how easy it is to carry and store.

  • Light spread: Larger the box = greater area covered + more diffused light created. Your box should be larger than the item you are shooting, with space to the sides and above. A pair of light boxes (25 x 25 x 25 inches each) is usually big enough for most antique photography, though you might need larger boxes for furniture.
  • Cost: As with anything, you get what you pay for. A reasonably priced set-up will cost you around £200 from Amazon.
  • Portability: Not an issue if you have a large showroom or lifestyle shoot set-up. However, if your space is at a premium, or you need to shoot on the move, you might want to consider compact boxes and storage or a ring light.

Why would I need a ring light for my website and Insta?

If you have a softbox kit like the one we recommended in our lighting blog, you might not need one for standard stills. But if you are increasingly taking pictures with your iPhone, close-ups, in small spaces, uploading videos or even taking Zoom on!

What is a ring light?

A ring light is just that: a circular fluorescent bulb or several small bulbs that form a circle. Originating in medical procedures, they are now commonly used for beauty shots, portraits, and macro photography.

Ring light


What are the benefits of using a ring light?

As with a softbox, a ring light emits diffused lighting, creating an even spread of light and removing harsh shadows. If you have ever wondered how someone looks so well-lit on a webcam, it is probably thanks to a ring light.

They are popular with portrait photographers, especially for the catchlight effect in the eyes. Used in macro photography, they can be effective at bringing out fine details and hiding shadows.

Which is the best ring light for me?

Ring lights come in different sizes, so you should consider your location, what you are shooting, and the time of day when you are shooting.


Recommended ring light size

Zoom calls

8/ 10 inch (small-medium)

Commercial photography

10/ 12 inch (medium)

Instagram/ Website/ Tik Tok video

14 – 18 inch (medium/large)

Low light/ large objects/ whole person live streaming

18/ 22 inch (large)

For most of you, a 12/14-inch ring light should be enough.

Ring light

Ring lights are also available in two formats: strobe (often used for stills) and constant (often used for video). Constant ring lights are often easier-to-use and more consistent, whereas strobe lights (flash when you click the shutter) take more getting used to.

They come in different colours, so make sure you check the description. Choose fluorescent or warm white lights, rather than warm yellow or bright white, to get better images for your website or Insta.

And we recommend you get one with a dimmer to adjust the light needed based on the distance from your subject and surroundings.

What is the best placement for a ring light?

Straight in front of your subject is the best place to put your light, with the camera in the middle of the circle or 45 degrees to the side (like the soft boxes). Keep the light roughly 25 inches (arm's length) from the subject to create natural, even lighting.

Ring lights are perfect for close-up shots of small trinkets, miniatures, ornaments, watches or jewellery. Just check when shooting metal objects, as you might find the reflections add a hard black line. In this case, you can add softboxes or a light cone to diffuse the light.

Though ring lights are usually sold and used with a tripod, you can also buy LED macro lens ring lights that attach to your DSLR for macro photography. In a previous blog post, we covered taking better pictures with your iPhone. Using a ring light could be a great way to improve your lighting and complement your existing set-up.

You can even get a low-cost and pocket friendly clip-on ring light for your iPhone or tablet. This will help you produce better videos of your stock to upload to your site (included for clients on our large plan).

How much do ring lights cost?

As with soft boxes, prices vary depending on the size. reviewed ring lights in early 2023, recommending:

Ring light with phone

So, should you use a ring light or a box light to photograph items?

Both ring lights and soft boxes have different strengths and weaknesses in different scenarios.

A ring light is cost-effective, portable and easy to use, giving you bright, focused light in videos and macro shots. The more you can bring your items to life for a visitor, the better your chance of making a sale. Video is a great way of doing this.

Lightboxes are great for a large professional set-up, with more flexibility and scope for dramatic effects in still images.

And they can be used together to create shadowless, even lighting.

Whatever you do, experiment to get the best shot and video content of your stock.

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Photo credits - Amazon,,, Antiques Boutique

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Militaria Web Design

By Emma
Tuesday 28th November 2023 at 09:34

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