I need to take pictures of bones (about 40cm) for my study in anthropology but I have too much shadows under the bones, what is for you the best way to take this kind of pictures?

I have a DSLR Canon EOS 70D, Sigma f1.4 30mm and a Canon f4-5.6 55 - 250

I haven't any lightbox, and only a Cobra flash. Is 200€ budget enough to buy some kind of light stuff?


  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Big, diffuse light. What do you have for lighting? If nothing, what sort of budget do you have for lighting? What are the size ranges for the items you'll be photographing? Do you have studio space or a space that you can designate to photographing things? \$\endgroup\$
    – OnBreak.
    Commented Jan 30, 2018 at 16:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ Agree with @Coreys comment, but do you have something like a light box that could back light? \$\endgroup\$
    – Crazy Dino
    Commented Jan 30, 2018 at 16:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'll edit the question with the answers ;) \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 30, 2018 at 16:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ Aaarrrrggggg I always use me trusty “ jolly Roger ST 500” camera and a Pegleg 300 soft box. \$\endgroup\$
    – Alaska Man
    Commented Feb 2, 2018 at 8:49

3 Answers 3


Hopefully worked out OK but you need shadows to reveal the structures and features of the bone so diffuse light is out.

Key to avoiding shadows is either a lighbox under the bone and balance your flash or easier black velvet which can get from most indoor markets in UK.

The light (i.e. your flash) must be directed from superior to inferior in direction otherwise bone just looks odd. You can use something as simple as a piece of card to reduce the shadows. Ideally use a copy stand or failing that a tripod and a cable release.

Great thing about bones is they don’t move so long exposures are OK if not using flash providing you can keep everything still. For detail you need close-up facility and can always tether camera to a laptop to use techniques like focus stacking and HDR.

Some pathological features are only visible with cross-lighting (e.g. aspects of symphysis pubis and Schmorl’s nodes on vertebrae). Again, a good reason to avoid diffuse light!

For more info welcome to e-mail me at [email protected] as I am developing a guide to Osteological photography as so many photographs that are being published are not very good (putting it politely).

  • \$\begingroup\$ Thank you very much for this detailed response! If I'll need to take other bones pictures in the future you could be sure I'll apply your advices ;-) \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 20, 2018 at 17:54

Essentially this is product photography. I doubt bones require special treatment since they are not very specular.

The easiest way it to use a light tent over a glass table with a light from below and diffused lights from the side or falling over the light tent at an angle. The camera and lens really makes little difference.

You can buy light tents in different sizes, often as 30x30x030cm or 60x60x60cm or 90x90x90cm. Pick one that will fit the bones you intend to photography and get a few simple lamps. The tent diffuses the light, so the lamps do not need their own diffuser or reflector. A glass table should be easy to find at a local furniture store.

The light below the table through the diffuse bottom of the light tent will remove shadows. This is how do almost all my product photography.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Remember, you do not have to buy stuff you already have. Most of my furniture is glass and for years I used desk lamps do do the light until I bought more sophisticated lamps with dimmer and temperature control. \$\endgroup\$
    – Itai
    Commented Jan 30, 2018 at 16:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ But I need some kind of diffuser. I already tried with common table ligths + cook paper ("parchment paper" in english?) in front of light but there is already too much shadows. I'll try your advise with the glass table it's an awesome idea! \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 30, 2018 at 16:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ @PatrickFerreira - No, a diffuser is not needed since the light tent is the diffuser since you place the lights outside of it. They coast from $30 to $90, depending on size. \$\endgroup\$
    – Itai
    Commented Jan 30, 2018 at 16:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yes, I just tried with that "custom" diffuser... but I know the tent is much better. I'll take one, it is not so expensive. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 30, 2018 at 17:05

If the bones are not thick, using a paper scanner might produce much better results than taking a photo.

You can even add some bright-color background paper to remove the background in Photoshop easily, as color selection works better for color than gray scale (TV-like background replacement with chroma key).


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