Boulder inventor begins grassroots campaign to launch new photography invention

Necessity is the mother of invention, and when Cindy Lichfield needed a way to photograph her jewelry without getting the usual hot spots, strange reflections and strong shadows that often show up in pictures of metal and stone, she invented the Cloud Dome -- a plastic translucent dome that diffuses light to make normally finicky photos of jewelry downright blingy.But that wasn't the only necessity Lichfield needed to tame -- she was waiting for smart phone technology to rival that of a decent camera, so she could make a dome that jewelers could use with their phone.

She finally quit waiting and created it herself. Now she's looking for grassroots backing for her new project, the Nimbus Cloud Dome.

There have been some hurdles along the way, though. "I couldn't come up with a universal bracket for all smart phones," she explains. "My friend and co-inventor, Dave Burchett, helped me out with that, though, and we came up with this idea together. The dome is four inches high, which is the focal length of smart phone. You can use ambient light of a room, or add on additional lighting if you need to."

Using a smart phone provides many options for a photographer. "There are so many good apps," she points out. "Like Camera Plus, for instance, with which you can edit your images and put them on Facebook or e-mail them to people. That comes in really handy. There's a store at DIA, Colorado Collections, that has used the dome to do that, and it's been increasing their sales."

Coming up with an invention is just the start of the process; concepts don't always align with financial reality. Lichfield thinks of ideas all the time that either cost too much to produce, creating too much overhead, or cost too little, meaning that production would have to be amped beyond demand. This particular project, however, allows Lichfield to keep herself in the production process, use components produced in America, and also reach her target demographic -- jewelers and photographers.

Usually Lichfield has to ask for close friends and investors to financially back her new products, but this time she's trying a new direction -- online fund-raising. lets the public participate in small by pledging to help inventors reach their start-up cost goals. "I like Kickstarter to get funding, instead of asking family friends and investors," Lichfield says. "I'm excited to see how it works. It's been a bit slow, but it's a nice way to gauge the market, and it solidifies my target market as jewelry and beads."

Lichfield, who started as a jeweler and now produces and markets her inventions full-time, says the most rewarding aspect of her work is making something that helps others. And the Nimbus Cloud does just that.

"Inventing helps me and helps other people," she says. "It makes you feel good when people say, 'Oh, my goodness, this is such a great picture.' I have people who can make a good living by their good pictures. My whole goal with photography is that you should concentrate on your art, and not your pictures."

For more information on Lichfield's project, visit the Nimbus Cloud web page.

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Tiffany Fitzgerald