Saturday, January 29, 2011

Jewelry Photography Part 1

We've all seen and admired, the photographs of jewelry pieces featured on this blog. And you may be wondering how do they take such great photos? Quite frankly, that's something we struggle with every day except for the really rich members who can afford professional photographers for each piece they make...which means all of us take our own photos.

Good photographs are an absolute necessity to sell on the internet. The customer has to be able to see exactly what they want to buy. They don't want any "surprises" after opening their package when it arrives. Out-of-focus images, wrong colors, an image not showing parts of an item: all things affect sales. So let's see what makes a good photograph. Next week we'll look at what goes on after that photograph is taken from the camera before it's posted on a web site.

Here are three different solutions to the same problem from three members:

Lighting: How to get the right light to show off the piece as nicely as possible and not affect affect the colors? Haven't we all bought something in a store only to find the color is different in daylight? So, photographers need a light source that is near enough to daylight. Yes, there are "daylight" bulbs for those of us who don't have enough sun. And we need to aim it where we want it. And we need to control shadows. Details, details...

Here's a set up by ShinyAdornments
Her set up (red arrow not included) uses natural light:

And her results:

Here's a different one by Madame Magpie's Shiny Things

And her results (notice she uses a wine glass as a prop):

Here is a set up by TJRJewellery

And his result:

Background: How to show off all this lovely jewelry? How can we make it as appealing as possible and avoid the "Huh? Whazzat??" when the photo is posted on the net? As you can see each artist has their own way of solving the problem. Some use props like a floor tile with interesting texture or a wine glass or even nothing at all, BUT the final result is a beautiful image of their jewelry.

Camera: Do we need special cameras? Camera choices vary from artist to artist. What we do need is to learn how to use the camera we already have. If you have ever taken photos where things are out of focus you have probably wondered why. It's even harder to get very close to an object and keep it in focus. For that, we use the "macro" function of a camera. With macro we can shoot just inches from a piece and get the whole thing in sharp focus.

Here's some of TJR's choice of camera and equipment (in his own words):
- Current set up is a vintage Photogenic Machine Company Porta-Master 400 flash unit, a Canon EOS 20D, a Canon 100mm macro lens and a Manfrotto tripod with a ball head (to allow for camera rotation) - all were bought used (if you know someone who is into photography professionally or at an amateur level belonging to a camera club, you might be able to obtain some of their back up equipment at a reasonable price - the only equipment likely difficult to get cheaply will be the camera lens as they hold their values as they typically can be transferred from camera to camera.
- Camera directly attached to the flash unit using a PC sync cable, and I use the flash mode setting on my camera (I do not use the on camera flash for my photos).
- Camera set-up/settings I like to use: I shoot in manual mode, always manually focus the jewellery in the picture (to keep the area I want in focus), picture should take up 1/2 to 2/3 of viewing frame, take pictures in RAW format, use the camera timer to take the pictures, use f/13 for aperture, use shutter speed of 1/250 of a second, use ISO 100 (to avoid noise)
- Using a grey card for colour correction is very important - take a shot under your normal lighting set up with a grey card in the picture frame somewhere (you only need to use the grey card for the first photo you take). Import the photo to Photoshop and go to IMAGE -> ADJUSTMENT -> LEVELS. Click on the middle eye dropper to set the grey point, move the eye dropped over to the grey card and click on it (colour should instantly improve). Save this white balance adjustment (using the save button) and you can instantly correct all your other photos taken under the same lighting conditions by loading this white balance adjustment for all subsequent photos. You can further play with your white balance if you choose by adjusting the small triangles below the histogram/"input levels" graph.

As you can see, TJR's list is very complete and detailed for his needs.

Other equipment: One reason your pics may have been blurry was because the camera shook just a bit. So, we use a tripod to hold the camera as perfectly still as possible. See the list above for a very complete list of what TJR uses.

TJR mentioned photo editing above and that's what we'll be discussing next week.
(And yes, that's me taking a pic.)


tjrjewellery said...

Well written article Sue - always good to see how other artisans tackle this subject!

mcstoneworks said...

Great information. Loved seeing all of the photo setups.

Jeanne said...

This is GREAT! I'm going to try Tim's settings in aperature, etc. to see if it helps for me - I'm sure it will since those settings always confuse me! Reading articles about taking better pictures of my jewelry is always inspiring. Makes me want to run and break out all my props. :)

Cat said...

Very cool post, thanks!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the info! I hope I'm able to do the same thing with the gray card in Corel. My biggest issue is white balance.

BeadSire said...

This is a fabulous post - thanks Sue and everyone who contributed

DawninCal said...

Great and informative post, Sue.

It's really neat to see other people's set-ups and results. I laughed out loud after reading the sentence about how the rich among us have professionals take photos of their jewelry which means we all take our own pics!

Tasha said...

Thanks to all for the post - especially Tim (I'm curious to try your settings out too!)

AMDesignsbyAngela said...

Great post Sue...thanks to all of the contributors for sharing their set-ups...particularly Tim for all the great info and tips.

Cassie said...

Great info! I've struggled with photos for quite some time so it's nice to get some help from people who have great pics. Can't wait for the next edition(s) of Jewelry Photography!

Asem Lagos jewelry said...

Sue this is fabulous post. You’re absolutely an artist. Showing the true beauty of jewelries on photographs wasn’t that easy especially if your subjects are so small and need extra attentions. Sometimes you need a little help from other things just to enhance the beauty of jewelries.
I really love your post here, please continue updating and let us see more jewelries photograph of yours.

Pat de Verre said...

very intersting post. Thank you for these informations. I have to make progress with my pics

ShinyAdornments said...

So jealous of Tim's set up.

Nice informative post. Thanks a bunch! I'm looking forward to the photo editing one next.

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