Gemstones and silver - low budget photography

Discussion in 'Pentax' started by markus maurer, Apr 12, 2013.

  1. Hi Pentax friends
    I start to photograph some handemade jewelry for a friend and would like to hear your honest opinions about my first samples. I must use a white background for her webshop and can only do more exotic combinations later with different backgrounds and props to get a bit more mood and add my own style.
    Pure daylight through a window with silver reflectors was used here and while the images are quite low in contrast I prefer them over the ones I took with a harder LED light and reflectors yesterday .
    Thanks for looking and your comments.
  2. the first of my "freestyle" attempts
  3. stemked

    stemked Moderator

    Hi Markus.
    Do you have access to a softbox? I see a lot of people going that route with jewelry. Clearly your images with the blue background are far more enticing (IMHO) than the white background, especially for the white stones.
  4. I could diffuse the light even more by letting the window light pass through a white reflector but I rate the light and shadows soft enough in the 3 white samples? I have a white umbrella for flash as well but this kind of modifiers will easily reflect and be seen in the darker and rounder stones, it's a challenge to hide the camera and lens as well and I will use the 100 mm macro for some of the photos for a bit more shooting distance. For the white crystals I will have to use black modifiers on one side to get darker edges to make them stand out against the white background. And I will use a mixture with a small hard light as well to get some sparkle on the stones. This is my concept so far :) Thanks for commenting.
  5. Markus,

    Nice first go here. You will get more depth for the top images especially if you place a white translucent sheet of acrylic
    beneath the gemstones. You can manage lighting from both underneath & above.. Plenty of documentation online.

    Looks like you did something close in the blue background shot. That's the best one.

  6. Never heard of translucent acrylic ... put a lemon translucent paper (avery or 3M product) after all will permit to use direct light on the stone or I do not know what can be shown on white background
  7. Thanks Michael. Reflective white acrylic sheets (around $30 a sheet here including postage) would be a nice option but I shy the cost at the moment for a one time and unpaid photo project (dinner and future recommendation only) . I will use my second hand light table for some photos, it gives an interesting floating look but the missing ground shadow also reduces the impression of depth even more. The blue shot was made on a strong reflecting shiny ceramic plate. And the client wants that "simple auction look" on a pure white background despite my recommendation for a more artistic and unusual look.
  8. Markus - Diffusing the light even more would not be a good Idea since contrast is needed, especially on the light stones. Having highlights from the lights might not be so bad. Your idea of using a 90mm sounds good to me, so you can back up. The mirror, IMHO, was confusing shapes.
    I must use a white background for her webshop - Why?
    I agree with Michael that the blue background works very well with the white stones - colored cloth would work for any of the shots.
    Jewelry is a challenge. Good luck.
  9. "I must use a white background for her webshop - Why?"
    She (the client) wants it that way Howard, she likes that "light look" on her website despite all the shortcomings and challenges for me.

    I tried shooting on colored cloth and I like some of the results (velvet is very nice) but this will not be an option for this project. I await a response on my blue reflective shot, I would love to do more of this kind .
  10. I'm going to be doing some jewelry and stone shots for an online dealer soon. He is very dogmatic about using a black background only. Same mentality as Markus's client. I'm sure they read somewhere that there is only one absolutely correct method for photographing gems. It's going take some visual persuasion on my part.
    Markus, do rest assured that jewelry photography is about the toughest type of shooting out there, so really, you are doing fine. I haven't done much of it, and thus I'm allotting several hours per week to ramp up my skills for this new work. I'm fortunate in that my mentor spent 15 years doing jewelry catalogs for a now-departed but much beloved Seattle old-style department store, so he is holding my hand so to speak.
  11. Thanks for your encouraging words Michael and I'm very interested in your coming project, I hope you can post samples of your setup and the results here. I will try to shoot some visually more interesting arrangements with props and different backgrounds and also have some wilder ideas which might work or easily fail as well.
  12. Markus - Here's an advertisement from the New York Times' style magazine - actually, the website. Notice the lightshine on some of the jewels.
  13. I think you need to try some more shots with a camera positioned above the subject. Since you are shooting macro, you will have a very shallow depth of field.
    Look at photo #2. You need to have more of the subject in focus. If you position the camera above the subject, and shoot downwards, then more of the subject will be closer to the plane of focus. In many cases, only the height of the topic item will compete with your depth of field.
    This may mean that you might find it convenient to rig up a way to stand over the subject to work your camera. It may call for an abnormally low table to set up the picture. The camera may need to be on a pole arm over the table.
    If you shoot from beside the table, you will never get a large object like a necklace all into the plane of focus.
    Shoot down. Focus on the table, then pull back. Get what you want with all of the topic item in focus.
    This may make your setup tall, instead of farther out across the room. How tall will depend on the angle of view provided by your lens. If you are just using a regular tripod, you may have a camera support problem ahead of you.
    If you choose to work from above, notice that the "top" and "bottom" or "left" and "right" of your photo frame may be defined more by the travel of light across your frame. Just make one side slightly stronger than another.
    Look at what your best competitors are doing. They do not have so much of the subject out of focus. I recommend that you experiment with improving your camera position to fix this problem. Your client will never understand that a big part of the picture is out of focus because of macro. I understand and applaud your efforts; but, you have got to cure that focus problem.
    The only cheap way I know, outlined above, is to look down on it flat. It is likely that this will throw a common lighting plan into chaos. It will probably kick back nasty reflections on the first try. You will end up needing to adjust the lights by throwing your regular plan over on its side.
    For the reflections, I remember one time I was having a discussion with another local photographer; she described that once, in despair, she wrapped the whole setup in white sheets and shot through a fold in the break of the cloths. Good luck.
    Having never done any better myself, I can only offer up Fuqua's "Light, Science and Magic" as a lame offer of better help.
    In focus topic : no exceptions. It's tough to write and read, but it's the truth. I know you can do it.
  14. For white on white lighting drills, I used to practice will a roll of toilet paper sitting on a large white sheet of paper that curled into the backdrop like a piece of seamless. If you get the tonal exposure right, you should get five to seven tones out of that white on white by adjusting the lighting. Notice that this practice test with the papers will be easier than the jewels because the paper is rough and the jewelry is smooth. But, it is still white on white and something to practice with.
    If you cannot show cylinder and shadow and depth and tone with that toilet paper roll, how are you going to show shape on that smooth jewelry without needing a reflection? Try the toilet paper exposure drill. Record the answer. Maybe it'll help. If nothing else, it'll take reflection out of the setup problem temporarily.
    Good luck.
  15. Last tip: I once improvised a softbox by just putting the flash in a cardboard box and cutting a large hole in the side. Cover that hole with ordinary white paper. It'll work at tabletop ranges. Often you can just position it to the side; and, there will be enough light blasting through to not fuss about 3D positioning of the box. I tried this once with old manual flashes and it worked just fine. I don't know how the new digital systems will behave; you may have to help the software along if it is calculating for you.
    If it helps, the most common downward-looking setup photographers encounter is the optical enlarger in printing. Except, instead of projecting down, you will be receiving up. The other option might be objective lens or get out of macro somehow. I think it will be shoot down.
    Post some pics when you get it done. J.
  16. Thanks Howard and John. I just came back from one week without internet access helping a friend moving and will comment later :)
  17. Don't be afraid to use hard light. Diffusing all your light source(s) tends to hide the details...which is ok if that's what your client wants, but as stated above it makes for a less dynamic shot.
    Below is a picture of my wife's star sapphire ring, taken outdoors last June with my K7. Light sources were an AF360-FGZ off-camera, and the sun. I used a black background, but white would of course work as well if required.
  18. Here's the ring:
  19. John, thank you so much for taking the time and your thoughts, I agree with most of them except one: "Your client will never understand that a big part of the picture is out of focus because of macro". It was in fact my client which sent me some brochures showing exactly that arrangement and depth of field as my sample no 2 and of course on a white background and she wants some of the photos that way. Last week we agreed to take some photos on cloth and darker backgrounds as well after I sent her my white crystal shot on the blue background :) It will take me another week until I continue with this project - dog sitting and dog portraits come first - and I will show some results again.
  20. Thanks as well Donnie. I agree that I need and want more controlled hard light mixed into my shots but your sample is not to my liking because parts of the ring look a bit scratched to my eye. And I know in advance that my client would hate the blown out highlights.
  21. Howard, thanks for the link, the jewelry looks nice and it seems that a few large reflectors and/or windows where used. The biggest challenge for me are the dark and round stones, they see the camera and the surrounding from nearly every angle :)
  22. Markus - It seems a light tent or box is the way to go to get the effect you want. Here are two links with some tips and diagrams:
    Admittedly, they are advertisements for their products, but there may be some good information for you.
  23. I and LSM strongly disagree about the use of light tents for most jewelry photography :), but thanks Howard.
    A fresh sample from today...
  24. Here's a video from Neil Van Niekirk - at1:13:48 he shows how to light jewelry with bounced on camera flash - very effective!
  25. Thanks Howard, I'm just watching the first video about portrait photography, comes handy as well ;-)
  26. My client does not like fabric as background but now prefers some stones and wood and plants which I have to find and arrange first ;-)
  27. Finally we move into the direction I like....

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