Saturday, February 2, 2013

Jewelry Photography Secret Weapons

This month’s Blog Carnival** is about jewelry photography

It is a necessary part of this trade that once an item is made it has to be documented for a variety of purposes eg, inventory, sales promotion, exhibition and a portfolio record of the artist’s work. Very few craftspeople can afford to hire a professional photographer to take pictures of all the things they make, so most of us become more or less proficient at taking our own photos. Many of us do our own photography for the full range of purposes that images are needed for, and supplement our efforts with professionally done images for more important publicity work such as a magazine cover.

As anyone who has set out to do jewelry photography has learned, information on the specific subject is scant, scattered and hard to come by. Which means that the vast majority of us learn by trial and error – and by talking amongst ourselves, when others are willing to share their hard earned knowledge.  These discussions are usually kicked off with…”how did you get that effect”. 

95% of jewelry photography is about controlling the lighting. That said, we have several secret weapons (tools really) that we find indispensible to the task. First and foremost among these tools are light diffusers. Theses soften the light and reduce or eliminate harsh reflections on shiny surfaces.
Soft Box lighting unit

We use “soft box” lighting units that have a diffuser built in, however we frequently supplement this with additional diffusing units for additional control or to achieve a particular effect. Diffusing units can be constructed of anything that is translucent. We typically use lightweight white plastic film, which can be obtained from most art supply or photography stores. The sheeting can be cut easily with scissors to make any shape or size needed. We often make a specific diffuser shape from coat hanger wire and tape the plastic material to it. It’s a cheap, fast and highly effective solution. This photo shows two rectangle diffuser panels made from coat hangers. Thin milk plexiglass or other types of plastic that will stand up on their own are also very useful and we have an entire armada of such shapes and panels in our studio.
Diffuser Panels

Reflectors and light scrims are the other secret weapons that we use extensively. The most common type of reflector we use is common matt board, black on one side and white on the other.  The matt board is easily cut to any size and shape to instantly suite the task at hand. Reflectors are positioned opposite light sources to bounce light or color back into specific areas of the object, such as the underside of a curved surface.  We wrap the reflector board in tin foil if brighter reflections are needed. The black surface is used when you need to eliminate a bright reflection. We also have a good array of various colored boards to have better control over the color tone of the reflection.
Reflectors and Scrims

Scrims are shapes, usually cut from matt board or foam core, that help restrict, form or shape the light source. They are very useful when you need an extra spot of light on just one small area, or you want the light to be restricted to a specific area on the object or shooting stage. Scrims are positioned between the light source and the object. The distances between the three will determine how “hard” or “soft” the lighting effect will be.
Tripod Boom Attachment

One of our guilty studio pleasures is the boom attachment for the tripod.  We got by for years without one, but doing jewelry photography with one is so-o-o-o-o much easier. The boom allows you to position the camera over a small piece rather than shooting obliquely. It’s a small point, but can be a big deal when attempting to get the right angle on a piece and for gaining more control over depth of field issues related to macro lenses. 

For more tips and tricks about jewelry photography, take a look at some of the other Etsymetal Team artist’s blogs who have generously shared what they have learned.

** Blog Carnival is a project of EtsyMetal Team, an international group of jewelry makers, whereby various team members each write about a common topic, giving readers a variety of perspectives.