Lesson Of The Month
Shooting Jewelry Simply And Elegantly

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Lesson Of The Month

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When it comes to photographing jewelry, there are different approaches to consider with regards to how each particular piece will come across. If you are deadline driven and have many pieces to photograph, you may prefer to place each piece on a plain white background set, photograph it, and then replace it with the following one.

There may also be situations where you'll want to take a little extra time to integrate props and/or a background to create a more visually compelling image. Before long, you'll probably find that you can combine elements from each of these approaches to create the quantity and quality of images you'll be happy with.
In this lesson, we wanted to demonstrate just how easy it is to create your own custom shooting space. In the corner of a relatively small room with 8-foot ceilings, we put together a simple lighting set, which consisted of a 30x50" sheet of white foamcore held up by a couple of sawhorses. We attached an Olympus C-5050 Zoom digital camera to a Manfrotto tripod and positioned it close to the front edge of the foamcore. We would later bring in a Photoflex Medium Starlite Kit and a Photoflex 12" LiteDisc setup so that ultimately, the entire set would take up less than 25 square feet (5x5 ft) of floor space. As you can see, you can create a setup like this just about anywhere (#1).

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The Basic Approach
Even if all you want to do is shoot basic jewelry shots on a white background, remember that the lighting you use is going to determine how your shots come out. To demonstrate how important it is to have good lighting, we decided to illustrate the difference between built-in flash lighting and softbox lighting. We first started with the built-in flash lighting.

First, we placed this beautiful crystal and sterling stretch bracelet (www.jewelrybymareware.com) near the front edge of the foamcore so that we could position the camera about 8" overhead, and then made some adjustments to the camera. We first made sure that the All Reset function of the camera was turned off, set the Focus mode to Manual, set the ISO to its lowest setting (64), set the Resolution to SHQ, and set the white balance setting to Daylight to match the color temperature of the flash (5500ÞK). We then activated the flash, set the Exposure mode to Program, and took our first shot (#2).

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Illustrated is a classic example of built-in flash lighting (#3). Since the light illuminating the bracelet is very small and traveling in the same direction as the point of view of the lens, it can't help but render the bracelet relatively flat and dimensionless. There are small sections of the bracelet that are illuminated and reflected back into the lens, but it is the center of the foamcore that is most noticeably reflected back, making the bracelet appear relatively dark and making the lighting look uneven and unnatural.

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To demonstrate the effects of softbox lighting, we brought in a Photoflex Medium Starlite Kit and positioned it to the left of the set so that the diffused light passing through it would rake softly across the bracelet to create a more natural sense of dimension.

Then we made some adjustments to the camera. We disabled the flash, changed the shooting mode from Program to Manual and created a custom white balance setting to match the color temperature of the Starlite Kit (3200ÞK). For the manual exposure settings, we set the aperture to f/8 (its smallest aperture setting) to achieve maximum depth of field, set the shutter speed to 1/30 sec to render a good exposure, and took a shot (#4).


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Notice how much better the result looks (#5). The lighting is soft and even, and the crystal and sterling sections of the bracelet are bright, colorful, and dimensional.

If you wanted to eliminate the soft shadow cast onto the foamcore and make the bracelet appear as though it was resting on a pure white background, you could simply position a silver reflector on the other side of the bracelet to fill in the shadows and brighten the overall shot. Here, we attached a Photoflex 12" Silver/White LiteDisc (silver side facing the bracelet) to a Photoflex LiteDisc Holder and LiteStand and positioned it to the right of the bracelet, just out of the frame of the camera, and took shots (#6 and #7).


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Remember that once you have your lighting setup in place, you are ready to drop in any other pieces you may need to photograph.

If you would like to continue your digital step by step education lessons on editing, printing, and e-mailing your photos it will be on the private section of the Web Photo School. To enroll for WPS just go to www.shutterbug.net and click on WPS Free Lessons.


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Technical Equipment
Camera/Media: Olympus C-5050 Zoom digital camera; Olympus 128MB SmartMedia card; Manfrotto 3001PRO tripod with a 3275 head
Lighting: Photoflex Medium Starlite Kit; Photoflex 12" White/Silver LiteDisc; Photoflex LiteDisc Holder; Photoflex LS-2214 LiteStand
Additional Supplies: 1 30x50" sheet of white foamcore; 2 sawhorses

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