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Manfrotto ™
A Vitec Group brand

Jewelry Photography

Making your jewelry photographs look interesting and different can set your designs apart from the competition. The old cliché stands true, "You never get a second chance to make a first impression." In the on-line world of e-commerce, the more you stand out, the more you are remembered, and this will translate directly into sales for your sites.

Setting up the camera from a new angle and using controlled lighting to highlight the features of your products are some of the tricks we will cover in this lesson. Looking into different props and backgrounds are also ways to increase the impact of your images. So, with this said, let's get started.

Topics Covered:

  • Choosing and Setting up Props and Backgrounds
  • Choosing and Setting up the Tripod
  • Programming the Camera Settings
  • Adding the Macro Extension Tube
  • Choosing Your Camera Angle
  • Setting up the Quantum Q-Flash
  • Setting up Dedo Spot lights
  • Using gels and the Dedo gel holder
  • Using a LiteDisc to control reflections


Manfrotto Equipment Used:

  • Manfrotto 055MF3 Tripod
  • Manfrotto 410 3-Way Head


Other Equipment Used:

  • Olympus 14-54mm f/2.8-3.5 Digital Zuiko Zoom Lens
  • Olympus E-1
  • Olympus 25mm Extension Tube
  • Lexar 1GB Compact Flash card
  • Lexar Multi Card reader
  • Photoflex LiteDisc
  • Photoflex LiteDisc Holder
  • Photoflex LiteDome XS
  • Strobe Light with Accessories
  • Focusable Light source with Gels
 
Choosing a Background

Over the past few years we have developed a great relationship with a local jeweler: we give them the photos we take in exchange for the loan of some exquisite pieces, like the sapphire ring we will shoot for this lesson.

Because this item is made of platinum, we felt a dark background would be a good choice to set off the subject and add some drama in the form of contrast.

While on a trip to the local garden shop, I found some stepping stones that looked very interesting. Although we did not need them at home, they were so cool I had to get a few. When this assignment to shoot a new jewelry lesson came along, these stones found their purpose. The black speckled finish on the stepping stone offers the contrast we wanted to set off the ring. As we mentioned, looking at the subject from an unusual angle will add more interest to the shot, so we decided to set the stone on end and placed the ring on top.

This position gives us the opportunity to set the camera low so we can look up at the subject. To accomplish this setup, we used a large spring clamp to hold the stone in position on the black seamless paper we covered our table with (figure 1 and 2).
 
 


Figure 1


Figure 2
 
Utilizing a Tripod and Choosing a Camera Angle

With our props arranged, we could then position the camera. To add more drama to the shot, we chose to set the camera below the subject and look up at it. This added implied power and importance to the subject.

A perfect tripod for macro work is the Manfrotto 055MF3. We wanted something solid to hold the camera absolutely still, and the extremely rigid carbon fiber construction of the 055MF3 makes it a good choice for this shot. The 055MF3 is also easy to operate and make slight adjustments if we need to change the height of the tripod. In addition, we also chose 055MF3 because of its black non-glare finish. It might seem strange, but when you're working at the very close distances with macro photography, anything to cut down on glare or reflections is a must. With the black finsh of this carbon fiber tripod, we eliminate all our worries.


Figure 3
 
Since we wanted a low camera angle, we didn't need to fully extend the legs of the 055MF3, instead we can use the center column to fine-adjust the height of the camera. The 055MF3 has a rapid center column. This is useful for macro work where it's important to get the camera into exacly the right position for a small subject. With a rapid column, we can raise and lower the camera precisely with the easy adjustments on the center column (figures 4 and 5).
 
 


Figure 4


Figure 5
 


Figure 6
For the tripod head, we chose the Manfrotto 410 3-Way Head (figure 6) because we wanted to be able to easily and precisely position the camera for this macro shot. The geared movements of the 410 head make micro adjustments a snap, while the separation of the camera movements into the three axes means we won't lose framing when, for example, we fine-tune the camera's vertical position. With the Manfrotto 410 3-Way head, we can easily make small, safe adjustments to the camera with one hand, adjust focus or zoom on the camera with the other hand.
 
The Manfrotto 410 3-Way head has three planes of adjustments, and two controls for each of these planes. There is a quick release knob that allows for major positioning and a geared knob that makes precise adjustments (figures 7 and 8).
 
 


Figure 7


Figure 8
 
 
To use the quick release knob turn it clockwise to release it, and then freely move the head into the desired position. When you release the knob, the head will lock into that position.
 


Figure 9

 

 
To use the geared adjustments turn the end of the knob either clockwise or counter clockwise to make precise adjustments to the camera position (figure 10).
 


Figure 10

 

 
Programming the Camera Settings

With the camera now in position we can make our adjustments to the settings. First, set the exposure to manual by setting the mode dial to M

We then set the resolution to the TIFF setting for maximum image quality, the focus to the manual setting and the white balance to daylight (5500K) to match the Q-Flash we will use as our main light, and last we set the ISO to 100.
 
 
Adding the Macro Extension Tube

When shooting jewelry, it is important to get as close to the item as possible to better capture the details that make the piece so special.

There are physical limitations to camera lenses that restrict how close a lens can focus on an object. Fortunately, many lenses can be used with macro extension tubes which greatly decrease the minimum distance required between the lens and the object to achieve sharp focus.

We illustrate this point in figures 11 and 12. The first shot of these chess pieces was shot with the 14-54mm telephoto lens set to 54mm without using the extension tube. The minimum focusing distance of about 6-7 inches restricted how close we could get to our subject.
 


Figure 11
 
Notice that we were able to get relatively close to the chess pieces with both pieces in acceptable focus. After this shot, we added a 25mm extension tube so we could get still closer to our subject (figure 12).
 


Figure 12
 
Notice that we were able to get much closer to our subject. There is much greater detail in our foreground object. Also notice how any focus on the background object has been drastically lost. Very shallow depth of field is characteristic of using extension tubes.

There is also a drop-off in the exposure level when using an extension tube. Expect to increase your exposure by one full f-stop when using a 25mm extension tube.
 


Figure 13
The extension tube seats between the camera body and the rear of the lens. Figure 13 shows the E1 body with the 14-54mm lens attached before the 25mm extension tube is inserted.


Figure 14
Setting up a Strobe Main Light

We set up our Main, or Key, Light strobe on a boom, attached a light dome. We then attached the battery pack and Radio slave (not shown).

We then positioned the light to shine down from above the subject (figure 14).
 
With our main/key light in place we made some minor adjustments to the ring and checked our exposure with our flash meter. The meter read 1/60 @ f /8.0 so we set the camera accordingly. We then moved the camera in place by adjusting our tripod and moving the head to place the lens at the right angle and made our first shot (figure 15). With the 055MF3's horizontal mounting center column, we could even get the camera right in over the table if necessary.
 


Figure 15


Figure 16
Our results showed that we needed to move the main/key light forward to let some light fall on the front of the ring.

We adjusted the light and repositioned the ring (figure 16).

We checked the light with our meter and got the same reading so we shot a second exposure.


Figure 17
 
This result shows the light we wanted on the top of the ring. The metal looked good, with clean highlights and good shape (figure 17). The stones now needed some work, we wanted to see the facets in the stones and the color of the sapphire come through more vividly.
 


Figure 18
Utilizing Focusable Spot Lights

To open up the stones and add some color and life to them, we employed a few Dedo Spot lights.

The lights we used were Dedo 150 watt, tungsten focusable light units. We would use three total and would utilize a focusing lens and an assortment of gels.

We set this light to the left side of our set at 90 degrees from the camera and focused it on the ring. To correct the color of the Dedo light, we inserted a blue correction gel into the gel holder slot on the Dedo light (figure 18).
 
We checked the effect of the light through the view finder and had our assistant make some adjustment to fine tune the light. We also made a change to the position of the ring to show more of the stones on both sides. When we were happy with the look, we took another exposure (figure 19).
 


Figure 19
 
Our result showed a great improvement in the detail of the stones, we were finally seeing some sparkle in the facets on the right side. As a nice bonus, the rock we were using for our prop now had some wonderful texture.

To add some of the same look to the left side of the ring, we then set up a second Dedo Spot light on the right of the set. For this light, however, we attached the Dedo light to a DL-Holder so we could boom the light in closer (figures 20 and 21).
 
 


Figure 20


Figure 21
 
 
Again we had our assistant make some final adjustments to the lights while I looked through the view finder. When we were set we took our next exposure (figure 22).
 


Figure 22
 
Now we were getting close to a noteworthy shot. The addition of the second spot light did the trick for the stones on the right side of the ring. For the last action, we will add a 12 inch LiteDisc to bounce some light back into the subject and open up the metal on the front of the ring (figures 23 and 24).
 
 


Figure 23


Figure 24
 
 
Now with the final pieces in place we were ready to make the hero shot (figure 25).
 


Figure 25
 
Here is a comparison of our results; you can clearly note the progression of the lighting solution for this lesson when you see them side by side (figure 26).
 


Figure 26

 

 
As always there are no hard-set or fast rules to photography, this is just one interesting way to shoot jewelry. Once you have set up the lights, take the time to look at the subjects. You will find many other unique possibilities. These kinds of shots are always different, so have fun with it, and good luck.
 

Topics Covered:

  • Choosing and Setting up Props and Backgrounds
  • Choosing and Setting up the Tripod
  • Programming the Camera Settings
  • Adding the Macro Extension Tube
  • Choosing Your Camera Angle
  • Setting up the Quantum Q-Flash
  • Setting up Dedo Spot lights
  • Using gels and the Dedo gel holder
  • Using a LiteDisc to control reflections


Manfrotto Equipment Used:

  • Manfrotto 055MF3 Tripod
  • Manfrotto 410 3-Way Head


Other Equipment Used:

  • Olympus 14-54mm f/2.8-3.5 Digital Zuiko Zoom Lens
  • Olympus E-1
  • Olympus 25mm Extension Tube
  • Lexar 1GB Compact Flash card
  • Lexar Multi Card reader
  • Photoflex LiteDisc
  • Photoflex LiteDisc Holder
  • Photoflex LiteDome XS
  • Strobe Light with Accessories
  • Focusable Light source with Gels