|Jewelers have a hard life when it comes to photography. Despite the quality of their subjects, most jewelry images seem flat and dull. Yet, it is surprisingly easy to make eye-popping photographs of small objects like jewelry. These are images that go beyond the usual "pictures of things just lying around." Many jewelers have asked me how to add some sizzle to their pictures. Years ago, I had given a lot of thought to improving my jewelry photos and came up with a simple tabletop setup that makes it a snap to give your close-up studio shots a touch of the old "bling-bling."
Earlier, in the pages of The Crafts Report, I described how to setup a tabletop studio. What I am proposing now is a variation on that basic setup. Some regular readers may find some duplication here, but I am starting with the basics so that everyone is up to speed on creating this setup.
Note: For me, it is dangerous and mad to use traditional tungsten floodlights or quartz-tungsten in close-up work. These lights produce enough heat to melt jewelry and burn hands. I know, as I have the scars to prove it. CFLs and LEDs produce hardly any heat at all and are a much safer alternative when working at the small distances.
No. 2 - Backgrounds Make the Shot
"Too often photographers get so caught up in their tiny subjects that they forget about the backgrounds." - Steve Meltzer
Start by laying down the graduated background flat on a tabletop. Then make two stacks of books on either side of the background about 12 to 14 inches apart and stacked to 12 to 14 inches. Next, make the rear sides of the stacks a little higher by using something as a wedge, giving the stack and, thus the glass, a slight tilt forward. Lay the glass on the stacks, frosted side down.
The books will be the support for the glass although after I figured out this arrangement, I built myself a wire frame out of some shelving baskets I found at the hardware store to support the glass. If you have a workshop and are handy at building things, you could make yourself a simple wooden or metal frame to do the job.
I tilt the glass when working close-up because shooting straight down on your subjects will cause your own reflection to appear in the picture. Tilting the glass helps avoid the problem.
|No. 4 - Rising from the Light
Now place your jewelry on the glass, put the camera on a tripod, and frame the subject. Position the subject in such a way over the background that you can see its transition of tones with dark areas on top and light areas below the jewelry. Move the background or the object as necessary until it appears to sit just above the area of lighter tones. If you see reflections of your camera or lights in the glass, eliminate them by repositioning the camera and/or the lights.
With jewelry and other small-object photography, it comes in handy to have some pliable adhesive like Blu-Tack® around. It's great for holding things up, such as when you want to stand a bracelet or a ring on end. It also helps to keep all sorts of items from simply sliding off the angled glass.
"The trick to floating is to create the illusion that the jewelry is suspended in mid-air." - Steve Meltzer
As always, there is never a one-size-fits-all solution to anything in photography. Every subject is different and demands a unique approach, so expect that you will have to experiment with lighting and the positioning of objects. However, learning how to seemingly suspend objects in midair is worth the effort.
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