diamond photography

Photographing a 16-Carat Yellow Asscher-Cut Diamond Ring by Vadim Chiline

An amazing Birks & Mayors engagement ring featuring a large 16-carat yellow Asscher cut diamond.

An amazing Birks & Mayors engagement ring featuring a large 16-carat yellow Asscher cut diamond.

In the world of jewelry photography, having the chance to shoot rare and exotic stones and designs is a huge privilege. Normally, we must work with the so-called more affordable and inclusion-filled variety of jewels. If doing lots of web or catalog photography, this is sometimes what makes up your bread and butter as a jewelry photographer.

Sometimes though, you get a call to shoot something that’s more intriguing, rare, or even spectacular in nature: The large diamond; the odd cut; an intense color rarely seen; or a combination of some of the above.

Several weeks ago, I got the call to shoot a large 16-carat fancy intense yellow Asscher-cut diamond ring for Birks & Mayors, sometimes called “Canada’s Tiffany’s”. The diamond was stunning and sat in a yellow-gold flower petal basket, laced with yellow diamonds. This basket was then wonderfully flanked by additional pave diamonds. Overall, it was quite the exquisite piece of jewelry to photograph. It is currently on display in their store in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.

A head-on photo of a 16-carat yellow Asscher-cut diamond.

A head-on photo of a 16-carat yellow Asscher-cut diamond.

The photography was done using our lovely Phase One system. The RAW images were processed and converted with Capture One Pro 7 into 16-bit TIFF, allowing for the most color and tonal range possible while retouching (banding issues in gradient areas are greatly reduce or avoided all-together). The above photos were made-up of between 7 to 15 images and then stitched together using HeliconSoft.

Retouching was relatively straight-forward (although took several hours of work because the images were to be used in large prints) requiring contrast adjustments, cleaning the metal and improving the diamond faceting (removing some unwanted dark reflections/refractions, and unwanted colors). Last but not least, additional contrast was added via sharpening at the end as well as a blue colour cast was added to the white metal matching the Birks blue standard.

We were very pleased with this result and are looking forward to future collaborations with this wonderful company.

Book Recommendation

Great jewelry photography reference book, Harry Winston.

Great jewelry photography reference book, Harry Winston.

Recently published, Harry Winston

On a different note, if you are interested in large diamonds, including rare and exotic designs, I highly recommend you take a look at the following book: Harry Winston. I just purchased it recently and love looking over the amazing history at this jewelry institution. It's a large hardcover book, filled with some of the history of Harry Winston Inc., covering many of it's classic collection pieces including the Hope diamond, a large 45.52 carat blue diamond. It might not contain every masterpiece ever created, but it's quite impressive. Every jewelry photographer or designer should own this book. Great jewelry photography - great jewelry design.

In the Next Blog...

In the next blog I will cover a retouching technique with my first video blog: converting white gold to yellow gold. So please stay tuned (hope to put this up in the coming week).

Photographing a Diamond on a Black Background: Capturing the Sparkle by Vadim Chiline

Loose diamond photography on black

Loose diamond photography on black

Two diamonds composited together from two individual photos showcasing lovely faceting and fire. A diamond’s beauty lies in its sparkle. The main challenge when photographing the stone is capturing and showing off that natural brilliance. In this project, we’ll shoot loose diamonds against a black background.

A diamond is basically a translucent, prismatic, glass-like object that refracts light. It’s the cut of the diamond that determines the pattern of refracted light and the type of lighting required for the optimal photographic effect.

Some photographers prefer constant lighting because they can quickly see the effect of the light. Others wrap diffusion paper around the stone in a cone like-fashion, pointing lights directly at the subject and also using a multi-LED bulb, such as the Dazzler, to achieve the “fire” effect in a diamond (the flecks of light). Personally, I prefer using my conventional lighting system—strobes, softboxes, or bare lights with reflectors and grids. I think you should be able to get the “fire” from a diamond using these tools alone.

Let’s get started: First, wear gloves. Medical-style latex gloves work well, but any lint-free substitute will do. With gloved hands, inspect the diamond and remove any oils, fingerprints, and dust. I recommend a standard jewelry cleaner with a quick rinse under water. The less retouching we have to do in post-production, the better.

Next, place the diamond on a black Plexiglass surface. In the example above, I have placed them pointing to off-center for a non-standard diamond shot.

Now, we need to look at our light sources. Let’s compare non-diffused light (using the Sun as an example) with diffused light (clouds) on diamonds. On a cloudless sunny day, a diamond will sparkle with all its might, producing the “fire” effect. On a cloudy day, a diamond will be duller and whiter, showing less “fire”. Photographically speaking, we generally want a little of both. Too much “fire” obscures the shape, while too much diffusion loses the life of the stone.

Loose diamond photographed straight-on with softboxes only

Loose diamond photographed straight-on with softboxes only

Shot using ONLY 2 softboxes, colors boosted in post-processing

Working in the studio, I need to reproduce this in a controlled environment using a combination of bare strobes (which act like the Sun), and softboxes (the clouds). It's a balancing act that requires trial and error to find the right mix to achieve a pleasing image. The advantage of the studio is that I can have several "suns" and "clouds" at my disposal.

I begin by setting up the clouds, with one softbox on each side of the camera, and take a photo. Boosting saturation and adjusting levels in the RAW file sometimes gives enough "fire" immediately, in which case you have a winning shot. (See the straight-on diamond image below.) Often, you’ll need to do more.

To replicate the Sun (a small, non-diffused light source), I use bare strobes at various angles, creating "fire". There is no right or wrong way to shoot. It might take some practice to get the perfect image because every stone is slightly different and reacts uniquely. Continue moving light positions and angles to the stone until you capture the perfect image.


Lighting diagram for diamond image at the top of this blog. Using both "sun" and "clouds" in the studio.

I hope this behind the scenes has given you some insight. Should you have any questions or topic you would like me to maybe cover, please send me feedback below or drop me an email.