jewelry photographer

Photography Instruction Announcement for all Levels by Vadim Chiline

It's been a little while since my last post, but I have been up to many many MANY things lately. As some of you probably already know, I've been quite involved with Photigy. If some of you don't know what Photigy is, well, where have you been hiding? Get out from under that rock and check it out. It is probably the single best resources for commercial product photographers out there. You can also check out the Photigy Facebook page and ask away! I'm moderator there, so just ask for access - it's open to all interested in product photography. 

Need to learn everything about splash photography? Plenty of courses and behind-the-scenes material on there! Want to learn to shoot cosmetic brushes? Well, there's stuff on that too. Equipment reviews? Uh huh... yep, we have those as well. 

What about those of you who aspiring photographers? What if you're a landscape, wedding, or heck, even a fashion photographer?  Well, here's the great part.... I'm here to introduce this all new subscription service that's just been released: The Photigy Studio Basics membership level. Here's my very brief little intro about it!  I decided to do this outdoors, heck, it's spring, it's fresh, it's new... just like this announcement! 


Photigy's Studio Basic subscription gives you access to tons of tutorials, behind-the-scenes shoots, mentoring by your instructors via live Google hangouts, various Webinars covering all the basics of studio product photography - you simply have to sit behind your computer or tablet, ask your questions and we'll give you answers. How cool is that? 

Lastly, I'm currently involved in writing and recording plenty of different tutorials, as well as a complete in-depth course covering everything you need to know to become a professional jewelry photographer - mastering catalog photography from head-to-toe. I look forward to interacting with you. 

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).

Jewelry Photography Tip from a Pro: Stopping Down & Diffraction vs Focus Stacking. by Vadim Chiline

Jewelry photography focus stacking

Jewelry photography focus stacking

The area within the red square is show below at various apertures and focus stacked.

In jewelry photography, most of the time we need to make sure everything is pin sharp. Having some blurred stones or portions is often frowned upon unless it’s quite deliberately done and for an artistic purpose.

I sometimes receive less than ideal jewelry items to retouch where the focus is extremely limited, or everything is soft as though Vaseline was smudged over the picture. In most cases, the lens and camera are perfectly fine, but the user has done some serious mistakes with how his camera’s setting have been adjusted.

As many of you know, stopping-down a lens, or in human-like analogy, squinting your eyes when you want to see “sharper”, gives you more depth-of-field (DoF). For example, a lens shooting at f2.8, which is quite open, means the lens’ iris is nearly wide open, letting in lots of light – the image will have a very shallow DoF. Therefore to compensate, we stop-down the lens, going from f2.8 to say f5.6, f8, f11… etc.

What I want to cover today is that many of you out there are somewhat unaware of the limits of stopping-down a lens. After a certain point, every lens starts to loose overall sharpness, to the point of looking blurry. Every lens out there suffers this, it’s called “diffraction”.

To explain this, the edges of the diaphragm blades in your lens disperse light. When you begin stopping down say at f8 to f25, the diffracted light is initially a small percentage of the total light that hits your sensor, but gradually, it becomes a larger percentage of the light recorded.

How this applies to Jewelry Photography

When photographing jewelry, you are using a macro lens and usual some extension tubes. When working in the macro world, DoF is quite shallow. Any of you who’ve shot flowers or insects, heck even jewelry since you are reading this, know that unless you stop-down your lens quite a bit, you will not get enough of your subject in-focus. Therefore you tend to shoot at around f11-f16, some even f22 or higher. Have you seen a sudden decrease in sharpness in your images? Well, that’s diffraction at work. The following is an example of DoF vs Defraction as applied to jewellery photography. Note: only a little sharpening was done in Capture One Pro. Additional sharpening in Photoshop improves the images a little best kitchen knives - but those affected by diffraction, win nothing in my opinion.

Jewelry photography & lens diffraction at f8

Jewelry photography & lens diffraction at f8

Shot at f8: Notice the lack of depth of field, but the portions in focus are sharp.

Jewelry photography & lens diffraction at f11

Jewelry photography & lens diffraction at f11

Shot at f11: Slightly more depth of field, sharpness is still good.

Jewelry photography & lens diffraction at f16

Jewelry photography & lens diffraction at f16

Shot at f16: Depth of field increases once more, but sharpness begins to drop.

Jewelry photography & lens diffraction at f25

Jewelry photography & lens diffraction at f25

Shot at f25: Much more depth of field, but now image looks fuzzy.

Jewelry photography & lens diffraction at f32

Jewelry photography & lens diffraction at f32

Shot at f32: Not much more depth of field than at f25, but seriously diffraction is happening.

Finally, here’s an image that was done using focus stacking software. A total of 9 images were used:

Jewelry photography & lens diffraction at f8

Jewelry photography & lens diffraction at f8

9 photos that were stacked together, rending everything sharp.

For jewelry photography, or really, any macro photography where DoF is a must, focus stacking is the way to go for ultimate sharpness. We use Helicon Focus exclusively at the studio. It's proved itself faster and more reliable than the equivalent in Photoshop. Outside of using View Cameras with bellows, there's no way to achieve this effect. To some of you it might seem not cost-effective, but take it from me, we shoot thousands of images a year for print and web catalogs, nevermind magazine ads and trade-show displays. Focus stacking is easy, anybody can do it really. We basically start the sequence by focusing on the front-most part of the image, and with each shot, focus a little further into the image, until we reach the back. Export it with your favorite software, in our case, we recommend Capture One Pro, and then open the sequence in Helicon Focus, press the start button, you're done!

We have used a tilt-shift lens on occasions, the Canon 90mm TS/E, but we limit the use to items that would require at most 3 image stacks - pendants, certain earrings. Time is money, but critical image quality is what drives us the most.