jewelry photography

Getting Super Sharp Images in Your Photos by Vadim Chiline

Ever wonder how to counter diffraction? Wonder why your images are so soft? Do you want to learn how to create sharp and stunning images?

You've tried to stop down your lens to something like f32 and noticed your image gets fuzzy? I explained the reasons for this in my Science of Diffraction video earlier this year. You’ve probably heard about focus stacking but never really knew much about it, or were too scared to try? 

In partnership with Photigy.com, (seriously, one of the best places to learn about professional product photography, and I'm also instructor there), here's my follow-up video: An introduction to focus stacking. In the first part of this new video, I will show you how to get the most depth of field with your camera of a simple object on white.

Part I:


In Part 2 of the video, you will learn about the various methods you can use to focus stack images as well as the 2 main parameters you can control in the software: radius and softness. Finally, I will compare Adobe Photoshop's implementation of focus stacking vs Helicon Focus' abilities. So check it out... 

Part II:

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).

Shooting 60 Megapixel High Resolution Jewelry Photography Now at EpicMind Studio by Vadim Chiline

Jewelry photography with our new Phase One 60 Megapixel camera system

Jewelry photography with our new Phase One 60 Megapixel camera system

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged, but as is usually the case, we’re busy here at the studio churning out work for our great clients. I’ve also been in the process of purchasing a new camera system for the studio. Well, it’s now complete, we are now equipped with a 60 megapixel system of high resolution madness! The studio is now equipped with a Phase One 645DF and IQ160 digital back alongside a slew of insanely sharp lenses.

Why did I consider going medium format? For a few reasons:

1. I believe Medium Format offers the best possible image out there, within a controlled environment bar none. The resolution and color depth is great, especially highlights I find. There’s more tolerance to retain what matters in jewelry photography, bright tones that define and shape the in the metal and stones.

2. Stacking! I will not necessarily try to make full frame image using the new system, but will shoot the items smaller in the frame, which is still as large as say a Canon 5D Mark II/III produced image, but because of the relation of the image size and sensor, the depth-of-field is greater. For example, take your macro photo from further back, yes the image is smaller, but you get additional depth of field the smaller the object is in the frame. Now instead of needing between 8-9 images for a given piece of jewelry, I can get away with 4-5 via the Phase One. After cropping (in Capture One Pro), the image is about the same size as the Canons, but took less time to shoot, and to stack together. But why not use the full resolution then? Much of our work, the final destination is small catalog and web sizes, so no need to go overkill. The advantage is that say for a given client we have 1000 products to shoot in a given year, in the end we have 9000 photos vs 5000 photos, so a 4000 photo difference for ONE CLIENT. Do this across our entire client base, and that’s time and money saved.

3. Reliability of our Canon bodies was sad to say, poor. In the past 1-2 years, we’ve had three 5D Mark IIs going in and out of repairs for a broken USB connection – which means $300+ in servicing + the trouble of getting it sent in, etc. Images were getting stuck while we were working tethered to the computer, they wouldn’t download. This sometimes required a full system restart, but in most cases, the camera needed to have the battery pulled out to reset it. Part of the problem we also realized was our iMacs had problems connect with the USB on the camera. We were loosing our minds when again; time is money with catalog photography. On the other hand, the Phase One system, uses a thick Firewire cable which has a thick plug that is more “commercial” in build and can withstand much more abuse (and in our studio there is NO ABUSE: the 5Ds "lived" on a tripod in the studio all day ugh..).

4. Critical sharpness and lack of anti-alias filters. The medium format system as some of you might know (as well as the new Nikon D800E and some Canons) no anti-alias filter (AA), which helps remove moire patterns in images. AA has a final effect of blurring or removing a tad of sharpness in your images. In jewelry photography, when sometimes we need to resize the images to poster size, every bit of original sharpness counts – for me! Add to this the lenses that are available such as the 120mm macro, which is razor sharp, even when stopped-down to f29, suffers very little diffraction compared to the Canon equivalent where shooting f16 or smaller rendered garbage. We can easily shoot at f22-f29 and feel very comfortable using the images. For important projects we would open-up a little for sure, but again, depends on our needs.

5. The next fun aspect of the Phase One System is the availability of the Leaf Shutter lenses. They allow shooting with synch-speeds of up to 1/1600 of a second. For outdoor photography and fashion work, it will permit using strobes to counterbalance the ambient light quite well. It wasn't a huge selling point for us, but as mentioned earlier, we are heading in a few new directions here at EpicMind.

6. Lastly, with 60 megapixels on the IQ160 digital back, as mentioned earlier, there’s plenty of cropping room. In a fashion shoot, we can easily crop a hand, or a part of the face, and still have something usable for a full pager. It’s quite insane to be honest with you. We will be branching out with our photography in the coming months and this will be something that will be loved by us, and our clients I’m sure. It doesn’t hurt to have room to crop.

Phase One IQ160 Digital Back

Phase One IQ160 Digital Back

Why didn’t I go with the Nikon D800/E? I’m sure some of you must be asking yourselves this exact question. I mean it is substantially cheaper; I don’t even want to talk about that (because if you look at the money aspect only, most of you would think I’m crazy). I listed above my reasons, the Nikon though great, is not the studio camera for me. Its resolution bump is nice but not in the same league. The tonal range that I’ve seen from the Phase One or even Hasselblad is just superior out of the box. The dynamic range is quite comparable from the data; the shadows might even be better on the Nikon! As they say: different strokes for different folks. I have no regrets. This is a business tool for my studio – something that I count on.

What did I do with the Canon system? I sold some of it, but kept most of it. We run a second shooting station as well, so this will remain Canon-based. There are certain things that the Canon does much better, but those are mostly out of the studio type things such as: blazing fast auto-focus; great high ISO performance; shoot several frames per second burts, etc. The same can be said about Nikon.

In the coming months, I will share with you some images, comparisons, and more with the Phase One system.

I would like to thank the following people who helped me along the way:

Walter Borchenko, Phase One Canada representative from B3kdigital.com Jean-Yves Lapierre, Montreal Commercial Sales Rep, Photo Service, photoservice.ca Doug Peterson, who got the ball rolling, Phase One Rep in the USA working at Digital Transitions, digitaltransitions.com

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.

Jewelry Photography Fashion Shoot for EckSand Jewellers by Vadim Chiline

Jewelry photography fashion shoot image 1

Jewelry photography fashion shoot image 1

We've been quite busy at the studio for the past couple of weeks (what's new?). Our client EckSand Jewellers wanted to refresh their look with their latest collection with some new fashion images. It was a pleasure to work on a different, much more human project, it has been a while. With today's economy and the fact that creating real fashion shoots costs money because of model, makeup-artist, retouching, post-fx work, etc., oh yeah, and me the photographer, the bill adds up quickly. Jewellers typically resort to using stock images, from the royalty free type to some rights managed ones. But honestly, nothing beats doing your own shoot - there's much more direction possible.

My favorite image from the shoot. Simple setup using 1 light, 1 reflector and some background lights: Canon 85 f1.2 II lens, high ISO shot.

EckSand wanted an emotional image that was both dark and sensual in nature.They wanted it to contrast with their delicate pearl and diamond collections. With the makeup wizardry provided by Ekaterina Ulyanoff and model Caroline, we had a blast shooting.

Jewelry photography fashion shoot image 2

Jewelry photography fashion shoot image 2

The setup was quite simple using 1 light with a grid coming from about 8' high, 2' left of camera. There was also a reflector being held by my amazing assistant Sophie. I used the modeling light only because I wanted to keep the lovely blurred lights in the background (very weak lights of a few watts each) giving it an "evening out" mood. Because of this, I shot between 800 and 1600 ISO with the Canon 85 f1.2 lens shooting quite open because of the low light and sometimes needing to freeze the jewelry on the model. I had to ask the model to hold her poses a wee-bit longer than usual because of the slow shutter speed. I must say, the Canon 85 f1.2 has always been one of my favorites... it's a true gem creating fantastic bokeh/blurs.

Jewelry photography fashion shoot image 3

Jewelry photography fashion shoot image 3

Anyways, I hope you liked the images. Next blog I'm hoping to post some insights on how we perform white gold to colored/yellow gold conversions in Photoshop. Stay tuned!

Jewelry Photography & Retouching: Realistic Expectations & Budgets by Vadim Chiline

In today’s highly retouched advertising world, people assume everything can be solved with a quick airbrushing in Photoshop. It’s widespread knowledge that yes indeed, most if not all advertising material goes under the loupe and gets a big changeover: Think of fashion photos where skin, hair and makeup are made blemish-less. Same goes for food, where stylists work tirelessly to make it look the most appetizing, and then more adjustment are done in post-production. The world of jewelry photography is no different, or maybe it is? Relying on post-production is a “must-do”. How does a Tiffany’s image look out of camera? How about some David Yurman pieces? Birks & Mayors? Everybody pays big money to get images perfect and stylized to their branding needs: gold color is adjusted; diamond contrast and colors fixed; stones copy and pasted to replace less-than-stellar ones, etc.

before

before

after

after

Fig. 1: Drag the slider to see a before and after of a 4.3 ct diamond engagement ring.

Unfortunately, because of the “that’s the way it is and done” nature of the industry, we think Photoshop can solve every problem and give you a “Tiffany’s” look. Before being a running EpicMind Studio, I was a programmer for a few years, having studied Computer Science and learned quite early on the motto: “Garbage in = Garbage out”. If you input bad data, you will get out bad data in return. In jewelry photography, the same can be applied. Start with very low quality photography, where you have blurred out portions, color casts, and bad lighting, unless you are ready to spend lots of money, there’s no way this will turn into your dream “Tiffany’s” image. Jewelry that is bargain priced, or has been heavily worn, and not fresh from production the so-called "vendor samples" requires lots of time and effort in post-production: hence money. These jobs are more doable, if the photography is alright (see Fig. 2)

before

before

after

after

Fig. 2: Drag the slider to see a before and after of a

heavily used "vendor sample" ring. Notice the scratches, and dirty stains.

Worse than the above case is when we are asked to retouch somebody else's photography where it suffers from very low resolution, may have blurred out portions, color casts, and bad lighting: unless you are ready to spend lots of money, there’s no way this will turn into a winning shot. Garbage in = Garbage out. See Fig 3. for a sample image I created using my unlock iphone 4 (you would be surprised what requests we sometimes get).

We tell our clients that most of the budget for catalog style photography is spent on retouching – especially on lower-end jewelry, but there are limits to what we are willing to do. We do get requests where we are asked to edit photos that they will provide us thinking it bring the images to the next level. I don’t say we can’t, I just say that the likelihood of it depends on the source image and how it was captured. Start with a great image, and you will end with a great image – at least that’s what I think.

Quality jewelry on the other hand, requires generally less retouching than lower-end. Although this is a general rule I’ve noticed, some higher-end clients still require that it is retouched above-and-beyond. Jewelry being used on backlight posters at shows such as JCK Las Vegas, that blow-up the jewelry to a 6’ size, will require tons of retouching no matter what – jewelry is not designed to be shown at larger than life sizes – some are machine made, some man made, and precision has its limits.

Bad jewelry photography

Bad jewelry photography

Fig. 3: A sample of bad lighting, focus and low resolution;

sometimes there's just so much retouching you can do within a budget.

I try to coach clients approaching me with “home brew” photos – it doesn’t hurt to learn to produce better in-house photos that we will need to retouch. They win in the end – getting amazing marketing material.

Finally, it’s got a lot to do with economics: if you want great work, you need to spend money to get it done right. If you cut corners, then more money it spent to make-up the problems incurred by the cut corner. Money isn’t the only driving factor, but with today’s economy, today’s jeweler is more price-conscious than ever and wants to stretch their marketing dollar further because of shrinking margins. Unfortunately, cutting corners when "first impressions" matters just isn't an option.

before

before

after

after

Fig. 4: Drag the slider to see a before and after of an image I did a couple of years ago. The client wanted a very "blue" oriented image, a little in the Tiffany's style.

Simple Jewelry Photography Using 2 Lights by Vadim Chiline

I’ve finally made it back to my blog after a long absence – work has consumed most if not all of my time: We’ve been busy shooting hundreds of photos and videos for the fall season which includes the ever popular Thanksgiving/Black Friday and December holidays. It’s the time of the year most retailers make their money. Today’s blog will showcase a very simple 2 LED ceiling lights light setup that can give quite a lovely metallic shine to a ring shot tabletop. The setup consists of using 1 softbox, 1 diffusion panel (in this case, a run-of-the-mill 5-in-1 circular one easily available at any quality photo store) and finally a strobe with a 30-degree grid mounted on it. Scroll down to see the before and after version rollovers.

A before and after image for jewelry photography

A before and after image for jewelry photography

In the my previous blog post entitled Cosmetic Product Photography Using a Simple 1-Light Setup I showed how we can use a simple 1 light setup to get a lovely gradient shimmer on metallic objects. That time I bounced light on an opaque white foamcore panel. The strobe had a grid modifier mounted on it as well. I re-iterate the purpose: A gridded-strobe hitting a surface will generally diffuse itself somewhat in a nice gradient-like fashion. This will give metals more character and shape.

Normally at our studio we employ 2-3 techniques to light our jewelry or other metallic objects:

Softbox: This gives even light across metallic object – it doesn’t sculpt the object much as the light is rather flat. The “empty space” between softboxes gives the shadow areas that define the object. This is why I normally rarely if ever recommend light-tents – you normally have too little areas with no light therefore your photo will look generally flatly lit, and dull.

Bounced light off white card/foamcore This method is very similar to passing light through a diffusion panel – it’s similar to the above method – it’s a simpler method than nearly anybody can just undertake. The problem with this technique comes when multiple lights are used and several bounces are needed – you need to use flags to block out the light that might created an unpleasant specular highlight on the jewellery. I normally use this technique the least though I do often use this when photographing the collection coins for the Royal Canadian Mint, see the next image. I'll try to discuss that technique in a future blog when time permits.

Bounce lighting technique applied

Bounce lighting technique applied

A coin we shot for the Royal Canadian Mint recently using the bounced light technique.

Diffusion panel based lighting: This is a technique we’re using a little more these days here – I find it gives jewelry a more sculpted, nearly CGI or post-processed look – on quality rings its surreal.

Lighting diagram for 2-light jewelry photography

Lighting diagram for 2-light jewelry photography

In any case, and without further a due, here is the setup I used to photograph the image you see above using diffusion lighting: Here's the lighting diagram for the above image. Very simple indeed

The camera was set slightly above table-top level with the diamond engagement ring. As you can see in the reflection in the "before" image, you can see the camera reflection in the prongs holding the center stone. The purpose of the softbox behind the camera was to light-up the diamonds. I could have added additional lights or bounce cards, but I wanted to illustrate here how such a simple setup can lead to a nice image.

The gridded-strobe was aimed to give a pleasant graduated feathering of light on the top portion of metal - play around with it; we're in the digital age, so play around and see where you like the light, and at what strength.

In post-processing, we cleaned up the ring and diamonds: we desaturated the gold and then applied a color balance of cyan/blue to make it more "metallic" - take this as "artistic liberty". The diamonds are adjusted on their own layer. I kept the original background and again, simply cleaned it and adjusted the curves on it.

It's quite a simple setup - but one that gives great results fast. We use more complex setups for jewelry angled differently (such as a standing ring etc), but it's generally a similar principle.

Here is the original image out of camera:

Jewellery Photography of the Month - July by Vadim Chiline

Jewelry photograph of the month of July

Jewelry photograph of the month of July

The image above was done for our client Ex Aurum jewellers of Montreal. It will be featured as an ad in Weddings Bells and Marrions-Nous magazines upcoming editions.

Sometimes shooting away from the classic all white, or all black background leads to some wonderful images - Images that showcase sparkle and fire, alongside a mood for the brand or the item itself. In this image here for Ex Aurum, I decided to shoot on a leatherette and added some simple background lighting to add to the mood.Blue and purple are generally quite awesome to use with jewelry - they are very opulent/royal in lineage. I added a tilt to the image giving it a little more dynamics - too many times are images shot "table-top" straight on. Adding some "jazz" did this shot some good.

The shot was generally done "as-is" with very little post-production. Purple was added in post-production as well as a reduction in the blue being reflected on the rear shank of the ring by the client's request. We then added a little more blue in the actual stones, and removed some reds/yellows.

The lighting used were 2 softboxes + 2 stobes with grids. In the back there was a colored gel used.

Watch this same ring in all its glory sparkle to life in 1080p

We tried to capture the fire as well. Check out our upcoming blog regarding video promotion for your online, and in-store display needs. The sky's the limit to make your product shine.

Photographing Glass and Metal on Dark Backgrounds by Vadim Chiline

Photographing glass and metal on black

Photographing glass and metal on black

High Precision Diamond Cutting Tool with Optical End Products Hi, and welcome to a new blog entry (finally!). I’ve been kept away from the blog for a while, but here I go again!

In today’s blog I’ll move slightly away from the jewelry photography realm, and showcase a job that we shot a little while ago. The client, K&Y Diamonds, is a global leader in high precision diamond cutting tools used in the automotive, aerospace, optical and medical industries. These tools are used to cut, shape, and polish object for their respective uses. Because most of their tools are small to tiny (2" down to microns), and that they are metallic and have diamonds, they contact us knowing that we work pretty much exclusively with small shiny objects. For this particular job, they wanted to have their tools photographed with "end products" besides them. They also stressed the importance of color, that the tools appear "high tech" and as sharp as possible.

I decided on using the blue color gel as the main highlight color in the series of images. Blue is a very typical color used in technology imagery: it conveys the right emotion to the consumer. Using orange, doesn’t do as well .

High tech tools under blue lighting increases their

Using blue light, we give a "techie" feel to products.

The setup was photographed on a large piece of brushed aluminum provided by a contact at Electrolux/GE. Collecting many different types of materials is really important for the product photographer: you never know when you might use a certain surface. The brushed aluminum worked great because the tool itself has a brushed finish – thus creating unity.

The tricky part of this job was the glass products: 3 pieces of glass used in the optical industry (the final end-product are eyeglass lenses). They posed some difficulties with respect to where lighting can be put, at what height and at what intensity. Everything gets reflected and warped via internal refraction.

The lighting setup I used was composed of 3 lights. The key light was a softbox mounted to the left of the camera, this illuminates the tool and gives the nice bright highlight on the diamond tip. A secondary, fill-light was placed further away to the right of the camera, and the intensity was reduced to simply bring back some detail on the tool’s right side. Finally, a blue colored gel mounted with barn doors was pointed on a black paper background approximately 3’ away, and 1.5’ higher than the setup. Raising or lowering this light affected the amount of blue that showed-up in the frame.

The options are limitless when it comes to painting with light. Using various light modifiers, as discussed in my previous blog entry, you can create stunning combinations, even without Photoshop. In this last image below, I have added a yellow gel on the camera right to give additional color. The pink/red hue was added in post-production via Photoshop. As a photographer, go as far as your mind can see (or a client's ability to pay for good work).

Photographing glass and metal on black, the lighting diagram

Photographing glass and metal on black, the lighting diagram

Here's the lighting diagram to the top image.

Engine part shot under colored gels

Engine part shot under colored gels

Using colored gels, we can sculpt a rather unexciting piece metal into something much more interesting (object is part of a car piston).

Jewelry Photography Tutorial – How to make your image pop by keeping it simple by Vadim Chiline

Rollover the image to see the original, as shot.

The task was to create a holiday-themed ad and I was given a diverse set of jewelry items to work with: various pearl items, diamond key pendants, and a diamond sapphire ring. It would be difficult, if not impossible, to incorporate so many unrelated pieces onto a festive background and maintain a professional tone. In marketing, less is more and a common theme is an important starting point.

A mistake many jewelers make is to request too many items with incongruent styles in a single ad. Their goal is to please every type of client with one ad, but this often backfires and ultimately cheapens the ad.

Ads should have one focal point, not 10. That doesn’t mean you’re limited to one ring. You can group a few pieces together in an interesting composition, carefully placing each object. I chose three key-shaped, diamond pendants.

The holiday theme presents a setup challenge since festive props tend to be quite colorful and, if used in the wrong way, steal the spotlight away from the jewelry. An additional obstacle when photographing jewelry is its small size relative to other props. If you do manage to find small enough props not to overshadow the main subject, when photographed close up, the props are more likely to show production faults and ruin a beautiful photo.

I visited a few stores, collecting a number of props that could set the right mood—but once I got to the shooting table, I realized they simply didn’t work with the pendants. I had bought fabrics, artisanal papers, ornaments—heck, even a bottle of wine! Sometimes an idea is only good on paper and when you actually prep the scene, it fails miserably. Who said ad design was easy?

I finally settled on light-colored Christmas tree ornaments. I blurred them slightly by shooting at a wider aperture of f8 for a shallower depth of field so that the ornament was recognizable, but didn’t detract from the diamond pendants. The setup included a total of 4 lights. 3 lights had 24x36 softboxes mounted, and one light with a 20-degree grid. If you aren't familiar with certain light modifiers, check my previous blog post here. Pendants where hung via flexible arm clamp. I retouched the image in Photoshop, de-saturating the pendants to remove some of the color cast, adding saturation and color to both the paper background and ornaments, and finally darkening above and below the image to accommodate the text and logo. Overall, retouching was minor. The text and logo were added in InDesign for a final press version delivered as a PDF.

Jewellery Photography Lighting Diagram

Jewellery Photography Lighting Diagram

The setup included a total of 4 lights. 3 lights had 24x36 softboxes mounted, and one light with a 20-degree grid. Pendants where hung via flexible arm clamp.

If you have questions or suggestions for this and other blogs, please contact me.

Jewelry Photography & Promotion for the Holidays by Vadim Chiline

Jewelry photography showcase in promotional greeting cards

Jewelry photography showcase in promotional greeting cards

Two greeting cards we've created for our clients used in mail promotion. It's been a very busy week here at EpicMind, and we're a little late posting our new blog. In the mean time, here are two greeting cards we've created for our clients promotion. In the next blog I will go behind the scenes and show how the key-pendant image was shot. Stay tuned!

New Jewelry Photography & Videography Blog by Vadim Chiline

EpicMind is first and foremost a product photography and videography studio that specializes in jewelry, or should I say small highly reflective and refractive objects. With clients throughout Canada and the United States, we’ve had our images published in several leading consumer and industry publications such as Harper’s Bazaar, Modern Bride, Elle, Let’s Get Married, Modern Jeweler, Jewellery Business, Canadian Jeweller, and more.  We also create ads, catalogs, promotional mailers, and in-store marketing collateral under one roof. Vadim Chiline Now here’s a little a bit about myself, the author of this blog, Vadim Chiline. Like many other photographers out there, I first started photography when I was in my teenage years, with an old point & shoot film camera.  Loving it and wanting to get better at it, I saved up money and moved up the ladder with a film SLR. In the coming years, with more money saved, I purchased several lenses, professional camera bodies and several “how to” books. This led me to try several paths throughout the years: wildlife, event, fashion, and wedding photography.  With the advent of digital technology, and the purchase of my first digital camera, the Canon 10D, it made the learning process much quicker and affordable for me during my college days.

Jewelry photography honestly fell into my lap by pure chance.  After a long flight back to Canada from an event photography shoot in Las Vegas, I met a wonderful person who later became a friend. She convinced me to do a free photography gig for a masquerade ball in Montreal. The agreement was that I would provide photography on the spot for the masked guests and they would pass my name around. Sure enough, I meet my destiny quickly. A dressed-up guest asked me if I photographed jewelry.  I answered, “Yes, of course”.  For the next few weeks it was trial by fire, but so began my career in jewelry advertising.

This blog was started for several reasons: First to showcase ongoing projects, new technology, or trends in the industry as well as tips & techniques behind the camera and various software applications. Stay tuned; there will be plenty to learn.