product photography

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. 

DSQUARED: HE WOOD - Rocky Mountain Wood Men's Fragrance Photo & Video by Vadim Chiline

We took a stab at creating a short 30 second spot and ad for this men's fragrance. Inspiring ourselves with the dark wood of the product and theme of a mountain, we keep this mysterious, with some fog, moonlight, simple synth pad music and some wind & crow sounds.

It was a series of new tests and learning experiences: Playing around with our digital motion control rig; working with dry ice; and toying with slow motion camera moves to keep the smoke from moving too fast. Quite the challenge. Never mind pulling focus, handheld light movements, and pouring the fog... We would have loved to had the arms of an octopus.  

Hope you like it. Here is the photo, followed by our video. 

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.

Cosmetic Product Photography Using a Simple 1-Light Setup by Vadim Chiline

Large yellow diamond engagement ring tutorial: how to get your diamonds to pop

Large yellow diamond engagement ring tutorial: how to get your diamonds to pop

Cosmetic photography using a relatively simple setup. I decided to have some fun just recently and decided to step away from my daily jewellery photography work and do (finally) a new blog entry. This past weekend I was shopping with my wife and found myself in the makeup section of The Bay department store. My wife decided to buy some makeup by Yves St-Laurent. I saw an ad for the item she bought - a product called Metal Eyes. I told my wife that if I bought it for her the only condition was that I could shoot it before she used it (hehe). I decided to recreate an image similar to the one I saw.

YSL makeup ad

YSL makeup ad

The ad that inspired this blog entry

The image has a nice graded light painting it; something that immediately tells me it’s not simply a softbox bouncing light onto it. Softboxes generally give an even diffused light across a surface, and to get it to graduate is much tougher than some other methods.

As I only had one makeup kit at my disposal, I decided to reproduce the lower portion of the ad. Doing the top part would require risking ruining the makeup with water and as this was my only kit, my couch would be my best friend should my wife’s temper be raised (hehe). During real shoots, clients normally have several kits at our disposal, where the nicest one is selected, and budgets are allotted for this sort of mishap.

The Setup!

Image out of camera, stacked

Image out of camera, stacked

Out-of-camera, stacked image.

This was the simplest setup possible I’ve used recently. I used 1 strobe mounted with a 30°grid. The object was shot laying flat on the shooting table sitting on white foamcore. Behind the object, I had a 20”x30” white foamcore at a slight angle held by a clamp. The strobe was pointing towards the center (this is where the work goes, placing the light to get a nice gradient on the object). You might have to play a little to get the light to shimmer nicely on your object. It will come with experience (and more play).

To the immediate left of the object and camera, was a 18”x20” black foamcore. This added some black delineation to the object by bouncing back some black. Finally, at the front of the object, was a small 4”x8” piece of silver card that filled in the shadows on the hinge of the little makeup box.

When I shot the image, I first shot without any water droplets to get the right shimmer across the gold cover. Once satisfied, I spritzed some water with a bottle. On a real shoot, the droplets would be critical, and most often several dozen images are made with various droplet configurations and selected by the art director and client. For my demo/blog purpose, this was adequate.

I used focus-stacking comprising of 4 shots exporting to tiff. Color, contrast, and other tweaks were done in Photoshop.

The actual ad for Yves St-Laurent was photographed using 2 light sources reflecting on a card. You can see the 2 sources by looking at the droplets. This brief tutorial was to give you some insights for you to try at your own studio. The sky’s the limit! Stop surfing and go shoot!

Lighting diagram for single light cosmetic image

Lighting diagram for single light cosmetic image

Here's the lighting diagram for this image. Quite simple no?

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).

3 Studio Lighting Options for Photographers by Vadim Chiline

I’m starting a new blog category called “Beginner’s Corner,” mainly targeting new photographers seeking technical information about commercial product photography. A successful photograph depends not only on the subject, equipment, and post-production. It’s the lighting that will make or break your image. My studio is equipped with all sorts of lights and accessories, from strobes and continuous lighting sources to umbrellas and softboxes to colored gels and various backgrounds and backdrops. Today let’s focus on the three main lighting options:

Continuous lighting


With this system, the light remains on and at a constant intensity or brightness. Great for getting instant feedback about the highlights and shadows on your subject, continuous lights are also relatively cheap compared to strobe-lighting systems. In video production, they’re used 99% of the time.

Unfortunately, they’re nicknamed “hot lights” for a reason. They get extremely hot because of their tungsten or quartz-halogen bulbs. At 500+ watts each, these lights require special, heatproof accessories for safe use in your studio or home. Tungsten hot lights, can increase the ambient temperature quite considerably, just three 1000-watt units will not only suck lots of juice, but can also wilt or even melt certain props used during a product photography session. For example, prop wax with prolonged heat exposure will no longer hold properly, and if you’ve concocted an elaborate scene, it can be a frustrating event when it all collapses.

Newer lights are on the market today, which use fluorescent bulbs that don’t generate the same heat. The trouble is that you’ll need many fluorescent bulbs to match the intensity of a tungsten bulb.

The second problem with hot lights is the lack of light-intensity control. Most continuous-lighting sources have only one setting for brightness or perhaps a simple toggle with half or full power. To top that off, most lights aren’t strong enough to freeze action at the lowest ISO settings, unless you shoot at relatively large apertures in the f2.8 to f5.6 range. As a studio photographer, lighting is your paintbrush – you need maximum freedom to adjust the lighting conditions in your “controlled environment.” Unless you are on a tight budget, I don’t recommend this route.


These lights are small, very portable units that attach to the camera’s hot-shoe connector. They’re rarely used in studio photography because they don’t provide any visual guide for shadow and highlight placement, which basically means that you’re working blind, more or less by trial and error. Some photographers use flashguns in the studio for high-speed, action-freezing situations, such as capturing liquid splashing (some studio strobes are able to do this as well). They’re most often used outdoors for weddings, reportage, and wildlife or nature photography.

Strobe lighting:


Strobe lights deliver a powerful but short-lived flash as the main light source and are usually fitted with a secondary light, a tungsten-based modeling lamp of relatively low wattage. A modeling light is a continuous light that's used to help show where the light and shadows will fall on the subject. It’s not what lights your subject when you press the shutter – the flash does that. On the strobe unit, there’s a knob or slider that controls the output strength of your light. This is also usually tied to your modeling light so you see the effects instantly. This is especially useful with a multiple light setup. We can modify the intensity of each light to see the general effect with the modeling lamp to “paint” your subject.

The strobe’s strong, short bursts of output allow you to maintain a low ISO in the range of 100 to 200, reducing noise and enabling your digital sensor to produce the best image quality. Secondly, because of the variable power, you still have control over the aperture setting. Reduce the power and you can use f5.6 or crank it up to use f16.

Quality studio strobe light manufacturers provide power packs that let you shoot in the field – giving you ultimate flexibility, which continuous lighting can’t provide, unless of course you have a gas-powered generator!

Shopping guide for continuous and strobe lighting

Continuous lights Affordable: Britek 3-light kit

Britek lights are popular because of their price. Many photographers and especially, videographers purchase these as first lights. They are more fragile and have less attachment possibilities, but for those on a budget, this can suit your needs.

Moderate: Lowel 3 light kit;

Lowel has been around for a long time in the industry, serving both the photographic and video community. We own a set of these lights. The price/performance is great as well as durability.

High: Arri 3 light kit

Arri is an industry standard, used throughout the world, and because of this, they are priced to match. Mostly a video and cinema lighting company, they produce a full range of low to extremely high powered lights. They are very rugged, and can take a beating.

Strobe lights: Affordable: AlienBees

AlienBees are created by Paul C. Buff, a visionary some might call him because of his dedication to producing what I think is the industry's best price/performance lights. They are built in the USA, and come in various strengths (and colors). Many amateur and professional photographers use them in their studio. They do suffer from some inconsistent light output and color. There is a new light being produced called the Einstein and is taking the industry by storm.

Moderate: Elinchrom D-Lite

Elinchrome lights have been used by professionals for years as their trusted light. Not overly priced, they have been a workhorse in the industry.

High: Profoto

Profoto is recognized as one of the top brands of photography lighting equipment out there today. Most top photographers are equipped with these, and rental companies carry them in stock. They are built to last and take a beating in and out of the studio. They have power packs and all the accessories you would ever desire. They are priced extremely high, but some photographers will only swear by them. With the cost of one Profoto strobe, you can almost purchase a whole set of AlienBee lights with modifiers.

I’ll be back in a week with a discussion on light modifiers. If you have topics which you are curious about, please, drop a comment or email me, will be my pleasure to help you.

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.