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.

9 Popular Studio Light Modifiers Explained by Vadim Chiline

As a follow-up to last week’s survey of studio light sources, today we’ll focus on light modifiers, which can be used to modify the light’s strength, direction, color, pattern, and shadow falloff. Before I talk about the equipment, let me explain the importance of the relative size of the light source to the subject. The smaller the light source, the harsher the shadows and contrasts will be. Take the Sun on a clear day, for example. Though the Sun is huge in reality, it’s a small, bright light source shining on the much larger Earth. Consequently, when you look at your object, you’ll see strong contrast and dark shadows and harsh edges. When the clouds roll in, look at the shadows again: They’ve softened and have more attractive, gentle feathering at the edges. Contrast has also been reduced. The clouds have scattered the light rays, diffusing and softening the light. Note that the clouds have effectively increased the size of the light source relative to the subject. See the diagram:


Softer light is generally a desired effect when working with all subjects, from people to highly reflective objects like jewelry, which is my specialty. The specular highlight-- the bright spot on an object--is usually more pleasant when created by soft lights.


Similar to rain umbrellas, but without the handle, umbrella modifiers are very affordable and are found in most studios. They come in several sizes and varieties: black outside with white or silver interiors, all white (called shoot-thru), and specialized ones with gold or zebra patterns (white-silver-white-silver) on the interior. The basic concept is that when a light is pointed at the center of the umbrella, the light rays are reflected back and scattered or diffused. Umbrellas are the ultimate in portability and speedy setup. Common for people photography, they’re great for group coverage when two are used.

In the product photography studio however, the umbrella generally isn’t your best choice. The inherent problem is light spill—lack of control over the light. Since the diffused light spreads out over a large surface, you would need to use “flags” or black cards to block the light from certain areas of your image.



Softboxes produce soft controlled directional light. The image above demonstrates the effect of moving the light source away from the subject. As stated in the beginning, the larger the light source appears to the subject, the softer and more diffused the light becomes. Take a look at the shadows and contrasts in the above images.

Softer light is generally a desired effect when working with all subjects, from people to highly reflective objects like jewelry, which is my specialty. The specular highlight-- the bright spot on an object--is usually more pleasant when created by soft lights.

These light modifiers are the workhorses in our studio. Softboxes work similarly to umbrellas by scattering and softening the light, but in quite a different manner. They are rectangular boxes made of opaque, black material on the outside, lined with diffusion material on the inside (white or silver), and usually have an additional white diffusion panel called a baffle, which sits several inches away from light. The front of the softbox is open but kept covered with one more layer of white diffusion material. This produces a very soft light source and, because of the design, light is directional and therefore controlled. Should a photographer need additional control, most good brands have a grid that can be fastened with Velcro at the front. Softboxes produce a rectangular catchlight on the subject.

On the negative side, softboxes are big and bulky. For onsite shoots, you’ll have to take them apart, unless you have a minivan or SUV. Some brands are easier than other to assemble, but generally they’re a pain in the neck and since time is money, might not be worth the effort. They cost substantially more than umbrellas and can strain a beginner’s budget, depending on the brand and size. Softboxes come in many shapes and sizes, ranging from small ones that can be mounted on camera flash guns to enormous ones used to illuminate cars and trucks. Our studio is equipped with several 24" x 36" and 30" x 60" softboxes.


They are basically the same as a softbox except they have eight sides rather than four. They are very popular in fashion and portrait photography. Quite large, they can be unwieldy, measuring from five to seven feet. The catchlight they produce is similar to the umbrella’, multi-sided and octagonal.

Beauty dishes:

A very simple device, a beauty dish looks like a bowl that fits onto your light with a small plate that reflects the light back onto the sides of the dish. It is used most often in beauty/cosmetic and glamour shoots. It produces a light that is in between a bare studio light and a softbox: the shadow/highlight transition is more abrupt, giving it higher contrast. Because of this, the beauty dish tends accentuate flaws in your model's skin, so attention must be given when placing the light. It works best between three and four feet from the model, giving what many call a "liquid wrap-around lighting." The beauty dish produces a circular catchlight. In my jewelry photography, I sometimes use them when shooting pearls because they produce round highlights.


The above image compares the contrasts, highlights and shadows created by the different modifiers. Notice how harsh and contrasty the bare studio light image is.

Color gels:

A color gel is a transparent, colored sheet placed in front of a light or used in combination with other modifiers such as a grid. Used extensively in all areas of studio work, color gels give depth, dimension, and a mood to images. Available in just about every color on the spectrum, they are an essential part of a functioning studio. They’re also cheap, so have fun experimenting. I love them!


In jewelry photography, I have to try to give more life, or apparent depth to the products: A touch of colour can go a long way. Here are two beauty shots for


Grids are modifiers that attach directly to the front of the studio light's small, conical reflector. They focus the light into tighter beams and change the shadow edge feathering. They usually come in 10°, 20°, 30° and 40° hole-patterns. A 10° grid produces a very narrow beam of light with sharp shadows, while a 40° grid produces a broader beam and softer edges. We use grids frequently in the studio. They can be used to add a bright highlight to a particular area of the subject or, when mounted onto a background light, to create a circle of light on a background. In fashion/people photography, they are often used to light the model’s hair.

Barn doors:

Barn doors have been around for decades and are simple black, metallic flaps that you mount at the front of your light to control the direction and width of the beam. They produce somewhat harder shadow edges than grids do. You can manually change the size of the beam by opening and closing the doors. The light shape produced is rectangular. They are commonly used for background lighting and sometimes to light a model’s hair.


This fixed cone-shaped device also mounts to the front of your light. It creates hard shadow edges and, when used on backgrounds, produces circular shapes. A snoot is sometimes used to give a spotlight effect on objects or highlight a specific region of your image. We have rarely used them in our studio.


A gobo is modifier that creates a light pattern. They are usually metallic or glass-etched and are available in a multitude of different sizes and shapes. They’re mostly used on background lights to create interesting backdrops, such as light passing through a window or a mottled effect. The Batman spotlight is a famous gobo example.

Here's an image where multiple modifiers are interacting together

Here's an image where multiple modifiers are interacting together

What happens when you put some of the above together? You can paint your subject in gorgeous light. The above photo's details: 5D Mark II, 50mm f1.4 lens; 2 sofboxes; 1 background light with grid creating backlighting into the veil; and 1 hair light with barn doors.

That concludes this part of Beginner's Corner. In my next blog, I will share a conversation I had with a Facebook user about what it takes for a career in Photography and/or Design.