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Jewelry Photography With My First DSLR

AngryMetalsmith

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Jun 4, 2006
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Over the course of my career I have dealt with many professional photographers who swore they could shoot jewelry. Most of them couldn't. The only one who blew my doors of was Robert Diamante, one of the top jewelry photographers in the country. But he's expensive and you have to book time with him and ship your work off. I only had four shots done by him and three of them were publised in either books or magazines, so money well spent.

This shot was by a local guy:




A Robert Diamante shot of my wedding rings:




Still needing to be able to document my work I tried to learn to shoot it myself with an old Canon AE-1 with a macro lens and light kit. However with the cost of tungsten balanced film and developing I just didn't get very far.

Shot with the Canon:




A few years ago, after belatedly entering the digital age, I picked up an Olympus point and shoot that had a macro feature, white balance, and RAW capabilities. It has served me well for shooting pics for the web. But it is limited and sucks at shooting anything other than what I bought it for.

Shot with the Olympus:







Kind of inconsistant but still better than the previous method.


About a week and half ago I picked up a Nikon D7000 and a used 60mm Macro lens and have been wearing the thing out. Since I hadn't done any serious photography in a couple of years I was a bit rusty. Pulled out the light set up and tripod and went to work. Shooting with a DSLR makes learning so much more accelerated. With all the meta data right there to look at I can make little adjustments to achieve the desired results. In just 8 days I went from turning the thing on to getting practice shots like this.




Also trying out different backgrounds for my oxidized silver work.

First one is on white unryu paper:




Second is with glass over the same paper.







With the D7000 and the same lights I have gotten way better results than all those other pro photographers. With digital the learning curve has been exponentially shortened.

The D7000 delivers, is easy to learn and down right addictive to shoot with.
 

HardtailHack

used an iron once
Jan 20, 2009
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Did a Monkey give you that sweet pearl necklace?

I don't really understand jewellery but your pics look pretty good.
 

AngryMetalsmith

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Thanks

I'm really enjoying the camera. January tends to be slow and this has gotten me fired up. I see lots of potential for growth in the technical studio shots as well as inspiration for new designs. Also planing on doing some shooting of other subject matter for fun. I've always wanted to take a decent shot of the moon.



If any photo monkeys want to throw in their two cents that would be cool.
 

binary visions

The voice of reason
Jun 13, 2002
21,663
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Nice jewelry, nice shots.

I think, for my taste (and my calibrated monitor so it could look different on your screen), you're underexposing just a tad. I copied that first gold ring you took with the D7000 into photoshop and pulled it up about a third to a half stop, and to my eyes it was much more pleasing.

Same with the earrings. Pulling those up 2/3 of a stop made them really pop.

+2/3
earrings_plus2-3.jpg

+1/3
ring_plus1-2.jpg

Just MHO, of course!
 

highrevs

Monkey
Oct 13, 2005
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Were you making rings similar to these 12-13 years ago?

If so, I think you may have made the wedding rings my wife and I wear. The ones I have are are sterling silver with gold inlays and are pretty similar to those you posted. We bought them through a shop in Greensboro, who had them made by a local artist. My wife and I have talked about wanting to find the original artist to have new ones made... I'm going to trip out if you are the guy.



edit: I'll post a photo of our rings later this evening...
 
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vinny4130

Monkey
Jun 11, 2007
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albuquerque
you have great work! i hope you find comfort that you are not the only one with that same problem! my parents hired many to photograph their jewelry and my mother reached the same conclusion. f-it do it yourself. your pics also look good!
 

AngryMetalsmith

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Nice jewelry, nice shots.

I think, for my taste (and my calibrated monitor so it could look different on your screen), you're underexposing just a tad. I copied that first gold ring you took with the D7000 into photoshop and pulled it up about a third to a half stop, and to my eyes it was much more pleasing.

Same with the earrings. Pulling those up 2/3 of a stop made them really pop.

+2/3
View attachment 112931

+1/3
View attachment 112932

Just MHO, of course!
Thanks BV, you're right they do look better. What do you use for post production ? I'm diggin Lightroom and tethered shooting and have also tried Aperture. The "spot light" on the ring was done in Lightroom. I want some variation in the background, but my current light set up makes it tricky. A local pro told me about a focusing tungsten spot made by Lowell. I plan on upgrading my light set up when I can afford it. Looking at getting two soft boxes and a spot.
 

AngryMetalsmith

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Were you making rings similar to these 12-13 years ago?

If so, I think you may have made the wedding rings my wife and I wear. The ones I have are are sterling silver with gold inlays and are pretty similar to those you posted. We bought them through a shop in Greensboro, who had them made by a local artist. My wife and I have talked about wanting to find the original artist to have new ones made... I'm going to trip out if you are the guy.



edit: I'll post a photo of our rings later this evening...
Small world. I used to sell to a gallery in GSO called Morning Star. Look forward to seeing if the rings are mine.
 

bean

Turbo Monkey
Feb 16, 2004
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Thanks BV, you're right they do look better. What do you use for post production ? I'm diggin Lightroom and tethered shooting and have also tried Aperture. The "spot light" on the ring was done in Lightroom. I want some variation in the background, but my current light set up makes it tricky. A local pro told me about a focusing tungsten spot made by Lowell. I plan on upgrading my light set up when I can afford it. Looking at getting two soft boxes and a spot.
I use Lightroom pretty much exclusively. I suppose it's possible to do more in photoshop, but Lightroom is so streamlined photoshop doesn't seem like it's worth extra effort.

I can't believe that local guy left so much dust in his photo. You're easily surpassing his work.
 
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binary visions

The voice of reason
Jun 13, 2002
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Thanks BV, you're right they do look better. What do you use for post production ? I'm diggin Lightroom and tethered shooting and have also tried Aperture. The "spot light" on the ring was done in Lightroom. I want some variation in the background, but my current light set up makes it tricky. A local pro told me about a focusing tungsten spot made by Lowell. I plan on upgrading my light set up when I can afford it. Looking at getting two soft boxes and a spot.
I use Photoshop. It's what I've used for years and I'm just comfortable with the workflow out of it. I've given Lightroom a try once or twice but didn't end up using it long enough to get comfortable and I don't want to buy it unless I'm happy with the workflow out of it.

Also, you're going the right route. If you can get the lighting right prior to exposure, it saves a lot of time and messing with lighting/exposure in post never gives you the best results.

Yep, that was the place.

They have some miles on them.
This right here... this is nuts. What are the odds?
 

Toshi

Harbinger of Doom
Oct 23, 2001
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Nice work. I agree with BV, though: kick up the exposure a bit. I'd also blow out the white backgrounds by lighting them up even more to make it just a wash of white.
 

AngryMetalsmith

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Bump

So after a ton of practice shots things started to click. The Camera was set to f32 ISO 400 to get the best depth of field and sharpness.









Pretty good results considering I'm only running 500 watts of tungsten light. The next upgrade hopefully will be a softbox on a boom to light from the top as opposed to just from the sides.

As you can see no expenses have been spared in this pro set-up. Ughh hmm....







I must say I am rather enjoying this project.
 

H8R

Cranky Pants
Nov 10, 2004
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Pretty good results considering I'm only running 500 watts of tungsten light. The next upgrade hopefully will be a softbox on a boom to light from the top as opposed to just from the sides.
Great shots so far! Just my opinion, but screw the soft box. Your next upgrade should be a cheap strobe or two (cleaner, more flexible light) and to read this blog thoroughly:

http://www.strobist.blogspot.com/


In particular, this section:

http://strobist.blogspot.com/2006/07/how-to-diy-10-macro-photo-studio.html
 

AngryMetalsmith

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Thanks

Bookmarked those links.

I've talked to a local product photographer and he thinks continuous (tungsten) is the way to go for doing table top work. He said strobes tended to look differently when shot than when setting up under the molding lights. I looked into strobes because they offer more versatility for shooting various subjects like people. But being that they are a lot more expensive and my primary objective is shooting my work, then tungsten it is. I can also ease into a different system light by light, where as with quality strobes, it's all in or nothing.

I also plan on building a permeant shooting table with a curved surface, possibly white plexiglass. B&H sells tables for $800. Cash better spent on lights. I can work with wood quite well and there are local supplies for the plexi so I won't have to pay $200 shipping.

This guy has a great DIY table. But I don't think modular construction components like that are available here in the states.

 

H8R

Cranky Pants
Nov 10, 2004
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Thanks

Bookmarked those links.

I've talked to a local product photographer and he thinks continuous (tungsten) is the way to go for doing table top work. He said strobes tended to look differently when shot than when setting up under the molding lights. I looked into strobes because they offer more versatility for shooting various subjects like people. But being that they are a lot more expensive and my primary objective is shooting my work, then tungsten it is. I can also ease into a different system light by light, where as with quality strobes, it's all in or nothing.

I also plan on building a permeant shooting table with a curved surface, possibly white plexiglass. B&H sells tables for $800. Cash better spent on lights. I can work with wood quite well and there are local supplies for the plexi so I won't have to pay $200 shipping.

This guy has a great DIY table. But I don't think modular construction components like that are available here in the states.

You can find a cheapo Vivitar 285 or similar strobe for like $30 used. Once you get it down with manually firing it, you can start to "see" what it will look like without a modeling light.

Cheap strobe, a cable and a Nikon AS-15 hot shoe adapter is all you need. Or look for a used Nikon SB-600, which can be fired wireless from the D7000's pop up flash.

Anyhoo...

That aluminum framing stuff is generally referred to as "aluminum profile" and it's crazy expensive and crazy to configure, cause of the sheer number of variables.

The steel version, available to everyone at Home Depot, is Uni-strut. Look in the electrical isle.
 

AngryMetalsmith

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Uni-strut, huh. I'll check into that. I figured I could build a nice looking wood table for the studio with a 36"x 72" piece of white plexi ($125) for under $200. But honestly I don't really want to do any wood working in the studio right now. The last time I did any cutting and sanding wood it took about 8 hours to vacuum the place. Metals studios don't like fine wood dust very much and neither does my computer. A metal table that could be assembled without the need of a welder would work out well.
 

binary visions

The voice of reason
Jun 13, 2002
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F/32 actually will not give you the best sharpness, you're going to have a significant sharpness loss due to diffraction. Around f/11 will actually give you the best sharpness.
 

dump

Turbo Monkey
Oct 12, 2001
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F/32 actually will not give you the best sharpness, you're going to have a significant sharpness loss due to diffraction. Around f/11 will actually give you the best sharpness.
Agreed, however Ken Rockwell is suggesting that diffraction effects start to creep in at higher f#, so just around f11 or less or so should give you the desired effect.

http://www.kenrockwell.com/nikon/60mm-afs.htm
(see: sharpness)
 

AngryMetalsmith

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IIRC everything I shot under f32 had blurred edges on the piece. The same photographer who's been giving me tips suggested the f32 setting to gain the maximum depth of field. I can try a couple of f11 shots later tonight.

This is my macro lens:

Nikon AF Micro-Nikkor 60mm f/2.8D

 

binary visions

The voice of reason
Jun 13, 2002
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Agreed, however Ken Rockwell is suggesting that diffraction effects start to creep in at higher f#, so just around f11 or less or so should give you the desired effect.
Aside from Ken Rockwell being kind of an idiot, isn't that what I said?

IIRC everything I shot under f32 had blurred edges on the piece. The same photographer who's been giving me tips suggested the f32 setting to gain the maximum depth of field. I can try a couple of f11 shots later tonight.
Higher f/ numbers will give you more depth of field, so if you definitely need that DOF, then it's probably worth it. Most modern DSLR sensors are diffraction limited around f/11 or f/16, though, so you will get progressively less sharp past that. Still more DOF, but not as sharp an image.

It's just a tradeoff.
 

H8R

Cranky Pants
Nov 10, 2004
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Aside from Ken Rockwell being kind of an idiot, isn't that what I said?



Higher f/ numbers will give you more depth of field, so if you definitely need that DOF, then it's probably worth it. Most modern DSLR sensors are diffraction limited around f/11 or f/16, though, so you will get progressively less sharp past that. Still more DOF, but not as sharp an image.

It's just a tradeoff.
People who shot extreme macro shots (insects, etc) will often use the sharpest aperture for a given lens, and take multiple shots at different focal lengths and combine them together in post. (focus stacking)

http://www.heliconsoft.com/heliconfocus.html

There are some online tutorials for doing this in PS too.


Saying a given lens is arbitrarily "best" at one aperture or another will get you in the ballpark, but the only way to really know where the sweet spot is for a given distance for each lens is to test, test and re-test at different apertures. Some lenses have some latitude, say from f/5.6 to f/11, and some are dead on at one aperture. (also many dedicated macros are tweaked to work well at smaller apertures) Use live view AF - it focuses at the plane of the sensor and will be spot on.

You want to use the lowest native ISO (100 on the D7000), the best aperture for sharpness at a given camera to subject distance, (determined by testing) and then adjust the lighting until you have a nice balanced exposure without blowing the highlights or burying the shadow details.
 

binary visions

The voice of reason
Jun 13, 2002
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Saying a given lens is arbitrarily "best" at one aperture or another will get you in the ballpark, but the only way to really know where the sweet spot is for a given distance for each lens is to test, test and re-test at different apertures.
Yep, but I wasn't talking about the lens, I was talking about diffraction.

Most lenses get sharper when stopped down - some more so, some less so, but few will be appreciably worse at f/32 than f/11. You'll get a noticeable and distinct loss in sharpness, though, because of the diffraction limits of the sensor. As demonstrated so aptly below:

Some test images as shot, no post production:

f11 detail at 100%



f32 detail at 100%

So the question becomes:

- Can you notice this loss of sharpness at normal display size, and
- For a given subject, is the increased DOF worth the tradeoff?

For these shots, I can see the softening even in the downsized images, but it's not awful. Whether it's worth it will probably vary by subject and how large you expect the customers to be viewing the images.

For subjects where you don't want a tradeoff, the focus stacking that H8R mentioned might be a good way to get the best of both worlds... and for subjects with less depth, you can use larger apertures to get that sharpness back.
 

AngryMetalsmith

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Well at least one question has been answered; "Is the D7000 going to be sharp enough or do I need to upgrade to the full frame D600 ?". So far it looks like the D7000 will do fine, but the photographer needs a little more practice.

Does photoshop do focus stacking ? I can see going to all that trouble for an image that will be used to enter juried shows/competitions and for print work. I've seen some truly amazing sharp ring pics where the whole piece is in perfect focus, both the top and the bottom of the ring. I wonder if that's how it was done.
 

binary visions

The voice of reason
Jun 13, 2002
21,663
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There are a couple things he could be doing. He could easily be using focus stacking or compositing of some kind. Since it's his business, it's more likely he's using a tilt/shift lens to alter the plane of focus... this has a nice little utility to show you how a T/S lens works:
http://www.cambridgeincolour.com/tutorials/tilt-shift-lenses2.htm

Tilt and shift lenses are pretty interesting and are commonly used for just this purpose.

Also, his site effing sucks. Totally broken on non-flash mobile, half-broken on my low resolution laptop.
 

AngryMetalsmith

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Gave focus stacking a little try. Took six bracketed shots of the test bead, developed one in Lightroom and then applied all the settings to the other five. From there they went to Photoshop for photomerge and this is the result.





There are a couple of areas where it's not as sharp as the rest. Not sure if that's PS or my focusing. Either way, cool technique.

Thanks for the tips guys!
 
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vinny4130

Monkey
Jun 11, 2007
317
113
albuquerque
i don't know if you have seen/changed or heard this but i think in the Ken Rockwell's Nikon guide the d300 and d700 come with a factory default set using a soft focus.
 

H8R

Cranky Pants
Nov 10, 2004
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i don't know if you have seen/changed or heard this but i think in the Ken Rockwell's Nikon guide the d300 and d700 come with a factory default set using a soft focus.
I would suggest printing out a Ken Rockwell guide and then use it to clean up after your dog. Best use.