Hiring a commercial photographer is the route most company's take to get images of their products, but sometimes this is not practical. Some larger company's sell so many different products that having a full time photographer on staff is more practical, for some company's or artists, hiring a photographer is not economical and doing it themselves makes more sense.
Over the past few years I have been requested many times to help company's set up a photo booth and train their employees to take great photos on their own. Consulting jobs have become a regular for me now, a change of pace I look forward to!
These consults are almost always technical, mostly focused on lighting and workflow, but that changed recently when I was contacted by Estate Diamond Jewelry.
Estate Diamond Jewelry is a company based out of the diamond district in NYC that specializes in antique, original, (and may I say fantastic looking) diamond rings and other pieces. Thanks to their very talented team, they have found huge success on social media by posting detailed jewelry images, interesting facts, trivia, and challenges.
Until now their photos have been shot by John, a friend of mine and a member of their staff who is a great photographer. Lighting diamonds can be tricky and the fact that the stones are sometimes huge is no help, I've always been impressed by what he pulls off.
I was asked to pay a visit to their offices to go over how they were photographing their product images, how they were processing the images, their workflow, and to see how things could be improved and sped up.
Additionally, they asked me to go over their stylized creative images they use for social media to see if I could help switch things up.
As you can see, the images were usually shot on simple flat backgrounds, the focus being on lighting the diamonds vs the styling of the images. Experiencing whatever version of 'writers block' photographers get, John was looking for help to reinvigorate his photos with styling tips, tricks, and ideas I've picked up over the years.
The first thing we did was sit and talk about how he normally goes about taking his website photos. Time is premium for John since photography is not his only responsibility at the company. Until I came, John was shooting these photos in...a garbage can! That may sound ridiculous but its an effective DIY solution for a shooting cone.
A shooting cone is a great way to light small reflective items like jewelry, you can get fantastic results quickly and achieve gradients relatively easily. Its downside is the time it takes to set up lighting and mount the jewelry.
Going through the gear they have available I was delighted to find an old light box! A light box is a...well box that's walls and surface light up. Its a one-stop-shop-solution for product photography that unfortunately fall short most of the time, but I've taken a huge amount of jewelry photos in them successfully! I knew this would be a better solution for them, so I decided to have them switch over to shooting in the box.
One major time saving tip I was able to pass over was how to get rid of the mounting part of the shooting process. (Rings dont stand up on their own, they need to be held up!) Until now they had been using a method that uses dental wax. You mount the ring at the exact angle you want, set up your camera, and tailor the lighting to that photo. This is a method used by most jewelry photographers and is great, but it takes time. Its also difficult to get repeatable angles doing it this way. So I shared with them the trick I have been using forever:
Instead of holding the ring in the final position, think about the angle of the ring relative to the camera. As long as we keep those angles the same, our photo (once we flip it) will maintain the angle we want. So now we can find an angle that is easy to achieve for the ring (laying down on a flat surface) and than set the camera where it would need to be to get that angle (shooting down at it). Simple!
If you did not know you can do this, its kind of mind blowing!
This trick, combined with the even lighting the box provides will save John lots of time the next time he needs to shoot photos for their website.
We discussed workflow for image stacking, cutting out the background, retouching the ring and stones, and creating realistic reflections. When I got back to my studio I provided a video of me editing photos as we had discussed so he could follow along in the future!
On the creative (fun, and less technical) side we took a look at the images he was shooting for his social media. The images he had been taking until now where great and effective but he wanted to do something different. If you break down his old images you will notice that he consistently chose a flat surface and a monochromatic color palette, this is a great idea but after a while can get a bit old... So we discussed other ways to take photos, specifically looking at elements of composition that we could use.
Leading lines, framing, contrasting tone and color, these are some of the fundamental tools of composition that photographers and artists use.
In this photo we used faux moss covered rocks to hold up the ring. While placing the rocks, we thought about the shape and lines the rocks created. For lighting we used the light box since the results are great and it makes the photography process much much faster.
We talked about matching the props and lighting to the type of jewelry piece he is photographing. The 3 'leaves' on the ring above make it a good match for a nature shot, and the cocktail ring below looks natural under warm lighting.
I had a great time hanging out with John and the rest of the crew at Estate Diamond Jewelry during my visit. It was great to get out of the studio and get some fresh air :)
Check out their website to see more of the jewelry they sell: https://www.estatediamondjewelry.com/
Check out their vintage line of jewelry: https://www.estatediamondjewelry.com/product-category/vintage-engagement-rings/
Follow them on their social media to see their photos!
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If you are interested in having me come out to your business to help you with your photography, get in touch through my contact page!