Necklace photo - feedback requested

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Necklace photo - feedback requested

Unread postby Tim Poitevin » 08.07.2009 07:56

Hi All,

Just took this tonight with 10 exposures. Nikon D300, 18-200VR at 52mm, ISO 200, f/5.6. I also stuck an SB-800 flash behind the bust to light up the background. Flash was set at -1 ev with a diffuser cap at 14mm, camera was set to 0.0 ev.

The 18-200VR lens is not a dedicated macro lens, so Helicon was crucial to getting the full focus and depth-of-field I was looking for. Notice that the foreground is sharp, but most importantly, the background tapestry is sharp as well (almost too sharp, even! I need to perhaps lower the flash ev a bit).

Looking for feedback here. Worthy shot for a jewelry website, yes/no?

Thanks,
Tim
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TJP_090707_9384_Helicon_Final2.jpg
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Unread postby lutz » 15.07.2009 07:59

Hello,

I have no problems with the achieved sharpness of the necklace; it is great.
But the background seems too similar in tone and pattern to the jewelry and I do not see why it would have to be in focus at all. More separation between the two would be good.
Somehow it might be good to get the bust to become clean white?
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Unread postby Tim Poitevin » 15.07.2009 08:12

lutz wrote:Hello,

I have no problems with the achieved sharpness of the necklace; it is great.
But the background seems too similar in tone and pattern to the jewelry and I do not see why it would have to be in focus at all. More separation between the two would be good.
Somehow it might be good to get the bust to become clean white?


Thanks Lutz, I completely agree with you. I've since reshot this necklace with the background out of focus and it's an entirely different photo - and a much better one at that!

And as for the bust, it's actually cream colored, so to turn it white actually blows out the highlights on the jewelry, and I haven't the patience to mask the jewelry just to fix the bust. But I may end up doing that if my client asks. :)

Thanks for the feedback, I really appreciate it!

Tim
Tim Poitevin
 
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Lighting needs some work

Unread postby BrianS » 22.07.2009 14:12

Hi Tim,
I shoot jewellery professionally, I must say it is the most technically challenging photography I've done. Mostly I shoot diamond rings using a 100mm dedicated macro. Image stacking for DOF has certainly raised the bar on client expectations!

The trick is to somehow make the object look 'real', while at the same time avoiding shadows and other distractions that detract from the jewellery. In reality 'real' type lighting rarely does the item justice IMO.

I find your cross lighting a little distracting. For necklaces my clients typically want the item to stand out, with just a hint of shadow to maintain a perception of 'tangibility'. Sorry for these fluffy terms, but that's how they describe it to me!

I've included two examples I recently shot for a magazine, excuse the banding caused by resizing them down for posting.

These were shot in a light tent (with an umbrella in the open front - you can see it in the chrome balls) and a bias on the overhead lighting to create soft shadows. Lens was my 100mm macro, about f8. I find I only needed 4 to 5 shots to the required depth of field.

Hope this helps

Brian
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Bengel-Necklace-E.jpg
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Bengel-Necklace-I-HF.jpg
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Great feedback!

Unread postby Tim Poitevin » 24.07.2009 10:08

Brian,

Thanks so much for your feedback, I truly appreciate it! And I loved your two examples, they're definitely superior to mine technically. I agree I have too much shadow, which has been fixed since I took this shot.

I ordered an EZ soft box but the front dome was out of stock for a few days so I didn't have the front light busting down the shadows until later that week. Now the shots I'm taking are all white-balanced and accurate, color-wise, without so much shadow.

I'll go dig out another photo and post it in a few minutes, if you have the time to review it for me. Also, what magazine are you shooting for? Nice gig if you can get it! :)

Oh, and BTW, I'm running about 5-7 exposures too, using Helicon Focus to keep everything sharp (depending on the size/type of piece).

Tim
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Two more sample shots

Unread postby Tim Poitevin » 24.07.2009 10:14

Brian,

Here are a couple examples of recent shots. The bracelet is obviously shadowed due to the block I've got it sitting on, but I ran into an issue with a blown highlight (it's obvious). But I think I'm sticking with it because even with a diffuser in front of the piece I was getting it (and I can't dial down the exposure that much without losing everything else).

The necklace is a little more even shadow-wise, but not as even as yours. (And yes, I need to blur the background before publishing, I know :).

How are you using your light tent to get such even shadows? I've got two bulbs to the side and one in front, but the side bulbs are higher watt. Maybe I just need to move them further away? I also struggle with contrast and saturation, because I want to represent the real-world color of the piece without exaggeration. This jewelry photography is indeed much tougher than your standard studio work, that's for sure!

Thanks again for any tips/tricks you can share!
Tim
Attachments
TJP_090708_9452_Final.jpg
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Unread postby BrianS » 25.07.2009 08:34

Hi Tim,

Yes, the light tent makes a big difference. Your necklace is also benefiting from reflections from the bust it is mounted on.

Below is a basic set-up I use for the shots I posted (diamond rings etc are a lot trickier). Firstly though you used the term 'bulbs', do you mean fixed lighting not flashes? If so, then I should note that this will make the control much more difficult. Fixed lights do make it a bit easier to see what the end result will be, however colour temperature issues will raise their head, plus possible voltage variations (are you on 120v?), and unless you're using high wattage (and hot) studio lamps then contrast is likely to suffer as well. So, the basic set-up

1. A flash mounted overhead at a steep angle i.e. slightly from the back. Whilst I use a 300w/s adjustable studio strobe, camera units like the SB800 (in my case Canon 580EX II) have (just) enough grunt. This supplies the main light source into the tent. The important thing is that this is diffused otherwise the light will still be too hot. I use a 600 x 700 soft-box on the strobe, quite close to the tent. You can also use the SB800 in a soft box however you will be lowering its effective power somewhat. The result is a 600x 700 even light source onto the top/back edge. Note - this location assumes you want a slight 'overhead' look to the lighting. You just change the position of the main light source (and balance lighting) depending on your desired end result.

2. Balance lighting - I then use 2 (or more) of my 580 EX's from the upper/front corners to control the amount of shadow. With this type of work you really do need to have flashes that have variable control (which your SB800 does have).
The actual location of these varies of course depending on the object's shape etc, but the above is a good starting point.
3. It is also desirable to diffuse the balance units, some inexpensive shoot through umbrellas will work well and are quicker to set up than soft boxes. Reflective umbrellas are ok too however they reduce the effective power more. Bottom line is that you're trying to present a broad light source to the tent. As you suggested you can move them away but this is not as effective as a diffuser (and you need a bigger room). BTW push on type diffusers for the flashes are of minor use in this scenario.
4. Specular highlight control, - two things to note:
a) the more diffused lighting (described above) will create a softer transition to these and produce a less harsh look.
b) you can also temper these by using black card on sticks to shield the edge/surface - the trick is to figure out where the light is coming from - diamonds/faceted gems are a whole new world of pain :)
c) of course you're shooting in Raw ;), and can thus use highlight recovery tools (such as found in Lightroom) to improve this further before running it in HF (note the same setting must be used on all frames).
5. Flash control, whilst I use low cost eBay wireless remotes, I could also use one of the 580EX to control the other 580's and the sensor on the studio strobe.
6. Sometimes I leave the front of the tent open to create a 'black hole', all depends on the subject, normally I leave it off while getting the position and basic exposure/lighting right, then try it with/without . Ah, the beauty of digital - instant feedback at no $ cost for film/polaroids.

BTW I could have had almost shadowless lighting on the necklaces pictured, however IMO this makes them look less real. Also most off the time I use white backgrounds as my clients want masked items to enable them to be used with various backgrounds.

Here is a link to a post I made in the Gallery showing two more items
http://forum.helicon.com.ua/viewtopic.php?t=1300. The diamond ring took about an hour to set-up, shoot and HF, then another two hours of post processing to get this look (the unfocussed band at the bottom is deliberate, done by using gradient blurring in PS)

Lastly, may I recommend visiting the strobist site at http://strobist.blogspot.com/, this is an excellent resource.

Cheers

Brian[/url]
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