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SteveB2005 09-11-2007 12:12 PM

A Short Essay On Being A Jewelry Photographer and Retoucher
I photograph and have had to retouch my workflow. I try to get the best image out of my camera, lenses and up to 3 different lighting rigs, light boxes, light tables, constant reading online forums about jewelry, studying high end printed fashion magazines. These beautiful ads are what I compare my work to and try to learn from. But no matter how great the image is out of the camera, Photoshop tweaks have to be applied in post because the macro lenses pick up every nook and cranny, dust. Is this a challenging form of product photography and jewelry retouching? You betcha!! I have literally wanted to tear my hair out.

For example, a client dropped off an expensive diamond ring and gave me half a day to photograph it for web and pre-press. I spent 2-3 hours on cleaning my setup, trying out different lighting, positioning, different exposures, f stops. I studied the facets with a daylite balanced jewelers LED lamp and loupe. The ring had been cleaned and put into an expensive velvet box. I also use gooey transparent jewelers wax to hold it up. I shot it on light table, black velvet, black and transparent acrylic, in a light tent and on white paper. Each background captured a different image and it's own set of challenges

I finally got some "perfect" RAW images, or so I thought until I blew it up on my monitor, and then I saw it! A long, blonde hair somehow got stuck between the diamonds which I spent over an hour retouching rather than go back and photograph it again. The hair is quicker than the eye

All of this is leading up to a point to all potential jewelry photographers and jewelry retouchers. WE PICKED ONE H>> of a PROFESSION FOR FRUSTRATING MOMENTS!!!!

Each piece of jewelry, whether rings, necklaces, earrings, whatever, backgrounds, lighting, retouching, the best equipment, etc all have to add up to as perfect an image as possible, especially if it's going to pre=press for catalogs.

To get everything like a ring in perfect focus, I have to use a technique called focus stacking, which means I use the cameras' auto focusing points to shoot and expose different parts of the product. Sometimes clients want a ring or bracelet in 100% focus, others don't care about depth of field like if a rings' band underneath the stone is blurry or soft, but the stones have to be sharp as a tack. These are things I have to pay absolute attention to detail about

And man, that's just getting the image optimal out of the camera!! And then, uh=oh, next comes the retouching work. It could be a few minutes or an hour or more. I can only devote time to an image that is 90-95% there, otherwise I find there is no use to even lift the pen connected to my Wacom Tablet.

Do I know all the answers yet? Absolutely not! I struggle everytime I set my jewelry rig up to shoot a client's products and I have shot hundreds, maybe thousands of jewelry images since 2000 when I started shooting digitally

I have seen great portrait photographers, but give them a piece of jewelry, and their blood pressure shoots up. Then I have seen great jewelry shooters and give them a model and a set of high end strobes, and it just doesn't happen. Jewelry photography and retouching is something like weeks, months, years to practice and I'm still learning.

I'm really glad we have this forum here and I have learned many ideas and techniques. Also, I hope to see more jewelry retouching and product retouching, like make-up, beauty products, etc. In fact, I would like to see a totally dedicated retouching forum here for product/jewelry photography.

Let's keep it coming, and when I learn something that I feel works for this type of retouching, I will post it too. And now, keep it comin'

Thanx steveb

DannyRaphael 09-11-2007 10:34 PM

Re: A Short Essay On Being A Jewelry Photographer and Retoucher
Excellent writeup, Steve...

Although I don't do anything "professionally" (it's all hobby for me), I could appreciate and relate to several of your points, e.g., high expectations from customers (but ultimately they pay the freight and when happy are the most effective advertising one can get), the need for meticulous attention to detail in all areas, get it right in the camera = less time with post processing, a way-to-high frustration index at times, etc.

I, too, hope others will leap on the band wagon and share their real world insights.

SteveB2005 09-11-2007 10:46 PM

Re: A Short Essay On Being A Jewelry Photographer and Retoucher
1 Attachment(s)
Hi Danny, thanks for the reply and your support. BTW, I am going to try and upload a little one sheet of some of the jewelry i have done for different clients. Although the images on the sheet look small, the org images are very hi-rez RAW and then scaled down for web or tweaked if going to press. Maybe give you an idea of the workflow.

Regards SteveB

cainam 09-12-2007 07:29 AM

Re: A Short Essay On Being A Jewelry Photographer and Retoucher
I believe most people here are mainly interested in 'skin retouching' (correct me if I'm wrong).
On my pbase, you can see all kinds of retouching.

SteveB2005 09-12-2007 08:31 AM

Re: A Short Essay On Being A Jewelry Photographer and Retoucher
Hi there. No actually if you do some searches on the forums and punch in jewelry, watches, etc, quite a few posts and inquiries do come up. Remember, this forum is called RetouchPro, Technique>Photo retouching not SkinPro and product retouching is a huge market share along with beauty/glamour/fashion type work. It's all important and I believe if there was a product section, it would get some attention

I certainly need more product retouching tips. I've posted several jewelry pieces for other inputs and examples under retouching and it was interesting to see what others in the forum came up with. It may not be your thing and that's ok too, because many photographers need help with just people shots and I understand that totally

A numerous amount of retouchers only do product work and everything we see in catalogs and magazines has to be retouched. We need help here with products sometimes, so we'll see what the chief thinks about it and other opinions


CMS 09-12-2007 08:57 AM

Re: A Short Essay On Being A Jewelry Photographer and Retoucher
what you need is a photo effect from CONDOR ITALY called .....never mind you need compressed air.......and MAGNO DUST

SteveB2005 09-12-2007 09:35 AM

Re: A Short Essay On Being A Jewelry Photographer and Retoucher
CMS, do you have a point to convey please, not sure if you are being sarcastic. I made a request and you take time to offer something we don't grasp? Steve

MacBurg 09-12-2007 05:14 PM

Re: A Short Essay On Being A Jewelry Photographer and Retoucher
I'm just in the middle of editing a few pieces of jewelry I shot for a client last week, its only the second time I've shot jewelry, and it sure is a challenge. No matter how much cleaning of the pieces I did, once on computer and zoomed in, I was amazed at the amount of dust & scratches still there, so much work involved to get a clean look to the jewelry. Anyway, I have posted a few images below, the were required to be on a white background and in a square format, and although I did my best to imagine this in camera while shooting, I think I just missed a few of my compositions.

Would be great to get some critique or any input on what needs improving, cheers.


SteveB2005 09-12-2007 06:45 PM

Re: A Short Essay On Being A Jewelry Photographer and Retoucher
Hi MacBug. I think you have done quite well on your jewelry shots. The one thing to be aware of is on really dark crystals/stones, try to get some highlite/contrast absorbed into the image. Punch up a bit of fill light on darks

What camera, lenses and lighting rig are you using? It looks, from the shadowless background, you may have shot on a light table or panel to get a nice white background, and of course it's ok to have a bit of cast shadow to add to depth.

Just keep at it, it's a long road ahead. See, we do have some cohorts out there in jewelry land. I have a passion to shoot jewelry because if you get the result you are after, the satisfaction factor is really worth it


MacBurg 09-12-2007 07:20 PM

Re: A Short Essay On Being A Jewelry Photographer and Retoucher
Thanks for the kind comments and advice, I shoot using a Canon 5D, and for this job I hired 2 x Broncolor heads, 1 x Broncolor Verso A2 mains pack and 2 Softboxes. I also hired a heavyweight stand and boom with the plan of suspending a softbox above the jewelry, and then using a snoot on the other light to bring in some highlights.

However, my white perspex table got cracked in transport and I was unable to use it for the job, so I ended up shooting in a light tent. I was using f16 and had the lights close to full power for most of the images, and although most of the images had a whitish background, I clear cut all the pieces and added a drop shadow for a perfect white background.

Deadline is tomorrow so I look forward to hearing more advice, I've really enjoyed shooting the jewelry, and learnt a lot even from the small amount of work I have done, and look forward to shooting more in the future.

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