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Looking for Jewelry Retouching Tutorials

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  • Looking for Jewelry Retouching Tutorials

    Greetings all,

    Can anyone point me in the right direction? I've searched YouTube for videos on retouching jewelry, and most of them are just painful to watch. Is there a good source where I can learn about it. I've been photographing with a 37mp Nikon, a 105micro and focus stacking and the crud that is revealed within any piece of jewelry is overwhelming. I'm wondering if there are some more efficient ways to retouch rather than one stroke at a time.

  • #2
    Re: Looking for Jewelry Rotouching Tutorials

    You either want quality or speed. I did some jewelry jobs, and every piece of dust is cloned out, then everything DNB to make it super smooth. Painting things as a quick fix can work pretty well combined with paths, but not for the higher end of the market. Of course, making paths and masking every detail out is a must whatever product you're retouching.


    • #3
      Re: Looking for Jewelry Rotouching Tutorials

      I agree with scoobey's comments above.
      I've done a few hundred jewellery images over the past 15 years. All for high-quality offset printing. The work is done meticulously, manually retouching every imperfection 'one stroke at a time' without shortcuts. So my advice is to resign yourself to that fact and then attack the image, knowing you'll be there for a while.

      A bit of advice - for every image, do any transforms (for symmetry/aesthetics) first. Then make paths for everything, including every stone, all surfaces, and even chain links should be pathed.

      Then break up the retouching into groups of like surfaces/materials.

      good luck.
      --shift studio.


      • #4
        Re: Looking for Jewelry Rotouching Tutorials

        Thank guys. Between what you've said and the videos I rented today on this site, it appears it can be a very time intensive process. I've shot estate jewelry in Washington dc in the past and did the retouching but, I would say not at the levels in the videos. This it the first customer I've had since then so I decided it was time for a refresher course. For my client, I'm trying to break it down to phases where I do a chunk of retouching and then find out if he's satisfied with it. If not, I'll do more but there will be additional charge. I try to get it to a good point in the first go (putting 1-2 hours in only).


        • #5
          Re: Looking for Jewelry Rotouching Tutorials

          While that is a good idea for portrait photography, I can tell you right away that it won't work for products simply because the clean up alone takes a lot more time. If I were you, I would make sure they provide you with samples of work that they have had done in the past, and are 100% satisfied with, as well as the final choice of the images, or combination of images(if you've shoot rocks from different angles etc.) before you begin the actual work. But don't underestimate you effort, you've made some good shots for $ dollars, if they want a 10000 dollar retouch alongside it, then they must pay 10000, there is no such thing as them having a "good deal" if they are looking for a Tiffany/Cartier level of post production, because it's costing you time.

          P.S. I think, given that you shoot reasonably clean(not a lot if any fingerprints etc) that you can clean up simple rings in 1-2 hours, but everything bigger, or with more detail, will involve more time.


          • #6
            Re: Looking for Jewelry Rotouching Tutorials

            Thanks for the feedback. I did get samples; to this point, the owner of the shop has been photographing them him self. noisy, soft uncleaned images to this point. Basically, anything I do will be light years better, before I start retouching.


            • #7
              Re: Looking for Jewelry Rotouching Tutorials

              Originally posted by mgilvey View Post
              Thank guys. Between what you've said and the videos I rented today on this site, it appears it can be a very time intensive process. I've shot estate jewelry in Washington dc in the past and did the retouching but, I would say not at the levels in the videos. This it the first customer I've had since then so I decided it was time for a refresher course. For my client, I'm trying to break it down to phases where I do a chunk of retouching and then find out if he's satisfied with it. If not, I'll do more but there will be additional charge. I try to get it to a good point in the first go (putting 1-2 hours in only).
              There's a lot of stuff that's done at very high volume where even two hours might be cost prohibitive. Even on that stuff, you use clipping paths and a lot of tedious work. It's just labor intensive by its nature. You do need to be careful, because it's likely that without a lot of practice your level of skill in this area will be insufficient to command your usual rate while providing a competitive service.

              You should also be very careful about saying "light years better". Their expectations for your work will differ significantly from what they have now, because now they are paying for it.


              • #8
                Re: Looking for Jewelry Retouching Tutorials

                All great comments and thanks for keeping me humble.


                • #9
                  Re: Looking for Jewelry Retouching Tutorials

                  Alex Koloskov has some tutorials on his Photigy site:
                  Online courses for commercial product photographers: Become an expert in product photography, retouching, and CGI. And do it faster than anywhere else.

                  Mostly focused on jewelry photography but there are some post-production videos which might be helpful as well.

                  First line of defense might be to pay a jeweler to professionally clean the pieces if possible. If there's a lot of pieces and of course depending on type, value, insurance and client; it might even be beneficial to invest in an ultrasonic jewelry cleaner and the knowledge to use the equipment carefully.


                  • #10
                    Re: Looking for Jewelry Retouching Tutorials

                    I don't think they are paying the photographer to shoot anything but pristine jewelry.

                    Using gloves on set is a good idea to avoid smudges and fingerprints, but he already knows that.


                    • #11
                      Re: Looking for Jewelry Retouching Tutorials

                      Yea, I do use dustless gloves and I ask the jeweler to do a good cleaning before handoff.


                      • #12
                        Re: Looking for Jewelry Retouching Tutorials

                        There are three thoughts I have.

                        I usually use an Ultrasonic Bath on any piece of jewelry I photograph. Not cleaning your jewelry YOURSELF... will always give you significant dust and debris on the image because of the macro photography. Using a small ultrasonic cleaner could save you ten hours a week in retouching and frustration.

                        Hardly anybody is able to get great metallic gradients and smooth reflections across their jewelery... unless they are masters at Tenting, flagging, and using cards, flags and bounce surfaces to get that ultra smooth graded look (like the gradation inside of a ring). To get that perfect smooth have to make your own gradations that you can substitute in during retouching. Get some larger rings...and set them up with nice reflected surfaces...and use these substitute gradations to "Cut In" the look you want. Who knows if the great reflection you retouch in... is from another ring...or piece of curved metal... or the inside or outside of a stainless mug. You use the path and pen tool to get the boundaries and edges...and you use these home made reflections to make your poorly lit jewelry look look like it was shot in a professional studio with lighting technicians.

                        There is a site that sells lights and "photographic tents" and waxes and hangers and fixtures... especially for jewelry photography. If you are not using some of the lighting tools that are customary in commercial studios you are likely to get over lit, poorly exposed, way hot dirty looking images. Shadowless photography, hanging jewelery so you get no background contamination etc is absolutely necessary to get those great looking images. Also having your own "Cut In" gradations and reflections and smooth natural curved shadows are also great ways to make unruly jewelery look professionally done.

                        Heres that Jewelery Photography Link:


                        Look around...some pages are no longer there...but there is still a total wealth of information for the first time jewelry photographer / retoucher there.

                        Reading through the site...learning the lighting and photography and jewelry mounting setups...and maybe buying a few near pro-grade accessories...will take your macro photography to a new high level.

                        PS: Granted... good tutorials are sometimes fairly hard to find on this subject (especially on photographing or retouching-in smooth shadows, curved gradations, and highlight management). The site above has some of the creation tools you will need... but the exact procedures, tips and retouch tips are often homegrown... and seem to be held close to the vest by these very creative and innovative artists and scientist types of people... who make their living off of their art and science and commercial skills. Good macro photographers are quite innovative and skillful...and often keep their very hard won tips to themselves and their assistants it seems.

                        Last edited by ray12; 07-05-2016, 09:29 PM.


                        • #13
                          Re: Looking for Jewelry Retouching Tutorials

                          Thanks Ray! Excellent information. I'll check out MK. So would you say it's better to shoot jewelry under strobes, small continuous light sources or is it a combination of both (which is what I think you are leaning toward)?


                          • #14
                            Re: Looking for Jewelry Retouching Tutorials

                            When you look at those jewelry photographic tents...that produce the almost perfect images... they use diffused lighting primarily. The lighting is behind some internal translucent panels that spread the light and make it so that there are limited hotspots caused by a direct bulb reflection.

                            Continuous light sources are preferable to start with... because you can see instantly with your eye what effect you are causing. Using strobes gives you less visual feedback until the exposure is taken. Many people do not have the snoots, grids, reflectors, panels and diffusion screens for their H U G E strobes ( the physically large size of a strobe compared to the size of an ear ring for example). Many strobes that are used for models and studio work are just too big and over powered for fine detail jewelry...unless they are visually controlled with the right light shaping tools.

                            Many people today are using large diffusion panels (translucent plastic or scrim materials on a frame to get those gorgeous highlights without all the hotspots). It is also becoming more prevalent to use those small track lighting fixtures with the PAR 16 bulbs...because they are small and easily directed and placed. The use of LED lighting is also very attractive...especially for jewels with many facets... the multiple LED's really light up those internal stone reflections.

                            Do look at the MK site...and study it... so that you can see examples of easy to use lighting solutions. There are also several tutorials on lighting a ring or wine bottle kind of object there.

                            Light is light. It depends how it is shaped and modified and colored and spread that makes the difference in jewelry photography. Smaller lights are much easier to setup, control and position on a tabletop size of shooting platform. Its almost like you would want to use some kind of miniature lighting fixture solutions when you shoot miniature ring size subjects.

                            Some of the key elements in jewelry lighting is that you want highlights that do not have nasty uncontrolled hotspots... you want broad expanses of reflector boards or diffusers ( foamcore, plastic, colored cardboard etc) that cause those buttery smooth transitions and gradients and gradations... and you may want to shoot in a darkened studio sometimes so you get those equally important dark contrasts in the object. The use of louvered or honeycomb grids on your lights keeps the light from coming out and spilling out broadly everywhere around your set. They give your lighting tight directivity and more visual control.

                            Equally important are your retouching skills. The use of curves and layer masks, the pen tool for perfect edges and curves, and the ability to mask-in some nice jewelry looking gradients that are perfectly smooth. This jewelry photography is a combination of art, science, lighting, and the ability to innovate and solve problems with tough lighting issues. Sometimes shooting jewelry is like shooting into mirrors... how do you get nice looking shots with that kind of challenge glaring in your viewfinder??? How do you take a hotspot in Photoshop and make it become in control??

                            If you shoot and retouch your own jewelery you are very lucky... sometimes its a bit easier than getting a poorly shot, overly lit, out of focus ring... from some outside source that wants you to do magic with a poor specimen to start with. Lots of Luck!!


                            • #15
                              Re: Looking for Jewelry Retouching Tutorials

                              Thanks Ray! I really appreciate the detail you went into. I have strobes, grids, light cube etc but never introduced any continuous light sources. I'll read through the website and see what other techniques I can add.

                              I will say, the last ring I photographed was $24,000 so I might be a little nervous to place it into an ultrasonic but I get your drift; it would save lots of time I think. I'll have to talk to the goldsmith and ask him if he's ok with that and what ultrasonic machine he would recommend.


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