On the team forum for the Etsy Aspiring Metalsmiths, there are a few favorite topics: stones, tools, techniques, and of course, product photography. We have all different kinds of cameras, photography setups, and shooting styles, but we are all trying to get that perfect shot that makes our jewelry stand out. We put a lot of time and soul into not only our metalwork, but also our photography.
The piece to be photographed has to be pristine because a good photograph will bring out the details, including imperfections not visible to the naked eye! Arranging jewerly to be photographed is an art by itself, then it might be 10, 50, 100 shots just to get the perfect one! Then there's almost always a few touch ups to be done in Photoshop, usually a speck of dust on the background, or tweaking the brightness and contrast to make the colors more true to life.
Recently, I've been playing around with how I take my photos and thinking maybe I'll go in a different direction, or just mix things up a bit. I've built a new light box (and it was cheap!), changed my lighting, and streamlined my process. I'm trying to get all the kinks worked out so I have a "recipe" to follow when I sit down to take photos. So here's a behind the scenes look at all the work that goes into my product photography.
I used to use a popup light box that I purchased, but it was wobbly and difficult to use. So I made my own! There are some basic instructions here, but once I researched the general idea I came up with my own design using 1/2" white foam core, lightweight cotton, and bristol board. Since I've worked with foam core before, building models of theatrical sets, this was a snap.
Now that I've spent a couple days playing around with my new setup, I think I know how I want to do my product photos from now on. So here, for your viewing enjoyment, is my photo setup.
In the setup above, I have three basic clamp lights from the hardware store, each with a 75w equivalent daylight balanced CFL. I have my Canon Rebel Xs custom white balanced for these lights. I'm using the kit lens (the one that came with my camera), which is surprisingly good but not amazing. I know plenty of my teammates take amazing photos with basic point and shoot cameras! After all, we're saving up our money for stones and tools!
I'm using a very basic, inexpensive tripod that also came with my camera. I will say that it is the most frustrating part of my setup, and can't wait to get a heavier model with a ball head so my camera always stays pointed where I put it! However, even this cheap tripod lets me take pretty crisp shots and minimize camera shake. This way I can shoot in Aperture Priority mode and have lots of control over things that are important to me, like depth of field and where I'm focused, but let the camera set the shutter speed.
I have this setup on a little table to the right of my computer desk so that I can connect the camera to my computer and immedtaitely see my photos on the big screen. Before I figured this trick out, it was next to impossible for me to get a crisp photo, since I really couldn't see if things were sharp until I was done shooting.
Want to see the results? Okay, I'll show you one of my test shots from yesterday. The original (unedited/retouched) photo is on the left. After a few tweaks in photoshop, I get the photo on the right.
After I get the photo looking the way I want it, I resize it and add my logo at the bottom. So far, I really like these new test photos and I can't wait to see how the rest turn out!