Photographing jewelry always presents some interesting challenges to overcome. The brooch crafted by Marie Scarpa is shiny gold and silver wire wound in a spiral holding seventeen sapphires. Each one is a different color, and the wire had to read as silver and gold. The individual stones had to show their true colors. The background was to compliment the center stone. Here we go …

Jewelry support

One of the most difficult parts of shooting brooches and pendants is supporting them for the photography. I built a little rig that was simply a piece of piano wire mounted through a tiny hole drilled in a Plexiglas disc.

One end of the wire had a 90 bend to keep it on the disc. The other end got bent so the pin mount of the brooch would fit snugly. Two “Pony” brand 1 inch A-clamps held the disc to a Matthews Grip Arm on a C-Stand.


Brooch on black

The pin hangs about twenty feet in front of the white cycloramic studio wall. Notice the specular highlight on the center sapphire. It’s from the diffusion panel on the right side that lights the wire. Once the background is lit, that highlight will disappear.

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Backlight with a grid

A honeycomb grid on the background light creates a circle. Its size is controlled by the density of the honeycombs. The more tightly packed the honeycombs the smaller the circle. This photo compares the spread of four grids — a 40°, a 30°, a 20° and a 10°.


The right sized circle of light on the background makes all the difference. Oh. It also wipes out the specular highlight. Sneaky!

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It took a couple of tries to get the color of the background right. Red was awful. It swore with the colors of the gems. The Rosco #44 Middle Rose started out too bright. Reducing the power on the backlight made it the perfect color.

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The setup for this jewelry

A diffusion panel made by taping Roscolux #111 Tough Rolux diffusion material to a Matthews 36-inch square gel frame hangs a few inches above the wire holding disc. A Dynalite 2065 flash head lights the panel from overhead. A 24-by-36 inch flag behind the diffusion panel keeps spill from hitting the background as does a 72-by-42 inch Chimera Panel Frame with black material.

A 48-inch square Chimera Panel Frame with the standard diffusion material provides the shine on the silver and gold wire. The pillow on the floor is there to give the brooch a soft landing should something go horribly wrong. The background is lit with a Dynalite SH2000 studio head, reflector and grid. The bright, tiny brooch is in the red circle. It takes a lot of big lights to photograph a diminutive less than 3-inch pin.

The Spiral Sapphire Brooch by Kevin

Here’s the lighting diagram.

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Last and certainly not least is the final photograph destined to be a 40-by-60 inch print. I made the capture with Sigma’s 46-megapixel SD1 Merrill with a Sigma 105mm f/2.8 macro. I rotated the pin in Photoshop to the way it would be worn. The only retouching was to remove the piano wire hanger.