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. 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…
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.
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!
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. That photo is coming up.
A diffusion panel made by taping Roscolux #111 Tough Rolux diffusion material to a Matthews thirty-six inch square gel frame hangs a few inches above the wire holding disc. A Dynalite 2065 flash head lights the panel from overhead. A twenty-four by thirty-six inch flag behind the diffusion panel keeps spill from hitting the background as does a seventy-two by forty-two Chimera Panel Frame with black material. A forty-eight 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 + grid. The bright, tiny brooch is in the red circle. It takes a lot of big lights to photograph a diminutive less than three inch pin.
Last and certainly not least is the final photograph destined to be a forty by sixty 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. Kevin is a commercial photographer from Atlanta. He works for fashion, architectural, manufacturing and corporate clients. When he’s not shooting, he contributes to Photoshop User magazine & writes for Photofocus.com.