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Shooting diamond jewelry

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Damein Green
Shooting diamond jewelry
on Mar 28, 2009 at 6:49:57 pm

Hello all. Long time reader, first time poster.

I've been pondering about the best ways to shoot diamond jewelry. Each time I get my video back to the edit suite, it doesn't "pop" like I'd hope. I always shoot the jewelry against a dark cloth, but the diamonds are still just kinda bland. If I raise the iris, the blacks begin to rise also. I try not to get my 250w lights too close, because they can get very harsh on the black cloth.

I also get some clients who want the "twinkle" to the diamonds, but I've also had a little trouble with this. I'd rather do this while shooting rather than playing with it in post.

I shoot broadcast DVC-PRO(SD) with a Panasonic AJ-Dp400p.

Any help is greatly appreciated.

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Mark Suszko
Re: Shooting diamond jewelry
on Mar 29, 2009 at 4:50:15 am

Jewelry is sort of a specialty area, but there are some simple things you can do. Some may seem counter-intuitive. To make them look like more than glass, for one thing you need to show some specular highlights and reflections. Go prepare the same setup that you didn't like before. This time, bring big bright white bounce cards. Get the cards in close, starting with 45 degrees off the camera centerline... tell me what you see in the gems now.

This works similarly on things like shiny chrome motorcycles, bottles of wine, drinking glasses, spiffy car paint jobs, anything with planes and curves that's reflective. How do you light a black bowling ball? You need to see it reflecting something.

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Michael Hancock
Re: Shooting diamond jewelry
on Mar 30, 2009 at 6:59:38 pm

Shooting jewelry can be very difficult, but very rewarding when you get a shot that looks nice.

Look into getting a light tent or make one. It's basically a cube with white translucent material for the sides. Set your lights up shining through the material and it acts like a giant softbox, with the light bouncing around inside to give your jewelry pretty even lighting. If you want more shadows just light it from one side and the light will bounce off the other side for a fill. Also, because it's all white inside, you don't get unwanted reflections on your bands and in the diamonds.

However, you'll want some reflection like Mark said. So take some black gaffers or electrical tape and hang some strips inside the box until you like where they're being picked up by the gold/silver. This gives your jewelry some shape and depth.

Look into hitting your diamond with a very small spot. If you can put it on a turntable you should get some nice sparkle as it rotates through the light. Again, take your time and adjust until it glints like you want.

If you're shooting on black, try putting your jewelry on a black tile. You'll get a small reflection in the tile which can be a nice look. Try shooting on a white tile with a white backdrop. Try some different colors--one piece of jewelry may look better on black, another on blue, another on white. Experiment with it.

If you're shooting rings, use a hot glue gun to get them to stand up. Just a very small dab on a piece of tile and set the base of the ring on it. It will hold the ring at whatever angle you glue it, and when you're done it pops off without leaving a mark. This way you don't have to deal with ring holders, poster tack, or anything else. Plus, the glue is transparent so you don't usually see it (it can reflect light though if you have too much).

Play with your DOF. Get the diamond into a sharp focus and watch the band get softer and softer the more you open your iris. Throw on an ND filter to cut the light if you have to. Try blasting it with light and close your iris--does the jewelry look better when it's all in focus? If the band is ornate you might want to see more detail. If the focus needs to be on the big rock mounted to it, open the iris back up. Try getting a super shallow DOF and rack focus from the detail on the band to the diamond. Try different angles.

If you can, grab your wife/girlfriend's/friend's jewelry and practice all weekend. It really just takes time and practice to get the look you want, and a lot of patience.

Good luck, and have fun.


I'll be working late.

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Steve Wargo
My wife says...
on Mar 31, 2009 at 9:40:07 pm

When ever we are sitting a movie theater, waiting for the show to begin, my wife whips her hand out and gazes at her wedding ring, saying "Look how fantastic my diamonds look in here". "Hmmm", he said. And then, he looks upward and sees lots of small lights coming from lots of directions. "Could this be the answer?" Of course it.

Take all your stuff down to a movie theater and shoot it there.

Steve Wargo
Tempe, Arizona
It's a dry heat!

Sony HDCAM F-900 & HDW-2000/1 deck
5 Final Cut (not quite PRO) systems
Sony HVR-M25 HDV deck
2-Sony EX-1 HD .

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Damein Green
Re: My wife says...
on Apr 1, 2009 at 2:39:57 am

Thanks everybody! I'm going to put these tips to good use.

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