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Lighting for photographing jewelry


#1

I’m looking for an affordable way to light photographs of jewelry
using my digital camera to get as close to “jury slide” quality as I
can get. I saw that “Kashmirblue” uses Ott-lights for gemphotos.
How well would they work for whole piece shots? They are very
reasonably priced compared to the professional “softbox” lighting
available, which I am sure will do the job nicely if I have 3 of
them. My main concern is the fact that “Ott-lights” are
fluorescent, and have a low frequency “Flicker” which, in my past
experience, really messed with 35 mm shots. Diffusing the
"Ott-lights" is not a concern as I’ve used a cheesecloth tent in the
past. Backgrounds and basic set up are not a problem either. The
cost of effective lights IS! Does anybody have knowledge of, or
experience in the use of these lights for this purpose? Or any other
reasonably priced light system?


#2

I’m looking for an affordable way to light photographs of jewelry
using my digital camera to get as close to “jury slide” quality as I
can get. I saw that “Kashmirblue” uses Ott-lights for gemphotos.
How well would they work for whole piece shots? They are very
reasonably priced compared to the professional “softbox” lighting
available, which I am sure will do the job nicely if I have 3 of
them. My main concern is the fact that “Ott-lights” are
fluorescent, and have a low frequency “Flicker” which, in my past
experience, really messed with 35 mm shots. Diffusing the
"Ott-lights" is not a concern as I’ve used a cheesecloth tent in the
past. Backgrounds and basic set up are not a problem either. The
cost of effective lights IS! Does anybody have knowledge of, or
experience in the use of these lights for this purpose? Or any other
reasonably priced light system?


#3

I’ve used an Ott Light on the dreary days without much sunlight and
find the color is great - almost as good as sunlight. I just place
the light so it doesn’t have a “hot” spot on the jewelry and use no
fancy set up at all. I have a Nikon Coolpix 950. Jan www.designjewel.com


#4

Light stands can be had fairly inexpensively at most camera stores,
if you go for the base line model. They will last you forever - I am
still using ones I purchased almost 30 years ago as a college
student. The type of bulb I use depends on the camera, and on the
film if the camera is not digital. My Nikon digital lets me adjust
settings for various light sources, so I can use pretty much any bulb
when taking photos with that. For diffusion, you can either create a
box in which to put your piece, or you can clip something over the
light to diffuse it there - such as a frosted piece of plexiglass, or
the already mentioned cheesecloth, or waxed paper, or whatever you
come up with. You will just have to experiment on what gives you the
effect you want.

I get MUCH better pictures with my camera than I do with a scanner.
It has more in it, and I can adjust the lighting much
better. Scanners give glare on shiny pieces!

I’m still not totally happy with my backgrounds though.

While I completely agree that you will get the best photos by using
a professional, we are not all at a level where that expense is
justified. If you have the time and the interest, it is possible to
get decent photos doing it yourself.

If you decide to use a professional, do be sure it is one with lots
of experience with jewelry! I have been a professional photographer,
but not in jewelry - and I assure you it is QUITE different from
other fields of photography! Ask for references, look at actual
photos and slides, etc. Be sure the “look” they have in their photos
is what you had in mind. Any good photographer will not mind showing
you these things!

Good luck to all.
Beth in SC


#5

Dear “DRPekarek,” Strangely enough, I read your post just after
ending a long and informative conversation with the Ott Lite company.
The technical person I spoke with said that their lamps are not
fluorescent, but a related technical breakthrough: unlike
fluorescents, they do not flicker, their life span isn’t affected by
how often they are switched on and off, and they do not contain
mercury. I don’t know enough about technology to swear this is true,
but I assume it’s why they’re patented–and why their "compact"
replacement bulbs for incandescent fixtures cost $45!

Maybe other Orchidians have something more informative to say about
this.

Lisa Orlando
Aphrodite’s Ornaments
Benicia CA


#6

I’m looking for an affordable way to light photographs of jewelry
using my digital camera to get as close to “jury slide” quality as I
can get.

I recently took a CloudDome workshop where Ott Light clones were
used. The shots were wonderful! We used PhotoShop Elements for
editing. Donna in VA


#7

In his book, Small Scale Photography, Charles mentions in passing
that professionals use an 8-12 foot box, place the seamless paper
inside, light overhead. He has a sketch as well.

Unfortunately, that set up is not the topic of his book, he just
mentions it and moves on to the system described in the book.

What is unclear is:

  • is there only a light overhead, or are there lights on the sides
    too? * is the box solid all around? or are the sides made of
    something translucent?

Does anyone know? Has anyone seen this kind of set up?

thanks,
~Elaine


#8

A jeweler friend of mine does his own photography. He uses
inexpensive halogen lights from Home Depot. I think they cost about
$20. He uses foam core and diffusion film in a very simple box setup.
You didn’t mention what digital camera you use; but cameras like the
Nikon allows for adjustions for the particular light source you use.
I believe it’s called “color balance”. What makes the difference in
my friends photograpy is Photoshop. I have never seen images better
than his by anyone professional or amateur. I seem to remember some
on this forum stating that they thought adjustments were somehow
"dishonest". I have spent days in a studio with pros. They tweak
before they shot then tweak again in photoshop or a similar program.
Your opinion may differ. K Kelly


#9

I am of the impression that Ott lights are also very expensive.

Buy Charles’s book, Small Scale Photography. His system, which I
use, can be set up for $60.00, he says. I’m sure mine cost even
less. This uses blue bulbs or tungstun bulbs. We use blue bulbs.

Your other choice is www.webphotoschool.com (I hope I have that
right) which someone recently posted (thanks!) and shows how to set
up using Starlight kits from Photoflex. These are not cheap. That
website shows two different ways to shoot jewelry, one using three
lights, which would cost $1000.00 and one using one light which
costs $300.00 or $400.00.

There’s very little info. out there on cheap do it yourself jewelry
photography. Investigate these two sources and get ready to build
your white box.

Elaine Luther
Chicago area, Illinois, USA
Metalsmith, Certified PMC Instructor
Studio 925; established 1992
@E_Luther


#10

I have been attempting to build my own softbox using transluscent
white plexiglass. I am lighting from six angles using compact
flourescent bulbs with 5300K bulbs. The color is great. I’ve been
using a digital camera, so I’m not sure if the 60 Hz flash presents
the same problem as it would for a 35 mm. I ordered the bulbs
through an Internet site called “1000 bulbs”.

Mike Buckner
Creative Engraving


#11

I’ve used 3 quartz lites and as a ‘box’ I use a semi clear plastic
storage box I got at Home Depot or Staples, took off the lid and
sandpapered it to be more’frost’ and then sprayed adhesive to some
heavy tissue paper and laid on inside(so light wouldn’t catch it on
fire…pretty pleased with results. I use a Nikon Coolpiz 950 See
photos at; www.islandgoldworks.com Thomas


#12

Does one recommend a 35mm camera over a digital? I had some photos
done professionally & then purchased a Nikon 65. The jewelry
photographer said the digital does not give the clarity that the 35
mm does.

My medium is dichroic glass & I need clarity as well as depth.

Regards, Audie Beller-


#13

I built my own light box and cloud dome, you can see pictures of the
setup and the results here http://www.titaniumconcepts.com/a

Wes
www.titaniumconcepts.com


#14

There is a lot of variety in digital cameras, to match the quality
of 35 mm, you need one of the more expensive digitals, not at 200 or
300 dollars one.

While there are good arguments to be made for going all digital –
speed, no processing costs, etc. I feel it is cheaper to stick with
35 mm. It’s cheaper to shoot and develop slides than to have slides
made from digital images, and it’s easy to scan 35 mm slides at home
than make slides from digital. (Actually, I don’t think you can do
that at home, can you?)

You can get a good, used 35 mm SLR camera body for $150.00 and up,
plus lenses. Then you’ll be buying slide film, paying for
processing and you’ll need a good slide scanner. Those can now be
had relatively inexpensively.

This compromise is working for us, for now, especially since I live
near Chicago and can get slide film developed in just three hours.
There are certainly times I wish I had a digital camera, I’ll
admit…

Elaine Luther
Chicago area, Illinois, USA
Metalsmith, Certified PMC Instructor
Studio 925; established 1992
@E_Luther


#15

And well you should be, Thomas. Your photos are great. Your entire
website is well planned and your work is refreshing.

Kay


#16

Thomas – your photos look impressive – I have a quick question,
though - I am unsure what quartz lites are. Could you please explain
(I hope I’m not the only one who doesn’t know - but maybe I’m being
dense!).

Roseann


#17

You are correct that one need a fairly expensive digital camera to
match the quaility of 35mm film in a SLR (single lens reflex) camera.
What I see as the major advantages of going digital aRe: intstant
gratification; ability to ‘feed’ the image to a TV or computer
screen, instead of to a tiny rangefinder ‘window’; and ability to use
Photoshop (or similar, less expensive program) to correct and
manipulate your pictures

David Barzilay
Lord of the Rings
607 S Hill St Ste 850
Los Angeles, CA 90014-1718
213-488-9157


#18

Thanks to all for the compliments,… and comments that viewed my
photos on my website! Here are some details to my setup you asked
for:…plastic storage box (from Home Depot or the like) is set upon
a piece of 15" square non reflective glass, then another hardboard
box big enough to support all, is underneath, giving a recessed area
below the glass. There I can put any color, and old kitchen towel a
piece of leather, colored tissue paper. The most ‘advanced’ thing are
2 8x10 acetate polarizing filters in front of quarts lights, then of
course, polarizing filter on camera lense. Hope this helps. Thomas


#19

I have been researching photo lighting recently. If anything which I
write, is INCORRECT, I hope an Orchidian who knows better will
correct me.

Quartz lamps are better described as “quartz-halogen.” They are
incandescent (a glowing filament, same idea as your standard
lightbulb); the envelope is high temperature quartz; and the
atmosphere is a halogen gas, like iodine or bromine. The principle
is that this preserves the metal of the filament from boiling away and
also from coating the inside of the envelope. They have bee around
for 40 years or so.

Today, there are other high intensity light sources in use. H.I.D.
is brighter, whiter and MUCH more expensive. (not to be confused with
HIV which is dumber, no color, and MUCH more deadly .)

The “color temperature” of a light is very important, and you must
match your film to the light source.

With many digital cameras, you can use the ‘white balance’ feature to
tell the camera: “This is the lighting which I use…you may consider
this to be pure white.”

David Barzilay
Lord of the Rings
607 S Hill St Ste 850
Los Angeles, CA 90014-1718
213-488-9157


#20

The other advantage of digital is the ability to see right away if
you have your lighting the way you want it, exposure correct, etc.
When shooting non-digital, it is best to have something that shoots
polaroid to check before commiting to film. Otherwise you can spend
hours shooting, only to have them come back with problems.

I just got my first slides made from digital, and I am fairly well
pleased with them. They could use improvement, but as a first effort
at this sort of photography are not at all bad, and I think will do
fine for the level of show I am applying to.

I have a Nikon Coolpix 5200 (I think - close anyway!), and to do the
slide quality photos you set it at maximum - it will take about 4 or
5 shots. When I take “normal” shots, I can get over 100 on the same
disk! BIG difference in quality!

Beth in SC