I’m sure that it is the same with all photographers, in all the different genres of photography too, that we are constantly learning and finding new ways of doing things. Whether, in the studio and finding a new lighting setup, out on location with some new kit or out in the wild fighting time or the elements there are those days when the lightbulb ‘pings on’ in that old grey matter and something new gets added to your workflow.
For my kind of product photography, which centres around handmade jewellery, it has always been about the lighting. Understanding the reflections, the contrast between colours and textures, the bright spots (particularly with silver) and of course the all important shadows.
I don’t want a mass produced catalogue style or that bright white washed out photoshopped look. I’m after the natural patinas, the shadow or reflection that shows that the photo really was taken on this background and the light with just enough contrast to make whites white and shadows not too dark.
Every Piece is Different
My lightbulb moment, just recently, was recognising that each piece of Jewellery needs very different lighting settings. It may seems crazy, after so many years, striving for the perfect setup, to realise that there isn’t one.
I’ve started using white acrylic table tops with under-lighting to be able to boost the background white without washing out the product. But this started producing photos that seemed flat and lacking shadows, until I realised that it varied for each type of piece I was shooting and, more importantly, the angle that I was shooting from.
My discovery was that the steeper the angle, by that I mean the more you’re looking straight down onto the product, the less backlighting I wanted. In fact, I would want some direct (non-softened) side lighting to give some shadow.
The inverse of this, is this shot, from down low, with the pendant hanging from, well, a network of bits of fishing cord, the underlighting is pulled back to form a bright spot just behind the product which leaves a nice reflection of the product in the foreground.
Of course, this is just the way I like to do it … your’s may be different.