This is my tutorial on producing images like the ones below, which are intended for use in a retail jewelry website.
Thanks for the information, do you have any ideas on taking photos of diamonds only (not as part of a jewelry piece)? I tried your technique, but without the ready-made shadows and a very soft shadow of the ring on the base, I could not get your effects.
You certainly need to use some form of micro- or macro-photography to do this work, it's true.
I am wondering if you would also know how to take images of the inside of a diamond instead of a jewellery. Really well done and I am sure that the lessons contained here will improve other aspects of photography as well.
I'm developing my product photo skills but have, until now, found jewellery to be nigh on impossible. I was shooting through a soft box, so most of the camera was hidden from the ring's shiny surface. In our case we were building an interface with minimal colour and we were aiming for a desaturated look. Most rings are top heavy and will not easily balance as I tried and could not get a single one to stay.
But I found that simply photographing the jewelry on its side and righting the image in software was far more effective than manually propping the ring into the desired position. I never had much luck photographing the stones directly, but have to admit that I didn't take it too far because my focus was on the jewelry.
I've been warned off of the ultrasonic devices for good, though, having heard too many stories about stones being knocked out of alignment.
I found that any kind of holder for the jewelry at all wound up being reflected in the metal and left strange lines that ran against the shape of the piece in weird ways.
I agree, performing photography for other sites would probably be a difficult way of making a living. I have been wondering for years looking at jewelery catalogs how in the world they managed to take pictures or upright rings without wax. I can certainly see the difficulty, and if possible, I'd recommend asking a Photoshop whiz for some advice. I believe I had a lens reverse-mounted for the macro-effect when I did this work.Let me know if I can help with any questions. Images may not be copied, downloaded, or used in any way without the express, written permission of the photographer. My early results were very disappointing and while I made some progress on my own I suppose eventually came to accept ..
Only the lens itself pops through, and even that was sitting atop the long piece of stiff card-stock paper that I was shooting on (it curled up in front, under the lens, just as it curled up out of sight in the back). I work full time as an antique jewelry photographer with no training on the subject and it is so hard to find information like this. I found the use of a clip-on LED light with a "snoot" made from electrical tape helped make bring out some fire.
I did find that I could get somewhere by shooting with a tight snoot on the strobe, in an otherwise dark environment, and lots and lots of experimentation.
Back in the manual focus days we might have reverse-mounted a lens to get the magnification – but with today's auto-everything lenses I'm not so sure.
I would then try to ensure that the lens wasn't reflected in a particularly noticeable location on the ring's surface. I pretty much gave up on getting standing ring shots with wax and I love your angled technique. I did try some work with a cheap laser penlight and found that great for bringing out "fire" but it's damn difficult to capture.Do let me know if you sort it out! But I'd be interested to see your results, especially how it works out with turning the ring and stitching the results in photoshop.

First of all, you did not get any shadow of the ring on the acrylic base (or you removed it with photoshop). I suggest this because I needed assistance from someone in that line in order to accomplish what I did.And you're quite right, I removed every bit of the surface of the acrylic using a "clipping path" in Photoshop. I have seen such images from diamond producers, so it must be possible; perhaps they have special equipment for the purpose.Good question! Also, I was using a fairly small lens, an old manual-focus item with a fairly small front element and overall diameter.Wiping out any stray reflections is always possible in Photoshop, but to tell you the truth I didn't find it necessary when taking care with the placement of the objects in the image. In truth, I outsourced it to an outfit in India which at the time charged only $1 for each image. How do we make a larger-than-life image that hides tiny bits of grit and grime that are far too small to see? Secondly, you had your ready-made shadows to place them just under the ring with the help of photoshop. Are you looking for a certain effect, for instance a broad black reflection on the ring's surface? How do we bring out the shape of a piece of jewelry that is effectively one continuous surface of shiny white metal? How can we possibly photograph a piece of jewelry from every angle without using wax or some sort of support to hold it in place? The answers to these questions took me months to sort out.
Happily I had the advice of Richard Thompson, a Toronto-area illustrator and photographer who helped me get my head around many of the largest concepts. Then there was constant research—I studied the work that some really competent people were doing. Nothing is worse than spending hours in software fighting with countless microscopic pieces of junk on the surface of a diamond ring. It's far easier to produce decent photographs of jewelry if you've cleaned the jewelry before taking the photo.
No amount of post-processing with software can come close to the look of jewelry that was clean to start with. Happily, producing clean jewelry is simple. The trick in really cleaning jewelry lies in house-hold ammonia cleaner, the type that you usually find with a blue color in a spray bottle with brand names (in North America) like Windex. Simply put a bit of it into a small container and set the diamond jewelry into the cleaning fluid. There's no need to dilute the fluid, nor can the fluid damage the jewelry in any way. Put each piece into some cleaner for an hour or so, then clean it carefully with something like a cotton-tip cleaner of the variety made for photo equipment; not the household type made for cleaning your ears! When it is clean to your satisfaction (use a loupe or you look at it through your camera's viewfinder) put the piece back in its container to keep it free of dust.
Be sure that both the surface of the ring and the surface of the diamond are free of spots. lots of crud on a diamond Loose dust will settle on the ring no matter what you do (the diamond in the photo above appeared clean to the eye). You will not see all of the dust that settles on the ring, it is far too small for you to see without magnification. If this has become apparent in your photos, get the piece back into the ammonia cleaner for another soak. Handle all of your jewelry while wearing rubber gloves.
It may do an okay job of cleaning the surface of the setting, but it will leave many tiny fibres in the mounting.
Many stones are quite porous and will actually act like a sponge or the ammonia cleaner will etch some softer stones or worst, cause cracks.
Just use a mild solution of distilled white vinegar along with DISTILLED and deionized water. The importance of distilled AND deionized water is important in that it removes almost all impurities and minerals from the water so that nothing reacts or clogs the pores in the stones (and some metals as well). For antique pieces, I find just mild solution of dish soap and water used with a very soft tooth brush works well as you don't really want to remove any patina but want the dirt gone. If you're new to strobe photography—as I was at the outset of this adventure—there is some cash outlay required here. But then again, when do those two conditions not apply? I cut corners here and there by re-using equipment I already had wherever possible.
The star of the show is a simple roll of card-stock paper, so you know I wasn't doing anything fancy! My list looks like this: primary strobe (here I used two strobes with a guide number of 20, but recommend something more powerful) secondary strobe (again, I used a small strobe with a guide number of 20) soft box reflecting umbrella (these aren't cheap) cabling for the flash units and a one-to-four cable adapter flash triggers that can mount on a tripod umbrella stand (I useed a cheap plastic tripod) and light stands (more cheap tripods) roll of heavy card-stock paper Additionally, I used an old plastic drinking container of frosted white to diffuse the light from the secondary flash.

In my case, an aging bottle that I'm sure contains the dreaded bisphenol-A! camera I use both digital and film cameras for my photography hobby but this work demands digital equipment because there's simply too great a need to check your work as you go. You can't wait for a review of developed film before deciding what works and what doesn't! Happily, the type of equipment needed for this type of work is minimal if you are producing photos for the Internet. In most cases, you won't need anything to hold the jewelry in place, as you'll simply be setting the jewelry upon this paper. I used a length of 20cm wide paper that was about 60cm long in a softbox that was 45cm x 45cm x 45cm. Allow the paper to curl up under the camera lens, and to rest on the rear wall of the soft box.
So a further diffusion is necessary, and I used a photography umbrella (a reflector shaped like an umbrella) to do this. The trick here is to provide a light source that's larger than the jewelry piece being photographed. I set the primary strobe (in my case, two flash units mounted on a tripod) above the right edge of the soft box and pointing up at the reflective umbrella.
This created the large light source I needed, and resulted in shadow-free, low-contrast images. The secondary light source was about a metre from the left side of the soft box, aiming at the softbox and tucked inside the frosted drinking vessel.
This strobe created a highlight in the front-left side of the jewelry. my home studio (no cable management evident) I then placed the jewelry in the three positions that I'll explain below. It's important to note that in each case I had something small and black close to the jewelry so that a black reflection appeared on the jewelry. They help define the shape of the jewelry rather than yielding a continuous grey surface. In this case I connected an adapter to the hot shoe on my camera and strung a PC cable from that to the one-to-four splitter. Cabling and fiddly adapters are always fun to deal with, but in this case simple twist-ties are enough to get these lightweight things out of the way. positioning the jewelry The view below is essentially impossible to create without some very finicky work with wax or some kind of supporting structure.
At this size, it doesn't take more than a 1mm x 3mm x 2mm lump of wax to look like an enormous wodge of garbage.
Of course, such a tiny piece of wax is also quite useless at keeping a piece of jewelry in place!
Note the build-up of wax, the drunken lean to the jewelry (and the poor control I had back then over reflections)! wodge of wax drunken jewelry, visible wax profile Upon carefully studying the jewelry photos that I found on the 'net, it became apparent to me that the best work was actually shot with the ring lying down on its side. This was going to be difficult for me to shoot with the equipment I had (for a time, I envisioned hanging the camera into the soft box from above) but then the answer came to me. I arranged a white business card at a ~30? angle by taping it to a small wooden object.
I then used a tiny piece of wax (no more than 1mm on a side at most) and rested the mounting against the wax. I also placed some of my son's Brio blocks near the jewelry, taping it to the business cards. I'll get back to this image in the post-processing write-up below. "standing" rings The following photos are also tricky to create. The first thing to dismiss is any idea that these can be created with the jewelry piece standing up. Aside from the unholy nightmare of trying to balance tiny pieces of jewelry on vanishingly small pieces of wax, the relationship of jewelry, camera and lights just gets too tricky to deal with. Shooting jewelry from above interferes with the lighting, and I wound up with lots of shadows such as in the photo below.
The first photo at the top of the page was made by lying the ring down on the paper with the stone pointing toward the camera. The second photo was made by lying the ring down and angling it toward the left (and into the light of the secondary strobe). The camera was placed at a low angle and quite close to the jewelry. Again, I used some black Brio blocks (small cylinders) near the jewelry, taping these in place to give a long black reflection. Note that this photo predates the final move to the paper surface as well as the use of strobes. shot lying on acrylic (with an LED picking out the stone) The rest was done in software. I'd appreciate any feedback and insights into this technique, as well as any questions pertaining to anything that's not clear.

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