Both here on crafthaus and at Luke & Eloy Gallery, I often encounter wonderful artwork. Unfortunately, sometimes this artwork is really great, but the photo does not do the work any justice. In fact, the photo can be so "bad" that it puts the work in a terrible light, and thus diminishes its prospects at being considered for a show - or for being considered to go online at crafthaus. Magazines and other publications are faced with the same dilemma.

I know that there are plenty of books out on the subject, and often they are very technical and hard to understand. I hope to spark a conversation amongst those who seek advice and those who can give it, simply because they have been there, done that.

Please join me in adding information, ask questions and/or correct me where I am wrong. Thank you.

These are my "helpful hints" for the do-it-yourselfer:

1) Use a really good digital camera, preferably one with a macro lense, which enables you to take jewelry pictures from up close. If you don't, no matter what you do, your images will end up blurry, and therefore unusable.

2) Use good lighting. I take all of my pictures myself, not that they are so great, but just to show you that it can be done :-). I always use natural light, setting everything up next to a window, but without direct sunlight shining in. Most professionals would probably advise against that, preferring other setups, but this low-tech approach works for me.

3) Photograph one piece at a time, as close up as you can, and try to keep the image "straight" and centered, no angles and try to avoid distracting backgrounds such as grass, fabrics and so forth.

4) Photoshop: Adjust the light if need be, but DO NOT GO OVERBOARD and change the piece to make it appear something that it isn't. Big no no.

5) If all else fails, try to have some key pictures of your work photographed professionally (we do have photographers on crafthaus that you can contact - and I hope they'll chime in), at least have a few really great images of your work readily available to show.

6) Experiment: Take a look at other images that you see online and in publications, note what it is you like about them, then try to replicate that set up/effort.

It is a learning experience for sure, but it can be done !!

I look forward to your questions and comments. Thank you !

Brigitte

Tags: artwork, how-to, image, jewelry, photo, photographer, scale, small

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Thanks Brigitte for getting us started.

Like Brigitte, I have always photographed my own work. I instruct my students to photograph their work as well. When photographing work, here are some other things to consider:

1) Use a tripod so that your camera is still when the shutter is released. A cable release can also be useful.

2) Use 2 or 3 3400K photo bulbs as a controlled light source. Change your bulbs frequently for consistent results.

3) Use a professional backdrop. Backdrops are sold as gradations and as solids in a variety of colors. Treat your backdrop with care to extend its life.

4) For art jewelers, consider taking images that are photographed on the body. Context can help others understand your work.

5) Leave Photoshop to the professionals. Many publications prefer that images are provided unaltered.

6) Shoot at the highest resolution.

7) When providing images for publication, make a copy of your original image. Using the copy image, crop and adjust resolution and size according to the publication's guidelines.

8) When it comes time to photograph work, you have most likely just finished a piece. Devise a record keeping system for images and information pertaining to the work. Record the following so that the information is immediately accessible for entering exhibitions:

a) title
b) year of completion
c) materials
d) dimensions

9) Experiment. Try different backgrounds, vary the position of the light source, vary the number of light sources, shoot multiple views of the object, and raise and lower the tripod.

10) Evaluate each image. Settle for only the best image of any given piece.

Billie
Brigette & Billie,

I also photograph my own work and have found it to be an enjoyable but somewhat steep learning curve and in no way profess to be an expert at it.

I have an interest in photography in general, and have ventured down the "strobist" path of using small off- camera flashes which I have found to be very effective for smaller scale jewelry work. (if you google Strobist you will find David Hobby's blog which I have no affiliation with, just appreciation for his sharing of his experience and knowledge).

I typically use one light diffused through a lighting umbrella, but I have also used tracing paper which worked well to soften the light. Often I place white and black cards around the object to bounce light back and provide reflections that help define the objects form.

As both Brigette and Billie mentioned experimentation is the key - I take scores of photos of each piece until I am happy with at least one!

Shoot RAW format if your camera supports that format, and you have the facility to process them (Lightroom, Photoshop etc).

Billie's point 8 is extremely important and one that I am guilty of not doing, but your life will be so much easier if you keep ongoing records of each piece / photo.

Back up your best photos somewhere other than your computer's hard drive!!

Enjoy it - I have actually found that by taking pictures of my work it has helped me to be slightly more objective about evaluating it and seeing where improvements are required and where ideas need to be developed and pursued.

Chris
Hi Chris

I am curious about this placement of black and white cards? Do you have a minute for a slight in depth elaboration? I photograph my work, I use a shiny background (a black sheet of plastic) but i find my photos to not have that much depth still.
Suggestions?
Thank you,

Mia

Christopher Trollen said:
Brigette & Billie,

I also photograph my own work and have found it to be an enjoyable but somewhat steep learning curve and in no way profess to be an expert at it.

I have an interest in photography in general, and have ventured down the "strobist" path of using small off- camera flashes which I have found to be very effective for smaller scale jewelry work. (if you google Strobist you will find David Hobby's blog which I have no affiliation with, just appreciation for his sharing of his experience and knowledge).

I typically use one light diffused through a lighting umbrella, but I have also used tracing paper which worked well to soften the light. Often I place white and black cards around the object to bounce light back and provide reflections that help define the objects form.

As both Brigette and Billie mentioned experimentation is the key - I take scores of photos of each piece until I am happy with at least one!

Shoot RAW format if your camera supports that format, and you have the facility to process them (Lightroom, Photoshop etc).

Billie's point 8 is extremely important and one that I am guilty of not doing, but your life will be so much easier if you keep ongoing records of each piece / photo.

Back up your best photos somewhere other than your computer's hard drive!!

Enjoy it - I have actually found that by taking pictures of my work it has helped me to be slightly more objective about evaluating it and seeing where improvements are required and where ideas need to be developed and pursued.

Chris
Mia,

I couldn't say it any better than 2Roses did. The various sized cards, both black and white either reflect / bounce white light back on to the object or are actually reflected in the metal hopefully adding depth and showing the form of the object better in the 2d image.

It really is trial and error - taking a picture and looking at it (I check out the small screen on the back of the camera, which isn't great, but gives me a rough idea of what's going on) - if it doesn't work I might have to move the cards to a different position to get the effect I want or need, or change the exposure settings (shooting in manual mode) or the output from the small flash units.

I use various sizes of foam-core board, which seem to work well, but any black and white card will do the job.

I thought your photos were very good - what arrangment of light(s) do you use?

Best,

Chris
The black and white cards referred to are reflectors.Reflectors are basic photographic tools used to have greater control of where light hits your subject or to control what is reflected in highly polished surfaces. A basic reflector can be made from any piece of white or black paper or cardboard. We use cheap matte board that is black on one side and white on the other for versatility. The size of the card is dictated by what you want it to do and the size of your subject. Usually a 10"x12" piece will be as large as you will need for jewelry, but over time you will end up with many sizes and shapes in your arsenal of reflectors.

Following is a basic set up to see the effect of a reflector on your subject. Set your subject on a table so that it has about 12" of open space around it. With the camera on a tripod, position the camera directly in front of the piece, (we're not going to worry about composition right now.) Position one light directly to the left, and slightly higher than the subject. Aim the light directly at the subject. Now place your reflector directly to the right of the subject with the white side of the reflector towards the subject. A coat hanger makes a terrific professional-grade adjustable support to prop your reflector up at just the right angle.

Now, looking through the camera, remove and replace the reflector, move it around the subject, move it closer and further away, try different angles, try facing the black side toward the subject. You will immediately see the effect of the reflector on your subject and you have just taken the next step to a new level of photography.

As long as you're on a roll, throw another light on the subject and try two reflectors. You'll wonder how you ever lived without them.
Hi Everbody,

The SNAG website has a free inventory/records document that you can download and print for recording the important info about your work. You can check it out along with other pro documents, like contracts etc, here http://www.snagmetalsmith.org/Publications/Professional_Guidelines/

Best,
Michelle
Hello All!

I use a FinePix S9000 9 megapixels camera with Macro and Supermacro. You can shoot in Jpeg or RAW format.
I use a light tent and two 100 watt regular light bulbs warm tones and one halogen that has the blue tone. My background is a thin sheet of aluminum that give a subtle reflective background.
I use incandescent white balance setting. Because I have a lot of light I don't always use a tripod.
Some of my light is direct and some is through the tent.
It takes a lot of experimentation with angles of light and angles of the pieces. I shoot lots of pics and then pick the best one.
I sometimes use photoshop to do an auto level or auto color adjustment but don't need to very often.
I use photoshop or iphoto to crop and size depending if it is for uploading on the web or for calls for entry.
My Fuji comes with software programs [FinePixViewer, Image Mixer VCD2 LE for FinePix, RAW File Converter LE] that allow me to convert the RAW files to TIFF format.
A lot of my work has texture and patinas which I find I have great sucess getting good images.
The challenging pieces for me are the high polish very reflectve pieces, it is a challenge not to have the hot spot or the black camera spot?
I am always looking for better ways to take great pictures.
I am definitely going to try some suggestions from the other comments.

Thanks everyone!
Bridgette,
Thanks for posting photo tips. This is such an important topic. Fabulous photographic images have always been important, but with the circulation of images on the internet, great photographic images have become even more important.

That is why I decided to write a new Professional Guidelines document about Quality Photographic Images. This will be published soon. There is also a new topic KNOWING HOW TO WORK WITH DIGITAL IMAGES which is almost complete.

The final topic of this three part series in the Professional Guidelines will be bad and good photographic examples with an explanation. If anyone would like to submit their photos for public evaluation in this document please send them directly to me as 2" x 2", 300 dpi. Send the images to: bermaid [at] harriete-estel-berman [dot] info. As a small compensation for allowing me to use your images in this document, I am offering a private critique of the photo and the work if you are interested. This is optional but can be an opportunity to work toward success.
Harriete Estel Berman
What do you plan on using your photos for ?
This is a very important question one should ask before taking a single shot.

I only take studio shots for call-for-entries, mostly books and gallery shows.
With this in mind I want to keep the piece as the focus point and not have any distractions. I keep my background simple, usually a black to white gradient--No rocks, no flowers, no baubles of any kind. No people! No hands, necks, breasts, livers, whatever. High f-stops! Everything should appear in focus! Yes, that blurry diamond ring looks so neat in the magazine with only that one diamond in focus and the hand and everything else getting blurrier to infinity. All of these may look nice and work well in advertising or as a picture for Etsy but for a judge it's a distraction. The judge has about 3-5 seconds to look at your picture, you don't want him focusing on pretty backgrounds or arm hair.

MIA- The problem you are having doesn't sound like a light problem, more like a depth-of-field (DOF) problem. Always use a high f-stop when shooting your piece. The higher the f-stop the more the piece will "appear" in focus. I say "appear" because there really is only a small sliver that is actually in focus even at high f-stops (32), everything else is really a tiny bit out of focus (Oof) but the eye can't tell.

If your using a point & shoot (P&S) I would suggest the highest f-stop available.

If your using a Dslr then you need to fiddle with the f-sop a bit to find the sweet spot. To low, and parts will look Oof. To high, and you start to have diffraction (a lens thing) problems. You can try using the "depth of field button" which will show the effects of the f-stop thru the viewfinder but I find it pretty useless. Take a few photos at different f-stops, load them on the computer , and look at them thru your imaging program and see which one looks best at the resolution you plan on sending.

Or it may be that you are using a "shooting tent" or "plastic thingamajig" to shoot your pieces. I've had various tents and plastic mojos and all of them make everything look flat because they soften the light equally all around. They do help reduce shadows (a + for product photography) but they do it at the cost of depth.
-----------

A quick list/"Typical Shoot*"

I use a shooting table made for product photography which has a built in sweep. A sweep gives the appearance of an infinite background. You can use any sort of table and just tape your background against a wall and let it sweep toward you to create the same effect. I use the shooting table because it allows me to change the top and replace it with different pieces of Pliexglas for under table lighting. Most jewelry photographers create the black to white gradient by shooting on Plexiglas and lighting from underneath to create this light drop-off effect. It is much easier then trying to create the same effect by modifying the light source with a card. Well, supposedly easier, I haven't go it down yet because I think I need a much thicker piece of Plexiglas ($$) to light thru.
I use a tripod with an extended arm attached so I can get really close to the piece without the tripod legs bumping against the table. A professional studio stand would be better, like a Foba ($$$$), but so would just winning the lottery.
I use a wired cable release and set my camera on "mirror-lock" when taking a shot. Mirror-lock further reduces vibrations (which in turn cause blur) when taking a shot on a tripod with a Dslr.
To the left of the camera/tripod is a softbox on a light stand positioned just out of the frame to cast light on the piece. The closer the light is the softer any shadows will be.
Floating above the table is another softbox mounted on a light boom to cast light down on the piece at an angle.
Behind, and to the right of the camera (and myself when I am shooting) is a strobe (my camera flash) in another softbox on another light stand. It is much further away then any of the other lights and is used for fill light.
All lights are about 45 degrees up and from the piece. The boom light is actually a bit further away because it's an inexpensive light and I can't dim it (the light should be weaker then the light on the left).

My setup is a basic 3 light setup. The light on the left is the KEY light, its the source of most of the light. The softbox on the boom is the BACK LIGHT, which puts light on the backside and a bit on the top of the piece. The 3rd softbox with the strobe is the FILL light, which fills in the dark area on the right of the piece caused by the fill light on the left side. Lighting is what creates the 3 dimensional look one sees in pictures.

Now, all this may seem a bit expensive to some, and it sure seemed that way to my Girlfriend :) when I first approached here with my "wants". But it wasn't all that bad. I don't use professional strobes or lights because they DO cost a fortune and you can't just plug them in to a home socket you need to buy other things that then cost another fortune...You get the idea. I bought 2 cheap softboxes on ebay that came with light heads and 4 bulbs, 2 500 and 2 1000. They ran me about $55 each. I also got the boom stand off ebay for about $60, and the shooting table for $24. The Plexiglas I purchased online from eplastics. Each piece is only 2ftx2ft and 1/8th of an inch thick but still ran about $25 a piece. I think I need at least 1/2 thick for under lighting to be effective (one side clear the other side rough/sand blasted) but that's for some later time (about $100+ a piece).
The camera at the time cost about $850 (-my Girlfriends $400 sears gift card she got after a few years of being smart with her credit card bonuses). I got the tripod and the extension arm from B&H online for under $200.
So the studio cost was minimal, the most expensive thing was the camera. Of course one could use the camera for other things outside the studio, and I do. Of course that leads to wanting different lenses which leads to more talks with the Girlfriend...

My main points of doing my own photos was first expense and the second was time. The professional photographer I was using (and still use for super important work) charged about $70 a shot which included photoshop work. Not too bad, but it does start to add up. Also, there were times when I found out about a show late and need some photos fast and that of course cost a bit more or just could not be done in time. I also wanted photos of all my work even if I wasn't planning on entering the work in any show at the time but the cost of getting the photos done on work I wasn't planning to sell seemed silly.

So in the long run I'll break even or save. Either way I've had fun learning the challenges of lighting and have a nice digital camera to boot!

BTW- I do have a tiny photography background (HS and college) & worked for a few years in digital post-processing (Quark and Photoshop-mostly magazine and advertising). I did not go into post-processing at all, maybe if another topic is created...

*There are NO typical shoots
Steve, I would love to see a photo of your set up so that I can get a better idea of the positioning of your lights and etc. Is that possible? I have quite a few of the items needed for taking good images, but can never get the lighting correct. I have never tried to take RAW images but I assume my camera will do it. I have a Nikon 50 DSLR. I might be forced to get out the instruction booklet to figure it out. One thing, I don't even know what a soft box is. I see some computer searches in my future. novelstoo@sbcglobal.net
Here's some quick and blurry shots I had recently taken to send to a photographer in Australia who was kind enough to answer a few questions I had.

There is a softbox to the left and another above in the first picture. It's a "box" that diffuses the light and make it softer, so the shadows aren't seen or not as hard. To the right is a softbox that covers my flash, sometimes I use it, sometimes I dont.

This is the general set up. It does change slightly depending on the piece but it's a good starting point for most of my jewelry shots. I am still working on the underneath lighting, though right now I am working on getting a few call for entries out and maybe, if I am really lucky, I'll get in the studio :)

Looks like I will be shopping ebay for some soft boxes and one of those tables. My husband is a veterinarian, so I think I can come up with a set of those risers you've got there :-)

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A modern metalsmith/metal artist can be found working in traditional metals as well as in nontraditional materials. The designs can range from the classic to the extravagant, and the techniques can either be centuries old or decidedly current.

The wide range of expression preferences, design options, materials, and processes has lead within our field to unfavorable misconceptions, misunderstandings and in some cases even outright disdain between artists. Can the metal and jewelry field overcome its division and send out a much-needed signal?

We appreciate and respect our historical past and acknowledge that current materials have a rightful place in jewelry/object making!

Arriving at this message is the goal of this traveling exhibition opening at the SNAG conference in Boston 2015, Velvet da Vinci, San Francisco, CA - Aug 19 - Sept 20, 2015, Equinox Gallery, San Antonio, TX - Oct 16 - Nov 15, 2015, Baltimore Jewelry Center, Baltimore, MD - Dec 11, 2015 - Jan 08, 2016, Brooklyn Metal Works, Brooklyn, NY - Feb 5 - Mar 4, 2016.

DETAILS on exhibition premise, call for artists, submission guidelines.....

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