Lights and shadows

A couple of days ago, we’ve set up our little studio for product photography, shooting MiiSU’s jewels.

It was time to start shooting many compositions, trying out what setup works best for our kind of jewellery.

The first photos were much better than before, but still, was lacking something. Something I couldn’t figure out for hours. The pictures were kind of flat, did not show how the jewellery looked in real life. It was more like a 2D representation of something which is in 3D. You can’t sell something if the product doesn’t look appealing nor real. That something has to be there, otherwise, no one will care.

The other day I ran into a couple of twitter accounts with amazing product photos — showing the true shape of their pieces. On many photos, I found they’re playing with glare and shadows to highlight the shape of the jewellery. I started to have a closer look at their reflections. How do they set up their lighting equipment? How do they position? How they make that piece shine? This was an eye-opener experience, even I watched this video about product photography many many times in the past:

I watched again and it all came together. It’s about shadows and lights on a product. That’s what matters. It’s so obvious, but still, you have to have the full picture in your head. How the light bounces off the product, how you can control those lights, what works best for that specific shape and colour.

It was time to experiment with the new knowledge!

(All images are raw, without any post-processing)

The first setup

Two lights from the side, shooting the piece from a bit of angle to see some shine on the edges and some shadow in between parts.

The photo was good-ish but was lacking that eye-catching effect — which makes you want to touch it. Clearly, it was too dark in the front and the edges weren’t so obvious to the eye.

The second setup

Same setup as the first one, but putting a little reflector (a piece of white paper) very close to the front of the jewellery to highlight a bit, so you can see the edges a bit more.

It was a good idea, the picture came out a bit better, but also more flat. Lost the 3D-ness.

The final setup

I wanted to increase the contrast, enhance the edges, emphasise the curves of each part. I’ve added a black cloth to the back of the softbox, making a distinct, dark reflection on each small stone. Also, moved the paper a bit further to reduce the brightness in the front.

That’s something worth doing the post-processing on! :)

The final result, with post-processing

Here’s the final product — Coral Leafs Filigree Necklace — which’s photo we worked on for that many hours :)

Final thoughts

I’m getting to the point, where I dare to say: product photography really is about lights and shadows. Nothing else. If you don’t have the proper light settings and a spot-on setup, your gear is not going to save you. No matter what camera or lens you have.

I still feel I’m nowhere near where I’d like to be and there are still a lot to learn. Every piece is a different challenge and needs a different point of view. But I keep experimenting with the lights and shadows and how to improve them.