It can be difficult to isolate jewelry from the background. With this commercial photography technique, I’ll show you how to float a necklace named Pegasus. Bonus! It can be any color at all.
Reminder: I am a Fotopro Featured Photographer and a Platypod Pro.
The set consists of a four-sided rectangular box. Bottom, two sides and back. The front is left open to allow LED lights to add color to the background. The stage has a 30-inch threaded rod which is mounted in a 2×4 for stability. This is the product platform. A piece of drafting vellum is painted with black watercolor. A hole is made to slide the vellum over the threaded rod.
Point the camera straight down. With this configuration the product — in this case, Pegasus — blocks view of the rod from the camera. A dab of tacky wax holds Pegasus in place. The vellum paper adds texture and gives a cloudlike appearance to the surface under the product. With no shadows possible from the main light the product ‘floats’ in the scene.
In addition to the set you’ll need a tripod. I’m using a Fotopro T-Roc Max. Make sure that your tripod adjustment collar is secure so you camera lens doesn’t crash into the rod. The camera is suspended over the set using a Platyball and Platypod Handle. With the camera suspended it’s wise to weight the tripod for stability. I’ve used a Neewer sandbag filled with pea gravel. You could use a weighted backpack as well. The Handle works well as it can be adjusted in many different configurations. At the end of the handle is a second ball-head. There are three Platypod Ultras. Two are holding Platypod Goosenecks. I’m using these to display the chain. The third Ultra is supporting a Falcon Eyes F7 fold LED light. With two LED panels completely controllable you can dial in ANY color and brightness desired.
Camera and lens
Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark III is my camera. A 60mm M. Zuiko f/2.8 Macro lens gets great detail. The wide aperture is important in whatever lens you choose to use. The wide aperture allows the background to fade to super softness. Closing down your aperture lets more of the black watercolor read in your image adding a bit more texture and more choices for the look for which you are going.
Main light is an COB LED from Zhiyun and is behind the scrim to keep the light from being too harsh on the subject. The larger the light source the softer the shadow edge transitions on your subject. Check out my review on the Zhiyun 100 watt LED light.
With a super reflective subject such as jewelry you want to get light into spaces. Rather than spend a lot of time adding more confusion to the set I suggest using Photoshop as your lighting tool making a couple exposures holding a white card in place and moving it around the set. Ultimately I’ve found this to be a faster and cleaner way to work.
After capturing your images, it’s a quick trip to Adobe Camera RAW (or Lightroom if that’s your preferred software). Take the frames for blending and load them as layers in Photoshop. Take the photo that has the most information you want and place it on the bottom. Highlight all layers, and just to be safe, click Auto-Align Layers in the Edit menu. If there was a slight bump of the camera this will ensure you won’t end up with blurry fills. Add black masks to the upper layers. Paint with a soft white brush to allow the other areas to blend into the bottom layer working one layer at a time.
Even though we have complete control of the color of the background during capture, we can change the color in post as well. Adding a Hue Saturation layer while masking out Pegasus gives us even more control.
I made a couple tweaks to complete the post-production. One side of the chain fell out of depth of field because I was trying to allow the background to go super smooth. Instead of going back to the set, I made a copy of the camera left chain, flipped it and masked it into the right side. There was a little dodging and burning on a Soft Light layer. Finally, I added a Levels layer with a mask to vignette just a bit to keep the viewer’s eye from escaping out of frame.
If you have any questions about this commercial photography technique please don’t hesitate to drop them in the comments below.
Yours in Creative Photography, Bob