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Jewelry photography: 3 lighting setups for your inspiration.

Jewelry photography: 3 lighting setups for your inspiration.

A while ago we had a very extensive jewelry photoshoot for new hi-end jeweler in Atlanta,  Elizabeth Dupree Lynch. Descendant of one of the oldest  and best known families in America, she recently launched jewelry business.  Her Fine Jewelry collection, hand crafted  by Italian master jewelers, represents love, specifically – “all the love in a world one can have for another ” as she say. (To know more about Elizabeth’s jewelry please visit website: edlcollection.com).

Our studio was selected to photograph the full collection, and I’ll show you some of the photographs we got along with the lighting setups. We worked on an extremely tight schedule: I was shooting 10-12 hours every day for 3 days, with day and night post-production for 5 more days.  Obviously, there was no time to do any behind the scene video or to shoot intermediate lighting setup builds. However, I’ve got some of the actual lighting setups photographed and will be glad to share them with you.

All the pieces were photographed on a white background, that was the requirement from the client, and this is how all the retouched photography was delivered. However, for the portfolio we have created more creative backgrounds for each of the selected shots.

Must say that there were all kinds of different jewelry items in Elizabeth’s collection: rings, earrings, necklaces, bracelets, broaches and  pedants. I was dealing with huge 4 karat diamonds, glossy platinum, matte gold, all the variety of different types and finishes. It would be a heaven for a jewelry photographer, if not the toughest schedule I ever had :-).
I had to build so many completely different lighting setups that I’ve never had build for a single photo session.

Atlanta photographer jewelry diamond ring
Atlanta photographer: Antoinette Diamond Ring from Elizabeth Dupree Lynch collection


Few more masterpieces, before we’ll go technical:

Atlanta photographer jewelry tutorial diamond earrings
Atlanta photographer jewelry diamond earrings
jewelry photographer golden ring earrings
jewelry photography example: golden ring



Now I am not sure what lighting setup was exactly used for each particular shot, but at least you’ll get some of the ideas of how Plexiglas,  foam-board core, paper and other materials can be used to build the lighting.


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   In the Gearbox

Lighting, light modifiers and accessories:

Exposure specification: shutter speed 1/250 sec, F16, ISO 100


52 responses on "Jewelry photography: 3 lighting setups for your inspiration."

  1. Alex, I’ve seen some references to a Jewelry photography eBook? Is that book still available for purchase?

  2. Alex,
    Great to see your process here. I’ve been shooting jewelry professionally for 7 years. Like you, I try to do everything in-camera. Do you try to white out the background so you don’t have to mask it out in pp? Such as placing a light under the plexi or using the clear plexi technique you showed on your site. Because masking big, intricate necklaces costs me time (ie money).

    Thank you for doing what you do!


  3. Hi Alex

    Thank you very much for all your efforts. I want to ask which canon picture style is best for jewelry and watches ????

  4. Great work Alex … I’m guessing some of the backgrounds in the final images are digitally added & was wondering if you could recommend any links for sourcing such backdrops?

  5. Your photographers are excellent. wish to know step by step to develope to shoot these pictures and post production

  6. Oh my gosh !!!! looks awesome if only I had time to set up this … and have studio to do this .. ok nobody canceled dreaming :) I found you through Google+ and I’m glad I did …. Love photo of Diamond earrings :)

  7. Hi Alex! just wanna say, “thank you very much!” (you’re my inspiration!) ;)

    -Jakarta, Indonesia-

  8. Hi Alex

    thanks for the wonderful article, can you please provide the details of canon picture style you have used in these shote


  9. I would be interested ! Thanks !

    One more thing: do you use mooving light sources or hmmm… I don’t know what is the name in English: light-brush maybe ? Many little light sources can be focused and targeted to interesting points.
    Once I would like to see a test about that by you please. If you are interested too, and you can do… that would be nice.

    Have a nice Easter !


  10. Ciao !

    I like your images. I light my jewelry differently, but resoult counts.
    About first image:
    Can you tell me please, how did you made this stone sparkling ? Very colorful, well exposed, sharp, etc.
    I bet you captured in different time, and merged after, but it looks to be a drawn stone, not a real one. If it is real, I would be very interested, how to make this.
    I have more than 10 years experience in jewelry photography, but I cannot make similar.

    I would be very grateful for your answer.

    Thank you !


    • Daniel,
      It was a one shot (not talking about focus stacking), no different captures for the diamond and the rest of the ring were made. Check out as-is image (1st from the focus stacking sequence) on your retoucher’s blog: Jewelry photography retouching: Before and After.
      As you see, we stacked the focus sequence and enhanced the look of the diamond in PP, but sparkles was there from the shot.

      I use little silver reflector flags placed in the right spots to ignite those sparks.
      Hope this will help.

      • Dear Alex !

        Thank you for extreme fast reply ! :-) Don’t you have any private life ? :-DDD
        Thanks again.

        I can see the magic already.
        After work is unbeliveable.
        I know what did you do, because I did some of the steps several times.
        And I don’t know what did you do, because I don’t use focus stacking and some further effects: sharpen, rebuilding techniques.
        Details turned to be very sharp looking and vivid, colours and surfaces are so clean and filled with colour.
        Do you have any info about these steps to realize how to make them please ?

        Ciao !


  11. The pc’s look great! It is possible to use one light and reflectors. It can make the setup a little simpler, and if you are using the background, or shooting pearls you aren’t showing multiple light sources.

    Just a thought great stuff though. Best Greg


  12. Fantastic work, this is exactly what I do / learning on the job at the moment for a living – your post couldn’t have come at a more apt time. When you were talking about your foil – do you use foil card?
    How do you use your holding wax? The one thing I have struggled with more than anything is how to suspend the items and avoid the reflection of the item holding.

    Also struggled with how to keep a polished item look polished and not seem matt. (understand you have to have contrast for this, but knowing this, still struggled at times)

    I would also love to see the before and after post production shots. I am responsible for setting up, shooting and art working everything (with out an assistant – cue violin!)
    I’m sure i’m not the only one in saying that I would pay good money for tuitional videos.

    Did you have an assistant working with you on this. If not, how did you manage to get the card etc. in the right place with out being able to direct someone (was it just trial and error?)

    I have lots of post production question too – i’ll wait until its been posted though!

    Great work and as ever, invaluable to the serious up and coming photographer
    (eager not to be labelled as one of those who picks up a digital camera and consider them selves a photographer, its a thread that seems to crop up a lot!)

    Thanks again

  13. Hi

    What do you use to stick the under the ring in shot
    one so it’s nearly vertical ?


  14. Hio Alex, thanks for the comments, I’m ahooting a similar style shoot for some kitchen equipment this weekend, and as always your lighting tips are invaluable…

  15. Hi Alex,

    Excellent jew shot! When I looked at the lighting setup make me think how much work we should put into these type of photoshot. I was wondering have you ever concidered using a continuous lighting for small object like jew or cosmetics? Why is better to use studio lights instead of con lighting? Can I do it with let say 4 Nissin strobes?

    Love your work m8, cheers!

  16. We have base insurance the covers building + equipment + a lower amount of jewelry, which is the average we have on site throughout the year. We don’t like keeping jewelry around very long because of risk. We try to shoot, send back, and retouch after whenever possible.

    Our insurance company didn’t make any comment about jewelry, we were lucky I guess. But it’s not cheap :)

    • @Vadim Chiline, Tom, you’re information is nearly SCARY :) You sound like you know WAY too much about diamond resale ;) hahahaha

      Vad, I would buy my wife a diamond ring every year for a few years, that would make her very happy, know what I mean? some were reasonable and others were not so reasonable. With the downturn in the economy and sluggish work no more diamonds just nice dinner out and a trip to the casino.

      • @Tom Bako,

        LOL :) True that. Hope we all see this economy boom so we can all partake in it, and take our wives out to GREAT dinners (and maybe even buy a diamond or two).

        • @Vadim Chiline, keeping you in the loop like to hear your thoughts – Tom. @Alex Koloskov, This is a wake up call for you. Tough love. This link will help you understand a little bit about marketing a product and where to sell…..but not at $95. You don’t have the customer/blog base. Passion for photography, positive attitude, looking at the world through rose colored glasses does nothing for sales or the bank account.

          Develop a photo app (you are a self described techno geek) and you will make more money from that than you will selling video sessions for 95. Alex I’m not being negative – but Burt stated perfectly my sentiment. Too much free stuff on the web and lots more lower priced on the web – teaches the same thing, not exactly but the same thing. Build the app and sell downloads to hundreds of thousands of amateurs at much lower prices. Sorry, hope I didn’t hurt your feelings. Not disrespecting your readers but it’s like ‘free food samples’ at a restaurant of course people will come and eat but will they buy the $95 entree? Very,very few. Think WalMart! Do the multiplication.


  17. Some great shots, thanks! I too would like to see the unretouched images. Does Genia still have her hair, or has she pulled it all out?
    When working with 50pcs of obviously expensive jewelry, do you have any business insurance that covers your liability, or was there an owner’s representative on site controling the security of the collection? Was any liability risk covered in your contract? If you didn’t have insurance, you may want to talk with your insurance agent about getting a limited one time rider on any liability insurance you may have. A rider, I think, could be something like the flight insurance they use to sell at the airport years ago. It was only good for that one flight. Obviously, low cost and a real benefit to the beneficery if the plane crashed. :-(
    Thanks again,

    • Richard,
      Genia was not alone, we have few more people working for us on this project. Therefore, hair is still on it’s place:-) We’ll show before and after for sure.
      We have a business insurance (TCP), but they do not cover more than $2500 for jewelry( for some reason). I was trying to get some few-days coverage from different agencies, but no one could give me that much of coverage for jewelry.
      It appeared that anyone can give me few millions liability coverage for almost anything except jewelry
      So, we ended up using a client’s insurance, plus, we had client in a studio for a first shooting day: this is when I did the most expensive items.

      Interesting to know how Vadim manages such liabilities: he is shooting diamonds every day:-) Vadim, any thoughts on this?

      Thank you!

      • @Alex Koloskov, Try this link http://www.lloyds.com/Lloyds/Offices/Americas/US-homepage/Lloyds-US-offices or maybe these guys can point you to an insurer. http://www.metrojewelryappraisers.com/

        Diamonds have very low resale value unless it’s the Hope Diamond, if stolen or damaged not a good deal for the insurance company. Here is some general info about selling a diamond – If selling, keep your expectations low and you won”t be disappointed. A dealer will want to buy your diamond for well below what he normally pays a wholesaler or manufacturer otherwise there’s no sense in buying from the public. If a friend or family member is interested, that”s a better route to go. Diamonds are a girls best friend but not the insurance company.

        High quality Zirconia stones have even fooled the eyes of very experienced appraisers I’ve personally talked to a couple to verify this, also industrial diamonds can be passed off to the consumer. Lots of fraud going on in the business.

        A GIA certified appraised at $10,865. What you can expect to get for it depends on a lot of factors, but you”ll get about 3K for it, tops.

        1. RESALE TO THE PUBLIC (through the classifieds):
        Wholesale to wholesale plus 10-25%
        2. RESALE TO FAMILY & FRIENDS (through word of mouth):
        Wholesale to wholesale plus 10-25%
        3. RESALE THROUGH A MAJOR AUCTION HOUSE (on short term consignment):
        Wholesale neighborhood
        4. RESALE THROUGH A LOCAL AUCTION HOUSE (on short term consigment):
        Wholesale neighborhood
        5. RESALE THROUGH A LOCAL JEWELER (on mid term consignment):
        Wholesale neighborhood
        6. RESALE THROUGH INTERNET AUCTION (through short term listings; Ebay):
        Wholesale to wholesale minus 10 to 25%
        7. RESALE TO A KNOWLEDGEABLE ESTATE DEALER (for cash outright):
        Wholesale minus 35 to 60% (usually 40-50%)
        8. RESALE TO A PAWN SHOP (for cash outright):
        Wholesale minus 70-80%

        Want to find out $$$$$ value, just walk in to your local jewelry store and ask them if you purchased a 3000.00 diamond ring from them and sold it back the same day – How much would they give you for it and tell them to put it in writing. Surprise, surprise.

      • @Alex Koloskov,

        Hey Alex. Yep, as we photography and do video with only jewelry, we have a jeweller’s Grade Safe which is a Category 3 (or is 4?) safe. It prevents drilling, crowbars, and would take I believe 1+ hr with a torch to open. We also have a high end security system in place with quick response from security and police. To top that off, our building has 24/7 security staff.

        Now, regarding insurance, we have a base insurance for the building/liability of $2 Million (by law in our building, have no choice). We then have additional insurance for equipment, and a standard amount for client goods.

        When we get a higher end job, we increase our insurance as needed on a weekly rate with our insurer. We then charge this back to the client for the safety of their goods. All clients so far have agreed with this practice. If we do jobs where say 1 ring is $250,000, the client normally arrives and departs with the items themselves.

        • Thank you, Vadim.
          We have base insurance building/liability of $2 Million as well, but it does not cover that much of jewelry if any in a studio.. Do you have jewelry coverage from your insurance?
          It was 7 figure cost of jewelry we had in studio, and only security guard, safe + client with us was an option. Insurance does not like jewelry…

  18. Nice Shots! Did you use Focus Stacking on the first ring?

    • Jay,
      Yes, I did focus stacking for all the rings and earrings. Everything I was shooting close to 1:1 magnification. On average, is was 5-6 shots for each item.
      Only large and flat stuff like necklaces was done in one shot.
      thank you

  19. Yeah, I understand you wanting to use the view camera. But 50 items, all shot at different angles, means it can take time (outside of the crazy retouching). It’s so fun to see such a different shooting setup. I should try it out like you once for the fun of it. But this how we are different – giving different looks and feels.

    Have you started having some fun with your 5D in video? Must say, that world can eat your money as well :D So many things you can buy to improve that stuff as well, some of which must not be home made or you can cause a fire :P

    • Vadim,
      You are lucky – you’ve seen mine… I can only hope you’ll post a real look of what yours looks like:-) (ha-ha, it sounds so intimate like I am talking about something else:-)

      I’ve played with 5D outside, without a rig, just bare camera in hands. Love the feel and look of the video, especially with 70-200mm IS F2.8 L wide open , as well as 50mm F1.4.
      However, shooting without shoulder the rig it is almost like a torture:)
      The rig I am thinking to get, the cheapest with follow focus is this: http://cgi.ebay.com/Proaim-DSLR-handy-shoulder-steady-rig-v2-follow-focus-/200589606553?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item2eb4127e99

      Have not looked at what I may need to start video of a products, similar of what you do for jewelry… I know it will be quite expensive journey, and my priority is to switch to a medium format this year… Sinar P3 + leaf aptus II 10 is the target for now:-)

      • @Alex Koloskov, Hahhahaha you haven’t “seen mine” :P hahha that did sound wrong.

        Yeah, I like the 5D’s video, except I wish it did 60 fps….. for nice slow motion videos. I like the 24 fps mode. As for the rigs, honestly, they are $$$$, and often almost need 2 people…. one to move the camera, and one to pull focus. And sadly, the 5D’s screen is tiny for accurate focus. You need either a viewfinder magnifier like a Zacuto EVF or an external field monitor like a SmallHD DP6, or Marshall brand that has peaking, and other helping function for exposure and critical focus.

        Well, your journey to a medium format setup is expensive as well….. you better be doing very well paying jobs to get those new toys. The Sinar P3 with good Rodenstock or Schneider lenses + your back….. ouch. I hope you are billing your clients a studio usage and equipment rental fee to get your costs back.

  20. Hi Alex, stunning work as usual. I know how it feels to work this hard as I have just complete a 2 day shoot at 14 hours a day. Can you please comment on how you got the lovely colors in the diamand face on the ring in the gold background? Did yo have any colored gels or relectors to geneate the color?
    Many thanks and great work!

    • Le,
      Thank you:-)
      The diamond came like this: when white light gets refracted by diamond (it works like an optic prism) it gets separated to a colors. No gels were used: instead, I added small silver (foil) reflectors to a few areas around the ring and reflections from those foil pieces make sparks on a diamond.
      We also added a little to it during a post production.

      • @Alex Koloskov, Thanks for the reply. I have experimented with LED’s which gave some good results on diamonds and on sapphires as well. Many thanks again for the efert you put in to your posts.

  21. Fantastic work! It looks like you need to buy a few more lights it does not feel crowded enough in the studio!
    image #3 did you use two different setups for earring and the ring it seems the light comes from different sources or it’s just me?

    • Thank you, Vadim.
      Not crowded enough? ha-ha.. Hopefully we’ll move to anew studio this year.
      Those earrings (#3 image) and ring was done separately but I was using the same setup.. Lights may be moved slightly, true.

  22. . . . great job, Alex.

  23. Good post Alex. :) BTW, any behind the scene before-retouched images to show us the lovely retouching hell you had to go through? ;) hahahah. BTW, how large in frame are your items, as you use the 180mm lens. Curious.

    Great work, great jewelry job. Love to see more,


    • Vadim,
      I guess you are the one who understand the best: that was a disaster:-) We’ll post before and after on our photography retouching blog soon.

      The pieces were very different in size, from 10” diameter necklaces to 1” rings. For most small items I was using 180mm , in many cases shooting with 1:1 ratio. With 180mm it was easier to be far from the subject, meaning less reflection from a lens.
      For large pieces I was using 100mm macro F2.8 one. Ideally I’d like to use my rodenstock with view camera, but simply did not have time for such slow shooter: we got about 50 items photographed in 3 days:-)

      Thank you!

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