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How to Take Amazing Photos with your DSLR

Lesson 16 of 31

Shoot: Jewelry Photography

Julia Kelleher

How to Take Amazing Photos with your DSLR

Julia Kelleher

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Lesson Info

16. Shoot: Jewelry Photography

Lesson Info

Shoot: Jewelry Photography

- [Julia] We are going to start with jewelry, okay? Jewelry is not easy to shoot. Okay, what's going to be the key component with jewelry that we need to be aware of? - [Woman] Reflections. - Reflections, okay? One of the easiest ways to do jewelry and simply is to do it on a white background, and buy a piece of Plexiglas. Yeah, B I'll have you come up here if you don't mind. And buy a piece of Plexiglas. You get this from Home Depot. It was 25 bucks, okay? And this is... just I found it in the shower door section, okay? I mean, really. I'm all about doing it on the cheap, right? Now, you have to be really careful because it attracts all kinds of dust and junk. It comes with, I was testing out shots yesterday so that's why it's all dirty now, but it comes with this like peel away layer on both sides to keep it from getting scratched. So definitely take care to make sure it doesn't... because it's staticky so it attracts all kinds of stuff to it. So you just have to watch for that. Then...

what if you can do is if you don't have a white table like I do, you can get a piece of foam core. This, I found at Hobby Lobby. It was $5.99, $5 and 99 cents okay? Super cheap and foam core is, this will be your best friend like you will shoot on this left and right upside down and inside out. So I will often put two pieces of this and what I'm going to do is just do one for now, okay? So my table is a little bit dirty. So keep that in mind. That's why I typically use two pieces of foam core but I only brought one. So I laid the piece of foam core down and then put the plexiglass on top of it, okay? And then you can do a couple of things. You can put another piece of foam core back here, okay, to give yourself a beautiful set, okay? Or you can shoot from above, okay? So you can also shoot with or without the Plexiglas. Now, you have to be really really, really careful because already I'm seeing this window heavily reflected into the glass or the Plexiglas, okay? So oftentimes, it's an above overshoot because when I get over here, I don't see the reflection of the window as much. So watch for those reflections. But the reason I want to put the reflection in there is because it makes the jewelry look so cool, okay? So you can do it with or without. We're going to do it on a white scene but you can easily do this on a black or a dark scene. It just makes it look more dramatic and your reflections just look a little different, okay? So B I'll have you come on over here if you don't mind. Now lens choice with shooting jewelry can range. I mean, you can do a lot of different things. I am going to start with a macro lens, okay? A macro lens, for those of you who don't know, allows you to get very close to your subject and create incredible skinny depth of field. If you saw that ring shot I did earlier, you could see the line of focus, like you could literally see the dirt on the table where the line of focus was, which was right at the front of the ring. The back of the ring got completely blown out of focus, okay, which is kind of a cool effect. It makes your eye go to the most important place on the object which is the center stone of the ring, okay? So I'm going to start off by just shooting one ring and I got lots of reflections going on. I've got to be a little careful. I even see the reflections. As a matter of fact, why don't we take that down for now, because I'm going to be shooting macro? I don't think I'll need it. I'm working with, obviously, a natural light window. You can see the shadows around the ring which add the interest, okay? I'm just going to start with one here. Which ring do I like better? That one is pretty cool. I will do that one. And the thing with a ring is that it shines at you too. It sparkles and reflects, right? Thanks, Alan. So I have a 105-millimeter f/2.8 macro lens on here, okay? I'm going to have to crank up my ISO probably quite a bit on this thing. The light in this room is not what it is in the afternoon. In the afternoon, it's much more intense, just brighter because the sun hits... Is it this side faces a white building? Maybe it's the other side. It's just the way the sun moves across the sky. It bounces off the buildings out there and comes in at a better...just more effervescent, for lack of a better word. It's just a light that has a more...the color temperature of it, the effervescence of it, and just the overall glowing capability is better, for a lack of a better word. And I'm sure you've seen it. Like if you study light, you're like, "Oh, this is so pretty." Like if you look at me now against the window, (inaudible) Alex's camera over here, it's pretty light and a lot of it is because we have these huge massive windows. They are a large light source. The glass the frosting on it. So that helps to create a beautiful, soft, diffused light. It scatters the light as it comes in but mainly it's the size of the light source and I think it's, is it north-facing? Are we north-facing here? We're north-facing. We're north-facing here which is, of course, every photographer's dream. So, okay. And I don't think I've white balanced. Do we have my gray card with me around anywhere? It might actually be in the other room. Lacy, would someone go grab my gray card, my target, because I realized I didn't white balance before we started here and I would like to do that. You guys probably want to see me do it anyway, right? Okay, so what I've done is I'm in custom white balanced mode in my camera, okay? In a Nikon, it's...what is it called in Nikon? I bet it's just called custom white balance. I'm in it all the time that I never actually know like what it's called. And then to set the white balance, what I first do is use my gray card to get a good exposure, okay? The gray card has middle gray, black, and white on it. So I can look at the histogram. I can take a meter reading off that gray, that 18% gray in the middle. It will be a perfect reading and once I get good exposure, then I simply tell it to measure. So I press a button and it starts blinking at me and going, "Okay, I'm ready to measure," and I fill the entire screen, fill the entire frame with gray, snap a picture. It will say, "Good," here on the top and that's my white balance. I'm done, okay? Now, the light temperature will change as the day goes by. So I'm going to have to re-white balance probably several times throughout the day because the color temperature will change as the sun goes through its motion or if we get clouds or anything overhead, okay? There we are, Lacy. Thank you. Thank you, B. Now, the nice thing about shooting inanimate objects, so they don't move. So if you wanted to, you could see how bad color that is right now. It's just kind of not great. So now let me... l will get back on my train of thought in just a second here. Good. So now I'm going to take a shot. We'll see the difference in the color. Could you leave it up there for me, hon? Belinda, could you leave it up? Awesome. Thank you. Better color. Isn't that amazing? So now we're white balanced and we're done and ready to go. So that's just a custom white balance. Now I don't have to change it unless I feel the light temperature change in the room. And if we're on studio strobes or those HMI lights that we were on yesterday, you wouldn't have to change it ever really. You might every once in a while just check but, for the most part, and that right there, so I want to do no correction in Photoshop because I've done a custom white balance for the light that's in the room, okay? Seriously, once I learned custom white balance, I was like, "I am never doing anything again that's not custom," okay? Awesome. All right. The nice thing about inanimate objects is they don't move. So your shutter speed is not as critical especially if you lock down on a tripod. That's why a lot of commercial photographers lock down on a tripod. That gives them the flexibility to lower their shutter speed and when they lower their shutter speed, they can play with aperture and ISO more, okay? So it just gives you all flexibility of the entire triangle. Makes sense? Okay, let's shoot away. Okay. So I've got a ring here. I know you guys in the audience cannot just see that. Hopefully, the cameras overhead can. It's going to be different from every perspective. So I see the window over here on my left. I actually see that window over there on my right. I see the ring. I've got to be really conscientious that if I'm going to take a close-in shot that I don't get a reflection. And the other thing that I do with macro lenses is I focus in manual because this thing hunts like there's no tomorrow and it drives me crazy. It hunts for focus. So I'm going to switch over to manual focus and actually focus manually. Now the cool thing about the Nikons is, and we have to look inside my viewfinder to see it, those of you who have Nikons, in the lower left corner, you know where your exposure dial is, you look in your exposure dial, and the lower left corner it tells you what metering mode you're in. So I'm in spot metering, but then there's also these two arrows that point at one another that blink at you. That's focus. When you turn your focus and in between those two triangles there's a round dot, it means you're in focus. So it tells you when you're in focus, which is awesome. You don't have to rely on your eye. You can rely on the computer inside the camera. So even when you're manually focusing, you can watch those two arrows and the minute there's a round dot in between them, you snap and you know you'll always be sharp, okay, even when you're focusing in manual. Okay. The other thing with macro lenses you can do is because the depth of field is so, I mean this might be hard for the cameras to see me doing this, the depth of field is so shallow that instead my focus changes as I move millimeters because my depth of field is so skinny, okay? So what you can do is instead of trying to move your lens is move your body in and out like this because it's just a tiny level of movement and you'll go, "Oh, there it is, snap," and you don't have to be doing this and staying still. You can crank your elbows down and just kind of move in and out like this and it will come into focus. The trick with macro is to make sure those reflections are sharp, those highlights. That's what I always focus on when I'm working with a macro lens and doing product photography. Now, the reflection is not quite as fun as I wanted it to be and I think a lot of it has to do with the light coming in through the window. But we can also do this baby straight on. Manual focusing. Waiting for that little dot to come and then moving in and out with my body. Good. It might not be sharp. Come on, you can do it. And this takes a couple of tries sometimes to get it absolutely right. Now, I'm shooting at a very wide open depth of field and I'm focusing on the front of the ring which makes the back of the ring go out of focus. To create more depth of field, I'm going to need to step down my aperture, right? And on a macro lens, that's going to be not much, okay? It won't do a lot but we'll go ahead and try it and see what happens. The other thing too is because of that I'm going to have to crank up my ISO because we don't have a lot of light in here right now. See if I can get a decent exposure. Yeah, even so it's not giving me silhouettes. I think I'm going to be slightly overexposed here. Hang on. So now we've got more in focus because I'm a little underexposed. I popped up to f/9, okay? Before, I was shooting at... What was I shooting at? F/4? Was it four. So now I'm up to f/9 and you can see things are a lot more in focus. I'm getting reflections on the Plexiglas, not a ton. There's reflections in this monitor too so I'm like, "Is that on the image or is that on the TV?" So it's something to be very wary of and cognizant of and unfortunately, I underexposed a little bit. Let's go ahead and do that shot again with a little bit more. Did you see how I went up an angle as well? By going up an angle on the ring instead of doing it head on... It's really hard to talk and get the focus at the same time. Hang on. And this is a great situation for, honestly, being on a tripod. Here we go. So a little better exposure and we're getting decent reflections in the glass but not enough. With more light coming in through those windows, we would get it a little bit better of a reflection coming off of it. So a basic ring. Let's move on to a set of three rings. So this is where it just depends on the sizes of the rings. Are these all the same size rings? They are the same size, okay, which sometimes doesn't help you. But if you have rings that are different sizes, you can like stuff one inside the other kind of thing and I don't want to hurt her jewelry. So, instead, what I will do... yeah, that stuff will work. So if things go in sets, let's put the green one in the middle, things go in sets, you can kind of make things symmetrical and, I mean you can spend hours like designing and making all that happen. Okay, you guys know what I mean. All right. I'm going to shoot at f9 again because I want those other rings to be visible in the shot. It's an art to get your focus close and then watch the dot in the lower left and then also watch your composition and hit the trigger at the same time. Okay, so it takes a little bit of finessing. Let's go ahead and move on to... let's get the necklace. Not that one, the earrings and the necklace. Thank you, dear. Now, with necklaces like this if you're going to shoot them flat like this, you know, design and placement is key and I was playing with this earlier. How you make things flow in a line to create interest can really make you crazy. Like this is obsessive-compulsive type stuff right here. So be careful that, I mean, someone who's OCD would love this and like... but it also can make you a little nuts, getting it just right. Okay. This part's bugging me right here. That is really bugging me. Man, am I control freak or what? You guys know what I mean, right? I don't want to spend hours on it so that we don't... Okay, but a beautiful piece with tons of beautiful reflections in it. Let's just shoot that for now, and I think I'll get up on my stool, hon, to shoot overhead if I can. Now, the Plexiglas won't do as much because I'm going to be shooting overhead on this. To get good reflections, you kind of have to be at an angle but let's bring it around this side. Thanks, hon. And, you know, product photography includes making sure that all aspects of the product are visible, right? So with a ring that has a simple band, it's okay to like blow a little bit out of focus. But with a necklace, if the woman is going to buy it online, she's got to see what the chain looks like and she has to see the components of the necklace, right? She needs to know how long it's going to be, that kind of thing. So sometimes I will see photographers, as a matter of fact, could you grab my 15-millimeter lens in my little shortie? Here. Sorry. My bags are here. I can do it. With tabletop photography sometimes, you know, you can't get high enough to use really long lenses and there's not really any point as long as you're not distorting the product with a wide angle-type lens, you're good. So I'm going to switch to a 51.4 and I'm going to shoot this from above, being very cognizant of my shadow. Not the shadows, excuse me, the reflections. So I'm going to shoot this with the reflections so you could see how bad the reflections are of what I'm looking at, okay? Am I exposed correctly? I should be okay. Yeah, see those reflections of the window right there? So something to be very watchful of when you're shooting product photography. Okay. So now my ISO is really high for this lens. So I'm going to drop it down. I'm dropping down my ISO because I don't want noise in the image. With that macro lens I was forced to, okay? So with this lens, I'm going to drop myself down to 400. I'm shooting from overhead. So everything will be on the same focal plane, right? So it doesn't really matter if I'm on a crazy high aperture or small aperture. What matters is that everything gets in focus. So I can drop my aperture down to like f/5, f/4.5. It's not going to be a big deal. I'm not going to lose anything out of focus because I'm shooting it from above and I'm all on the same plane. Understand? Make sense? Okay, just reiterating stuff. Okay. So, again, lighting from the side creates interesting shadows on the right side of the object, okay? I'm shooting with plenty of negative space. Now if I was really getting anal I would be like, "Okay, I want that little charm at the bottom, the brown rock, to be in my lower right frame so we can add text to the top of the image if we need to." I have a reflection there. Nasty girl. There we go. Did I get rid of it? And even myself is being reflected in there. So I've got to watch that too. Am I still getting reflection in there? That one. There we go. Now I lost it. Okay. So I would start to get really anal about how the chains flowed, making sure there was plenty of room to put text in the image should we want to. You see how there's shadows on the right side? We've got nice directional light. Honestly, the way the chain is going is bugging me a little bit. I want it to be a little bit more round and have a line that's very pretty and flowing. Again, it's composition. All I'm doing is using the elements of composition to create flow through the image. So when you imagine your object in a square frame it allows you to place it there in an interesting way, okay? Because we see everything around us. We have amazing peripheral vision. So as a photographer, you have to all of a sudden force yourself into a square visually. So when I look at this visually and I go, "Okay that needs to be in a square," I could probably totally start playing with the line here. Forgive me for this is not perfect but you'll see my point. To create like an S-curve through the image. That's not going to work. Okay. It's not quite an S. It's more like a C but that's okay. Now I'm tilting my camera slightly to the left to avoid some shadows. More of a C-curve but that's okay. The main thing with this kind of work, and I think it's horizontal instead of vertical, the main thing with this kind of work is to just make sure that you're reading composition, that you're understanding where the reflections fall and where they don't, okay, and that you don't get reflections in what you're doing. Now the safe thing to do is just to take the Plexiglas off altogether and just shoot it on white, right? But then it's not quite as fun and especially on ring shots and stuff like that, you don't get the cool factor of the reflection coming through. And, of course, the other issue with jewelry and things like that is the sparkly part is the pretty part, right? So you've got to get the sparkles in there because that's what the jewelry owner wants is for the consumer to see how sparkly pretty it is, okay? Girls love diamonds, right? Diamonds are a girl's best friend. Okay. Another way to, and this I'm not sure I would necessarily pick this fabric but we can try it. Okay, so another thing to do is to take a piece of fabric and like run it through a ring. And again, you can use a reflection or not. You can also like prop it up on say, for example, I don't know if I have anything that creative here, you can prop it up say like on a salt and paper shaker or something or just something that will stand it upright and shoot the ring this way as well, okay? So just keep in mind it doesn't have to be always flat from the top because just popping another piece of foam core up like this allows you to, you know, create a more upright composition and shoot it from over there, makes sense?

Class Description

Understanding how your camera functions is a start, but in order to capture the best images, you need to know more than what buttons to push.  Julia Kelleher will walk you through some likely beginner photographer scenarios to show how to work in multiple situations, compose your image and get the most from your subjects. Whether you purchased your camera to take photos of your children, your friends or even products you are hoping to sell, Julia will show you how to feel comfortable in any environment. In this class Julia will show you: 
  • Taking pictures of children: how to work with energetic subjects, what compositions are safest as well as poses and ideas to keep them engaged 
  • Taking pictures of groups: be it your friends, coworkers or clients- learn the best approaches for group photos so you can capture people looking their best 
  • Products: If you’re starting a business or selling your belongings online, a great picture goes a long way in helping a buyer choose your product 
  • Headshots or banner photos: learn techniques to get professional headshots or captivating banner photos for your social media or website 
  • How to work with natural light and control it in your favor, as well as inexpensive options to help improve your lighting quality 
 If you’re new to working with a professional camera, this class will give you the confidence to capture an image in any scenario with your expensive purchase. Make the most out of every situation by learning to compose, pose, direct and light your subjects.  

Ratings and Reviews

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Julia is an amazing teacher!!!! Funny, go with the flow, honest, and obviously so gifted at what she does. That came through and also inspired those feelings in me as a novice photographer. I left her class feeling excited to play with my camera and appreciate that she encouraged me to use what I have now and get good before spending tons of money on fancier stuff. I also love that she showed how everyday materials from Home Depot can make for great images. I particularly appreciated the 2nd day on product photography, social media images and the short demos in PhotoShop. Please do a full class on just this Julia/Creative Live!!!!!

Brandon Couch

So first off I've been doing photography for a little bit now and only shot in manual 20% of the time and was okay with it. Since coming to this class and seeing how manual mode isn't scary, it is everything you need and want in the life of photography, I now will not use anything else. The team at Creative Live is amazing and Julia's love for other starting and even professional photographers is amazing. She would sit and talk to us together and individually and really loves those who love photography. I would recommend this class and any other one of Julia's classes here on CreativeLive. I can't wait to come back. Was AMAZING!!! LIFE CHANGING!!!

a Creativelive Student

What an awesome class! I am not a beginner and am currently making a living as a photographer and was interested in this class because #1 Julia is such a great teacher with such talent and #2 I was expecting to take away some valuable information to pass along to my little after school beinning photo club. I am happy to report Julia did not disappoint:-) What actually happened was that I learned so many things that I probably should have known being a seasoned professional that I lost track of my original intention of why I was there. I couldn't wait to pull out my camera and try all of the new things that I had just learned. The color balancing and the little dot showing when your camera (Nikon) was manually focused alone was worth the price. I enjoyed every minute of this course. Thanks Julia! Anyone would benefit from this course....