Through a Glass, Darkly…

by loiskmartens on January 12, 2010

In taking photos of my jewelry I have generally used a setup where the object is placed on non-reflective glass elevated above a gradient background.  All of the photos on my web site were done in this way, which gave the site a homogeneous look and a “serious” gallery exposition for the jewelry.  For Etsy I wanted more casual and more light-hearted photos and when I think of light I think white.  I would like for at least some of the background to be white.

To do this trial I used a foldformed pure gold and fine silver pendant.  The pendant was photographed on the following backgrounds and in this sequence:
+ on non-reflective glass elevated above a white background.
+ on non-reflective glass placed on a white background.
+ object placed directly on the white background.
All other possible variables such as lighting, exposure time, white balance preset, etc. were kept constant.  As one can see from the photos below, placing a support of glass under the jewelry will darken the background.

Above are the results after importing the original photo into PhotoShop and doing some corrections.  I want a white background.  So I chose a background point on each photo and using the curves tool, arbitrarily brought the R, G and B channels up to a 245 value (255 being white).  Using curves the shadows were set at a value of 65.

The results were a bit harsh for the two photos that had the darker backgrounds due to the glass layer so I re-photographed the pendant both on the elevated glass and on the glass placed on the white background.  But I placed a small piece of white on top of the glass so that I could see it in the upper left corner in the viewfinder.  I could have cropped this out but have left a small amount in the photo to show how this was done.

Here are the original, un-corrected photos and below them are the photos after PhotoShop.

This time the background point to be brought up to white was chosen from the small white area in the upper left because I know that this should be white.  Again the curves tool was used to bring the point’s R, G and B values up to 245 and the shadows were set at 65.

The moral of the story is that, yes, using a layer of non-reflective glass, either elevated or placed directly on the background, will darken the background in the photo.  But by photographing the object placed directly on a white or partially white background the light areas can be corrected to white.  Also, a small, croppable white sample placed on to of the glass can be used as a valid color correction point.

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Laima Mikaliukas February 14, 2010 at 11:50 am

Yes, there are many ways to take photos of objects, as many as there are ways in creating or presenting them. Your images caught my eye, because I also have tried to prepare images of a silver pendant, set with a hand carved piece of yellow amber. In an effort to balance, the whites, greys and blacks of the silver and yellow tones of the amber, as you have the yellows of the gold. I believe, that using a neutral grey photo paper background does preset the grey value of the camera, so that the camera only needs to correct the color and grey values of the ‘object’ being photographed.

loiskmartens February 7, 2010 at 10:11 am

Thanks for reading and commenting on my blog. I am sure that there are a zillion ways and variations for taking photos according to the object being photographed and for what setting it is to be shown pubblicly. @Liama: I thought that the neutral grey photo paper was used to preset the grey value of the camera and, having done the preset, one can use any color of background and practically eliminate the need for color correction. And yes, the Rita Levi-Montalcini is a super rose, thanks.

Laima Mikaliukas February 6, 2010 at 9:46 am

Thanks for the tips, I may redo some of my photos. The work may look better elevated by the non-reflective glass. My last photo set of pendants, they were hung on my living room’s wall with a neutral grey photo paper background. I image that the pendants could be hung upon non-reflective glass in a picture frame. The camera set on a tripod and timer to minimize the effects of shaking while allowing sufficient time to capture enough diffuse natural light without the use of a flash. Flash effects cause a harsher and more glaring light reflecting off the polished metal surfaces. Also the Rita Levi-Montalcini outside your window is lovely.

Anne Betenson January 20, 2010 at 6:05 am

You sound like you know your camera well.Put me to shame,I use basic white inkjet computer paper for my backgrounds as I find this creates reasonable results.Weather permitting I do my photos on our non-reflective glass patio in full sun.I always get the best results this way.However I think when I have bad photo images,ie too much shadow or darkness it is because my lighting has not been good enough.This is something Iam working on at the moment.Theres always room for improvement!

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