CONFESSIONS OF A JEWELRY PHOTOGRAPHER
for the benefit of all future clients…
In the ‘good-old-days’ when a jewelry photographer would
charge two hundred dollars to photograph a gold ring, or any
other jewelry, we needed to know three things only: what
type of film to use, who would make the color separation and
how would we get paid for the service. The client would pay
for the photography and other expenses such as Polaroid,
film cost, lab processing and color separation bringing the
total cost of a photographed jewelry item to about $195.00 -
$245.00. The client would wait patiently for about a week to
complete the multi-step process at which time we would
deliver to a happy client the final product: a beautifully photographed
and color separated ring ready for printing.
Nowadays things have changed a ‘little’. We no longer use
film but the all digital workflow, and the client no longer is
willing to wait a week to receive the final product. Simply
said, is the equation “time is money”! Nowadays clients
want the jewelry back the same day or the day after! In addition,
they expect a far lesser pay, around the average of $65
for the same jewelry photography that used to cost an average
of $200.00. And off course expecting a little better quality
than before, after all we are in the digital-age!
The client justifies this expectations on the premise that it
only takes an instant to achieve what use to take one week.
At list this is the perception. Well, let me assure you and say
this is hardly the truth.
Today’s jewelry photographer must have full knowledge of
the workflow. Image-capture systems, scanners, color management,
RGB color spaces and conversions to CMYK and the inherent
problems in converting colors. Must have
full understanding of color settings of multiple image-capture
software, pixels and image resolution and the importance
of pixel dimension. Because he is not only a jewelry
photographer, but a color separator as well!
In addition, he must know when to use what and why-- such as digital
file types, image compression, capture files, their advantages,
disadvantages and how to "process" them correctly
including the best settings for various types of work.
Also, must know how to work with high-resolution digital
backs, setting up studio lighting (strobe and/or tungsten) for
jewelry photography specific and identifying 'out-ofgamut'
situations. And just in case the client would ask the
photographer to come and take photographs at their place
rather than in the professional set-up, a new set of complex
problems will great them: how to set white balance and getting
the color right both indoors and on location not to mention
checking exposure via a histogram displayed on a tiny
LCD screen and understanding how to read it. Then of
course downloading images into the clients computer via
card-readers and/or tethered cameras, using firewire or USB
connections, control and use of capture systems from software
on to their computer, teaching the client color settings
in Adobe Photoshop to get accurate color from all of the jewelry
photography images just downloaded to their computer.
And when the client wants to save the additional expense,
teach the client how to do it all this by themselves!
Today’s jewelry photographer would also have to know
how to calibrate the client’s monitor to integratewith the
photographers monitor and printer in the studio, so that all
involved would be looking at images with similar values. Not to mention
the basic and necessary adjustments to new
files when opened in Adobe Photoshop the setting of highlight
and shadow points, tonal correction and color correction,
including some simple Adobe Photoshop techniques
such as using, loading and saving curves, channels, masks,
adjustment curves, cut outs, using text and exporting images
to other programs, interpolation, use of Genuine Fractals to
enlarge images (after all they want to max out on their
Let see what else is today’s jewelry photographer expected
to know; oh yes, of course setting up an ink-jet printer correctly
(software and hardware), digital printing in black-andwhite
for their newspaper ads using small gamut ink sets, the
creative use of different paper stocks, correctly sizing an
image and the maximum size available, choosing the best
print resolution for output and speeding up their printing and
last but not least, CD-writing to archive their work and setting
up a database of their images!
And if the client would press hard enough, the photographer
would also teach them how to prepare their files correctly for
their web pages or to send as e-mail attachments.
What are they thinking? Welcome to my world of digital jewelry
photography. Next time when you ask me “ how much
for a shot?” here is my quote: the photography is free; my
experience is priceless. Now go do the right thing—hire a
competent professional jewelry photographer!
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