This post is an official followup to my lightbox tutorial, because as soon as I finished my awesome box, I realized it was very... stark.
Stark is my natural inclination, because that is exactly how I was taught to photograph fine art. But it turns out that if you photograph grey/silver jewelry with no added color, it looks like you took a greyscale photograph. I'm artsy, but I'm not that artsy.
Plus, taking a photograph on an endless white background takes away all sense of proportion. Giving the viewer a sense of the size of the object is really important, particularly with decorative items where an object of the same basic shape can range in size from tiny to titanic.
For jewelry the obvious fix is to put it on a model. Unfortunately models don't fit in lightboxes, and have an inconvenient tendency to either want to be paid or to assume that being the prop in professional photography is fun and will only take a few minutes. (Pro tip: It isn't, and it won't.)
So for the up-and-coming jewelry photographer, options are limited. Many people opt to try to put their pieces in realistic settings: on a jewelry rack or over a hanging dress for example. Others go the comparison route, and show the piece next to a coin or ruler. I find the first option distractingly busy and the second option soullessly utilitarian, so I had to come up with something else.
Something with some consistency, but that won't look the same in every shot. That was classic, charismatic, colorful. Something that wouldn't break the bank, would stand out from other similar photos, and would be consistent with my geek-all-grown-up friendly branding.
Clearly, I'm talking about booze.
Martini glasses are particularly useful for earrings. Earrings, by their nature, hang. When I see a series of photos of a pair of earrings and not one of them shows them hanging, I start to worry that that photo isn't being shown for a reason. Like maybe the earrings only look good when held in place. Sure, it's a bit of a pain to get them to stop swinging, but it's worth it.
Also, a glass can give shape to the essentially shapeless. This bracelet looks good on a wrist, but on a tabletop it looses all grace. Propping it up on a bracelet gives it a bit of redeeming drape. (Note: careful if you are using a liquid about the leveling of your work surface. Several of my photos are pretty irredeemably screwed up by this little oversight.)
And finally, a glass is a lovely excuse for an off-center closeup. Not being centered is a great way to get attention in a pageful of jewelry photos.
So, what are you guys doing with your lightboxes?