Commercial photography technique - lighting jewelry with Bob Coates

Words by Bob Coates - A Platypod Pro
Edited by Eryka Bagwell

The Diamond pendant was placed on top of the threaded rod using Tacky Wax 

It can be difficult to photograph and isolate jewelry from the background. With this set I’ll show you how to float a diamond necklace. Bonus! It can be any color at all.

The Set: 

The set consists of a four sided rectangular box. Bottom, two sides and back. The front is left open to allow LED light to add color to the background. This stage has a 30 inch threaded rod which is mounted in a 2X4 for stability. The is the product platform. A piece of drafting vellum is painted with black watercolor. The watercolor adds just a bit of ‘cloud texture’ to the colored background.

The camera needs to be pointed straight down. With this configuration the product, in this case, Pegasus, blocks view of the rod from the camera. Pegasus is held in place with a dab of tacky wax. The vellum paper adds texture and gives a cloud-like appearance to the surface under the product. With no shadows possible from the main light the product ‘floats’ in the scene.

With a shallow depth of field using a wide aperture the watercolor to be extremely soft as a background

The Gear:

In addition to the set you’ll need a tripod. I’m using a Fotopro T-Roc Max. Make sure that your tripod adjustment collar is secure so your camera lens doesn’t crash into the rod. The camera is suspended over the set using a Platyball and Platypod Handle. The Handle works well as it can be adjusted in many different configurations. At the end of the handle is a second ball-head. On the set there are three Platypod Ultras. Two Ultras are holding Platypod Goosenecks which are displaying the chain. The third Ultra is supporting an LED light. LED lights are completely controllable. Dial in ANY color and brightness desired.

Using a smaller aperture the watercolor shows a bit more definition. This image also shows how the image would look with no fill card on the right hand side. 

Camera and Lens:

A wide aperture lens is important. Wide apertures allow the background to fade to super softness. Closing down the aperture lets more of the black watercolor read in your image adding a bit more texture.  More choices for the look for which you are going

Main light is an COB LED and is behind a scrim to keep the light from being too harsh on the subject. The larger the light source the softer the shadow edge transitions on your subject.

Here’s the set-up. Platypod gear makes it much easier to get all the pieces in place.

The Shoot:

With a super reflective subject such as jewelry you want to get light into spaces. Rather than spend a lot of time adding more confusion to the set I suggest using Photoshop as your lighting tool making a couple exposures while holding a white card or mirror in place and moving it around the set. Ultimately I’ve found this to be a faster and cleaner way to work.


Once images are captured it’s a quick trip to Adobe Camera RAW. (or Lightroom if that’s your preferred software) Then take the frames with the different reflections to be blended and load them as layers in Photoshop. Take the photo that has the most information you want and place it on the bottom. Highlight all layers, and just to be safe, click Auto-Align Layers in the Edit menu. If there was a slight bump of the camera this will ensure you won’t end up with blurry fills. Add black masks to the upper layers. Then paint with a soft white brush to allow the other areas to be blended into the bottom layer working one layer at a time.

Even though we have complete control of the color of the background during capture the color can be changed in post as well. Adding a Hue Saturation layer while masking out the pendant gives us even more control. 

Yours in Creative Photography,


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