In this second part, I will share a bit about what sort of post-processing happens to my jewellery photos. Two things I need to qualify first:
1) These are product photos – they need to fulfill the prerequisites of being clear and sufficiently lit. They should thus not be over-processed (you know, like art prints and stuff) as this could result in misrepresentation and misunderstanding.
2) I’ll need to assume your prior knowledge of Photoshop. So if you haven’t a clue about what I’m referring to, then Google is your friend 🙂 This post is not intended as a beginners’ intro or tutorial (heaps of them out there), merely a behind-the-scenes look at what I usually like to do to my images.
Time of day
This is why people who shoot in natural daylight keep going on about whether there is sufficient light and when this light is happening. Assuming it is bright enough, the quality of light is different at varying points throughout the day. I shoot beside a window that gets the late afternoon sun, so if it’s too strong and is casting hard shadows, I go to some other window or wait for the next day. Around midday, it’s stronger and more “blue” and you can see a pinkish cast on my first pic. In the late afternoon to early evening, which incidentally is my favourite time for shooting non-indoor stuff, it has a warmer tone to it:
These are auto white balanced, SOOC (straight out of the camera, not modified) shots and if you looked at each pic individually instead of side by side, they’re probably acceptable as the colour cast is not that apparent, and in any case can be corrected in Photoshop. Which brings me to the next bit…
I don’t usually need to correct much for lighting as I ensure I get sufficient amounts of it (adjust exposure manually if necessary), but these are the other basic fixes and enhancements I do:
Same as before, the first pic is the one with the slight pinkish tone. I adjusted the colour balance to even it out, then added a neutral gradient map in soft overlay mode at 20% transparency (adjust to taste) as a sort of contrast enhancer. The last step is optional – it depends on the composition and overall tone of each photo – a soft vignette around the image to highlight the centre portion and make it “pop” more.
Here’s another example also with a slight cool pinkish cast that I made warmer and more yellow:
The changes are quite subtle here because the original image didn’t really need much touch-up. One thing that would greatly help reduce the amount of post-processing work is to pick either neutral or analogous complementary backgrounds that won’t compete with the subject or create a horribly overpowering cast – which I find is sometimes problematic when shooting closeup with an automatic. Backgrounds I avoid are white, beige, pink, medium-dark green, medium blue. They’re either too weak or too strong for the pieces I shoot, so you have to find what works best for you. Favourite backgrounds are medium-dark grey, medium to dark brown, any natural surface with neutral tones – these are all the ones I’ve found to require the least or no colour correction necessary – and perhaps pale green/aqua (slightly trickier). I usually avoid backgrounds with prints (yes, even black and white text, unless perhaps the subject is really strong and colourful). Uncomplicated, mono/duotone prints might work if the subject is a very simple piece and by some DoF miracle I can make the background fade away… but then why bother in the first place – just go with a plain one.
Here is one last example with a really lousy photo I took today (was in a rush, and it was about to rain!), using the same steps as described above:
And there you have it. Hurrah for technology! 😉