In this article on iPhone 4S jewelry photography tips we’ll be featuring manual exposure techniques with the Camera+ App, image workflow via the iCloud, image processing on The New iPad and exploring the versatility of Modahaus photo accessories. We’re not just having fun with the latest gadgets and Apps. We’re also evaluating image quality and workflow productivity achievable with these devices and Apps. We’ll also cover controlling depth of field and macro photography with iPhone 4S.
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- Camera – iPhone 4S
- Lights – Natural daylight and 2 x daylight balanced LED light banks
- Studio Set – Modahaus Tabletop Studio Pro TS216 and TS400, Steady Stand SS100SP, SS200 and SS300
- Additional support – Joby iPhone Gorilla tripod
- Apps – Camera+ v.3
- New iPad 3rd Generation (iPad 3)
iPHONE 4S JEWELRY PHOTOGRAPHY TIPS – WORKFLOW OVERVIEW
I’ve chosen the iPhone to iCloud to iPad workflow as these are the devices I have at my disposal. The devices and Cloud based workflow could easily be other brands but the concept remains the same. What excites me about these new image workflows is how inexpensive and accessible the software has become through mobile Apps. Whether you are shooting with a DSLR, iPhone, Android, Smartphone or Compact Camera you have the ability to process your images on some kind of Smartphone or Tablet. Apps that cost a few £/$/€ can perform professional editing functions to suit your needs and they are a lot easier to to use than Photoshop etc. Some of these mobile Apps are now also being released for desktop computers. So, there are a number of brand options and opportunities to streamline workflows but here we’ll stick with iPhone > iCloud > iPad scenario.
SHOOTING JEWELRY ON A WHITE BACKGROUND
Shooting jewelry on a white background is the most desired setting for a few good reasons but it is notoriously difficult to achieve clean white backgrounds with the iPhone, and all cameras for that matter. The reason this is difficult is the camera’s meter is taking an evaluative (overall) reading and the expanse of white background causes underexposed images with a grey background. Camera+ has always been my favourite iPhone App as it features independent focus and exposure reticules you can position where you wish on your retina display which helps a great deal in controlling exposure.
MANUAL EXPOSURE TECHNIQUES WITH iPHONE 4S AND CAMERA+
The latest version of Camera+ v.3 released 13 March has a groundbreaking, game changing new feature that enables you to lock focus and exposure points. This is an amazing breakthrough for product photographers using the iPhone and here we’ll see why.
Hovering the Camera+ exposure reticule over the jewelry helps lighten the background but not enough for a pure white background, so let’s take some added manual exposure control. HOT TIP! We simply introduce a strip of black paper in to the frame and take our exposure over that. You can finely tune the exposure by moving the reticule nearer or further away from the edge of the black swatch. Once we’re happy with the exposure we then tap the padlock symbol next to the small exposure icon and we’ve now locked the exposure to give us a pure white background and well exposed jewelry. Before shooting, move aside the black strip, set Camera+ to image stabilizer or self timer and shoot.
In this shot above we’re using the Modahaus Tabletop Studio Pro 216 with the opaque white backdrop providing a smooth background sweep and the translucent white backdrop forming the light tunnel which gives us good even diffused light and clean uncluttered reflections in the jewelry. 2 x LED light banks bounced off a white ceiling. HOT TIP! Whilst clean uncluttered reflections are generally desirable, in this case we introduced a grey strip of paper inside the light tunnel which gave us some modelling in the gold bangle’s reflections which helps define the hammered finish on the dull gold and shiny gold sections of the bangle.
IMAGE PROCESSING ON THE NEW iPAD WITH CAMERA+
It takes about 30 seconds for an image to bounce off the iCloud back down to the iPad 3 for image evaluation on the larger retina display (which is just stunning BTW). At this stage I’d normally be importing on my desktop iMac into Photoshop or Aperture, but instead I processed the image directly in Camera+ on the iPad 3. This process was so quick I genuinely felt guilty I was taking some sort of short cut and compromising the finished result, although I wasn’t. You have a number of options for rotating and cropping in Camera+.
Camera+ has a host of filtering options including some very effective presets within the ‘Scenes’ section and it’s very quick and easy to flick through these and see which one suits a particular image. The FX Effects section has a slider where you can adjust the intensity of the filters which I found worked well for jewelry photography. HOT TIP! As I got to know the filters better through trying out different combinations I found I could expose my original images with a slight tone in the white backgrounds which helped hold highlight detail in the jewelry and later, in filters such as Polarize, I could give the images a bit more punch and take the backgrounds to pure white in the process, whilst holding highlight detail. Of course if you don’t have an iPad you can apply all the Camera+ edits directly on your iPhone.
In both shots above we controlled exposure using our black paper strip technique and the Modahaus Tabletop Studio light tunnel was essential to ensure diffused light and uncluttered reflections. We have some more exposure control tips further on.
CONTROLLING DEPTH OF FIELD WITH THE iPHONE 4S
In this shot above we achieved a shallow depth of field (depth of focus) (DOF) which can be effective when you want to draw the eye to a particular feature of your subject. The focus point we selected in Camera+ was the front end of the bangle. HOT TIP! The closer your camera is to your subject then the shallower your DOF will be and in this case we almost filled the frame. The iPhone 4S has a fixed aperture lens so you can’t use variable aperture to adjust DOF.
In this shot above of the same bangle we achieved a deeper depth of field which can also be effective if, for example, you want to convey the detail in the clasps at the front and back of the image as well as the wirework itself. HOT TIP! We achieved this by having the camera further away from the piece and then cropped the image in from the full frame. The focus point we chose with Camera+ was the upper front area of the wirework which was the ‘Hyperfocal distance’ This basically means the focus point that gives maximum sharpness from the front to the back of an image. With the 8 megapixels you have on the iPhone 4S you have megapixels to spare so you won’t see loss of image quality, at least for web viewing at this size.
CONTROLLING HIGHLIGHT EXPOSURE WITH iPHONE 4S
Shooting on a colored background can often give you a spot-on exposure straight out of the iPhone camera. The Modahaus Tabletop Studio range all come bundled with 4 translucent colored backdrops in addition to the standard opaque and translucent white backdrops. You can blend two or more of the colored backdrops to give you a huge variety of background effects and colors. In this watch shot above we kept the iPhone 4S camera further back than the final crop shows so we could obtain deeper DOF. We later applied a small percentage of monochrome blend on the image in Camera+ FX Effects.
We took our exposure point on the watch face with Camera+ to try and keep the subtle highlight detail but we were getting blown highlights as the highlight area was too small for the exposure reticule. HOT TIP! So we took some more manual exposure control to sort this. We simply introduced a strip of pure white card into the frame and took our exposure reticule reading over that. Again you can fine-tune the exposure by moving the reticule closer or further away from the edge of the white card strip. Once you’re happy with the exposure you just tap the padlock icon next to the small exposure icon to lock the exposure. Before shooting, move aside the white strip, set Camera+ to image stabilizer or self timer and shoot.
In the watch shot above we employed the same highlight control technique but in this instance we were controlling the specular highlights in the shiny parts of the case and the watch hands. HOT TIP! It’s otherwise all too easy to blow your specular highlights leaving unsightly hard edges.
iPHONE 4S POINT AND SHOOT ON A COLORED BACKGROUND
As I mentioned, shooting on a colored background can often give you spot-on exposure with no manual exposure adjustment. In this shot above we did use the exposure and focus reticules in Camera+ and just one harder light to the right of the Modahaus TS216 with the light tunnel.
OVERHEAD VIEWPOINT PHOTOGRAPHY WITH MODAHAUS STEADY STANDS
Although I tried to stick with straightforward image processing in Camera+ I couldn’t help have a play with some of their fun filters. In this photo above I used a filter called Purple Haze which magically gave a cloud background to the image and was a cue for me to call up Jimi Hendrix on my iTunes. Musical accompaniment always brings out the best in your photos BTW. This takes us on to the Modahaus Steady Stand range for overhead product photography with the iPhone 4S.
Above we see the Steady Stand SS300 on the Tabletop Studio Pro TS400 using the Steady Stand as a suspension prop and light diffusing enclosure. This set up is useful using any kind of camera including DSLRs.
Above shows the more typical set up of the Steady Stand 300 for an overhead jewelry group shot. The overhead viewpoint is often ideal for product photography as you don’t need to worry about propping up your products as you simply arrange them on the copy board and let gravity take care of the propping. HOT TIP! Positioning your iPhone on the top platform against the bottom left corner guides automatically centres the iPhone lens on the copy board below. The iPhone camera is also square on to the copy board ensuring edge to edge sharpness of your images. The translucent sidewalls diffuse light giving a beautiful ‘soft box’ quality of light falling on your subject and the sidewalls also give uncluttered reflections in shiny subjects. The inset image shows the anti reflection plate in position which helps mask any reflections of a black iPhone in reflective subjects.
We again use our black paper strip trick for fine exposure tuning on these overhead images ensuring a white background and good overall exposure in the jewelry.
The image above was shot with the iPhone 4S on the Steady Stand SS200 in natural daylight.
The Steady Stand SS100SP is the baby in the Modahaus range but is a powerful tool for close up and macro images with the iPhone. The iPhone has great close up and macro capabilities but keeping the camera totally still, square on to your subject without casting shadows and reflections can be a nightmare using conventional iPhone tripods. With the SS100SP it’s a breeze.
Like its bigger siblings the Steady Stand SS100SP comes with a white anti reflection plate that masks a black iPhone to prevent its reflection in shiny subjects. The image above shows two separate close up shots side by side. HOT TIP! If you want to get even closer you simply create an elevated platform within your Steady Stand to obtain the camera to subject distance you want. The shots above were taken indoors using natural daylight. The Modahaus GUIDES page has more details on techniques.
OUTDOOR PRODUCT PHOTOGRAPHY
The Modahaus Steady Stands are great for outdoor product photography, softening light and controlling reflections and in this case above using the Steady Stand 100SP for a close up of this ring by the talented designer Hagit Gorali. The rustic surroundings of the small sundial gave useful reflections in the gold which helped accentuate the organic shape of the ring and the translucent side walls of the Steady Stand ensured we captured the subtle colors and undulating shape of the mother of pearl stone. I cropped this image in to about a quarter of the full frame just to show the detail the iPhone camera is capable of and Camera+ handled the exposure setting no problem.
All the Steady Stands come with a Smart Wallet which doubles up as a handy copy board and light reflector. HOT TIP! In this shot above we folded up the Smart Wallet flap at the open end of the Steady Stand to help control the reflections in the upper ring and stone and give a nice smooth highlight around the top of the cabochon cut amethyst.
Shooting jewelry outdoors gives you the opportunity of contrasting rustic mother nature with colorful, shiny and reflective pieces as above. Taking some simple measures to control reflections and soften light will make all the difference to the finished result. We have many more tips on our Modahaus GUIDES pages.
Modahaus have a great ‘Custom Bundles’ offer on at the moment. Simply add two or more of your chosen products to the cart and a 15% discount is applied to your total order value in the checkout. Well that’s all the iPhone 4S Jewelry photography tips I can think of for now but if there are any areas you’d like me to cover I’d be delighted to hear from you. If you have any tips you’d like to share with us, feel free to add them below. We’d be delighted to hear from you or you can connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Flickr.