Photographing jewellery can be a challenge. Already as a small finds photographer on our excavation in Egypt I have struggled my fair share of capturing ancient beads (which would be displaced by the slightest breeze), bracelet fragments and other pieces of personal adornment. This book, published in 2014 already, offers lessons learned and tips and tricks from longtime jewellery photographer and editor of Ornament Magazine, Robert K. Liu.
This book offers 16 chapters of jewellery photography. The first three are technical and introduce camera and photography equipment. In this day and age, technology advances faster than a book can be printed. While the types and models of cameras discussed therefore may no longer be available or have been replaced by newer models or even smartphones, these chapters still thoroughly prepare you for what to think of when taking photographs. Backgrounds, lighting options, fixtures such as putty and wire, the use of grids and depth of focus are all introduced and illustrated by means of various examples.
Next is a very important chapter on the point of view or orientation of your photo. Choosing which angle you will use makes all the difference for a good photograph and can really bring a piece to life. Here again, the same jewellery piece is photographed in various angles for your consideration and to see what the effects can be. Robert includes tips and tricks for laying out your jewellery piece carefully and aesthetically: I must say his description of photography being 'not a passive activity' really resonated with me, as you will be bending and flexing yourself endlessly to gain a good shot!
The following 12 chapters all discuss one aspect or another of photographing jewellery. Comparison shots (many of a similar type of object), Imitations (how to photograph different textures), Process (jewellery making), studio work, on models, a separate chapter on beads and beadwork, how to shoot covers and advertisement photographs, and even artist studios, clothing and events such as fairs: there is nothing that this book does not cover. The book ends with a useful glossary of photographic terms.
What I enjoyed most about this book is how it illustrates the points discussed with photographs. In this way, you can observe the differences between photographs and learn from the description that goes with it. There are many, many photographs of not only jewellery, but also helpful pictures of set-ups, fixtures and studios. The abundance of photographs strangely enough does result in what is (to me) a drawback: the extremely dense lay-out. The pages are literally crammed with text and photography. Each page is split into two columns to accommodate both running text and image captions, and for me the amount of various types of lettering in both upper and lower cast, italic and bold, and different sizes is too much. Accessing the rich information gathered in this book is made considerably harder by the lay-out, but again, how we perceive a book is very much a matter of personal preference and I'm all too aware of the cost of producing a book that contains as much information as this one.
All in all, studying the many stunning photographs has provided me with food for thought and inspiration on how to handle my own photography. As the author himself rightly puts it: 'for the cost of a good dinner' this book will help you on your way in jewellery photography!
Photography of Personal Adornment by Robert K. Liu PhD is available through Ornament Magazine. 160 full-colour pages with 530 (!) photographs
The book was received gratefully as emuneration for an article contribution to Ornament Magazine.