Camera – Nikon D800 and Canon 5Dmk2
Lens – Nikon 50mm F1.4 and Canon 24-70L F2.8
In April last year (2015) I had the opportunity to shoot some jewellery shots for Sarah Marshall, a highly talented young jeweller who was exhibiting at the Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design show that year. The brief was for it to edgy, dark and focused on the Jewellery. We discussed going for a tri-X style high contrast black and white look, but when I met the model for the shoot it would have been criminal not to make use of her fantastic red hair.
Sarahs jewellery is actually a mixture of baked porcelain and silver or leather. The work is fantastic and has this kind of bone like look and feel to it. Its very texture rich and the long necklace looked like hanging sail frozen in the wind; in the image above the necklace is solid piece of porcelain, not fabric. It was a interesting texture to shoot as it was extremely matte, with no reflections coming off the lights at all. The trick was to setup the lighting so it picked out the necklace, but still had enough of the model to give the pieces context. We made a concerted effort to hide the eyes in all the shots, as you can’t help but look to the eyes in a image, and the jewellery was the focus.
The silver in the pieces really picked up the lights well, and stood out sharply against our model. We dressed her down just to a simple black outfit. No distractions. To show of the necklaces we chose to lift the hair and tie it back and up, which although got it out of the way did loose a bit of the red heat from the images. But again, the jewellery is the focus so needed to have its place. Even the small light glint in the eye in the above image really pulls the focus away from the neck, but it felt like it brought it to life a little.. perhaps i should have taken it out in post.. perhaps not.
The black on black setup was a challenge to get right at first. I didn’t want to loose the arms, and be left just with a floating head, so I wanted to spill a little light around the scene. Too much though and the blackness of the background was lost, to little and the model just faded away to the black. As i was working with Sarah through out the day i also needed to keep the images coming off the back of camera close to what the finals would look like so there were no spurs further down the line. I setup a couple of picture profiles on the D800 and 5Dmk2 that lifted the contrast and crushed the vibrance down which helped. I shot RAW through out though, so i knew i had a fair bit of safety to process the images in post anyway and lift the darks/lights where needed. Having the picture profiles loaded onto the camera before the shoot was a really useful tool when working with Sarah, and something that I have taken away to other shoots to. It doesn’t matter what it looks like on the back of camera when you shoot RAW, so you can really give the client a ‘look’ right there with out having to plug into a monitor or laptop setup, allowing me to move freely round the studio, and not deck myself on cables/tethers.
Getting in close for some of the detail shots, especially with the earrings, was a real challenge as I wanted to make sure I had nice and clean backgrounds for the pieces. When you get that close up to anyone you can really start to see the pores and hair follicles on the neck.. which could mean hours in photoshop cleaning up the images.. not ideal. Luckily pushing the 5dMk2 right to the 70mm end and shooting wide open at f2.8 meant i could get just enough depth for the earring whilst loosing the neck. I perhaps pushed this a bit far, and actually could have gone to f3.5 to get more of the earring sharp, but at the time it looked all there on camera. One disadvantage to not using a monitor in the studio.
Sarah had a couple of really specific shots thats she wanted to achieve as well, using movement to create these abstract combined images.
I went for a more ghost like look for them, and they are much softer than the other images. I shot these with D800 and it gave me files with much more depth, so that when it came to combining i could really pick and choose the areas which came out. It also allowed me to bring back the feet (which was nearly completely lost in the originals). Without the feet the images felt again like a floating body. They really root it to the shot. There is quite a contrast to these motion images to the rest of the shots, which although worked well when exhibited, is perhaps a bit stark when viewed next to each other. In hindsight i could have brought up the vibrance across these and they would have come together better as a complete set, but overall i think the images came together well and reflected Sarah’s fantastic work in a good light.
You can find out more about Sarah’s work here.