Being a jewellery photographer is not a deliberate career choice one makes when young. Someone who decides to pursue photography may dream of working for an agency, editorial projects, or most commonly be part of a specific industry such as fashion. But a focus on jewellery tends to come years down the road.
Veteran photographer Paul Hartley, for instance, stumbled into it after decades of agency photography while working with an agency specializing in cosmetics. “Twenty years later, it’s all I do,” Hartley adds that even till today, he is still learning, “It’s just about the most difficult subject.”
And it is that continuous technical and creative challenge that gets photographers hooked on taking images of jewellery. Capturing images of diamonds and precious gems is incredibly difficult, owing to factors such as reflections and lighting (too much that even the photographer is reflected in the stone or too little and it looks dull); scale (close-up, detailed photos to magnify jewellery), and the diversity of colour in a stone. But never mind these, if you ask photographer Vadim Chiline, it is the search and discovery of out-of-the-box solutions that he really enjoys.
Other challenges include the extra-high level of security for shoots of precious stones, and imperfections such as scratches and fingerprints when jewellery has previously been handled. This is why, says Chiline, he always discusses expectations with a client prior to a shoot.
Multi-award jewellery photographer Andrew Neilson, who used to be an engineer, applies that technical expertise to his current craft, and has placed himself in the shoes of jewellery makers by creating his own signature shots.
Given that some stones and simple designs, like those of engagement rings, tend to look similar to the general audience, it can be difficult for a photographer to establish a signature style. But the best of them do. Hartley’s photos exude what he calls “a feel for light” and “a lightness of touch”. Neilson has designed a custom lighting set-up that has evolved over 15 years, while Chiline enjoys dark moods and playing with shadows.
And that’s the mark of expertise — being able to use such a technical act to convey art, faceted beauty, and emotion.
Image opener courtesy of Vadim Chiline from Epic Mind Photos