After all the fashion and portrait work I've been doing recently, I found that product photography had way more paying customers... this shouldn't be a surprise I guess.
But I actually really like taking product shots. It's technical, there are well-known rules to getting it right, and with a little practice and fairly basic gear you can get surprisingly good results.
So I had gotten some work to go and take pictures in a jewelry shop in Rishon LeZion. I knew I was going to use flashes and a macro lens, and I knew the products won't be too large. So in addition to getting the lightstand and umbrella, I also made an impromptu light tent from a coca cola six pack cardboard box and some baking sheets. This looked really ridiculous, and I would not recommend this just because it will make your clients think you're a real hack... but the light inside this contraption was pretty sweet. If you look on the left you can see the shape of the three cutouts where the light comes into the box, and the dark rectangle where the camera comes in.
The shop itself was clean and well lit. It's always good to take a few atmosphere shots, even if the client didn't ask for it specifically. They'll thank you later for it...
But the real work is the products themselves. I went to the back of the shop and set up my "light tent" and placed a couple of flashes on either side.
It looks really ridiculous, I know. But it works... Here are a few examples of the final results.
The owner was actually a professional in jewelry placement. She designed the placement of all the jewels in the store. She spent a few minutes putting each piece in just the right way. This contributed much more to the shoot than anything I could do with my camera.
The styling and placement of products - this is especially true for food and jewelry - is more important than a lot of the technical side of the photography. This is something I feel I still have to learn how to do well, and unlike the technical side of the photography itself, the placement is something that takes a lot of time and practice and taste and there's really no right and wrong.
Back to the technical side of this kind of work. The main thing you want to look for after the light is fairly even, is the specular highlights.
Using jewelry stands is really useful, especially if you want to mix it up a little. If you're making a catalog, make sure you get shots of the pieces on their own as well (so you can put all images up in a uniform setup).
Once more this cool drop-shaped stand lets you see the light box reflected in the highlights.
After going through most of the pieces, switched to using umbrellas and put the jewels on a dark marble surface. I did this to (a) get some different looks for some of the products so the client has more options, and (b) because I know that whenever I get the full studio-gear opened up it makes me look like a professional and gives the client a lot more confidence in what he's paying for. This is true for large lenses and large lens hoods as well...