Folksy Ltd

Help needed with reflective surfaces

I’m having problems showing the real qualities of my metallic clay pendants. They are made from polymer clay with mica inclusions and in real life they shine and sparkle, especially the gold. However, all my attemps at photographing them leaves them flat and lifeless and not entirely true to colour (especially the bronze clay which looks more like a brick red!). In some instances the mica particles reflect light straight back and appear as white spots. I have managed to produce very good images of similar pendants which are predominantly gold (they got snapped up before Folksy got a chance!). This is not helped by the fact that I am getting to grips with a new Panasonic Lumix FZ200 and I feel like a complete beginner. Any insights into things I could try would be appreciated. I should mention that I prefer daylight or daylight bulbs and do not use flash.

I have a similar problem with some of my scarves which have nylon glittery thread blended with the wool to give a sparkly effect. Have never managed to illustrate the sparkle in photographs very effectively. I think if you are lucky and manage to get any light available to bounce of it at the right angle it helps a bit and sometimes I have found using a flash helps but like you I’m not keen on using flash for my photos. Will be following this thread with interest in the hope someone has a solution!

You need to use reflectors to bounce the window light where you need it in order to get the sparkle. I had this discussion with some of the other jewellery makers last Nov. and it is clear that there is no easy way to do it without a professional lighting set-up. Labradorite and opal are particularly difficult because you don’t always get the rainbow colours that show up in real life (mainly because you have two eyes and the camera has only one sensor). Also, faceted gems tend to show up the white “hot-spots” you mentioned.

On-camera flash is a big no-no in jewellery photography, so it is better to experiment with the angle and intensity of your daylight bulbs and reflectors to see what gives you the best results. It might take some time to get the set up to work as well as you would like but it is worth the effort.

Love Sam x

I got too much sparkle when I took photos in the sink !! the sunshine was coming through the window and bounced around the stainless “walls” of the sink. I have attached the listing so you can see what I mean.

You might find this a silly suggestion but if you have a white bath or loo seat -this makes a really good reflective surface and if you can get the colour of your jewellery to shine onto the white surface your camera will probably pick it up nicely.
I have a Lumix too but not that sort and it does sometimes have trouble focusing when the glass is too shiny (no problem with stained glass only with the slightly rounded surface of fused pieces). I often have to take from further away to get it to focus and then crop it.

I also sometimes use my phone camera which doesn’t mind the shine as much.

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One of the confusing factors here is that we perceive the world using two eyes as opposed to the camera’s single lens. This means that the critical sparkle we often see is only from one or our eyes so it’s very important to use a controlled light source that can be adjusted to pick out a particular facet of the object being photographed - not just a single diffuse light from a window as this can make things appear flat. If you’re photographing coloured glass, you need a surface onto which some of the light can fall to give the eye a clue that the object is indeed translucent otherwise it will just register as a flat colour. Make sure that your camera is set for the right white balance to match the light source otherwise the colours will shift in hue. Reflections from metallic surfaces can be controlled using a polarising filter - this will cut down some of the more intense reflections and increase colour saturation. Lighting reflective products will be covered in the Product Photography for Folksy workshop run by later this month in Oxfordshire. If you’d like to attend, please visit the site and register your interest.

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Lets hope we both find a solution to this! I will be experimenting in the next few days.

Thanks Sam. I think that the problem with opal is very similar to the problem I’m having. I have constructed a light box so will be experimenting shortly. I don’t hold out much hope for natural light in the current weather conditions, but you never know!

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Ouch! I think I’m having the reverse problem with insufficient light and sparkle, but I’m willing to experiment so it could be the bathroom hand basin next!

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Thanks Joy - I don’t think it’s a bad suggestion at all. I use a white art canvas as a background for some photos and I’m wondering whether using a dark background for the photos in question was a good idea after all. I’m certainly willing to try the bathroom!! Perhaps the camera is having problems with too much contrast. I also tend to take photos from a distance sometimes because I find the modern digital camera can be a little tricky to focus on some subjects (and can be too precise and “cold”). Perhaps when I finally upgrade to a smartphone this might solve the problem.

As a maker of shiny things I’d love to be able to advise you, but seven years on, photography is still a hit and miss business for me. I’m constantly baffled as to why one set of photos will turn out well while another doesn’t!

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When I wrote my note above it was just after taking photos of this fused glass dish which has some very shiny bits and an overall iridescent finish and which I wanted to reflect as much as possible to show all the dichroic highlights.
It must have worked because I sold it within an hour of listing it. :slight_smile: :slight_smile: :slight_smile: (Very happy dance from my sofa last night)

I have a couple of slightly matt silver dishes / table mats which make great bases and are good at reflecting and I also often stick bubble (only small bubble works) wrap underneath to good effect.

Thanks for your detailed reply. Unfortunately Oxfordshire is too far away for me but I will take your comments on board. I do set the white balance according to the lighting conditions (I think we could all do with one called “wet winter in the UK”!) I don’t think it’s possible to fit a filter onto my camera lens (it doesn’t have changeable lenses so I suspect a filter is out of the question) but I will see if there is a way around this. I gave up with SLR when digital came in because I was fed up of carting around so much “stuff” and my back won’t stand it any more! I think what is emerging from this discussion (and a review of my images in general) is that I seem to be tending towards under-exposed so this is something I need to address.

Congratulations on the sale! As I have just replied elsewhere I think that one of my problems is insufficient light (I will be so happy when our tree surgeon does is stuff later this year and removes a large tree and some overgrown hedging). I have always been wary of over-exposing an image but I think I need to be bolder with my light sources because I frequently have to adjust the light level via my editing software. Honestly, I find it hard to believe I have had a camera of one sort or another for about 50 years!!!

I was the one having the discussion/ issues with opals (and labradorite and drusy and few others with sparkle) so here is what I’ve learnt/ what I do - some of it may help but it might be a bit of trial and error I’m afraid. I have a box set up with an infinity curve and reflectors to the sides and top (its made from an old wine crate with bits of card and silver foil), this sits on the coffee table in front of a south facing window. I normally shoot on white but have found with sparkle switching the infinity curve or props to mid grey can help bring out the twinkle (does tend to increase the exposure time so I use a tripod to avoid camera shake). I then have a diffuser over the window and a cool white LED lamp on a positionable arm, The diffuser gets rid of most of the window reflections whilst the positionable lamp allows me to move the light source about until I get the stone looking at its best (often a balancing act between maximising sparkle and minimising any glare/ reflections). Sometimes I have to put a diffuser (aka a tissue) over the lamp as well.
Hopefully that gives you a things to try.

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That sounds like a good set-up, Sasha. The trick is to get the balance between colour, sparkle and yet not having any hot-spots. Diffusing the light is key, but not too much!

Love Sam x

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Thanks Sasha, that sounds like a plan! I usually work in front of a south facing window too (currently with a built-in diffuser until the glazing unit is replaced!). I have made a light box and will have a go with this as well; I might have to make a larger one if it works so we will have to see. I should have some grey card left in my card-making stuff so I will have a go with this as well, as I have found it quite useful in the past with some “difficult” colours which just don’t work on a white background. Thanks again.