Thanks to fellow local photographer Anita, I shot Jewellery yesterday, on location in St Catharines. This was the setup in the store:

An improvised table with a curved white background, lit by two speedlites in an umbrella, with an opposite reflector; then one”sparkler” speedlite in a Honl snoot to aim at the jewellery.

I used

  • A 580EX II on the camera
  • Two 430 EX flashes in an umbrella
  • Wireless TTL with +2 stops flash compensation
  • A 100mm f/2.8 macro lens
  • A Canon 1D Mark IV camera.

A few tips:

  • Use aperture in the 5.6-16 range. More is better, except when you go much above f/8-ish, most lenses get blurrier again.
  • Use a tripod!
  • Focus using manual focus. Use Live View and x10 magnification to set this focus accurately.
  • Expose carefully, using flash compensation as needed. Use the histogram and “highlight alert” to verify.
  • Use the sparkler straight on to add life, especially to diamonds.
  • Watch reflections carefully
  • Use a black reflector if needed to add the black reflections in diamonds.
  • White balance carefully.
  • Clean the jewellery well.
  • Use Photoshop to clean up any remaining dust. Jewellery photos need to be finished in photoshop.
  • Use Play-do to mount rings, etc.
  • Consider an acrylic stand to separate jewellery from the background – this avoids shadows.
  • Black acrylic works too – nice reflections. Black slate can work, too.
  • Did I mention you should use a tripod?

This got me shots like this one:

Jewellery can take many hours to shoot, so yesterday worked out well – 20 products shot in four hours.

Shot of the day

…of yesterday, that is:

I used my 1D MarkIV, and light was two direct speedlights with Pocketwizards on the left and right (full power), and one behind me for fill (also direct, but on half flash power).

How this is done is something I will explain more on the weekend lighting workshop I am holding, with Joseph Marranca, at my country retreat in early April. Details to follow!

1D Mark IV need-to-knows

Here again are two important tips for 1D Mark IV users:

  1. Disable ALO (Automatic Lighting Optimisation) and Peripheral Illumination adjustment.  Otherwise your RAW images will be underexposed!
  2. Focus-point linked metering does work when using evaluative metering (Canon do not tell you this, but evaluative metering is biased heavily towards the selected focus point). But unless you disable most of the 45 focus points and just use 19 of them, it does not work when using spot meter, even if you have enabled the focus-point linked spot metering function.

These are two small but important gotchas, wouldn’t you say? I thought they wewre important enough to point out again separately.

KISS – Keep It Simple, S.

This picture shows that you do not need a studio with much equipment, necessarily.

I used a Canon 1D Mark IV camera with a 580 EX II speedlite.

And that’s it. Really.

I had the camera on 400 ISO, manual, 1/60th second, f/4. TTL did the rest with the flash.

The flash which was of course pointed behind me, giving “light from 45 degrees above”. Leading to pictures like the one above, and this:

Which when you zoom in enough shows you The Man In The Pupil:

..which of course is me.

Can you see how my flash aimed backward makes a pattern on the ceiling that looks like an umbrella? That’s the  entire point!

Sometimes very simple equipment is al you need for professional work.

Camera Needs?

I shot a school Sunday: “Photo Day” portraits at a music school.

My colleague Anita and I used strobes, backdrops, and Canon cameras: 40D, a 7D and a 1D Mark IV. A few interesting observations:

  • The 7D produced the same crisp wonderful images as the 1D Mark IV. The 40D was not far behind. Sharp… amazing. Of course we were using all “L” lenses.
  • We both loved the 7D’s feel, ergonomics, even shutter sound.
  • I left the 1Ds MarkIII in the bag. With the 16/17 Megapixels of the 1D and 7D, who needs more?
  • The sharp display on the back of the 7D/1D4 really helps. And that is important: some images were slightly soft (ever so slightly – not that you would see even in a 8×10 print). Almost certainly due to me moving: I was using the cameras handheld.
  • The 1D4’s metering is a bit “enthusiastic”, as dpreview calls it. But on manual, with all  JPG adjustments turned off, this did not matter.
  • Excellent colour out of the box (shooting RAW, importing into Lightroom, WB set to “Flash” on camera to give LR a good starting point).

The 1D is the pro workhorse, of course, and it performed great (redundant memory card included!), but I must say, the 7D was a real pleasure to use. Especially at low ISO (100-400, say), I see no reason not to use it for pro studio work.

'Alo alo… an important 1D MkIV tip

For those of you lucky enough to have a 1D Mark IV, here as a follow-up to my review a few days ago is another tip.

Canon by default has the “Auto Light Optimizer” set to “ON”, and this is a custom function you may well miss.

If you shoot RAW (as you really ought to), go into custom functions II, function 4, and take that off zero (0=”standard” Auto Lighting Optimizer” setting) and turn that to custom setting 3 (“Disable”).

What does ALO do to your RAW image? Nothing. And you shoot RAW. So why does it matter? Here’s why.

If you set ALO to ON, your camera will, where necessary, apply “fill light” to the data that comes from the sensor, and use the result to make its little embedded JPG. That will make dark areas lighter.

And that little embedded JPG is what you see on the back of your camera.

So when you look, you will see a well-exposed picture. Happily, you shoot more. But in fact, unbeknownst to you, the actual data is darker. You may well be underexposing the dark areas of your picture!  And like me. you wonder why when you import your image into Lightroom (which does not honour that same “fill light” setting) it looks so much darker than on the camera. Or rather, you wonder why the histograms are so different (you should probably not judge exposure just by the image on the LCD).

So when you turn ALO off, the camera no longer shows you an “enhanced mini JPG”; instead, it shows something closer to the real RAW image. And if that is dark, you can fix it by adding light, not by tweaking bits (which can add noise).

UPDATE: Chuck Westfall agrees. See the comment below.

1D Mk IV: My Hands-on Impressions

An admission. In terms of cameras, I have an embarrassment of riches to choose from.

As an educator, photojournalist, and general purpose photographer who gets called on for all manner of shoots, I “need” (euphemism for “I rationalize my way to”) the best equipment. It’s just a cost of doing business. I have a Canon 1Ds Mark III, a 7D, and a new 1D Mark IV. I am also familiar with the 1D Mark III, which I recently sold even though it was only lightly used – this having been my favourite camera.

I have done mini reviews of the 7D on this blog – now I thought it might be good to compare the 1D Mark IV to the previous Mark III, and to my other cameras. Here is my 1D Mark IV pictured a few hours ago:

The following is not a thorough technical review.While I am of course thorough in trying all the camera’s functions, I think there is enough material on the web, including Canon USA’s excellent 123-page white paper, to outline all the functionality and changes. Also, this is not an exhaustive image comparison. There’s enough of that already, too.

Instead, this is the real-life impressions of an actual user – and one who has recently owned or used all other recent Canon cameras, as well as Nikon, Sony, Olympus, and Pentax cameras.

So, continue after the click…

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