Pearls luster photographs

Pearls have been one of the most difficult things to photograph I’ve run into yet.

Milky pearls
Milky pearls

Bison being aggressive toward me were nothing compared to these tiny little round spheres.

My first photos were too milky and bead like, as you can see in the photograph at the right.

Although I created the nearly perfect light tent with no particularly hard edges, this ended up being a total failure for pearls.  Many objects are very nice with uniform smooth lighting but not these.

According to what I saw on PearlParadise.com, I was making these nice pearls look like they were of low quality.  That is because the edge of the reflection is not sharp.  “You should be able to see your reflection in the pearls.”  For many things, I work hard to put a nice, smooth gradient on.  Pearls are just the opposite.  The harder the edge of the reflection, making the pearl look more mirror-like, the better.

Fail on the first attempt.  Oops.

So, after studying pearl images from Mikimoto, I figured out their image magic of

Same pearls with luster
Same pearls with luster

how they make the pearl look round and lustrous.  It’s a combination of their pearl quality and using one of the types of classic portrait photography.  In many of their images, they use what is termed butterfly lighting.  Not all of their pearl images are like that but most are are a variation of it.

Of course, making this style of image requires a softbox and reflector.  As my awesome parents are shipping me my softbox, I’m going to have to figure out how to get by with what I have for now.  Using very non-photography items like paper, cardboard, posterboard, and the like, I’ll be able to create a make-shift softbox.  As you can see with the second image, the same strand of pearls as above looks much more lustrous.

Like all photography (and really, everything else), you have to keep working it and studying what was done.  Then you can match and maybe even go beyond what anyone else has done.  This takes lots of effort and keeps you up late at night.  But if you keep at it, chances are you will succeed.

Just don’t give up.

Author: Aaron

Aaron Linsdau is a photographer.

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