I did this practice at home 2 month ago. I am feel to write a summary now. Hope some people can find some useful information.
I am not a dedicated jewelry photographer. Jewelry photography is very hard. About 4 months ago, I joined a paid membership at a website called http://www.photigy.com. It is a dedicated community for still life photographer. After watched many tutorials, I thought I should give it a try.
The main tool used for my practice is the hand made shooting cone. It is exactly follow the instruction at photigy.com (although this is from a paid tutorial).
This is the hand made shooting cone. Basically made with some diffuser material and glued on pvp pipe.
You can find shooting cone at b&h for about $400. That is much more durable and has better material. But this thing I made is only about 10-20 dollars. So let’s take a look at the result of using this cone.
It is a bit overexposed though. Very simple lighting set up. Just two light on each side. No light modifier on the light except basic standard reflector. That black dot on each bead is come from the hole where I insert my lens into it. This can not be avoided. All we have to do is post production.
I would say this looks pretty good. It is all contributed to the magic of the shooting cone. You just place jewelry inside, it will look great immediately. Even if you do not know much about photography or the science behind the lighting. Just follow this set up, it should work out nicely for most small jewelry. But you still need photoshop skill to achieve the final result.
I know there are other kind of tools you can find at b&h that are specific made for jewelry. such as these.
They are not as versatile as shooting cone. The major reason is that it got bright everywhere inside because it just reflect light everywhere. It is good for one type of look where your jewelry is bright overall. but it can not control which part of your jewelry is brighter and which part is darker. You can do this with shooting cone. Let show you my another shot.
Using same shooting cone. pretty much same set up, two light on each side. The only difference is that I added snoot on the left light. so that is why you see that highlight. This is what I want to say. You can control how big or small the light to hit the subject. With those box I mentioned above you can not, it just throw light everywhere.
I can say this those box can only create high-key look. It can not create low key look because it throw light everywhere. With shooting cone, you can create both high-key and low-key look.
I am still learning jewelry photography, but I believe I can still provide some useful information.
Try use shooting cone rather than those box if you just start out jewelry photography. If you have budget you can buy the shooting cone at b&h for $480.
Lastly I highly recommend anyone interested in still life photography take a look at photigy.com. I learned most of my still life photography skill from there.
Let me know if you have any thought and question.