Photography of Personal Adornment: Photographic Techniques for Jewelry/Artwear, Craftspeople, Researchers, Scholars and Museum/Gallery Staff by Robert K. Liu (review)
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Reviewed by
Photography of Personal Adornment: Photographic Techniques for Jewelry/Artwear, Craftspeople, Researchers, Scholars and Museum/Gallery Staff by Robert K. Liu San Marcos, CA: Ornament, 2014. 160 pp., 530 color ill. $38.95 paper

inline graphicRobert K. Liu has published widely on diverse and comprehensive topics from ethnographic and contemporary beads, to aspects of jewelry design, manufacture and photographic processes. Over four decades, he has studied science, small object photography, and jewelry and model making. He has also extensively observed and photographed small animals. He draws on this extensive background to provide technical and pragmatic methodological [End Page 94] frameworks for professionals in curatorial sectors, science, arts and crafts, as well as higher education. An editor, writer, and photographer for Ornament Magazine, he is the ideal person to publish this book, a guide to photographing jewelry and related craft components that spans sixteen concise chapters.

Chapter i presents a brief overview of the ever-changing technological innovations in the use of digital cameras, lenses, the life-span of recorded images, digital processing, and storage options. Given the lack of exclusionary and specialist expertise in product photography, the author has published this reference to support aspiring photographers and researchers and help them enhance their skill set for curated presentations in academia, the commercial world, and in electronic media. In chapter 2 he explores technical processes germane to cameras, lenses, lighting, backgrounds, and photographic studios. Here Liu's experience is useful: He goes into micro detail about types of equipment one might purchase with limited resources. Liu further advises us to accurately record the shooting process by taking handwritten notes as well as digital notes, files, and images. He also advises investment in strobe lighting, as it is critical to control artificial light. Backgrounds and the notion of depth of field are important processes related to photographing jewelry. To ensure that the photographer can present a coherent and comprehensive body of work, Liu advises shooting multiple versions of single works. He shares a few techniques with which he has had great success. For instance, he constructs armatures and devices to secure jewelry pieces to be photographed.

Chapter 3 was an inspiration. Liu's ability to manufacture jewelry and apply that technical expertise to constructing aids and armatures is notable, as is his deep understanding of artificial light control upon on metallic surfaces. This chapter also displays an exceptional knowledge of compositional elements that include line, balance, symmetry, color, form, and texture that is combined with experience or a "good eye" to make informed aesthetic decisions.

In chapter 4, "Photography of Jewelry: Point of View/Orientation," Liu introduces his comparative framework to compose or express oneself as an artist. Liu suggests that the photographer be flexible and experimental and recommends relying on contrasts and differences to create focal points and interest. He explains that there are four influencing factors: changing the shape of the object, changing the orientation, changing the magnification, and changing the composition. Prior to the photographic process the photographer is advised to conduct research on the object, process, or even historical practices that underlie the subject.

The necessity of comparisons informs the content of chapter 5, in which Liu's many examples of objects, ornaments, and jewelry bear testament to his dexterous application of the method. Chapter 6 explores the idea that product photographers can assume the role of educator as well. Liu reminds us of the two-pronged approach to photography: the visual record of the work and the gathering of iconographic information about it. Here he also shares his rationale for particular angles and perspectives, demonstrating oblique views.

Chapter 7, "Photography of Jewelry: Process," has practical relevance for many people, from academics to hobbyists. Here Liu further demonstrates how product photographers can be educators. The content of chapter 8, "Photography of Jewelry in the Studio," would have benefited from being presented in conjunction with the material in chapter 2.

Chapter 9 focuses on photographing jewelry on models, with neck pieces featured.

Liu discusses all the different elements that are necessary for using a model, such as the financial implications of contracting professional models and their team of stylists, clothing, and make-up professionals.

The author...


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