In-Camera ‘Spotlight Gradation’

For a lot of years, I’d been working to create an elusive technique for my jewelry photography.  It’s not that it hadn’t been done before…just that nobody seemed to be talking about it.

Creating a basic gradation background for jewelry photography is relatively easy to do using programs like Photoshop™ or Elements™.  In fact, it’s part of the curriculum for my Jewelry Photography class series at San Diego Continuing Ed.  But gradations added in the computer after-the-fact have some real limitations, the most apparent of which is that it’s more difficult to add realistic shadows.  So, it’s often better if you can create a gradation background in the camera while shooting your work.

I thought I had tried every possible lighting combination to capture the effect, but to no avail.  It turned out that the solution was, as they say, “counter-intuitive.”  With the help of a lighting manufacturer to point me in the right direction, I’ve recently worked out the technique for myself, and like the Rubik’s Cube, once you know the process it’s relatively easy to master. 

I’ve described ‘In-Camera ‘Spotlight Gradation’ in depth in the Spring 2013 issue of Metal Clay Today (available online now at so I’m not going to go into detail here…you’ll just have to get the magazine!  But I did want to show a small gallery of what’s possible.  And I will divulge one piece of information that’s not evident from the photos.  The material on which the jewelry is placed is highly reflective black glass!

First, here’s a side-by-side comparison of a Photoshop gradation and an in-camera spotlight gradation:

Comparison_for_spotlight_effect-detail-three_hollow_beads5-72And here are the rest.  Click on any image to see the gallery at full size.  And enjoy!

This entry was posted in Information, Teaching & Techniques, Jewelry and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to In-Camera ‘Spotlight Gradation’

  1. janspencley says:

    Wonderful website Steve. So glad you worked through the challenges to create a beautiful website! xoxoxo

  2. William E Schroder says:


  3. steverossman says:

    Thanks Jan and Bill! I’m still figuring this stuff out, but like where it’s going. And I LOVE Jonna’s new work!

  4. John says:

    Very interesting, Steve. Great pictures.

  5. Judith Moore says:

    You broke the code, my dear! Magnifico photos of Jonna’s magnifico work! Titillates my senses!

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