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Jewelry retouching for online stores

Product image retouchers hate jewelry. It's small, it's dusty and covered in fingerprints, it reflects all sorts of things. And still, you're not supposed to spend more than a few minutes on every image. How is that even possible? Well, unless you're working in a jewelry online store, you won't much trouble when retouching jewelry — most online stores that deal in a huge assortment of goods usually don't really care about jewelry. By care, I mean making sure that all the items made of a particular kind of gold have a correct tint, for instance.

Most of the time correct white balance and exposure are all you have to care about in terms of color and tone. If not, you'll have to colorize every item, isolate everything with the Pen Tool and do a lot of other things, but this is really out of catalogue retouching context. In this course, we will deal with all the images as if there is a couple of hundreds of similar images waiting to be retouched until the end of the working day. It's hardly possible even with the basic jewelry photoshopping, but let's see what we can do. I have already explained everything about removing reflections, dust, and fingerprints, so let's use this knowledge and see how all these methods can be combined.

I'll also show you a new method of dust removing that works better than your typical Dust & Scratches action, so don't miss the video.

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Jewelry doesn't always have to be time-consuming. If it's clean and there are no ugly reflections, it's as easy to retouch as anything else. Just isolate, restore the shadow, resize and clean a little bit. So it really depends on the photography and the preparation stages, make sure you understand that. If you fight with reflections and dirt all the time, something must be wrong with the setup.

This cuff link is a good example of jewelry for the online catalogues – it was shot rather hastily, it reflects studio lights and the photographer, it's also covered in dust and fingerprints, and the background is dirty, too. But don't worry, it's not much of a problem. You've seen this cuff link already when I explained how to cover a reflection with some solid color, and now I'm going to show the whole process of retouching, not just that.

I'll start by selecting the background. Select All, then subtract with the Rectangular Marquee, then add with the Magic Wand. I'll also use the Quick Mask mode if I see that my selection got on the object. This kind of images is not easy to isolate. After running the isolating action, I'll restore the shadow with the History Brush and erase it with a big soft Eraser if it looks too big after restoration. Then I'll grab the Mixer Brush and smudge the shadow because there was a piece of paper or something like that and you can still see its outline in the shadow. Cool. Time to get rid of a nasty reflection. There's a small red spot of an unknown origin, but as the cuff link is not red at all, it should be removed. I'll desaturate it with the Sponge Tool.

Time to remove the big black reflection. It will take ages to blur with the Surface Blur, as the filter works in a rather subtle way, so I'll just grab the Normal Brush, soft and non-transparent. I'll press Shift-Ctrl-D which is the shortcut to the Reselect command, and it will restore the previous selection, the one used for isolation. I want to protect the outer edge, as I'll have to paint pretty close to it. Then I'll pick a color that is neither too dark nor too light, and cover the whole reflection with it. Then I'll switch to white, reduce the Brush opacity to about 40% and make a white spot that resembles a glare. There should be a glare here, not a smooth surface. It doesn't look 100% real, but it doesn't have to, it won't attract attention and people won't be staring at the image long enough to notice anything. I'll mix it with the Mixer Brush as well to improve the overall impression.

When that's done, it's time to work on the rest of the cuff link. It's covered in Dust, so it's possible to use the Dust & Scratches filter, but I'm going to show you another trick. Have you ever thought about how noise suppression algorithms work? Noise is basically a bunch of small particles spread evenly on a surface. Just like dust. So the Noise Reduction tool can be of help. I'll press Ctrl-Shift-A to open the Camera Raw filter, go to the Detail panel and apply the strongest noise reduction effect possible by setting Luminance to 100 and Luminance Detail to 0. I don't want to spend much time on jerking the two sliders, because I know it takes a lot of noise reduction to remove dust from a surface. After pressing OK, I'll set my History Brush the way I do it with the Dust & Scratches filter so that the effect is applied when I paint with it. To do so, I'll click on the small box next to the Camera Raw Filter step in History to set the History Brush source, and then just click on the previous step to return and undo the effect. Now the History Brush will be basically covering the image with Noise Reduction effect when I'm using it. And I'll be using it everywhere I see dust. It gets removed pretty well and the edges stay intact. When all that's done, it's time to resize the image and finish.

Let's repeat the same process with this dusty ring. I'll use the Camera Raw Filter to apply Noise Reduction effect at its maximum and then I'll set the History Brush source at this step and go one step back. As I use the History Brush to apply the effect on the ring, you can see that its power is limited. It does remove dust, but not much more than that. If the surface is really dirty, you'll still have to smudge it with the Mixer Brush afterward. It also doesn't do anything with reflections, so you'll still have to paint them over with the Brush in Lighten mode as you see fit. But the Noise Reduction effect can give your jewelry a more refined, smooth appearance, which is a good reason why you should remember this method.

Let's retouch some earrings. In most stores that I know, photographers shoot just one earring, as the other one is identical. It saves you some time because you only retouch one and then copy it. Same as before, I'll select the item with the help of the Magic Wand and the Quick Mask mode, and run the isolating action. After that, I'll remove the most visible patches of dust with the Noise Reduction in History mode, just like before. It's not a strict rule, you know, that you need to resize first before removing dust. It depends on the dust. If it's very visible and you're sure it won't disappear because of resizing, like this dust here, it doesn't matter when you remove it. Remember, that when you use the History brush to remove dust from dark surfaces, they will become more gray. It's a good idea to use the Burn Tool set to Shadows, Exposure 20% or 30% on the same areas. Otherwise, the image might lose contrast. You might think that these dark reflections are no good, but in this case, it's inevitable. This huge black reflection is what gives the earring its shape. Remove it and you'll ruin the image even more than the photographer, who did it already with this ugly lighting. So our work here is done.

When you finish retouching, select the earring and copy it, and there you go – two earrings for the effort of retouching just one.

Now what if something is way too dirty, how can you clean all the dust quickly? As you know already, the Dust & Scratches filter doesn't work so good with the edges. If you try to run the action, even the one with the least strength, and run the History Brush all over the image, you'll just ruin it. But the Noise Reduction effect of the Camera Raw filter is not so harmful. I'll press Ctrl-Shift-A to open the Camera Raw filter, go to the Detail panel and apply the strongest noise reduction effect possible by setting Luminance to 100 and Luminance Detail to 0. Then I'll set the History Brush and apply the effect locally with its help. This is much better than what you can achieve with the Dust & Scratches. A few clicks with the Spot Healing brush is all you need after that. Really, it's the best you can do unless you are willing to spend 10 minutes with the Spot Healing tool. Personally, I would reject the image that is dusty like this, but we all know that sometimes it's not an option. Just compare this image with the clean cuff link I retouched in under 2 minutes, and you'll see why I always keep telling you about the importance of preparation.


You can just click around with the magic wand and get it isolated in no time

One last thing about isolation. Jewelry is tricky to retouch, especially if you have to spend a whole lot of time on isolation. How much time does it take to remove the background from an image like the one above? Not so much. If I just click around with the Magic Wand, I'll get a good selection in under a minute. It is possible because the earring is hanging in the air. There's no shadow, no dirty background under it, that's why it's so easy. Most earrings do not require a shadow as they are supposed to be hanging from a person's ears, not lying on the flat surface. So hanging them and shooting like this is a great option.

Would you like to isolate this? I'd rather not

If photographers do not realize that and send you images like this one, well, good luck. It might take a few minutes of careful work with the Pen Tool. If only these earrings, or one earring, because they are the same, were hanging in the air, you would be able to isolate it so quickly. But when they are stuck to a piece of styrofoam, you can forget about quick retouching at all. Make sure you discuss things like that with the photographers or with your superiors or whoever is responsible because the right setup will save you so much time you can't even imagine.

You can download the images for practice purposes from the gallery above. Each thumbnail is linked to the respective hi-res image, just click on the thumbnails you need to open them in a separate window. You can right-click and "Save link as…" to download images without having to open them first.

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