Posted August 6, 2015
I’ve been making a lot of jade jewelry in the past couple of months because we have begun cutting and polishing these Wyoming sourced stones ourselves. Due to all of this production I have been taking a lot of photos to upload the inventory to my website. (Above: jade rings on a boulder out in morning sunlight.)
Taking photos of jewelry is really challanging and is sometimes a specialty practice for photographers. Since my business tends to be DIY everything (by necessity) I’ve messed around with the practice of jewelry photography for years. Here are a few tips and behind-the-scenes secrets with a major disclaimer that I am not an expert photographer and a lot of my learning curve has been experimenatation and quantity of shooting:
(Above: Holding the necklace with one hand and the camera with the other can be pretty tiring so sometimes you can get a friend to help. Here I wanted a beautiful outdoors setting but the sagebrush was too distracting so I just slightly raised the pendant so it was against the famous blue Wyoming sky.)
Jewelry Photography Tips:
1. Start with a decent camera and lens. These days I have a nice “real” (i.e. not a phone or point-and-shoot) camera with a macro lens. However, this is not necessary; you can get really great shots using a small camera or even a smart phone but your details and colors will be better if you have a better camera. I used a point-and-shoot Sony camera for years so if that’s what you have…use it. I use my iPhone for my Instagram feed.
(Above: inside the light tent, I will rotate and crop so that the jewelry is on a simple white backdrop.)
2. Indoors: I use a little light tent kit that I purchased on B and H Photo. It included a light tent, two adjustable lamps and lightbulbs (found at their website under Lighting and Tabletop Shooting). I also purchased a reflective white piece of plexiglass for a simple background. Something I did not realize when I first got this setup was that I had to make adjustments for the white balance on my camera because my light tent kit came with tungsten bulbs; my first group of photos turned out yellow. I called my photographer friend Delsa (www.reflectionsofthewinds.com) and she explained the issue to me. Since there are two lamps I move them around and aim them in different directions until I see that the jewelry is getting hit in a couple of nice spots. When the lights shine through the tent walls the light tent diffuses the light so there is not a glare. Sometimes I have my hand inside of the box and am holding up the plexiglass so that the piece is closer to the lamps or at another angle. I have messed around with a tripod in hopes of relaxing my arms but I find that I have to move around so much due to the small scale of each piece.
(Above: messed up “white balance” setting on my camera, certain bulbs like tungsten need white balance adjustments)
(Above: a jade pendant hanging in front of various textures and colors, notice what a difference location and light makes.)
3. Outdoors: This is where I really have fun. The past couple of years I have gotten into using Instagramand this has loosened me up. Pulling my work out of the light tent has been a blast. I use a lot of weathered wood backdrops because I find that it fits the aesthetics of my work. Jewelry can look really great sparkling in the sunshine but that is near impossible to photograph well with my iPhone; the sunshine can really blow out colors and cause glare. I find that there are three main options for avoiding the sun’s zealous spotlight: 1. shoot on a cloudy day (this causes a natural diffused light just like in a indoor light tent), 2. shoot in the shade on a sunny day (I have found the overall light of the day will sometimes give enough glow), or 3. shoot in the shade with a reflector (I love to shoot on the deck of my work patio with the sun reflecting off of the patio doors; the jewelry will be in the shade of my body and the sun will be reflecting onto that area indirectly to give a sparkle). Sometimes I get away with full-sun on the jewelry and that is usually earlier or later in the day (however if it is too late in the day you will be in the golden-light time and all of the jewelry will have a orangish hue). Shoot with the sun to your back otherwise your jewelry will be backlight and dark.
(Above: the “golden light” time of day, just before sunset, can create too much of an orange glow on the jewelry.)
(Above: This aquamarine ring was in my shadow but I was crouched next to a glass door that was reflecting the sun into my shadow. It made a subtler light and since it was indirect the sunshine didn’t blow out the shiny silver. I later rotated and cropped in on the ring a little bit. I had tried taking photos of this inside of my white light tent but the pale shade of blue was really hard to capture.)
(Above: a hammered ring shot outside on a overcast day, notice the hammering on the right-hand one is blown out from too bright of a sky.)
4. Backgrounds: I try to keep backgrounds simple and not distracting. If you have a patterned backdrop make sure the size of the pattern is not similar to your jewelry piece because your piece will get lost, same goes with colors. If you have a macro lens to work with you can set up your work and focus just on the piece and have the background somewhat blurry so that it is just creating a color field. Less is more.
(Above: walking around my workspace and trying various backgrounds, you never know til you try, I settled on the red painted metal of my vise and cropped out distracting areas. Also notice various reflections and light that the pendant has in the 4 photos.)
5. Reflections: Don’t forget to notice reflections on your work. I often realize that my shirt is getting reflected in the jewelry and you really notice it once you crop in on the piece and there is a bright neon green area on your silver ring. So it takes adjusting your hand, your eye and where the pieces are to avoid an unwanted reflection.
6. Shoot a lot! Take tons of photos at first to get an idea of what works. Often I have thought my photos look great until I get them loaded on my computer and realize most of them are blurry or the color is messed up due to lighting or reflections. Try all sorts of backgrounds but keep them simple.
(Above: three Itty Bitty Hammered Rings in 14K Rose Gold, I cropped out my fake wood desktop and created a more intimate fantastical setting. While this isn’t the simplest background I think it works because it’s color is pretty monotonous in contrast to the rose gold. It didn’t work that well until I cropped out a lot of the crystals and it became less busy.)
7. Formatting: Try to get a hold of Adobe Photoshop software. It can be expensive but it makes all the difference in the world to be able to edit photos using professional software. I mainly use just a few tools in Photoshop. Most often: Levels, Vibrance/Saturation, Color Balance, Cropping, Image Sizing. For my website I save the photos around 600-800 pixels in height at 72 ppi and use the “Save for Web & Devices” under the File tab, there you can choose between .jpg etc. I use .jpg. ***Before you save your photo, make sure you put your website or name at the bottom corner using the Text tool because if people share your photo then its original source becomes lost without a name. Tip: Don’t e-mail an enormous un-sized file to somebody (it is annoying and makes you look clueless…remember different formats/sizes for different uses, for emails use your 72 ppi, 600-800 height images). If you are formatting for print you will want 300 ppi and probably want to save your images as .tif files because there is no compression, the height/width image size will determine depending on your use. Usually printing presses have their desired formats posted on their websites so find out what they want. I recently used Printing For Less for business cards and was happy with their service; I have also had nice results with Modern Postcard.
(Above: my faithful dog creating a most fuzzy backdrop. Hey…you gotta work for your kibble!)