Processing & developing photos of your jewellery
Processing and editing your jewellery pictures can be challenging but photographer and website creator Gary has advice to help you make a start.
Once you’ve got your well lit and nicely composed photos (see the blog post on taking great jewellery photos) it’s time to process and develop them using software. This involves adjusting things like exposure (if you didn’t quite have enough light or you had a tad too much) and white-balance (necessary to counter the yellow-ness of indoor lighting). You can start by letting whatever program you’re using ‘auto-adjust’ these settings (and more) and then refine the results yourself afterwards using the individual controls. Now and again auto-adjust doesn’t make the best decisions, however, and that’s when a human eye is needed.
Once these adjustments have been made you can then move onto bringing more detail out of the photo by lightening any particularly dark areas and darkening any areas that are too bright. You can also adjust the vibrance and saturation of the colours in your image. Take a conservative approach to all these adjustments, however, because it’s quite easy to overdo them, which can degrade the quality of the photo and make it grainy.
Here’s a tip. When you’re applying adjustments to your photos make sure your laptop or mobile device’s screen is on maximum brightness. This will ensure you’re not deceived by the darkness of your screen into overdoing your adjustments. It’s a simple thing, but it’ll save you the hassle of having to re-process photos you subsequently realise don’t look quite right.
Software and apps
Many people use Adobe Photoshop for processing and developing photos, but personally I prefer Adobe Lightroom. I also use a third-party plugin called Topaz Detail, which does a great job of specifically enhancing details in photos, and can also work with Photoshop. In terms of processing and developing photos Photoshop and Lightroom are equally capable, and so which you use comes down to personal preference.
You don’t necessarily have to spend time and money learning how to use these sophisticated (and rather expensive) software packages if you don’t want to make the investment just yet or at all – or don’t have the time to. There are some capable and very easy to use photo editing/processing apps and web-based apps available for free, which will give good results but not as good as Photoshop and Lightroom. Here’s my personal favourites.
Picmonkey is a free web-based photo editing suite that has everything you need to make your photos pop. Just by using the ‘auto-adjust’ feature you’ll get a better looking photo. There’s also some impressive filters and you can add text to your images, which comes in handy for Pinterest. Picmonkey also has a facebook header collage which is automatically the correct size and shape for facebook – very handy!
Another good, free online photo processing site is pixlr.com, which also has an app and is particularly good for creating collages.
Snapseed is a free photo app for Android and Apple devices that has a clever interface which makes working with photos using a touch screen very easy. There’s lots of competing photo apps for mobile devices out there, but Snapseed is my favourite so far. I use it to process photos I take on my tablet and phone, and it has solid adjustment features that give good results.
Remembering why you’re doing all this
“Photography is one of the most crucial marketing jobs for designer makers – without amazing images your work will not be selected for shows, promoted in magazines or blogs, and go unsold in online shops.” Patricia van den Akker, Design Trust, UK.
The ultimate aim of making adjustments and enhancements to your photos is to create a well-balanced photo – in terms of exposure, colour, and contrast – which has detail in all areas of the photo where detail is important (i.e. there aren’t parts of your jewellery that are black due to excessive darkness or completely white due to excessive brightness). And the ultimate aim of photographing your jewellery is to persuade people to choose your piece over everyone’s else’s.
Web companies like Etsy have created the biggest arts & crafts markets in human history and a platform for designer-makers to sell their work in that market. The potential for sales is staggering because, if you think about, tens of millions of people are browsing through it looking to buy something handmade at any given moment. Great photos can catch someone’s eye, and make the difference between lots of sales and few sales – or worse, none.
Whilst free apps like Snapseed and picmonkey are great at making average photos look a lot better and definitely have their value in terms of ease of use and convenience, you’ll get the very best results by taking good photos in the first place; and then making them look awesome using digital photo processing software like Photoshop or Lightroom.
At the London Jewellery School you can learn how to take photographs of your work and how to use Photoshop to process them. You can also create your own website and learn how to use social media effectively to promote your business.
Gary is a photographer and website creator who runs craftywebsites.com, a company that works one to one with crafters to create an affordable website.