Taking great photos of your jewellery
We know that you are always interested in learning more about taking pictures of your jewellery, so we’ve asked photographer and website creator Gary for some advice about taking photos of your jewellery.
Having great looking photos is essential for jewellery makers looking to sell their creations online. If you can’t afford to pay a photographer to take photos of your work, then despair not because all is not lost. If you follow the advice I’m about to give, then you can take photos of your work yourself and get surprisingly good results without necessarily spending much money. Let’s begin.
You don’t need an expensive DSLR camera, although obviously if you have one that’s great, but I would recommend having a digital camera with at least 10 Megapixel resolution (the cheapest digital cameras today start at around the 7 MP mark). Camera phones are getting better all the time, in terms of megapixels, but even so I would recommend using them only if you have nothing else.
Armed with a decent camera, it’s time to either make your own mini light studio, or buy a cheap one like this or this. Making your own one is very easy. All you need is a cardboard box and some tissue paper. Here’s a good tutorial on how to make one.
Unless you have a very bright room in your house, then you’ll most probably need some additional lighting in the form of spot lamps. A lamp capable of producing light equivalent to daylight is ideal, like a Lumie for example, but one or two normal spot lamps that can be brought in very close to your object and produce a directed beam of light can also work. It doesn’t really matter how you achieve it, the goal is to get enough light coming into your light studio and hitting your object such that your camera can take the shot using as fast a shutter speed as possible. This is most important when you’re holding the camera in your hand to take the shot, which I guess most people usually are. If the shutter speed is too slow, then your photo will be (to some degree) blurry – and this is something that can’t really be remedied using software afterwards. If you’re using a tripod, then you can usually still get a sharp photo (which is the most important thing) but you will get ‘noise’ or graininess in the image. However, this can be remedied quite well using software afterwards.
If you have one, then always use a tripod because you’ll get the sharpest possible image, but if you don’t have then one don’t worry; as long as you’ve got enough light a tripod is not essential. Gorilla Pods are highly bendable mini tripods that can attach to any camera that has a tripod screw hole on the bottom. I have two sizes, a very mini one for my compact digital camera and a not-so-mini one capable of holding my heavy Digital SRL camera.
You might be thinking: why can’t I use the flash on my camera?
The answer is because it’s too harsh and will almost certainly create bright reflections or high contrasts. Diffused light from a few different angles (or all around if you’re outdoors) is the best way to light your object and will minimise shadows, which are generally undesirable because they’re distracting.
Creating enough light can be the trickiest aspect of photographing your own work. If your lamp or lamps isn’t bright enough, then buy the brightest bulbs you can find and use them whenever you’re taking photos. If you can position your mini light studio close to a window with lots of light coming in, then do so. Or if you can go outside, then do so. Make use of natural light wherever possible. Your aim is to get enough light for the camera to take a picture without it wanting to use its flash. You can turn the flash off of course, but the fact that it wants to use its flash is a sign that light levels aren’t good enough for it to produce its best quality results.
Most of the time a crisp white background is the best thing to use, unless your jewellery is white in which case a darker background will work better. A suitably sized piece of quite stiff bright white card, the kind you can get in a graphic design shop, makes an excellent background. Push it into your lightbox and bend it (without creasing or folding it) up against the back wall. This creates what is known as an ‘infinity’ background. The main thing about backgrounds is that they should not distract from the object being photographed. They should compliment it, they should make it stand out. As a rule of thumb avoid patterned or textured backgrounds.
After light, composition is the next most important thing. Composition is how you frame the photo. As a golden rule don’t position your object in the centre of the frame. Position the most interesting or important part of it to the left or the right of centre, horizontally, and below or above centre vertically. Have a look at the example below to see what I mean. Also, make sure you’re not too far away from what you’re photographing. Generally, if your photo isn’t good enough, then you aren’t close enough.
When it comes to jewellery I like to add depth to the images by shooting from a lower angle and not from directly above. This blurs the parts of the object that are further away from the camera lens, which makes the part closer to it really stand out. You can achieve this look by using the ‘macro’ or ‘closeup’ program on your digital camera. However, when using these modes you may need even more light and, ideally, a tripod. If you’re able to use more than one photo wherever you’re selling your pieces, then I suggest having a closeup shot showing lots of details and/or textures, and a wider shot showing the whole piece. Obviously it depends on what size and shape your piece is, but generally this is a good way to capture the true beauty of your piece.
If you would like more help with your jewellery photography why not attend our photograph your jewellery class
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.