If you're selling jewelry online or creating an artist portfolio to show to galleries, taking amazing pictures of jewelry is essential. Fortunately, by following a basic process and keeping a few important tips in mind, you can take photos that really show off the beauty of these special pieces.
Set Up the Perfect Shot
When it comes to jewelry, setting up the shot ahead of time is essential. Background and lighting matter a lot, so plan to spend some time getting everything just right before you get out your camera.
Create the Background
You need an uncluttered background to keep the viewer's focus on the jewelry, and the background should extend up behind the jewelry and under it. You can buy a tabletop studio kit with a background or make your own background using a cardboard box and your choice of background fabric:
- Select a box that's about 20-30 inches on each side.
- Use a box cutter or scissors to cut away large "windows" on all but two sides, leaving the cardboard intact at least two inches from the corners. This maintains the frame of the box but lets lots of light in.
- Place the box on the table with one intact side down and one at the back. Staple a piece of fabric to the top of the back panel, making sure it's long enough to cover the back and bottom of the box.
Bring in the Lights
You really need light to show off the sparkle and shine of the jewelry, but it needs to be the right kind of light. If it's colored, it will cast that tone on the items. If it's too bright, it will create flares and cause loss of detail in the picture. Keep these tips in mind:
- Don't use your camera's built-in flash; it will be too direct and bright and will wash out the detail in the jewelry.
- If you have speedlights or off-camera lighting, set this up with one diffused light slightly brighter than the other and the lights at opposite sides at 45 degrees to the jewelry.
- If you don't have flash, try placing the jewelry near a window and using a reflector or piece of white cardstock to bounce some light back from the opposite side.
- Alternatively, use small, affordable LED lights from the hardware or home store and put white tissue paper over them to keep them from being too bright.
- Avoid yellow-toned lights like lamps with incandescent bulbs.
Compose Your Shot Like a Pro
Composition matters in jewelry photos, just as much as it does in landscape images or portraits. Decide where you want the viewer's eye to look first; this will be the focal point of your photo. Then use tricks to draw the eye to that spot:
- Use the rule of thirds to place the focal point at a pleasing spot in the photo, generally at the intersection of imaginary lines dividing the image into thirds.
- Consider leading lines, especially for necklaces or bracelets, where part of the jewelry can extend toward a corner of the photo and help draw the viewer's eye into the image.
- Think about geometric compositions like spirals, circles, and lines, especially if you are photographing the jewelry from above.
Consider Props and Models
You may also want to consider adding props like rocks, driftwood, flowers, greenery, and other natural elements to enhance the beauty of the jewelry. Be sure to choose something simple that doesn't draw the viewer's eye away from the point of the image. You can also show the jewelry on a model, using typical portrait photography techniques but focusing on the jewelry instead of the person being photographed.
Think About Depth of Field
The "depth of field" of your photo refers to how much of the image is in focus. In jewelry photography, you will want at least some images where the entire piece of jewelry is in focus. You may also want some that showcase a tiny detail in focus while letting the rest of the piece fall out of focus.
- If the camera is close to the item, the focus will be shallower.
- If it's farther away, more of the piece will be in focus.
Similarly, opening the aperture of your lens makes the depth of field shallower, while closing it down has the opposite effect.
Use the Best Equipment for the Job
If you pay attention to lighting, background, and composition, you can get a lovely photograph of jewelry, no matter what kind of equipment you use. However, there are certain items that can help.
Macro photography uses special lenses to reproduce the finest detail in small things. This is ideal for jewelry photography since it can allow you to show fine engraving and tiny facets on stones. If you have a macro lens, use it here.
Make the Most of Your Phone's Camera
Use the best camera you have at your disposal for this picture. Ideally, that will be a digital camera with good resolution. However, if what you have is a phone, don't worry. There are lots of ways to make phone photos successful:
- Use portrait mode if you have it to give the illusion of shallow depth of field.
- Get close to the jewelry, but don't zoom with your phone. This reduces the quality of the photo you take.
- Add lots of light so your phone can take the photo at the lowest ISO possible and reduce graininess.
Use a tripod to steady your camera and allow you to use a slower shutter speed to keep your ISO down. This will give you a better quality photo with less digital noise.
Experiment with different camera angles to find the best way to show off the jewelry you're photographing. Remember, digital photography is free once you have the equipment, so take lots of shots until you get the perfect one.