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When selling jewelry online, few things matter more than getting good images of your jewelry
 

How to Photograph Jewelry that Sells

When selling jewelry online, few things matter more than getting good images of your jewelry

 

For jewelry makers selling their work online, few things matter more than getting good images of your work. For those who show in high-end craft shows and enter their work in juried exhibits and contests, shelling out a few hundred – or a couple thousand - a year on professional images can really pay off.

 

But if you produce a fair amount of jewelry, sell it online and need a visual record of your work before it flies out the door, you’ll end up taking the bulk of photos yourself. The better you get at this, the better your jewelry will sell. At the very least, your site should lead with a couple strong images of your best work. No matter how stunning your jewelry is, badly lit and focused photos will bring down the tenor of your entire site.

 

I strongly advise against watermarking your images. Not only does it distort the jewelry for the seller interested in buying, it will restrict your ability to tap into social media sharing – the best free advertising around. In today’s virtual marketplace, you want people to share your images on sites like Pinterest and Facebook, which will link directly to your site. They’ll be much more likely to do this if you post great images, unmarred by watermarks.

 Green garnet bracelet by Karen HawkinsBracelet of green garnet and celery crystal beads made and photographed
by Karen Hawkins of TheMadBeader.com

 

Tricks of the jewelry photography trade

As anyone knows who’s tried it, jewelry is not the easiest thing to photograph. It’s designed to attach or dangle so is difficult to position. Plus, it’s really small. Often you’re trying to capture depth and detail in three or four square inches. If the jewelry has colored stones, you have to pay extra attention to lighting in order to avoid color distortion. If the gems are transparent, the object is to light the inside of the stones, while avoiding excessive reflection. (For more about this, see my article on photographing gems.)

 

Yes, it can get complicated, so take it one step at a time. Many jewelry artists are figuring out, by trial and error, how to get effective photos of their work. Do yourself (and your business) a favor: Invest in decent equipment and take the time to learn to use it.

 

The good news is that you can buy a really good camera for a fraction of the price you’d have paid a decade or two ago. If you can swing it, a DSLR will give you the highest quality, but a good point-and-shoot may be all you need for now. You can get a complete tabletop studio kit with lights designed specifically for shooting jewelry for $45 to $250. Because you’re shooting close up, and often aiming at a moving target, a tripod is also a good investment. If you want to get tricky, adding mirrors and reflective cards can help, but let’s start with the basics.

 

Set up the shot. Jewelspan will soon be introducing an option to display more than one image of each jewelry piece, which will allow you to show something from different angles, including on the body. In the meantime, if you have a site on Artspan and Jewelspan, you have one shot to represent each piece. Taking partially focused, artsy images that only show part of the piece is probably not the best way to go.

 

Karen Hawkins was a professional photographer before she became The Mad Beader, so she knows her way around a camera. Check out her site and you’ll find fabulous images of her jewelry, all of which she shot herself. Karen has found the best way to photograph jewelry for Artspan is with a handheld camera, shooting straight down, so she can show the entire piece. “With Artspan, I’m given one photo to say it all,” she says. “So I need the piece to be all in focus, including the clasp.”

 

Earrings by Karen Hawkins

Earrings of man-made jade, lapis and ruby conglomerate designed and photographed

by Karen Hawkins of TheMadBeader.com

 

Find a background that complements your jewelry. An appropriate background will depend on the type of jewelry you make, whether it’s all metal or bold color, delicate or architectural. You can opt for white tent or lightbox for a clean white backdrop, or use dark paper or black acrylic. Karen uses a 20” x 20” slab of granite. “My work is all about natural stones, so I want to show stone on stone,” she says. “I like simplicity with nothing competing with what I’m shooting.”

 

Get the light right. Mixing tungsten with halogen or fluorescent light can distort color, so pick one and adjust the white balance on your camera accordingly, if you can. A tabletop kit or lightbox can help with that. Karen prefers to use natural light, setting up her jewelry either on her dining room table near a window or outside in a shady spot.

 

Get even depth of field. Karen usually uses a fast shutter speed, 1/125 to 1/250, and sets her aperture at f/8 or better. She has a tripod but doesn’t use it for jewelry when she’s shooting straight down. She literally holds her breath when she clicks the shutter to avoid shake. “I get very good depth of field that way,” she says. “Occasionally I’ll shoot at an angle but most of the time I’m shooting straight down, so not I’m not dealing with a lot of different planes with the jewelry.”

 

Tweak and crop carefully. Karen takes large files and then reduces them in Photoshop. (For more tips on Photoshopping jewelry images, see this article.) “I always having to shrink everything I do for my Artspan site,” Karen says. “But I’m starting from such good quality, it does make a difference.”

 

The quality of her images is more impressive when you consider her entire “photography studio” cost less than $400. She uses a Samsung 12-megapixel point-and-shoot purchased four years ago for about $300 and that granite block, both of which she stashes in a closet when she’s done shooting.

 

Because jewelry photography is so important for selling your work online, we will revisit this topic frequently at Jewelspan, turning to jewelers like Karen who have figured out how to get great images and are willing to share their secrets. In the meantime, I’ve written several articles on this topic that should give you some useful pointers:

 

How to photograph jewelry: tips from the pros

How to photograph jewelry: Photoshop tips from the pros

How to photograph gems: tips from the pros

DIY tips for shooting jewelry outdoors

DIY tips for shooting jewelry on the cheap

DIY tips for serious jewelry photography

 
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