Selling Handmade Jewelry Online: Tips for Great Photography

It doesn't matter how long you've been making jewelry and getting compliments on it from friends and strangers–it's still scary to sell your jewelry, to put your work out there for the world to see! I'll never forget the last few days before I opened my shop on Etsy. I'd been making jewelry to sell in it for weeks; I'd enlisted all my friends on Facebook to help me pick a "cute Southern name" (thanks for Southern Baubelles, Dawn!); and I'd been collecting unique props to use in the pictures. The fear and anticipation were intense!

 
This sparkly gem with large flat facets was nearly impossible to photograph in sunlight, as you can see!

After taking measurements and writing copy filled with important details and keywords to help searchers find my handmade jewelry, I set up a little photo studio at home and snapped away for hours. I'd spent the previous few years working in the e-commerce division of a jewelry company, so I knew the importance of getting good photos from multiple angles to give potential customers as much information about each piece as possible. I also knew that I needed to show the jewelry on a model as well as off.

 
I love the bright red in my apple shots in the park.

Literally hundreds of photos later, I spent hours upon hours sorting, cropping, and tweaking photos. All that I thought I knew about photographing jewelry was true and helpful–but there was plenty I didn't know, such as how harshly bright sunlight glares on faceted gemstones and tanned skin (my beautiful mother served as my model) and how many little things show up that you don't want to see (such as lint and fingerprints–and whatever might be in the background that you forgot was there) when you're zooming in to show the little details that you do want to see (such as the luster of a pearl or the intricate details of a clasp). I ended up having to retake the photos for several pieces–sometimes more than once–learning by trial and error what worked and what didn't.

I learned which times of day provide the best light (early evening was bright enough for good photos but not so bright that reflections and glare were an issue–plus since it was summer in the South, we didn't have to suffer through the hottest part of the day!) and to shield my model with an umbrella when the light was still too bright (which also provided shade to keep her cool). I discovered that hanging earrings on a glass just caused too many reflections and finally found props I liked for earrings–peaches in spring and summer, apples in fall and winter. They kept with my Southern theme and were readily available for little expense.

     
Before I got a photo of my signature piece to look like this . . . I had to go through all of this! Mother-of-pearl has such pretty iridescence, I worked hard to capture it along with the carving in the flower.

 
I loved the pretty sunset-like colors and Southern feel created by using a peach in my photos.

I also found the perfect outdoor place for taking photos; it was a picnic area in a national park near my house, with tall trees to diffuse the sunlight but still allow plenty of natural light on my jewelry. It has picnic tables made out of a neutrally colored material that was just dull enough not to reflect too much but shiny and textured enough to be interesting. The simple and neutral surface was the perfect contrast to shiny metals and colorful gemstones. The picnic tables provided seating for me and a photography tabletop surface all in one that were just the right height and size for me. It was also peaceful, pleasant, and breezy there, even in July, which allowed me to take photos for hours without getting tired or tired of it. The background was no longer an issue, either; I had tree bark, forest, and a creek to choose from.

 
After photo editing and lighting practice, this one turned out just right–nice light, pretty skin, just enough shine, and gorgeous pops of color.

At times when hard light still created too much glare (such as on large shiny stones with large facets or flat surfaces), I employed a photography trick I learned from a gemstone photographer I had worked with: a simple piece of paper held over the jewelry blocks just enough light to prevent the glare.

 

For more tips and instructions for taking perfect photos of your jewelry (and other crafts), check out our new book The Crafter's Guide to Taking Great Photos by Heidi Adnum. It's packed full of information on photography basics such as light, camera settings (shutter speed, aperture, and more), styling and props, backgrounds and composition, and photography equipment such as light boxes and diffusers–but it also has chapters devoted to specifically taking photos of various crafty subjects (which I know my cross-crafting friends among you will love), such as knitting and needlecrafts, purses and accessories, fabric and fashion, pottery, toys and dolls, home decor–and of course, jewelry! The Crafter's Guide to Taking Great Photos ends with several chapters on photo editing, finishing, and storage, as well as the business of selling: branding, marketing, and social networking. Best of all, it includes information and tips from dozens of successful crafters who share our specific experiences in photographing and selling jewelry online.

How about you, have you learned any smart tips and tricks for photographing your jewelry? I'd love to hear in the comments below!

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