Jewelry Photography Basics: How to Take Great Jewelry and Gemstone Photos in Natural Light

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 or submit your jewelry for shows and publications, to put your work out there for the world to see! I'll never forget the last few days before I opened my shop online, many years ago. I'd been making jewelry to sell in it for weeks; I'd enlisted all my friends to help me pick a cute Southern name; and I'd been collecting unique props to use in the pictures. The fear and anticipation were intense!

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.

jewelry photography with Azue Mele

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 Mama 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 didn't notice was there, like the trash can) 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.

getting jewelry photos just right in natural light

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.

natural light jewelry props keep with a theme

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 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.

getting rid of glares in jewelry photography

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.

taking great jewelry photos
I wonder what Azur is doing here?

For more tips and instructions for taking perfect photos of your jewelry, check out our new jewelry photography video, Jewelry Photography Basics: How to Shoot Jewelry and Gemstones in Natural Light with Azur Mele. Azur is an accomplished photographer who walks you through every step of the jewelry photography process, from the camera itself to the finished photos–without a bunch of touch-up work required at the end! Her video is full of information and photography basics about lenses, light, camera settings, backdrops/props, and more, plus you can watch and learn along with her how to identify what is causing the glares and reflections on your pieces and how to remove or prevent them. If you've ever tried to photograph a bright, high-polish piece of metal jewelry, you know that's priceless information! Instantly download the video or order the DVD to improve your jewelry photography and how you present your pieces to the world.

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