Net Profits: Common Jewelry Photography Mistakes
By Cathleen McCarthy
As you’ve probably discovered, jewelry is not easy to photograph. Chains and pendants are difficult to position, and you’re often trying to capture detail in a couple square inches. If the jewelry has color, you need to avoid distortion. Opaque cabochons require one kind of lighting, faceted another, textured metal a third… well, the list goes on.
Best to take it step by step. Many jewelry artists are figuring out, by trial and error, how to get effective photos of their work. Do yourself a favor. Invest in decent equipment and take the time to learn to use it.
A good place to start is with tips from professional jewelry photographers. I spoke to some of the best and got them to share their secrets to getting magazine quality product shots. That series is among the most visited posts on my blog.
The most common mistakes people make photographing their jewelry? Poor lighting, bad focus, and color distortion – in that order. Here are a few tips from the pros for avoiding those pitfalls.
Get the right light. Professionals often use some combination of tungsten, strobe, and HMI lights to shoot jewelry. Each has its pros and cons, but some cons can be fixed via camera settings. Most mid-range consumer cameras come with a light balance you can set, for example, to read tungsten light as white instead of yellow. As long as you stick to one light source at a time, you can set your camera to read it as white light.
If you have to pick one reliable source of light – one your camera will understand intuitively – it would be Mother Nature. Shooting outside has its own issues, of course – wind being one. Here’s how one Etsy seller manages to get great jewelry shots using a simple point-and-shoot in her own backyard.
Using a tabletop studio kit with built-in light is another option. For more lighting tips, see: How to photograph jewelry: tips from the pros.
Sharpen your focus. It’s always best to do this when you’re shooting. If you need one shot to tell the whole story of a piece, you will want to set your camera for maximum depth of field. If you’re showing more than one image, as on Etsy, you can afford to get creative and sharpen just the forefront on at lease one shot.
Chances are, your image will need a little sharpening after the fact. Most basic photo-editing software allows you to do this pretty easily – but don’t over-sharpen or your photo will start to look grainy. Here are some tips for using Photoshop, the gold standard.
Capture the color. If you work with colored stones, pearls or enamel, it’s crucial to capture the richness of your palette. Different gem colors and cuts require different lighting. Too much white light causes glare on polished surfaces. Diffused light works best with faceted stones, while opal’s colors are best captured by opening the aperture to let in more light. See more at: How to photograph gems: tips from the pros.
For more help upping your jewelry photography game this year:
NET PROFITS is a regular feature about using the Internet for jewelry selling of special interest to those with a home-based jewelry business that appears in Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist. Learn more in “Shoot to Win.”
CATHLEEN MCCARTHY is a freelance writer whose stories about jewelry, art, and business appear in dozens of magazines and newspapers, and her own site, The Jewelry Loupe. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.