As most photographers know, jewelry is probably the most difficult subject to photograph because it reflects in many cases up to 99% of the light it receives.(1) It’s almost as if you’re taking a photograph of a mirror. You’ll see everything in the room reflected in that tiny little piece — from yourself to the camera and lighting. The shot becomes even more difficult when the stones are colored or contains diamonds. Whether you are just looking to sell some flea market finds on E-Bay or you are starting your own hand-crafted jewelry business on Etsy, you’ll need to learn the art of jewelry photography.
Size of Jewelry
One of the first traits of jewelry you must deal with is the petite size of the product. By utilizing macro settings and lenses, you’ll be able to overcome this first obstacle.
First you’ll need to set your digital camera to its macro settings. Not all digital cameras have these settings — you may need to upgrade your equipment. Most mid-range cameras should have the settings you need to photograph jewelry. Look for a flower emblem, typically by the “Mode” button. adequate for professional quality pictures of jewelry.
If you don’t have one, you’ll also need to invest in a good macro lens. A 200 mm lens should be more than adequate for the photography of jewelry. Be sure to avoid “macro zoom” lenses or “micro” lenses because they do not give you the kind of macro capabilities required for photographing jewelry.(4)
Laying a product flat won’t get you the best results. Get some fishing wire to hang necklaces or some V-shaped boards to lay the product down but allows the product to be propped at an angle. Uhu tack or wax are great for standing up bracelets.
Try using professional Lucite holders seen in high-end jewelry stores. Armature wire is also easily bendable to create a custom-sized holder for shooting watches. You’ll need to experiment to see what works best for you. To get the perfect S-curve in chains, try wooden skewers used for barbecuing to maneuver the links. You can always Photoshop out any tools in post-production that can’t be hidden. There are some fantastic jewelry accessory kits you can purchase online as well that includes items such as:
- Ring Stands
- Ring Holders
- Holding Wax
- Pendant Stand
- Colored backgrounds (flexible plastic)
Learning the ins and outs of lighting may seem daunting so investing in a light box is a must. Often called a light tent, it is a box that shuts out other lights and lets you even out the light overall. It also helps to eliminate shadows and glare. Use the light box with a basic 3 head lighting kit and you’re good to go for creating beautiful images.
Dedo lights are typically used in film and video. They have tiny heads, which can be used to pinpoint various facets of gemstones.
Bouncers, Blockers and Diffusers
If you are forgoing the light tent, you’ll need to manipulate the light in a variety of ways. You must have surfaces that can be placed to block light or reflect light so that it doesn’t cause glare. Flags, or a piece of fabric or non-reflective board, using black, that is placed in a manner to block any unappealing reflections on the jewelry are the key here. Using a black flag helps eliminate reflections and glare especially in all silver pieces.
Refining you skills with online courses is highly recommended. One of the best I’ve found is Imaging Prep. They offer affordable monthly memberships. Download their free eBook to get a taste of what you can expect. In the end, if you can draw attention to the beauty of the jewelry versus the photographic skills used to take the shot, you’ve done a great job.