Thursday, April 21, 2011

Seven Tips for Good Jewelry Photos

A friend recently emailed me for advice on photographing her handmade jewelry.  She wants to start selling online at venues like ArtFire and Etsy.  When you sell online all you have are your photographs.  They must convey texture, size, and everything you want your buyers to know about your jewelry. 

I sat back and thought about what I have learned from twenty years of photographing my jewelry.  I came up with these seven tips:

    1)  Look at Artfire and Etsy and anywhere else they sell jewelry and find the photos that speak to you.  Nothing too cluttered - the jewelry must be the focus.  Note the angles they shoot from and the backgrounds they use.  I used to use fabric backgrounds, but they pixillate in digital photos.  Try colored and patterned papers (scrapbooking papers are great), rocks, or old barnwood.

    2)  Use a camera with a macro lens.  If you have a digital dsl, a macro lens can be very spendy.  I use Tiffen close up lenses, which are like reading glasses for your camera.  They are sized by the diameter of your lens and come in combos of magnification that you can use together or separately.  I have seen them for around $35 on Ebay.

    3)  A tripod is essential.  You just can't hold your camera still enough for close up jewelry photography.

    4)  A light tent is essential for getting good lighting and decreasing glare.  For many years my light tent was made from a Costco kitchen bag.  It transmits light in the perfect spectrum; ie: not too yellow and not too blue.  Certain white buckets with parts cut out can work, too.  Jewelry photos tend to come out yellow, and the right light tent can ameliorate this.

    5)  The right lighting is also essential.  Some people get great results outside on a bright but cloudy day.  Sunny days are too bright.  But I want to be able to take pictures comfortably, indoors.  I used to use goose neck desk lamps (cheapies from Target) with full specrum or cool spectrum lightbulbs from Lowes. Place one light on each side of the light tent and one as a spot light coming in from near the camera.  It was a great set-up for many years.  More recently I invested in a Jewelry Photography kit from Tabletop Studios.
It's a great set-up for a reasonable price.
Tabletop Studio's  Deluxe Jewelry Photography Kit

  6)  Take LOTS of pictures, changing the angles of the jewelry and the lights.  You never know what will work.  Take detailed notes.  After much experimentation, I use my camera on auto, so I no longer have to note the settings.  Play with your white balance settings.  Find what works with your camera, your lights, your tent.

    7)  Photo editing software is essential.  You can get everything you need from Photoshop Elements.  I got a new one on Ebay for $35.  I recommend The Missing Manual for whatever edition you get.  It's the best book out there on almost any software, especially Photoshop.  Crop the pictures close, use Levels to darken the darks and lighten the lights (as needed), correct any yellowing, brighten colors as needed, and sharpen.  You must do the latter if you want the photos to look good online.  Then they have to be saved in the size recommended by the site you are putting them on.  They all have different requirements at the moment, though some platforms are more flexible than others.  DPI for online used to be 72, but any computer since 1999 can easily use 96dpi, so I use that for clearer pictures.  I have been told that naming your photos (each one a different name) helps in Google searches. 

And one bonus tip:

   8)  Every photo session is an experiment.  The search for the perfect photo, the one that conveys everything about your work, that makes people stand up and take notice, is an ongoing process.  There is no perfect photo.  Keep playing, changing your props, your backgrounds, your lighting. You will get better.  You will keep learning.  You will get closer to that elusive goal. And along the way you will be attracting buyers and growing your business.

I am still learning.  I always love new tips.  Please add your experiences in the comments section.

Copyright Serendip Designs


  1. Thank you for sharing these tips!

  2. Great tips to get someone started! I know I could've used them early on. Trial and error...and I still go and take more photos to change things up.

  3. I'm always interested in reading new tips on photography. I, too, have been "experimenting" with photographing my jewelry for more than 20 years. Still learning, too! Thanks for these very practical ideas!

  4. Thanks, everyone, for your comments. I had good help in the beginning, but I am still looking for the perfect combination. Every time I take photos, I think of something better to do next time. And then I look at Niche, and see how far my photos have to go...

  5. Oh, I'd be too embarrassed to tell you what I do. This is a great post! It's amazing how much we all have to do to sell a bauble! :)

    Thanks for commenting on the mulch article. We pick the weeds by hand so no toxins there and we do get Garden's Alive. Safer products in there. Thanks,

  6. Thanks, Chris. Except for the hauling and dealing with the heat and the cold, it's way more work than art fairs!

    I've always been organic in the yard and garden, but I wish there was a good organic way to keep grass out of my flower beds besides pulling and torching! Do you know of one?


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