by Deborah Mutter
Photography is a hobby of mine. Although I am by no means a professional, I enjoy spending time doing landscape and flower photography. With my newfound love of Kumihimo, I wanted to combine the two hobbies and start sharing the braids I created through photos. So, I took out my Nikon D7100 camera put it on automatic and this is what I shot:
I was so disappointed and realized immediately that photographing landscapes was far different than photographing jewelry. Jewelry seems to have particular challenges. Thus, my quest to learn to take a better picture became my mission. Whether you have a 35mm camera, a point-and-shoot, or you are using your cell phone, I think many of these tips will be helpful.
Tip #1 Light Control
One of the keys to getting great results is to control the light you’ll need to illuminate your subject. This can be quite simple to do if you confine it to a small space. A light tent will soften and diffuse the light and provide consistent results. Check the internet as there is a lot of information for making one yourself. You can also photograph in the soft natural light streaming in from a window.
I recommend that you do a little research to find what will best fit your budget and needs as there are many affordable tabletop lighting options. Another option is a lightbox. There are several manufacturers for this type of product and it usually sells for under $50.00.
Tip #2 Portable Lighting
It is best if you can have some top light as well as some side lights. I bought some inexpensive fixtures with clamps on them at Home Depot and added “white light” bulbs. Using 2 or more lights will increase the dimensionality of the piece of jewelry, and affect how the shadows fall from the shapes and curves of each piece.
Tip #3 Clean Your Jewelry
Make sure the jewelry is free of dust, smudges, and fingerprints. Canned air followed by a soft, lint-free microfiber cloth will help.
Tip #4 Staging
Positioning is everything. Find the most flattering angle for each piece. There is not a universal perfect angle, play around and take several shots until you find the angle that shows the piece to its best advantage.
Tip #5 Macro Lens
If you have a camera that you can change lenses on, you may want to use a macro lens. Some of the point and shoot cameras have a macro setting as well. If you don’t have a macro lens, or are using the camera on your phone, use the zoom feature rather than shooting up close to the subject.
Tip #6 Use a Tripod
Focus is important and so I always use a tripod. (You can even get small tripods to fit your cell phone.) I usually use autofocus as it is generally more accurate than manual. I also usually use an aperture (camera lens opening) of f/11 or greater to get a majority of the jewelry in focus.
Tip #7 Keep it Simple
Placing jewelry on decorative props, wood, metal or glass blocks adds complexity and takes away from the featured jewelry. Before I learned this, this is how I would photograph my jewelry.
Your eyes don’t have a place to rest due to all that is going on in the picture. The shells and jewelry are competing for attention. Also, notice the picture is not sharp and the shell is chipped. These are the little things that become so apparent after the fact.
Tip #8 Backgrounds
Shoot on a clean white backdrop as the jewelry will be better lit. You want your photos to have a simple, clean look. I also use the automatic white balance setting on my camera to allow it to recognize the type of light source and capture colors as close to how they actually appear in real life as possible.
Tip #9 Jewelry is Often Very Shiny
Since jewelry can be shiny, you don’t want the camera lens reflected into the jewelry. Change the jewelry’s position if you find that happening.
Tip #10 Photoshop
For post-production, I use PhotoshopElements software. It’s much easier to use than the regular Photoshop, and much cheaper too. Go to their website as you can get a free trial. There are also many other easy programs that offer the ability to easily enhance and crop images. The iPhone photo app can do a lot without much technical knowledge.
Final Photo Comparison
And finally, putting everything together that I learned, I feel like I have come a long way. This is an image I am proud of!
All jewelry pictured is either designed by or inspired by Adrienne Gaskell.