Tips for Photographing Jewelry

copyright by Marlize Kasselman

In this article Marlize Kasselman shares her tips to photographing jewelry.

You don’t need to be a photographer, or have an expensive studio to take good quality photos of your jewelry. Most people will tell you that they’ve discovered what works best for them by trial and error. However, there are a few tips that will help you make this process as headache-free as possible.

First, and most important of all you need a good digital camera with at least 4 or more mega pixels. Having a macro mode setting is essential for taking good close-up shots of your pieces. Having a good camera can make a huge difference in the quality of your photos...and eventually the sale of your jewelry. Thus, buy the best camera you can afford.

The second most important factor in photographing jewelry is lighting. I prefer shooting outside in natural daylight, although it’s not always possible. Wether you’re shooting indoors or outdoors, use an enclosed light system to avoid shining effects and shadows. A light box, light tent, dome or even a plain white sheet will evenly distribute light over a piece of jewelry. You can easily create your own light box for a fraction of the price of a photo studio.

If you need to shoot indoors, use two light sources with daylight fluorescent bulbs (5000K), which is the closest to natural light. The advantage is that the bulbs don’t heat up too much, and it’s more energy efficient. Set your light stands on either side of your light box to create a diffused, soft light. Instead of using a third light from the front, you can use tin foil sheets that work as reflectors. If you need to photograph pearls, use only one light source to define the round shape of the pearls, otherwise it will appear flat.

Camera settings: (You will need your camera user’s manual for this)

  • Use manual mode, which allows you to adjust the settings manually.

  • Turn your camera on macro-mode, for taking close-up shots.

  • Select spot focus.

  • Disable the flash.

  • Use a tripod.

  • Aperture (f-stops): Set the aperture setting to higher numbers (f8.0-f16.0), where you will get a greater depth-of-field. Low numbers will only let the part of the jewelry closest to the camera be in focus. With higher numbers, more of the picture will be in focus.

  • ISO: This refers to the camera’s sensitivity to light. I normally use ISO 200, but you will need to change your setting until you have the effect you desire.

  • Exposure setting: When photographing jewelry you want to capture the true color of your jewelry. Low exposure will darken the image, while high exposure will lighten it up too much. Read your camera’s manual to see how to adjust the exposure levels. You have to take a few shots to test what level works best. Below is an example of the different exposure settings.

When you are ready to take the photo, make sure the picture is 100% in focus. If it’s blurry, zoom in or out to get it fully focused. Sometimes it might look like the picture is in focus while you’re taking the shot, just to discover it’s blurry after downloading the photos. Take a few shots of each piece and select the one that is 100% in focus. Below are two photos showing the difference between ‘nearly in focus’ and ‘in focus’.

Background color and set-up is a personal preference. Choose a color and set-up that compliment your piece. A too busy background distracts the focus from the jewelry, whilst a plain color background puts emphasis on the piece. There is no right or wrong way to display your jewelry for a shot. It all depends on what you want to accomplish. The traditional way is to use displays. I do like the classic look of a display photo at its time, but sometimes you might need something more radical to draw attention to your creation. The possibilities are endless, as you can see in the photo below.

Most jewelry photos need some editing and cropping after it has been taken. For this you need a good photo editor. is a popular, free online editing software. If you’re planning on buying one, then Photoshop is by far the best photo editing software available.

Apart from making new creations, taking pictures of them has become an enjoyable task!

Author Marlize Kasselman of How To Make Beaded Jewelry has a great site to learn everything you want to know about bead jewelry making with step by step illustrated instructions and lots of free projects.

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