Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Photographing Your Jewelry

One of the key ingredients to operating a successful on-line jewelry business is great pictures; and it’s one of the hardest things to achieve.

Jewelry can be one of the most difficult subjects to photograph. Not only do you have to contend with the highly reflective nature of the metals, many times, reflecting up to 99%, but there are the stones, which will inevitably, show the colors on that shiny piece of jewelry.

There are several elements for great photographs but I have personally found 4 key elements to photographing jewelry.

• Lighting—natural sunlight is the best, either outside or near a large window that gets direct sunlight. If that is not an option, then use a photo cube or light tent. You don’t need professional lights in fact, those large silver shop lights you get at Home Depot or Lowes will work (and they’re a lot cheaper). You can order a photo cube from  Harbor Freight for around $20. This cube is just the right size for jewelry and even has hook and loop fasteners to hang your jewelry from.

• Experience—this comes with practice. Be prepared to photograph and delete hundreds of pictures before you get the results you are looking for. Every day that I use my camera, I learn something new and gain more experience. I also have 3 books I highly recommend and depend on to help with the learning curve.

• Lens—if you have a DSLR camera, then you have a wide selection of lens to choose from. I suggest getting a set of filters to use with your close up lens. My set has 4 filters, all in varying sizes, including a macro. I use them with my wide angle lens so I can get the entire piece of jewelry in the picture. If you don’t have a DSLR, you do want to make sure you get a camera that has Macro capabilities built in.

• Cameras—an expensive camera is not necessary to take good photographs however, it does need to have a macro setting and the ability to turn the automatic flash off. I have a Sony DSLR A300 and really love it. It has manual capabilities so I can set the settings to my preference. It is pricey, around $600 but again, it is not necessary to spend that much. Before the Sony, I used a FinePix camera that I bought at Wal-Mart for $89. It had a macro setting and several manual settings I could use like, turning off the automatic flash. That little camera still takes great pictures. I just no longer use it to photograph jewelry.

While many people swear by taking pictures with their scanners, I have to disagree that you get a high quality, professional look. Don’t get me wrong, I have seen some “great” pictures done with scanners and I have used a scanner for various items, I just don’t feel it delivers a professional quality picture for jewelry nor does it give you the creative freedom a camera does. I would come closer to using a scanner for stones before I would jewelry.

If you are serious about your jewelry business and want to promote it in the best way possible, I highly recommend investing in a good camera and a couple of filters and close up lens. But if you don’t want to spend the money for a DSLR, then at least buy a small digital camera with the options I mentioned above. Fuji FinePix has some great cameras for under $100.

Next thing to invest in are some good books. I have 3 favorites that I consider my photography bibles and use continuously as I try to learn how to use my camera to its full advantage.

Photographing Arts, Crafts & Collectibles by Steve Meltzer.

This book is great. It’s not a very technical book but a “great” place for beginners to start. He talks about what kind of camera you need for many items including jewelry. Plus he gives you a test to perform in the store before you buy the camera, if you are going to use it for jewelry.

He also discusses lighting and lighting equipment, choosing the right backgrounds, how to compose a photograph, computer enhancement and much more. I think this book is great no matter what type of camera you have.

David Busch’s Sony DSLR-A350/A300/A200 Guide to Digital SLR Photography

Another great book that picks up a lot of the technical things that Photographing Arts, Crafts & Collectibles leaves out. While this is specific to my camera, there are several different camera books by David as well as a lot of great books for various cameras and digital photography at Amazon. I mention this book because it will give you an idea of what type of book to look for.

Finally, my user’s manual. This third book works hand in hand with the other 2 books. The other 2 books may not explain exactly how to change your settings, the user’s manual will. Take for example Fstop. Both books talk about it and the importance of it, but neither one tells you exactly how to change the setting. All you have to do is look up Fstop in the index and your user’s manual will tell you how to do it.

By using the users manual in conjunction with other photography books, you not only get a good understanding of why it is important and what situations you need to use certain settings in but you learn exactly how to change those settings.

Another great learning resource for jewelry photography is MK Digital Direct. This website has a wealth of suggestions and tips for the jewelry photographer and the information contained there is very extensive.

One of the motivational things on my list this year is updating my blog more often so this completes 2010 installment #2. Of course, there are about 24 other things on my to do list which means I need to complete 2 things each month. I think the next thing I will do is post my “to do” list and give everyone progress reports.

1 comment:

  1. Great info Nancy. I've been tossing around the idea of getting a new camera but I can't settle on whether I want another point and shoot, or DSLR. I go back and forth. I do know that I need to have the manual settings like I do now though. It's hard for me to find the line between where the camera actually makes a difference, versus all of the other factors. So.. my quest continues:)