Sunday, February 13, 2011

A few notes on jewelry photography

1. TADA365 #38e Home Sweet Home, 2. TADA365 #38d Marquise earrings, 3. TADA365 #38c Marquise earrings, 4. TADA365 #38a Oval Ring

Today, I thought I'd share a few things that worked for me over the years and hope that will help you as well. The images above are pieces of my recent collection, photographed under the conditions that I will briefly describe in this post.

I should start by telling you that I don't have any fancy equipment, camera, lights etc. I use a simple point-and-shoot Canon Digital IXUS 95 IS, which must have cost me about 120€, and that’s last year’s price. My previous one was similar but my little nephew thought it was a nice toy for him.....the rest is history!

I have also bought a lightbox from e-bay for about $10-15 but it never actually worked for me. I believe the reason was that my light sources were inadequate.

What do I do?

First, I always shoot my finished pieces outside in daylight. I just shoot them at my balcony when the light is correct. You need to experiment to understand the light.

By trial and error, I have found that I should never shoot under direct sunlight because the images are overexposed and the colors look as if they are burnt.

Early in the morning you get too much yellow, at noon it's too blue! An overcast day is perfect because it means I can shoot whenever I want, but here in Greece we get a lot of sunlight during most of the day. So I have to be patient and wait until late afternoon to get it right.

As expected, shooting outside imposes certain limitations, waiting for the best light being by far the most significant. Then there are days when it's cold outside or the wind makes it impossible for the pieces to stay still.

Another thing you need to experiment with is the background. You could use paper, plastic, cardstock or even wood.
As I mentioned before, I just use a black plastic IKEA side table. I prefer it because I don't get a lot of reflections and the color of it appears as if gradient grey, when the light is appropriate.

Though it has helped me a lot, after using it for quite a while, the surface is now scratched. I will either replace it or find a new background.

When I'm ready to shoot, I take lots of pictures from many different angles. The camera is set in marco mode and I focus on the object, not the background. The image has to be sharp and crisp. I should say that I use a tripod to control this, but the truth is... I don't!

The next step is to select the best photos and edit them. You don't need an expensive software to do this but if you have Photoshop, that would certainly be nice. Another option is Picnic, which is a free online photo-editing tool.

I'm on a Mac and the software I use is Aperture, which let's me organize and also edit my pictures. I should write about photo editing next time.

So my conclusion is that the key is to experiment in order to find what works best for you. Any additional knowledge regarding photography and your camera settings is helpful but my point is that you neither need to be an expert nor spend a fortune on equipment to achieve acceptable quality photos.

My advice is, whenever you need something extra special, hire a professional. I recently had such an experience, which was very enlightening and made me realize the difference between diy and professional photoshooting.….But that's another story and maybe another blog post!

I would love to hear your thoughts on this subject!

Thank you for reading!


  1. Thanks for writing this Maria!!!!!! This is so helpful. I think getting good pictures when you're not really a photographer is very challenging and it's good to get tips. I hope other people will also add what they do. A question I have is where is the light hitting so you get that gradient. Do you have control of it outside? Are all your pictures shot outside in the daylight? I think I need to get one of those Ikea tables!!!!

    I was going to buy one of those light boxes, but they were $100 and seemed like it should be easy to rig something up. I have some of those heavy wire squares that you hook together to make shelves and cut out the mesh from inside a couple of them and made a box draped with either white or black cloth. I've experimented with white and colored nice construction paper, silk, satin, naugahyde vinyl, painted glass, plexiglas, curved on a little shelf to the back top of the frame. I just use desk lamps on both sides and one on top with about 100 watt lights. Sometimes I use the lights sometimes I don't. I think I like the natural light better, but it's usually midnight when I need to take the photos so... It's still all an experiment for me, I really don't feel I know what I'm doing, but I do think I know more than I did a year ago. There are so many variables, and they seem to change depending on the piece.

  2. OK! Ikea here I come :)) So that was your secret background :) Always admired the way your photos look, and you are right, concentrated on the piece in focus! As for me, as much as I looove to see clean lines, when it comes to photographing my own pieces often I find myself trying to blend the piece with the surrounding setting, the background. As Evelyn said, I too don't know what exactly I am doing, but certainly learning and progressing in it. Learned some things you mentioned such as afternoon light is the best because it gives beautiful contrasts with shadows without overexposing the image.

    Thanks for this post!

  3. Yes, I agree that photography needs a lot of experimenting, especially since we 're not really photographers :-)
    Evelyn, the light comes behind the jewelry pieces but it's never direct sunlight. I have experimented by placing the table in many different spots on my balcony. I realized that I should just place it right outside the balcony door and face the sky while photographing...I hope this makes sense!

  4. Can you take a photo of your photo setup?!!

  5. Yes, Evelyn, I'm planning to do so for my next photography post!

  6. I'd love a post on Aperture and organizing photos. I have a Mac as well and do a lot in iPhoto and a bit in Photoshop Elements - but I've heard great things about Aperture. But organizing is not my strong suit. : (

    Thanks so much for writing this Maria. it's pretty much the way I shoot too - but your pics are so much better than mine. I shoot right next to a window, but use Auto on my camera. Maybe I should experiment with focusing myself. I don't use a tripod either. ; )

  7. Thank you Lora! I think that if you shoot outside, instead of next to the window, the light will be even better. Have you tried using macro on your camera (the little flower button) ? It will give you more crisp images.
    I plan to do another post on editing, I hope it won't take me another year to complete it :-)

  8. This is a wonderful post Maria !! I love your images !
    I shoot my pictures the same way ;D, hope one day I can be as good as you are !!!
    Thanks for sharing this information with us !