Before I started taking pictures of jewelry, I thought I was pretty okay with a camera. I didn't decapitate anyone, did a reasonable job of framing and rarely blurred photographs. However, as many a jewelry artisan has found, taking pictures of small and sometimes shiny objects is something else. I also made it harder for myself by adding a time crunch - I could not afford much time taking pictures at workshops and beading parties. No fancy photo studio set-up for me!
So in order to help out those who have asked for some tips, here are some things I've learned the hard way, all acquired over a year of taking pictures for this blog. And all without the benefit of a lightbox (so far). I hope these tips will be useful for jewelry artisans who find themselves a little lost in the world of macro photography.
An expensive camera is not necessary but it must have a macro function for really close up shots. So select the macro function (flower symbol) otherwise, pictures will turn out blurry. Although it is useful to show a photo of the whole piece, potential online buyers will want to see closeups as well because they cannot examine the piece in person. Many online artisans on Etsy for example, do precisely that.
2. Natural Light
Working as close as possible to a window for natural light proved very successful. I avoid having to use the flash. I've also tried taking pictures outdoors in sunlight but found the shadows distracting and difficult to minimise. When it is -15 degrees C (5 degrees Fahrenheit), outdoor photography also somehow loses its charm.
3. White Balance
Whilst I was pleased with clearer pictures, my early pictures were rather blue and on the dark side. I was not happy spending way too much time correcting with a photo-editing program afterwards. Fortunately, other experienced artisans on a jewelry forum reminded me to check the camera manual for the white balance setting. By choosing "cloudy" or "indoors" (depending on manufacturer), the camera then compensates for less light.
4. Image size
If you are planning to use your photos in print publicity material, then set your camera to take higher resolution pictures, one with many pixels. This photo printing and resolution chart explains the options. This way you'll have very good pictures for high quality printing with the option of resizing down for internet uses. But if you're like me, where the image is only going to be on the internet or emailed, then, set your camera to take smaller pictures automatically.
Some patience is required when half pressing down the trigger - wait till the jewelry is fully focused before clicking the shot. You know that, I know that. But strangely, I still forget now and then.
For steady shots, a tripod is needed. But I don't use one due to space and time constraints so I try to brace my elbows on the table or on myself to steady my hands.
Chose the background you prefer - either go with textured or coloured background or none at all as in a white background. I like using scrapbooking or wrapping papers and even paper napkins. Other artisans use cloth - I encountered a blog of one who hung her jewelry outside. I've used white mugs to hold up earrings and sometimes some designs look best on a model. There are no hard and fast rules for beauty is in the eye of the beholder. So experiment away to find the look which pleases you best and makes your jewelry look good.
If you are planning to upload your pictures to Flickr or Etsy and such sites where square framing rules, you might want to compose your pictures accordingly or save pictures with more space around the object for later cropping. If you do crop, save it separately from the original image in case you have to go back.
9. Multiple shots
Taking multiple shots in a single session - closeups as well as more distant ones to show the whole piece, varying jewelry positions and backgrounds or even angling the shot will ensure you will have several choices. An example of an angled shot is here. At least one of them is bound to work. After having gone through the hassle of setting up for a photography session, you might as well get it right there and then.
10. Organising and Backing up
These have got to be the most tedious tasks ever. But it is necessary to store your photos in some organised fashion either by date or event or perhaps jewelry category so you can find them easily. Back them up on a CD,DVD. thumb drive etc in case your computer expires from the blue screen of death. The biggest reason for going to all this trouble is to build up your portfolio. Once jewelry items are sold or given away, you'd still have a record of all your creations. You'll be amazed looking back and seeing your growth as a designer.
No one is perfect. Some photo-editing is required to lighten shots, colour correct and other photographic boo-boos. Cropping is the most commonly performed task to reduce excess background. Although backgrounds help set the mood for the shot, too much showing will not do your jewelry justice.
For those who prefer the "light box" look i.e. white backgrounds, then using a good photo-editing program will help you achieve it. Diana Norman, a designer and Photoshop Elements whiz wrote an excellent tutorial on how to whiten your background post-photo session so that your pictures resemble those taken with lightboxes. Photoshop Elements is a simpler and cheaper version of the full size Photoshop. Don't want to pay? Try this free program from Gimp.org.
12. Digital Photo Frame
These high-tech photo frames can be used by artisans to display a slideshow of all their past work at craft shows etc. A great way to showcase your talent and perhaps land commissions. This BBC (UK) overview of digital photo frames includes tips on what to look for when buying one.
13. Get help
Still stuck? Then don't be afraid to ask for help on jewelry forums or search the internet. I did both. For instance, I got some tips from Jim Juris (photographer, jewelry artisan and ebook author) from a forum as well as from his website. He also writes a blog. Rena Klingenberg's Tips for Photographing Jewelry has with many links and is worth checking out. MK Digital Direct's Jewelry Photography Tips is an excellent resource for those who want to get really serious - one tip they show is the use of a bit of wax to keep a ring upright and they discuss LED and halogen lighting too.
How do experts do it? I found this website advertising a commercial tabletop lightbox with fascinating and dramatic pictures showing how they get the reflection when the jewelry appears to be on glass or "black ice". Or how they take "floating jewelry" pictures.
More Photography Posts :
- How to Make Your Own Light Tent or Box
- Craftgawker Showcases Craft Photography
- Jewelry on Babies Photo Shoot by Elisabeth Hoff
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