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How to Use Your Smartphone for Jewelry Photography

I didn't end up buying a dSLR camera when my old compact camera died a few years ago.  One of those with a good macro lens would mean I would be out a major chunk of cash.  So I went with a then high end compact camera, a Panasonix Lumix DMC-ZS10 which gave me some of the same settings as a dSLR.

I use my camera A LOT so it will inevitably wear out.  I thought I should start saving up for a dSLR camera the next time round.  But in the last couple of years or so, smartphone cameras such as the one for my iPhone 5 have become so good, I may not need to buy a dSLR after all.

Smartphones are almost always with you so it is no wonder people are now using them a great deal for photography. So much so the market for compact cameras has been seriously undermined.  Earlier this year, the fact that the New York Times featured an Instagram picture on their front page made news.

Here are some tips to start you off into jewelry photography with your smartphone. First of all you'll need a suitable grip attachment.  I bought and like the Joby GripTight Mount which provides a spring loaded hold on any smartphone.  It screws onto any tripod. Another style to consider is the Joby GripTight GorillaPod Stand

However, do not use the native camera app which is too basic.  I recommend the camera+  for the iPhone (and iPad).  Check out this review for the best Android camera apps if you have an Android smartphone.

The camera+ app does all the basic stuff like crop, lighting adjustments and much, much more such as filters (for Instagram fans) and special effects like HDR and depth of field.  Check out the slick video over on Mashable to see more about the camera+ app.

It has a timer which is crucial for taking sharper pictures.  Placing your finger on the screen will bring up the focus square.  Move it to where you want the focus to be.

What I really like about it is the ability to separate the focus and exposure and move them to where you want them with your finger. Just press on the + sign on the top right of the square. Drag the exposure sign to different parts of the screen and pick a spot where your photo improves best with.

After that, I cropped the photo in the editing part of the app.  Cropping is the best way to do a "closeup" with a smartphone.  Do not use the digital zoom on smartphones.  It is not the same as optical zoom and the quality of your photographs will suffer if you do.

I also experimented with the lighting.  The backlit function lightened the photograph quite nicely.

So let's compare the photos of  my copper earrings taken on both my iPhone and my compact camera on the same day.  You be the judge how they turned out!  Vote on the poll below.

iPhone 5 : Copper and Lucite Flower Earrings
Compact Camera : Copper and Lucite Flower Earrings

Macro enabled, ISO 100, aperture priority f 6.3

Which Photo Do You Like Better free polls

Once you are done spiffing up your jewelry photographs, they are already there on your phone to instantly share on blogs and social media like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr and so on.

Also check out how a professional photographer compares the relative performance of the iPhone 5 and iPhone 4S cameras. There is a significant improvement with the iPhone 5.

There is one great feature of the iPhone which regular cameras do not have - it has both front and back cameras.  You can be your own model by using its rear facing camera to take pictures of yourself  if you have no available model.   All you have to do is select for the rear facing camera and get into the right position!  The camera+ app's timer also helps.

Here is an actual jewelry selfie modelling this ring from my stamping tutorial. It took a few trial photos and cropping to get the right picture I wanted!

This doesn't work for all designs but you can really do some nice color blocking easily with one of the many color effects apps-  some free, some not. What they do is make the original in grey tones. Then you just zoom in and "color in" using your finger. I used Color Splash for this photo of my tassel earrings.   I've seen one artisan use this technique (she will be featured later this fall).

One last cautionary bit of advice . Remember to turn off the geotagging on smartphones for the in built camera and any camera apps.  Same with GPS enabled regular cameras. If you don't, any photos you upload online will still carry the GPS signature.  This will very easily allow anyone with the right software to pinpoint where you took the photos i.e. where you live, work and hangout. Please pass on this tip - I see many personal photos including those of children uploaded to social media and wonder if they know about this privacy issue.

So, would you use your smartphone for jewelry photography?

UPDATE : The camera+ app itself has been updated so the above pictures of functions are not quite the same now.  Please check here to find out more about my How to Photography Jewelry Webinar.

Before You Go:
Original Post by THE BEADING GEM
Jewelry Making Tips - Jewelry Business Tips 


  1. Definitely checking out this app. I have been using my iPhone more and more for my pictures, because it's quick and handy. I upload pics to my blog from my phone. Sometimes I do emailing to myself so I can save them under a file name. Hope this app will let you name your pics too. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Your post came at just the right time - I recently upgraded to an iphone and after taking a couple of pictures with the camera and seeing the high quality end product, I immediately thought of using it to take jewelry pictures. Thanks for this very useful post!

  3. Thanks once on, and just when I needed the are fab!

  4. Wow, thanks for this info. I would never have thought a better photo could be taken with an iPhone, but is has! Well, I'm going to need a new phone anyway and could always use another camera :D

  5. I love the effect used in the tassle shot - is this a part of the camera+ app. Also will it work only in iphones?

  6. Linda, I don't think the app lets you name the filenames. But there might be other apps that help you organize your photos better like Photoful.

  7. Zoraida - you will find having both an iPhone camera and other camera useful especially for blogging.

  8. Divya, the color effect is a separate app. There are many such apps for the iPhone but the one I use is Color Splash. I am sure the Android market place have equivalent apps. Happy hunting!

  9. I use my iPhone for all my pics, and use Camera+ too. Interweave have a great video "Shoot, Share Sell" (I think that's the correct title) that shows you how to edit in iPhoto on your phone or iPad as well.

  10. Thanks for the tip about the Interweave video, Karen! I am pretty certain I won't be buying a dSLR any time soon. 87% of readers so far prefer the iphone picture.

  11. Thanks for the info Pearl! I plan to start selling my jewelry next yr. & have been researching the new phones. Mine is so old it doesn't even have a camera. It's 'just' a phone! guess that makes me a dinosaur. figured I'd upgrade so I could use the Square. Now I want it for the camera too. Not even to make calls with. My, how times have changed. Would you use these photos in your Etsy shop? I thought the iphone one was better than the camera one, BTW

  12. I absolutely will be using my iPhone for Etsy pictures. As you can see from the comparison, the iPhone has an incredible AWB (auto white balance) delivering a more accurate overall color and light balance. 87% of readers including you preferred the iPhone picture. Don't forget, the iPhone 5S (?) is out tomorrow. If it is a new phone upgrade, you can count on it being even better than my iPhone 5.

  13. I have used my iPhone 4s to take jewelry pics, but it's not anywhere near the quality of my dslr, and I am only using an older dslr model at that, the Canon Rebel XT. But it will certainly do in a pinch, just not super up close photos. I have a homemade light box that I use which is great for lighting photos when I don't have sunlight. I have never invested in a photo app though (I use Snapseed and PS Express, both free), and your review has made me seriously rethink that.

  14. I just wanted to say thank you so much for this extremely helpful tutorial. I purchased the camera plus in the App Store and I'm on my way!

  15. You're welcome and have fun, tastefairy!!

  16. I do use the 5S and Camera+ for Etsy shots even though I have a high end DSLR.
    I like the ease of using window light and reflectors for quick shots that look great at the size required for Etsy. I learned a few new things about the Camera+ from your demo. Thank you. One to add to the list is to use the volume control on the headphone cord as a cable release. If you did mention this, I missed it.

  17. Thanks Carol! No I didn't mention the cable release tip this time (I did for a talk at our local beading society). If you have the camera+ app, you don't need it.

  18. Hi again Pearl. re: volume control for cable release… don't need it, just prefer it to delayed time release. Or am I missing something else? C.

  19. You are right! It is a matter of preference which one. I prefer not to bother with a cable simply because I am such a clutz. I would probably get the cable tangled up somewhere!

  20. Thank you for this clever tuto and for all you share day after day.

  21. Fantastic. Thank you for this great advice.

  22. Great post about how to use Smartphone while taking photograph. Added I learn many things on how to take photograph.


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