In theory, jewelry should be easy to sell online. Who could resist all those pearls and diamonds? However, the reality is that taking great photos of small, sparkly things is surprisingly hard. Jewelry photography is definitely a specialized skill.
If you are just getting started in this craft, you might not have the budget for a professional photographer. But fear not — anyone can take amazing jewelry photos with nothing more than a smartphone and the right apps.
Keep reading this post to pick up some top jewelry photography tips, and you might just discover a couple of tools that will make the process a lot easier!
As with all types of product photography, the quality of your jewelry photos can have a big influence on your success as an e-commerce seller.
In a traditional retail store, shoppers have the opportunity to walk around and try on anything that catches their eye. But with an online jewelry business, the only tools you have for conveying the beauty of your pieces are images and words.
Images are particularly important. Research from MIT shows that the human eye can process images in as little as 13 milliseconds. Try reading a witty product description in that time.
In any case — when it comes to selling shiny things, a picture truly tells a thousand words.
The task of photographing jewelry involves overcoming a number of challenges.
For a start, most jewelry pieces are pretty small. Trying to get your camera — let alone a smartphone — to focus on anything with these tiny dimensions can be tricky.
In addition, jewelry tends to be covered in gemstones, polished metal, and other highly reflective materials. This means you need to think carefully about lighting, otherwise your camera will be dazzled by bright spots of light.
One other important aspect of jewelry photography is staging. At the very least, you will probably want to present your pieces of jewelry on a clean white background.
But for a little extra pizazz, many sellers upload lifestyle images. If you want to compete, you will also need to take shots of a model wearing your bracelet, watch, necklace, or even earring. Again, tricky business!
Now we have covered all the challenges, it’s time to look at the solutions. In the following list, we’re going to cover some of the most important jewelry photography techniques known to man.
Strap yourselves in folks, here come the tips!
When you’re working with tiny products, the small things become really important. This is why expert jewelry photographers have an eye for detail.
As you line up each shot, take some time to scan around the frame. At first glance, everything might appear beautiful — but pausing for a few extra seconds may reveal something slightly out of place.
For instance, it only takes one accidental fingerprint on a shiny metal ring, or a couple of specks of dust, to destroy the illusion of lustrous perfection. So, whatever type of jewelry you want to capture and whichever techniques you use, be sure to maintain a clean working environment.
On the flip side, there are many small details that should be in the frame and in focus.
During your pre-capture checks, make sure that your piece looks nice and crisp. If necessary, readjust the focus of your camera.
To capture earrings and delicate pendants, your camera lens needs to be really close to the product. Unfortunately, many DSLR lenses and smartphones simply cannot focus properly at this short distance.
The solution? You need to grab a macro lens or close-up filter.
These accessories are specifically designed for the task of photographing tiny subjects. They essentially allow your camera to get closer while maintaining sharp focus.
Macro lenses usually require an investment of a few hundred dollars; close-up filters don’t offer quite the same level of image quality, but they are way cheaper. If you’re shooting on a smartphone, you can get a clip-on macro lens such as those made by Moment and Olloclip.
As you set up your first shot, zoom in on your product and watch the display every time you touch your camera. Chances are that the screen will provide a realistic simulation of a 9.0 magnitude earthquake.
The reason for this phenomenon is that the zoom is magnifying vibrations.
Modern cameras and smartphones are pretty good at compensating for the shakes. But if you want that high-end, glossy magazine look, you can’t afford to rely on image stabilization alone.
The simple fact is, anyone who shoots jewelry on a regular basis needs to use a tripod.
This could be a small tabletop one, although some of the cheaper options might struggle to support a DSLR or mirrorless camera. Alternatively, you can go for a full-height tripod. This will be a little more expensive, but it will afford you more creative options.
From autofocus to exposure compensation, cameras today are packed with smart features. Most of the time, you can shoot in Auto mode and get stunning shots.
But when it comes to something more challenging, like jewelry, you’re only going to capture top-quality images if you take on some creative responsibility.
No, don’t walk away! We’re not going to bore you with an in-depth explanation of the shutter speed, ISO, and white balance. But it’s a good idea to learn about aperture settings.
You see, every camera lens has an aperture at the front that allows light to pass through the layers of glass. But in many cases, the size of that aperture is adjustable.
Opening the aperture wider means you collect more light, but the area of sharp focus in your photo (the “depth of field'') will become smaller. This effect is particularly strong when you shoot small subjects.
So, we highly recommend using a smaller aperture when shooting jewelry. The sweet spot is around f/11–f/16 (bigger numbers equals smaller aperture).
If you select “A” on the mode dial of most cameras, you will be able to adjust this number while allowing your camera to figure out all the other camera settings. You can learn more about this whole subject in the video tutorial below.
It’s definitely possible to shoot jewelry using only studio lights. But if you have the option, we would recommend opting for a natural light source instead.
Why? Well, it’s a lot cheaper than buying a professional studio lighting setup. For the inexperienced product photographer, daylight is also easier to handle. Just as importantly, it offers that soft lighting that complements the sheen of jewelry.
Try setting up your mini studio with your piece between the camera and a window. Then, use a reflector to bounce light back onto the product. This will give you nice even lighting all round, without any harsh reflections or dark shadows.
While you’re working on lighting and checking for fingerprints, you’re probably not going to notice what is happening in the background.
Yet the backdrop of your jewelry images is actually very important. It’s like the frame around a picture — it sets the tone, and should hopefully complement your silver-work.
A good starting point is a clean white background. It’s classy, non-distracting, and it reflects light onto your product.
The DIY route here is to use a piece of white paper, bent through 90º so that it slides under and behind your jewelry.
For even better lighting and a seamless white backdrop, you could upgrade to a light tent. This is essentially a small fabric cube that acts like a tiny photo studio. It’s definitely a good investment for regular jewelry photographers.
Alternatively, you could take your shots in front of any neutral background and insert your perfect backdrop digitally. Pixelcut lets you do this on your phone in less than two minutes, with zero editing skill required.
Of course, you don’t have to stick with white. You could try experimenting with different materials, including natural wood and fabrics. Photographic retailers also sell specialized backgrounds with various patterns and gradients.
And if you use Pixelcut, you can replace the original background with any color or a perfect gradient, or pick from thousands of stock images and textures. You can also add drop shadows and text descriptions, so the image is ready to upload instantly.
Whichever option you choose, just make sure that the colors work in harmony with your product.
One mistake we often see with rookie jewelry photographers is shooting from on high. While this works occasionally, the best jewelry photos are usually taken from only just above the height of the product.
It makes sense when you think about it. We might look at a ring on someone’s finger from that high viewpoint if the wearer has their arms down by their sides. But to really see the beauty, we ask the person to raise their hand closer to eye height.
This is where tabletop tripods come in useful. Instead of having to stoop low, you can simply set up your camera and then adjust as necessary.
While studio-style product images are important, they are a little bit...boring, perhaps? They show off the product in a nice way, but they don’t really catch the eye.
If you want to make sure your jewelry product photography is noticed, it’s definitely worth taking some lifestyle shots.
An obvious starting point is to get someone to wear your jewelry.
The main skill you need in a model is the ability to stay very still. Even if you have solved the camera shake, a wobbly hand makes for poor photos of a ring. To help out your model, ask them to lean against something or rest their hand on a cushion.
Some jewelers also like to show off their pieces in other ways, such as hanging from a stand or placed on a dresser. These options are worthwhile — just remember to pay close attention to lighting, and make sure to remove background distractions.
Definitely! In fact, all of the tips above can be applied to jewelry photography with an iPhone or Android device.
To help you elevate your smartphone snaps to the next level, here are a few additional tips for your next photoshoot:
Try different lighting styles — There are many different lighting accessories that are made specifically for smartphones.
Use LED light cubes to fill in darker shadows, and ring lights for a dazzling glow. Experiment with diffusers and softboxes. And remember, sunshine streaking across a table can look a-maz-ing.
Shoot for the edit — Love it or hate it, photo editing is a key part of jewelry photography. It’s better to think of each photo as a starting point, rather than the final image.
At the very least, your post-production workflow should include retouching (removing imperfections), and adjusting the light levels. While desktop photographers use Photoshop for these tasks, smartphone users can utilize Snapseed and Pixelcut.
Think about the destination — Throughout the photoshoot and your editing process, it’s worth remembering where your images are going to appear.
Available on iOS and Android, our app lets you remove and replace backgrounds with a couple of taps. You can also edit photos with simple controls, and resize images using our one-tap e-commerce templates.
Want to give it a try? Download the app today and join 10 million small businesses that are already feeling the benefits!