Product photography is a detail-oriented field that requires skill and expertise. In particular, jewellery photography is a highly-specialised profession that needs to show off the best attributes of the product. Jewellery is intricate, delicate and often minute, which means that a keen eye for detail is needed.
The lighting and equipment used in jewellery photography needs to capture every detail and reflection of the product. The metals need to shine and the stones need to sparkle – all of which require know-how from the photographer and a great deal of patience in the setup of the shot.
Jewellery is photographed in a reflection-free environment, such as a white studio, to ensure that the product only reflects the light from the flashes. The composition of the image needs to be well-thought out as every angle results in different reflections in the stone. The post-production editing of images also requires expertise to ensure that a quality photograph is delivered to the client.
Props, materials and equipment used for jewellery photography
The following props and materials are commonly used by Flame Design for jewellery photography:
- Dentistry wax – for the positioning of jewellery products on a surface.
- Small mirrors – to bounce flash light into the stones.
- White/black paper – smooth pieces of white or black paper are used to create reflective highlights and shadows on the surface of the product.
- White box – to create a reflection-free environment around the product so that the piece of jewellery does not pick up reflections of the camera or the photographer.
- Magnifying glass – to inspect jewellery for dust, dirt and fingerprints before taking the photograph.
- Tweezers – to move and position the jewellery.
- Tripod – to support the camera and ensure maximum sharpness in the photograph.
- Camera – we prefer to use a Canon 5D as it is a full-frame camera with an amazing resolution.
- Flashlight system – we use two to three flashes during photoshoots to precisely control the light hitting the jewellery. We also use diffuse boxes and umbrellas in our lighting setup.
- Macro lens – we like to use a 60mm fixed focal length macro lens. This allows us to zoom in on the product and capture minute details.
- Jewellery cleaning cloths that don’t shed fibre.
- Fishing line – to dangle earrings and other products that need to be photographed upright. A good idea is to fold a piece of cardboard in half and then stretch the fishing line from one side of the card to the other. You can then tie the earring to the line. Just make sure your dangling pieces have stopped moving when you actually take the photo.
Tips for photographing jewellery
1. Use the right lens
The right lens is vital when it comes to product photography. A standard kit lens (e.g. 18mm-55mm) is not really suitable for jewellery photography as they tend to have a minimum focal length of about one metre – in other words, your camera has to be at least one metre away from the product in order to be able to focus on it.
A macro lens has a much smaller minimum focal length, allowing the photographer to place the lens really close to the product. This is especially helpful when it comes to photographing tiny products such as jewellery.
A 60mm macro lens has a 0.5x magnification, meaning the image is about half life-size. You can get macro lenses that provide a life-size representation of the product, but these are generally quite expensive.
2. Light your jewellery evenly and thoroughly
A standard macro photography setup should use a minimum of two flashes, externally mounted on tripods. Professional studio flashes are brighter than your standard camera flashes and they can be attached behind softboxes and umbrellas to create a soft and even light.
Using umbrellas and softboxes produces a bright but soft light. This allows the jewellery to shine and capture the reflection of the light without actually picking up the reflection of the camera or the photographer. It also reduces harsh shadows behind the product, making the image more attractive.
3. Select the correct aperture
Aperture is the size of the hole in the lens that determines how much light passes through to the sensor. A wide aperture means more light passes through the lens but results in a narrow depth of field. A small aperture means less light can pass through the lens but the depth of field is much larger.
A bright photo is always good, but it’s more important that the product appears sharp. Therefore, a smaller aperture is better as it allows you to capture small details and ensure that the jewellery is sharp at all distances in the photograph.
4. Clean your products
Make sure that your products are squeaky clean. This is particularly important in jewellery photography as the metals and stones have a tendency to reflect fingerprints and minute specs of dust.
Spending time cleaning your jewellery before photographing will result in a lot of saved time at the end of the process. You won’t need to edit out blemishes and dirt in Photoshop – a process that is painstaking and difficult.
5. Make sure your colours are true
Colour grading is a vital part of the post production of jewellery photography. You need to get the colours of the photo to match the true colours of the product as this can affect whether customers want to buy a certain stone or ring.
Having a slightly yellow tint on a photograph can make a piece of silver look gold. Similarly, a slightly blue tint can make a diamond appear like an aquamarine. You need the jewels to appear as natural as possible, so keep an eye on your camera’s white balance settings and the temperature sliders when editing the image.
6. Keep your image size consistent
When shoppers are browsing for jewellery online, they won’t be able to get a sense of the size of a product if all the images in the catalogue have varying image sizes. Keep your image size consistent to allow the consumer to accurately judge the size of the piece of jewellery.
Having a standardised image size also allows you to align the photos on the website and make them look neat and orderly. This can improve the user experience and encourage shoppers to click on the images.
7. Keep backgrounds consistent
Like image sizes, it’s important to keep your backgrounds uniform. Jewellery photography is best suited to a light (white) background, so stick to this rule when photographing a series of products for the same client.
Inconsistent backgrounds can ruin a good catalogue and distract the buyer from the product when viewing images online. A dark background also dulls any reflections on the product, so avoid using black paper backgrounds for jewellery photography.
8. Capture enough images
You can never have enough product images, so don’t be afraid to take as many photographs as you can. Try various angles, lighting setups and compositions. Zoom in on details, put the product on a person, stand it upright and lay it flat.
A shopper will often look for different angles of the same product to get a better look at what they are buying. The more images you provide, the fewer questions you will receive from customers about the products.
9. Keep it simple
Simplicity is key as the main focus of the photo should be the jewellery. A clean background adds an element of sophistication to the images and prevents any distractions away from the product.
A simple photo will also enable the shopper to focus on the details of the item. If your online store enables visitors to zoom in on images, a clean and simple photo will do a product more justice.
10. Don’t be afraid to use models
Working with models can cost more but it really helps to give the product some context. The shopper will be able to accurately judge the size of a piece of jewellery if they can see it on a real person.
You can also use models to establish a brand identity and control the brand image for your ideal customer. Models should, however, not distract the viewer from the product, so make sure that the main subject of each image is the jewellery and not the person.