It’s not an exaggeration to say that some of the most difficult subjects in photography are pieces of jewelry. They are small in size and have shiny, reflective surfaces, making them even more difficult to photograph.
But what’s a jewelry retailer to do except learn how to overcome these obstacles, right? After all, photos are essential in marketing jewelry. Clients become enamored of fine pieces of jewelry because of their breathtaking colors and exquisite shine. So, being able to not only take photos, but great photos of diamond rings, luxury watches, and other pieces of jewelry is a valuable skill.
But, how will you make the images reflect the radiance of the actual pieces you’re photographing? How will you make them stand out? Read on to learn more.
What Makes Jewelry Sparkle?
Pieces of jewelry, especially those with diamonds and other precious stones, reflect and refract light. When light hits the surface, the cut of the stone splits the light into beams, creating the sparkle that you see with the naked eye.
But did you know that there are three ways you see this sparkle? Knowing how the effect is produced will help you understand how you can manipulate light to maximize sparkle, which in turn will make your jewelry pieces more enticing to your target client:
– The diamond and other precious stones’ ability to return light to people’s eyes, making them see illumination on the diamond’s crown.
– It is an effect produced when light hits the surface of a diamond or other precious stones. The light disperses and breaks down into rainbow-like colors that the naked eye can see.
– An effect that is a combination of both brilliance and fire, scintillation happens when the naked eye perceives flashes of white light across the diamond’s crown when the stone, the light, or the viewer is in motion.
With that said, keep in mind that what the naked eye sees does not always translate in a similar way through camera lenses. That is why there are three main parts to achieving stunning and standout pictures of jewelry. Follow these and the opulence of your jewelry pieces will shine in pictures.
Planning and Preparation
Before you start thinking about how you’ll position each piece of jewelry, what type of lens to use, or the placement of lights to achieve scintillation, there’s one other thing you need to think about first: the background you’re going to use.
The background is an essential part of a photo shoot, but especially in jewelry photography. You need to choose one that will enhance the look of a pendant, a ring, or a bracelet without overpowering these pieces. Among the most common backgrounds that work effectively when photographing jewelry are:
- Soft, White Background
White is undoubtedly a popular background choice in any sort of product photography and there’s a good reason for it. White backgrounds direct a viewer’s focus to the subject: the piece of jewelry.
A white background effectively brings out the elements of the piece you’re photographing, which is important especially when you don’t have a physical store where your customers can inspect them.
- Plain or Reflective Black Background
If you want to evoke a more elegant feel to your jewelry photography, use a black background. This color accentuates the shiny surfaces of gold and silver metals and brings out the rich tones and sparkle of the precious stones in each piece of jewelry. A lot of people also prefer black background because it’s easier for jewelry photo retouching services to cover up imperfections in the image.
Reflective, black backgrounds also add an elegant quality to jewelry photos. The subtle reflection on the surface emphasizes the glimmer of your jewelry pieces.
- Worn by a Model
A person’s body part is another popular and effective background for jewelry photography. For example, taking a picture of rings adorning a model’s fingers helps you visually communicate how these pieces will look on the body.
Once you have decided on the background, experiment with the lighting and the pieces you’re taking photos of. This is a great way to establish the composition of the photo so you can make adjustments before going through with the actual photo shoot.
Expert jewelry photographers always have to start somewhere. As a photographer who is just starting out, investing money on a professional camera for more serious pursuits is the first step to consider the profession a career.
Now that you have your own professional camera for photography, it’s time to shoot different objects and use your camera. Every object offers a different shooting challenge to the photographer and no object is more unique as shooting jewelry.
You see, shooting jewelry brings a few complications:
- The shine of the jewelry can bounce off the lens of the camera and result in a bad picture.
- The different colors of jewelry require the photographer to adjust the camera’s settings.
- Using the camera flash may cause the jewelry to look bad and create awkward shadows for the object.
As a photographer, you will need more than just your camera to shoot ideal photos of jewelry.
The Photographic Process
In order to capture the raw beauty of metals and precious stones, you need to have a camera capable of taking photos in sharp, crisp focus. In addition, taking a great, focused image of a piece of jewelry means using different tools, such as tripods to steady the camera and polishing the pieces you’re photographing before clicking the shutter.
Correct lighting and positioning of a product are also keys to taking great jewelry photos. The first ensures that viewers will be able to appreciate the details of a piece of jewelry and the second creates a story that compels your customers to purchase the product.
The Gemological Institute of America (GIA) has some pointers on how to properly position and use lighting when taking photos of jewelry.
– Use a single color temperature of light
– Use direct lighting on a gem to bring out gemstone phenomena such as asterism (star effect)
– Use diffused lighting to accentuate a piece of jewelry’s best color
– Taking a picture of a piece of jewelry with a precious stone is best done when the camera is pointing straight down at the stone
– Taking pictures of jewelry straight on is best for documentary-style photographs
– Tilting the piece of jewelry or taking its photo at an artfully skewed camera angle can capture more dramatic photos of the subject
Use a Macro Lens
Now that your jewelry has been cleaned, the next step is to capture your images. Your camera, alone, won’t be enough to create the ideal jewelry photos. Shooting jewelry needs the support of a macro lens.
- What exactly does a Macro Lens do?
The macro lens is used for taking pictures of items at a very close distance. Photographers use the macro lens to capture small objects and bring out details a normal lens wouldn’t be able to capture such as insects and jewelry.
- Magnification Ratio
The most important feature of the Macro Lens is its Magnification Ratio or how large the subject will look in the final image. When the image has a magnification ratio of 1:1 then the image created by the camera will be the same size as the subject. In other words, the image comes out as is.
Bringing Out That Sharper Image
When you clean your jewelry, you will be able to minimize the flaws that the jewelry will have in your photos. Using a macro lens will help you zoom in closer without getting too close to the product. Adjusting the aperture will help adjust the details of the jewelry and make sure that no part of the image is blurred. Having a lightbox, bought or DIY will help with the lighting of the jewelry so that you don’t have to worry about the light hitting the jewelry too hard.
Shooting photos of jewelry isn’t just about having the fanciest camera. It’s about the preparation, having the right technique, and setting the ideal camera settings where the jewelry will be displayed in the best light.
There’s only so much you can do with a piece of jewelry, a background, and your camera. The rest is up to editing. How you retouch the images you take is just as important as taking the pictures in the first place.
If you’re doing the post-processing in-house, make sure to invest in a good photo editing software tool. When you get the hang of editing, you can easily manipulate the different elements of the pictures, including how the subject contrasts with the background and how the lighting affects the colors of the jewelry pieces.
Fortunately, though, you don’t have to have photo editing know-how to achieve great photos. There are lots of companies today that offer jewelry photo retouching services s.
With the right images of your jewelry products, the striking and extraordinary stones and metals that make up each piece can stand out, to the appreciation of jewelry aficionados like your clientele.
Rebecca Van Ommen is the Executive Creative Director of Paper Boat Creative, a creative agency that specializes in high-end photo retouching, photo editing, and more. She was one of the youngest Art Directors for Getty Images in London. Her work has been published through some of the world’s largest advertising agencies including Mother, AKQA and BBDO London. Rebecca loves to exercise in her spare time. She also enjoys bringing her daughter to photoshoots for inspiration.