Friday, November 7, 2008

Photographing Jewelry

Recently members of my Etsy Metal Clay team asked me to write a tutorial on jewelry photography. I was honored to hear such a request because this is something I’m really proud of and that I’ve worked hard at during the past year.  The following is just what works for me and I'm excited to share it with you.

Posting work in my Etsy shop has made me a better photographer. There, the photo is everything. A good photo will make your jewelry look even better. A bad photo will make even good work look bad. On Etsy, there are 5 photos to show off your work, so the first one shouldn't be about showing the whole piece, it should be about enticing your audience. It should be an interesting and amazing photo on its own. The space they provide is a horizontal rectangle, so I always shoot horizontally to get the most out of the space.

I take the majority of my photos using an old, African wood tray as the background. It is a dark, almost black, aged wood and there's just something about it. It is matte but has a bit of a sheen to it, it looks professional yet it has character due to the subtle wood grain and scratches. It looks different in every photo due to the light but it ties them all together. A simple background is a good idea, you don’t want it to compete with your jewelry.
I use a Canon PowerShot SD 1000 digital Elph. I bought this camera before a trip to England last year and my hopes were that I could use it for travel pics as well as for jewelry. It does a wonderful job with both. I place my wood tray on a desk by a South-facing window. I only use natural light. Early or late day works best. If it is really cloudy I'll take the photo outside. I adjust 4 settings, I set it to manual, cloudy, macro and no flash. I hold the camera low down, and try to find that magical angle, really close up, where the light is raking across it; where the texture pops and the piece comes alive. I see a lot of jewelry photos on Etsy that are taken just too far away.Rings and pendants are easy to take because they fill up that little rectangle so well. If a pendant is quite long, I'll take the photo so that is lies diagonally to fill up the frame.I found that if you try to show both earrings equally in a photo, you can't get close enough. So I stagger my earrings, and take the shot from bottom-right, often with the light coming from the upper left. The angle draws you in and the photo becomes more interesting. Being that close, offers a lot of information yet you can still see the pair.For necklaces, I'll often shape them into a spiral so that they fill up the whole frame. I'll take several photos so I can choose the best one.I'm even taking some photos of Celie's work and they are coming out great!  It is such a thrill for me to capture her magnificent work and that she's diggin' the pics.  

My second photo in every listing shows the full piece, it’s never a great shot but it shows the actual shape of the piece (since the angle of the first photo can distort what the piece really looks like).

So that’s it. Simple really, I don’t use any fancy equipment or lighting. If anyone has any questions I’d be happy to answer them.  Happy snapping!

39 comments:

jEaN said...

Jennifer ~
Thank you, Thank you, THANK YOU! I have been looking for a "no nonsense" tutorial to improve my Etsy jewelry shots. Love your blog, by the way! I am just starting to work woth silver & bronze metal clays, & I really admire your work. I'll be looking for more photography & jewelry pointers on your site!
Jean
charmdimsur.etsy.com

Anonymous said...

so, in a nutshell, not only are you ridiculously talented at making jewelry, but also talented as a photographer! but i knew that already :)
love you bunches, can't wait to see you again soon!
sher

Gail said...

THANKS for the lesson in photography. I have to try something different. I have a bunch of old cigar boxes that I might try. I saw a girl at on of my shows that had your JK logo on her back. I didn't get a chance to ask her about it.

Gail

antigenre said...

Great post, and excellent tips! Congrats on getting this post featured in the Etsy Success Newsletter, too!

Salzanos said...

great tips, and awesome photos esp in character for the type of jewelry you do! It is all about getting closer for me I think, and capturing the "feel" in backgrounds for the item.

thanks again!

Moondog said...

I LOVE your tips!! I especially like your comments on the angle of the photo. wonderful info. bookmarking to look at again and again!!

lunedreams said...

Love the light in your photos--I didn't think of a serving tray, I've been wanting a similar wood background. The dark wood looks great. One thing that I've done too is to put a translucent plastic tub over my jewelry layout. I put a hole in the top for the camera lense to poke through--it diffuses light (so I can use it on sunny days) and also serves as a tripod so I don't get any blurring.

ClinkscalesArts said...

Great article! Thanks so much for sharing. I'm so glad Etsy put you in the Etsy Success newsletter.

Felicity said...

Insanely helpful! Thank you so very much. I love the way Etsy and etsians like yourself are helping all of us. Especially newbie etsians and photographers like myself. Great presentation in your article. Love your jewelery style as well...

Laura K. Aiken said...

Thank you Jennifer for that wonderful tutorial. Every little bit helps!
laura.
http://www.laurakaiken.blogspot.com

Sammie said...

Jennifer,
Thank you so much for the information. I personally find this a tremendous help to me! Thank you so much for sharing and by the way, your pieces are awesome!
Blessings,
Sammie
beautywithin.etsy.com

Gypsy Moon Designs said...

Thank you for such great info. I had been shooting on the vertical and can't wait to experiment!

Julie
http://Gypsymoondesigns.etsy.com

Anonymous said...

This is a great article, thank you so much for sharing. It really helps us "newbies" to learn how to photograph our product.
LeAnne
rhealeanne.etsy.com

tinybird said...

excellent photos! this is a great tutorial.

Savoy Truffle said...

Thank you so much for this tutorial. Before Etsy, I considered myself to be quite a good photographer (in the artistic sense) but since Etsy really is all about the photos it's been hard not to feel insecure at times. This tutorial answers all of my questions, and more. I can't wait to take pictures of my jewelry now!
Theo
savoytruffles.etsy.com

Anonymous said...

Just want to thank you so much!! My biggest challenge is the photos, so off I am to play with the camera..Its actually sunny in Maine today!! wohoo
Becky
www.allinthefamilyart.etsy.com

Christiane said...

Thanks for your simple and easy to follow ideas. I never know what backdrop works the best and how to fit everything in the picture.
Christiane
aspengold.etsy.com

Cherylyn said...

Great article. I live in Chicago, so I bought some fancy equipment for winter time. But I'm never really satisfied. I definitely agree, natural light always presents the best lighting and image.
-Cherylyn
www.clynstudio.etsy.com

Creative Treasures said...

Thank you Jennifer for the photo tutorial. I enjoyed reading it. Now I think I have some changing around to do with my photos. Your work is awesome. Thanks for sharing.
Donna

Patricia's Art said...

Thank you for sharing these tips.I've been working on improving my photo's and I was happy to discovered I have a macro setting on my camera.

Maureen said...

This is so helpful-- and your photos are lovely. I love the contrast of the wood tray as a backdrop.

Anonymous said...

They look amazing because your jewelry is amazing! Keep up the great work! Looking forward to your next fabulous piece. Give Celie a hug for me ;-)

-Tonya
www.tonyadavidson.com
www.wholelottwhimsy.com

Jenkahnjewelry said...

WOW! Thank you everyone for your kind words! So awesome! Thank you Etsy for featuring me in your Newsletter!

SilkArtFromBrazil said...

This tutorial is so great and simple at the same time.

Thanks for sharing!

Maria

http://silkartfrombrazil.com
http://silkartfrombrazil.etsy.com

Steph said...

Thank you for sharing! Your tips are so simple and helpfull!

~Stephanie
(Bella Shanga)

Rocki said...

Beautiful work & photos! Fabulous post too.

Found you via the Etsy email today of Make Your Shop Shine - I see why you were selected!

Peace,
Rocki

Denise said...

Great tutorial. Very helpful.

uncorked said...

wonderful tips- am going to use the earring tip next time I photograph them!

Ginny said...

I love your photos and your jewelry! Thanks for the tips! ~Ginny

Doodlebug Accessories said...

Love your photos and jewerly. Thanks for sharing the info. Have a great Easter weekend.

Kathy said...

Jennifer,

It was kind of you to share your comments and insights. I'll be sure to pass this one along.

BizeeBeeCreations said...

Thanks for all the great tips! Does this work for shiny jewelry made with crystals, too?

~~Cathy, bizeebeecreations.etsy.com

wingedwomanart said...

love your jewelry, photos and advice. Thanks! wingedwomanart.etsy.com

JennG said...

Beautiful photos!! Thank you so much for sharing your techniques. I have the same camera and it doesn't like focusing on things on dark backgrounds. Obviously I need to figure that one out.

Your jewelry is amazing and inspiring. Thanks again.
Jennifer

Liz said...

Thanks so much to etsy for linking this AND to you for posting this great information!
Liz

bittersweetdesign.etsy.com

Julie B said...

Thank you so much for your straightforward tips. You have given me much to think about and try!

Gena said...

Thank you so much! I have been having great difficulty taking pictures of my jewlery... I am not a photographer & your tips are so helpful! THANK YOU A MILLION!

kecia said...

great tutorial, thanks for the tips. i have a question for you:
i've been using the sony cybershot (about 2 years old) with 7.2 megapixels and i just love it. i use the macro feature the most for my jewelry. however, it is dying a slow death, so i bought the new version with higher megapixels and more optical zoom - and i don't like it is as much. the macro features isn't taking as close as i'd like. when i try to get as close as i did with the other camera, the pics turn out blurry, which is really disappointing. ok - so my question is, how close are you getting to your pieces when you take the picture? (as i'm trying to decide if i might get this camera you are recommending.) or do you take pics semi close and then crop them? thanks for the input.
kecia

Anita said...

Thanks so much for your info and your shots are beautiful...have been using a scanner for my shots with a towel covering the gaps left by a slightly-open lid...the crispness of the shot is great but the shot is not very creative or enticing...will try your ideas...anita