Photographing Jewelry for Commercial Use

Jewelry is a subject often used in commercial photography. They are often seen in print ads, e-commerce shops and stock photos and they always appear to be all shiny and glittery. What is not commonly known is that a whole lot of effort has been placed to get those stunning shots. Jewelry is one of the most challenging objects to shoot, often being very small and made of metal or crystal, therefore having highly reflective surfaces. 

If the purpose of the jewelry shots is for commercial use, then it is essential that the shots be perfect, especially in online stores where consumers buy the products based on the visual impact of the photographs, rather than that of the actual pieces. No matter how pretty or expensive the jewelry item is, if it is presented poorly in a picture, then online buyers will be turned off from purchasing the product. 

When photographing jewelry, there are three main things to consider:

1.Proper lighting is crucial – it can’t be stressed enough how important the lighting setup is to getting great jewelry shots. Pieces have to be very well and evenly lit, with hardly any shadows. It can be easy to get blown up areas since gems and metals are highly reflective and bounce back the light. A light tent is a great way to diffuse the glare of the light while softening the shadows as well. Although you can buy a light tent in camera shops, you can also make one yourself with a few cheap materials. 

You must also remember that each jewelry piece is different from the next and therefore, the lighting varies as well. A diamond ring is lighted differently compared to pearl earrings in order to show it off best. Surfaces may be opaque or translucent, glossy or matted, smooth or faceted, etc. Knowing how to light jewelry properly is a result of practice and experience and this brings me to the next point:

2.Experience is the best teacher – it takes lots of practice to achieve good and consistent results when shooting jewelry. There are so many things to consider, from the cut of the gem to its size, kind, brilliance, opacity, color, and so on and so forth. Jewelry items are all shaped differently as well, and one must know how to present each piece in the best way possible. Although you can use guides and tips from photo books, other people or the internet, there’s a whole lot more to learn from constant practice, from trial and error, and from experimenting to find out the ways that lighting and set up can wholly capture the beauty of the jewelry piece. 

3.Use a capable camera and lens – a camera with a good macro lens or a macro mode would be satisfactory although ideally a high quality macro lens can best do the job.  Since the camera must not get too close to the jewelry because of the possibility of reflection, a good macro lens can capture pin sharp details and high magnification even from two feet away.  A great macro lens may cost a lot but it can truly deliver and if you constantly take jewelry shots for commercial photography, investing in this lens might be a good idea. 

4. Use a model – you can shoot jewelry by themselves on a platform or in their case but you can also make use of a model to give customers an idea how the jewelry would look on the body. For instance, you can have a close up shot of an earring dangling from an earlobe or a watch around a wrist.

Additional tips when shooting jewelry:

• Use wax to make the jewelry stand. If you want a pendant or a charm to be propped up while you are shooting it, place a tiny ball of wax at the bottom of the jewelry to keep it upright. 

•Add sparkle or brilliance by training light directly on the faceted gem. Move this light around until the gem starts to shine in certain areas without causing severe blown out highlights. There should also be a light on each side of the jewelry, separated by the light tent. 

•Create reflection for added visual interest. A black reflection, for example, can be achieved using a high gloss black acrylic platform. 

• Use one light source to make pearls more round. Two or more could make the pearls appear flat. Position the light source above the pearls and you can use a clear/white high gloss acrylic platform as its base to get a soft reflection. 

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