Jewelry Photography 101

Loryn came to B-ton this weekend to help me get started taking jewelry pictures for my etsy shop. Photography class couldn’t start until I had the tools and environment under control. I had to clean up the are and get the photo table set-up. I have an old drafting table which has become my base, the lights are borrowed from Loryn, the camera is my old Fuji Film 3800 FinePix, and I bought a roll of banner paper from Pygmalion’s, the local art store.

Set-up of photo table.
I have hung the brackets and you can see the dowel that will hold the roll of banner paper.

Living in an A-Frame house can cause some difficulties in hanging anything from the walls, so to hang my banner paper which would become my photo backdrop, I purchased two closet rod brackets. I hung these from the walls and put a dowel though the roll of paper. This drapes down to the table and provides a great backdrop that I can replace easily and even write and doodle on with no costly consequences. Just cut and roll out another sheet and you are good to go.

Then came the actual tutorial.

The photo table with backdrop and lights on each side.
The full photo setup

Loryn here. This is what the full photography set-up looks like. After shooting thousands of objects for sale on eBay, I got the best results by having two lights balanced on each side of the object. The tripod is helpful, but not a necessity with Kristin’s camera, which has good image stabilization.

The power strip has to be close at hand (or foot, really), so we can turn the lights off and on easily. The photo lights are 500 watt daylight bulbs. They are very, very hot, and they have a 5 hour lifespan, so you only want them on while shooting. A truly professional set-up would include lights that are slaved to the camera, so they only come on when you press the shutter release. We’re not there yet, if we will ever be.

Jewelry positioned in the photo area.
Putting the jewelry in place

Here I’m trying out different positions for the camera and the jewelry. The camera has a 6X zoom, so it needs to be fairly close to get nice tight macro shots.

Loryn photographing jewelry
Photography in action

I’ve always thought that product photography is similar to taking portraits. Every object has a “face,” even just metaphorically, and a close up of that face is the shot you want for your thumbnails. Here is the “face shot” of Kristin’s pearl necklace:

Pearl necklace with dangle
Close up of Kristin's pearl necklace

Didn’t Kristin do a beautiful job designing this? She let me wear it when I got married, and it looked wonderful with my pink dress.

After the face shot, I pull back for the complete object. With necklaces, the challenge is to get the item to fill most of the frame, instead of a mostly white shot. It’s easier with a multi-strand necklace like this.

Multi-strand pearl necklace
The full necklace shot

After a few adjustments in Photoshop, the photos are ready to go! Check out the next post for more of Kristin’s jewelry!

2 thoughts on “Jewelry Photography 101

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