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Preface: I am a wedding photographer, but I have a second brand that targets small businesses for commercial photography and such. The following tip is taken from my most recent blog post on www.lightswitchme.com.

Bright Idea: How to Take Jewelry Pics

I was wandering around on a web forum the other day, and came across some photos taken by someone who makes and sells hand-crafted bridal jewelry. Her stuff was really cute. Really. But her pictures... were horrible. Here were these little, tiny finely-detailed beaded works of art lying on grainy wood stumps in shadow that totally camouflaged any detail there was to be seen. We've got lots of friends who make jewelry and even a chain maille client, so we understand that for you folks who make one-of-a-kind hand-crafted things that you're going to sell on Etsy, paying a professional photographer to shoot each piece isn't realistic. And so... here's some free advice from the the pros on how to do it yourself.

First, let's talk about your camera. Maybe you have a super fancy-shmancy digital SLR like us, or maybe you're just shooting with a little auto point-and-shoot. In either case, you should be able to capture decent photos of your work. You probably have a macro setting on your camera and may not even know it. It should look something like this:  and will help you get up-close to really capture your piece. Though the real key to letting the camera do its job will be to either a) have an abundance of light or b) have a tripod so you can leave the shutter open long enough to capture all that detail without motion blur. You'll also want your light source to be consistent if possible so that when you line up all your images taken on different days and times next to one another on your site they will all be the same color.

Next, the background (or lack thereof) is important, especially when you're trying to showcase something small. If you can't come up with a creative point of reference, I recommend using a standard, consistently sized piece of graph paper like our friend at Sweet Stella Designs uses to help viewers get a sense of the scale of your piece.

Though you can use plain white paper, black construction paper, or even plain pieces of wood or rocks, don't be afraid to come up with creative backdrops and props that won't detract from your product. I'm not saying your work should never hang from anything or that you can't use color, only that whatever it's hanging from or in front of should not compete for the viewer's eye with the thing you're trying to sell. Sometimes the simplest things around the house make the best props.

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Next, composition is almost as important as the item you're shooting itself. Personally, I like the Rule of Thirds for composing photos. It's easy to understand and apply, and can give even the simplest shots a feeling of depth. The basic concept is that you mentally divide what's in the frame of the camera into 9 equal sections (think tic-tac-toe) using 2 sets of vertical and horizontal lines, then you put the focal point at one of the intersections of those lines. Some cameras even have a feature that will help you find these intersections, sometimes called the "grid" setting.

(click for larger image)

Notice in the image above the main focal point is in the upper right-hand intersection (red dot), and how the shallow depth-of-field slightly blurs the image on the opposite intersection.

Another compositional idea to consider is taking your photos at a slight angle rather than from directly above or in front of the piece.

(click for larger image)

The photo on the left was one we took from directly on top of the piece. Notice how the entire piece is in the photo, and while the image is clear and sharp and shows off the entire sample, it's a bit boring. The picture on the right was taken closer to the product, using a macro-like setting with shallow depth of field, and taken at a bit of an angle. These are the same piece of jewelry, but the photo on the left lacks any sense of scale that tells your eye what you're really looking at; however, when you look at the image on the right it looks like something you want to reach out and touch. Which one do you think your customers will want to buy?

Sometimes just a few small tweaks can make a huge difference! Take the time to give your photos a second chance. Your art deserves it for the time you put in to crafting it, and your customers will thank you for making them drool.


Do you have other tips and suggestions to share with DIY commercial jewelry or product photographers? Leave a comment here or on our original post at www.lightswitchme.com!

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