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When I first started photographing jewelry I was such a novice... I quickly learned a tripod is a must, using a light-box helps. Learned quickly that "Tungsten" is the setting needed to photograph silver....Oh my so much to learn... And then I get lost in the detail playing with all sorts of ideas to photograph jewelry..I love photographing the jewelry as much as finding those unique pieces that I sell...
- Texture of the materials, whether metal or stone,
- Degree of polish,
- Quality of the craftsmanship, and
- Fidelity to the original piece.
Lighting: The art of jewelry photography requires precise lighting technique. I don't recommend flash: continuous light is easier to control.
Keep your lighting soft. A small light tent or light dome is ideal.
Use back-lighting judiciously. Overdone, it will lead to distracting specular reflections. Do it right, and it shows the polish on surfaces. Back-light is a good choice for translucent minerals, making crystals, agates and gemstones glow from within!
A tabletop light-box (aka transparency viewer) is a great soft light source to make these materials glow! See the photos below for an example of light-box photography.
Equipment: If you're getting started, use whatever camera you have available. Even point-and-shoot compact cameras can make acceptable jewelry photos, but they have one major flaw: no auto-focus override, so precision focus is hit-or-miss.
A full macro photography set-up includes a camera, macro lens or other close-up photography accessories, tripod, some light modifiers, and lighting.
Precise focus is essential. Always focus on the surface closest to the camera. When using a camera without manual focus (i.e., compact, point-and-shoot), review digital photographs carefully. You may have to change the framing a little to "instruct" the auto-focus to focus on the plane you want it to.
Telephoto macro lenses (in the 70 - 100 mm range, 35mm equivalent) are preferred because of their greater working distance than shorter macro lenses. You'll appreciate having a bit more room to work, plus longer lenses are less likely to show up in the reflections of your jewelry piece.
Jewelry should be cleaned well before being photographed. Smudges and other imperfections take away from the beauty that good jewelry is supposed to embody.
Close-up photography reveals scratches and other imperfections in pieces that have been worn, such as vintage jewelry.
Studio photography accessories for photographing jewelry include modeling clay (to hold rings upright), alligator clamps for holding small light modifiers (reflectors and black cards), and a dress-maker's bust for hanging necklaces.
Earrings can be hung on two parallel fishing lines: an upper one to support the earrings, the other to prevent them from rotating. The line can be removed with editing software afterward.
It's very difficult to photograph necklaces and bracelets to show both detail and scale. Measure the length of strand jewelry and record the length in the digital file name, and in a caption if you are displaying them in an online store or auction.
Always use a tripod! No exceptions!...with the exception, of course, of one notable exception, which is to...
...try photographing jewelry with a flatbed scanner. The illumination is unexciting, but the clarity is excellent, and you can work quickly. This is an excellent option to document your jewelry collection for insurance purposes (see an example of a scanned jewelry photo below, upper right)!