The Savvy Etsian - Photographing Jewelry

Recently members of the Etsy MetalClay team (thanks Lora and Catherine!) 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.

Jen also often takes photos of her work on a model which helps the buyer to better visualize the way the piece will look when worn.

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.

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).

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.

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!

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