From Cartier’s beautiful editorials to K Jeweler’s aesthetically pleasing commercials, the market for photographing stunning necklaces and rings is growing by the day. Jewelry photography can be a fun, rewarding, and profitable endeavor.
Here’s our quick jewelry photography guide so you can start capturing those great shots today.
Before we begin, it is good to keep in mind that there are two different kinds of jewelry photography: product/e-commerce and editorial. Both of these have different requirements and techniques.
Product and e-commerce photography are the images you will likely see in a store online or in a product catalog. These images are usually shot on a seamless solid color background (typically white) and highlight only the jewelry.
Editorial photography is effectively the jewelry advertisement and is a lot more creative. Editorial photography often features a model or the jewelry in a lifestyle environment.
How to Choose the Right Camera for Jewelry Photography
Lucky for most, the camera is not as significant in jewelry photography as it would be in most other kinds of photography. Photographing accessories is a still-life endeavor, so you will not really be pushing the limits or boundaries of your camera.
Most DSLRs work great for this. This is especially true if you’re aiming for e-commerce product photographs.
If you are getting into the editorial side of jewelry photography, however, then the type of camera you’re using is important.
Depending on whether or not your photo shoot is for print or online, if it’s outdoors or indoors at a studio, or what your client’s needs are – you will either be able to get away with a mid-level camera or have to go with a high-quality professional grade DSLR.
When getting into any kind of commercial work, the megapixel count of your camera can be crucial. The larger the amount of megapixels, the bigger and higher quality the print will be.
As such, very large jewelry companies will be asking you about the megapixel count of your camera. Luckily, many newer cameras have a very significant amount of megapixels at somewhat lower costs.
But for e-commerce and standard product photography, that won’t really matter as these images will likely be small or only for online use.
Some photographers have even gotten away with using point-and-shoot or compact cameras, though we don’t suggest this if you want to do professional work.
What About the Right Lens?
Though the camera body itself may not be as significant, the lens will either make or break your jewelry photography!
Generally, regardless of whether your photo shoot is for e-commerce or editorial purposes, you will need a lens free of distortion.
When you photograph a product of any kind, your key objective should be keeping a representation of the product as true to the life version as possible.
Even in editorial photography where there is more leeway on being creative, you want to ensure that your jewelry pieces continue to remain true to life.
Usually, you’ll want to go for a standard lens. Also known as normal lenses, standard lenses are ones which produce an image that roughly matches what the human eye sees. The image looks natural to the viewer.
Standard lenses have an angle of view of around 50 to 55 degrees diagonally. They are some of the easiest lenses to use, because you do not have to factor in any form of distortion.
When you can take a picture of something exactly as your eye sees it, composition becomes easier as well.
A very popular choice for jewelry detail shots are macro lenses. A macro lens is designed for photographing small subjects at very close distances. A big benefit to the macro lens is the fact that their focusing limit is very close to the glass.
Because jewelry doesn’t move, I suggest using a fixed millimeter lens. A fixed lens is known to be much sharper and generally higher quality than a zoom lens. A 50mm such as the Nifty Fifty is a great choice.
Do You Need a Tripod for Jewelry Photography?
For still life photography like jewelry, you’ll likely want to use a tripod. Instead of wasting time correction horizons in post processing, why not get it right off the bat?
Having your camera steady on a tripod has two more advantages:
- It makes it easier to adjust focus points and depth-of-field (aperture);
- You can drop to a much lower shutter speed and ISO to avoid or reduce noise.
For lifestyle catalogue photography or editorial photography, you can leave the tripod at home. However, keep in mind that you’ll still want to adhere to commercial photography guidelines and keep your work looking very sharp.
What to Do About Lighting?
Much like the lens, the lighting will also make or break your jewelry photography. Jewelry, or any reflective or shiny product for that matter, is considered the hardest to photograph because of the potential for reflections.
Before we get into the types of lighting, we need to talk about the actual bulbs and output. Generally, you want to use bulbs and flashes/strobes that have a true white light exuding from them. Usually this is labeled as “photography toned bulb”.
True white light will not cause any sort of colour cast, such as the blue or green of a fluorescent or the orange of a warm light.
Accurate colours are extremely important in any type of product photography want to use any distortion lenses.
That being said, there is some creative leeway in editorial photography, especially if you’re doing some lifestyle shots. You can use natural light for these and it’ll be understandable that the colours may not run completely true.
As for the types of lighting, I personally prefer a ring light or a continuous light softbox for e-commerce photography. This is because I like seeing the lighting as I set it up rather than having to continuously flash. You can also figure out how to eliminate reflections easier this way.
Ring lights are brilliant for jewelry photography because they light the rim of the object and can be easier to hide the reflections of. Softboxes exude a nice, soft, and even light.
Which Settings Should You Use for Jewelry Photography?
Much like any still life, the settings for jewelry photography are fairly simple in comparison to, say, animal photography or sports. The subject isn’t moving!
Focus mode: Because the products don’t move, you can set your camera to One Shot mode instead of the usual AI Servo that I often recommend. One Shot allows you to set up your images and focus without fear of the focus shifting.
ISO + Shutter Speed: Generally, you want to ensure there is as little noise as possible. Add a tripod, and you can afford to use a lower ISO number and shutter speed number to reduce noise.
Aperture: This is where things get a bit more complicated. For e-commerce photography, you’ll generally want a deeper depth of field so that you can capture the jewelry piece entirely in focus. The deeper depth of field also brings out the intricate details sharply. I suggest f/8.
However, if you’re doing more detail shots, you can use a shallow depth of filed to highlight the detail you want to focus on and let the rest melt away into a creamy bokeh.
You have significant stylistic opportunities with the depth of field choice when it comes to jewelry photography.
For editorial photography, the settings will range depending on what exactly you are shooting. With a model, you will likely keep in tune with the requirements for portrait photography!
Keep Your Setup Simple
E-commerce and product photography does not require any complex set up. If anything, overcomplicating will be to your detriment.
All you need is a solid surface, a white paper backdrop (you can use a metal clamp to secure it into place), and your camera, lens, and lights!
For editorial jewelry photography, the same idea can apply. Don’t make the story-telling elements of your image too overwhelming, and keep the frame fairly simple.
Now that you have all of this knowledge in your photographic arsenal, go out there and create some stunning photographs!
A note from Josh, ExpertPhotography's Photographer-In-Chief:
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