Jewelry photography may be very tricky. Each jewelry piece has its own unique look: different colors, materials and so on. Some have lots of reflections. Some, like diamonds and gemstones for example, have little sparkles that are easy to admire when you actually hold them in your hand, but are very hard to capture with the camera.
As a jewelry designer or manufacturer, you must wonder how they create all these perfect images you usually see in different types of jewelry advertising. Yes – sometimes those ads look so perfect that it’s hard to believe that these are real jewelry. And yes again – some of them are not real at all! Whether it’s a huge amount of photo retouch work that polishes every corner of the jewelry and adds this magic touch of too-good-to-be-true sparkle or it’s simply the fact that what you see is not a photo at all, but a computer drawing that looks perfect.As a professional jewelry photographer myself, I challenge myself to achieve these kind of perfect images that will make people want to purchase the jewelry today!
Almost every one of my customers tried first to take pictures of the jewelry by their self. Some of them even bought all kinds of professional equipment that is made especially for jewelry photography. You know – all those little tents, light boxes and special lighting. They all ended up with – still – amateur photos that didn’t do any justice to their beautiful pieces of jewelry. But they knew that their jewelry deserves more so they started to look for a professional photographer who specializes in jewelry, and this is how they found me.
Why Professional Jewelry photography is so important?
When you are showing your jewelry pieces to the world, you really like to think big. Even if you only have a tiny jewelry workshop in a small town - these days, when the Internet opened new horizons to each and every one of us, you know you can reach so much more!
People are buying more and more over the Internet or through a printed catalog. They don’t actually see or feel your jewelry; often they only see a picture of it. So with all respect to the jewelry piece itself, they actually buy a picture. And as we all know, a picture is worth 1,000 words.
The conclusion is clear: the jewelry pictures must be no less than perfect! They have to be very sharp and professional, to show the sparkle, to bring out the true colors and to have a perfect background. The picture has to make the potential customer actually feel like getting this beautiful gem right now!
How can you do it?
Finding a local jewelry professional photographer is not an easy task, especially if you don’t live around New York, Los Angeles or any other big city that is full of talented photographers with jewelry experience. Jewelry photography is very different than, let’s say, wedding or children photography. So even if you know the best wedding photographer in town, ask to see his or her jewelry photography portfolio before you hire them to do the job.
There are steps that will help your jewelry photography project be successful:
1) Think about your goals. What would you like to achieve? Who is your target market? What are the sales levels you wish to reach? Write all these before you start anything else.
2) Now, try as much as possible to match your answers to your budget. For example, if you wish to reach the entire world or even ‘just’ North America, you will probably need a huge budget... on the other hand, if you wish to only reach a small town, a smaller budget will work well for you.
3) Think of yourself as an explorer. If you never used a professional photographer before you have a lot to learn about it before and during the process. Each kind of jewelry looks better from different angles, with different lights and on different backgrounds. Your photographer would be a great help with this. Don’t hesitate to ask your photographer to try a couple of angles or backgrounds.
4) Do your research! After defining your target market, set your budget and decide what photography style you like – search the web for more ideas and options. Try 2 or 3 different search engines to get a wide variety of results. Save those that you like best on file for future reference. Show those images to your photographer/graphic designer so they get a clear idea of what you like.
5) Find your photographer! Through an Internet search or a friend/colleague referral; view their online portfolios, choose the ones you like best and ask for quotes. When you ask for the quote, don’t forget to mention your exact requirements, i.e. – number of shots needed, how are you going to use the photos and when do you need it. I recommend you talk to the photographers over the phone or meet them in person if possible. Having good communication and understanding with your photographer is extremely important.
6) If you can’t find a great local photographer within you budget, don’t hesitate to call photographers from other cities or even countries (I work in Toronto and serve customers in the USA and other countries). Getting the best photos that will help you reach more customers and increase your sales may be very profitable and will justify paying a little more for the back-and-forth shipping of the jewelry.
7) Need to shoot diamonds and precious stones that can’t be shipped away easily? If you have a lot of pieces to shoot, it may be better for you to pay a professional photographer to come to your location for a day or two. And one more tip about diamond photography: when you have a photo session of very expensive jewelry, work with one piece at a time. Finish with one, put it back and get to the next one. It’s the safest way!
What should you ask your photographer?
You finally found the perfect photographer. Before you hire him or her, find out the next important details:
- Files: generally, there are 2 kinds of files. The first is the large/original files. These are the files you need for prints and any kind of enlargements (catalogs, posters, printed advertising, etc).
The second kind of files are the small versions of these large files, which are great for any web use: your website, e-mails, social websites such as Facebook or MySpace, and so on. Please note: you can downsize a large file to become a small file, but you cannot do the opposite (unless you want horrible pixilated images). This is why it’s so important to make sure you get ALL the large files from your photographer.
- Prints: in these digital days, prints are not a must. As long as you are getting all the large files from your photographer (on CD, DVD or directly to your FTP server) you will not necessarily need any printed files. You can always print them yourself when needed.
- Extra expenses: Before starting, make sure you will not have to pay any extra expenses such as traveling fees or assistant fees that were not mentioned by the photographer on the official quote.
- Photo retouch: It’s not a secret anymore that the most beautiful images in the world are retouched with professional photo retouch software. Whether it is jewelry, shoes, bags or a beautiful young model – those images get a serious touch-up. Good photo retouch work will enhance the photo in many ways: it will remove unnecessary reflections, add exactly the right sparkle if needed, clean the background to perfection and more. Before you hire your photographer, make sure to include a professional photo retouch work for each and every image, or to have someone else for the retouch job. It’s more important than you may think.
Plan Your Photo Shoot Carefully
It all starts on your plan. After searching the web to get ideas, you have a vision of what fits your jewelry best. If you are not sure, or if you have a couple of ideas and visions, simply consult with your photographer. Experienced jewelry photographers will listen to your ideas and goals and will be able to give you advice and solutions to help you showcase your jewelry at its best.
From my own experience, there are couple issues that come up with most jewelry photo sessions:
Proper angles – Some jewelry will look simply amazing from a specific angle, and very plain from another. Make sure to make the right choices!
Background – Lots of times we will end up with the decision to have a pure white or pure black background for the jewelry pieces, but many times we will want to see them over a gradient background, nature color or an interesting texture that will bring out specific stone colors or shapes.
Focus – If you intend to sell your jewelry online or through a catalog, you will want a very sharp image that will show the jewelry from every angle. On the other hand, if you wish to have a nice artistic gallery of the photos while not exposing too many details to your competitors, you may consider the split focus style, where the focus is only on the main part of the jewelry (main stone for example) and the other parts of the jewelry will blend blurry and nicely with the background.
Use a model – I suggest using a model for at least a couple of items. For example, if you need the photos for a website, use a model for some beauty shots of the model wearing some of the pieces for the home page and couple of sub-pages, and show all the rest of the pieces by themselves on a plain background. This is, of course, is just a suggestion; you may choose to show ALL your jewelry pieces on a model or on a plain background. Choosing the right model is a subject of its own and I will probably dedicate another article for this issue. Very briefly I can just say that I strongly recommend you hire a professional, experienced model and to make sure that they sign a ‘model release’ form that allow you to use the pictures legally in every way you agreed on.