How to take pictures of jewelry in just 10 easy steps.
Brand New! Jewelry Photography Quick-eGuide that summarizes and shows you the step-by-step process on how to take photos of jewelry. Click here for more jewelry photography tips
This Jewelry Photography Quick-eGuide will explain to you how to photograph jewelry in 10 easy steps.
We've taken our experience in the jewelry photography industry, our expert photographers' knowledge, our existing jewelry photography tips content (of this page) and our product photography startup guide (Free PDF download) to construct this guide. The goal of our Quick-eGuide is to teach you how to take high quality photos of jewelry in an easy to understand step-by-step process. Once you are done photographing, you can use your photos to post in the internet (blogs, websites, for eBay, e-newsletters, e-commerce online stores, ), or for print (catalogs, brochures, postcards, newsletters, booklets, etc).
Jewelry Photography in 10 easy steps:
Please click the links provided within each step for more information.
- Choose a digital camera
- Choose your photography lighting setup
- Attach a "Close-up" or "Macro Lens" to your camera
- Adjust your digital camera settings
- Position your jewelry
- Position your camera
- Turn on (enable) the Macro Mode
- Choose your camera's shutter speed
- Shoot your photos
- Edit your photos
For in-depth information about jewelry photography and detailed jewelry photography tips please read the other sections of this page.
1. Choose a digital camera
Choose any digital camera that has the following 3 features:
- A manual mode - where you can change the shutter speed and aperture manually. Cameras that have different modes usually show the letter "M" to refer to the manual mode. More info here. See our current recommended Canon cameras.
- A custom white balance - Most cameras have presets for fluorescent, daylight or tungsten white balances, but your camera must have a "custom" or "manual" white balance. Learn why here.
- The ability to attach a lens. Jewelry is very small, and in order to photograph it we must be very close to it. In order to be close to it and have a focused photo, we must attach a "macro" or "close-up" lens. The "Macro mode" in your camera (tulip flower symbol) is NOT enough 90% of the time (in jewelry photography), although we will ALSO need to use it. If you want to know whether or not you can attach a lens to your camera, contact your manufacturer.
2. Choose your photography lighting setup
Use an enclosed photography lighting setup or light box with continuous natural daylight
There are two essential tools needed to produce a high-quality jewelry photograph, the first one is the digital camera that will shoot the photograph, and the second is the photography lighting setup or environment in where you'll photograph your jewelry. All other products or accessories to compliment your jewelry photography are optional, and although very helpful, they are not essential to your photography. View accessories to position your jewelry or other product photography accessories
- Why do you need an enclosed photography lighting setup?
In commercial photography the hardest products to photograph are jewelry, and this is mainly due to the fact that jewelry is very small and very reflective (high-polished surfaces). Learn why you need an enclosed lighting setup in our section Jewelry photography in a nutshell.
- Should I use a simple light tent or a professional lighting system for photographing jewelry?
There are basically two options to choose from for an enclosed photography lighting environment One of them is a simple fabric or textile light tent and the other one is a professional photography lighting system or light box. The light tent might look like an attractive option because of its cheaper price, yet the quality of the jewelry photography results are by far inferior when compared to the quality using a professional lighting system. Most people who try a light tent, sooner or later realize that it does not provide the necessary lighting environment they need for their jewelry photogaphy needs.
Main reasons why to use a professional light box:
- There is no setup required, and the lighting is consistent every time you flip on the light switch on the photography lighting system, there's no need to play around with the lights' position every time (as you do with the light tents).
- They provide an even distribution of light with consistent
natural daylight lighting along with properly and professionally diffused lighting (unlike the light tents' fabrics, which does not do this in the most efficient manner, as fabric bends and deflects the direction of the light unevenly).
- They have an illuminated background (or platform light). All of the MK light boxes provide you with an illuminated platform (bottom) which is essential in jewelry photography in order to achieve perfectly white backgrounds. Learn more.
- They are professionally designed. The MK lighting systems are professionally designed to give you the optimum jewelry photography lighting environment Read more benefits.
3. Attach a "Close-up" or "Macro Lens" to your camera.
As mentioned in the third bullet point in the first step, you must attach a "Macro" or "Close-up" lens to your digital camera. There are various ways to attach a close-up lens, the differences are based on your camera model.
- Point-and shoot cameras that have the ability to attach a close-up lens usually need a two-piece macro lens (shown to the right) which consists of a lens adapter and a close-up lens. Learn how to attach a lens here. (Click on the pink word "Show" to see detailed instructions)
- Professional DSLR digital cameras use a one-piece macro lens (see example of Canon macro lens) that attaches to the front of the camera (usually an expensive accessory to buy - $300 to $650 USD). Contact your local photography shop to show you which macro lens is the right for your camera when shooting at a distance between 12-18 inches. To learn how to attach a close up lens to a DSLR camera, see your camera's manual.
4. Adjust your digital camera settings.
There is a few settings that you need to adjust in your camera before you begin photographing your jewelry. You'll need to adjust the following things: Your camera's mode, white balance, aperture (F-Stop), ISO, and flash setting. Refer to your camera's manual for specific info on how to do the following:
- Set your camera to manual mode. Learn more.
Photo on the right shows a Canon SX110 camera being set to manual mode.
- Perform a custom white balance: This will allow your camera to adjust to the lighting environment in which you'll be photographing your jewelry, to ensure that you'll get a perfectly white background. Otherwise, you'll get backgrounds with colors you will not like (blue, green, etc). Learn how to perform a custom white balance. (Click "show" to open details on step 9).
- Set your aperture (F-stop) at F8.0 (most point-and-shoot cameras) or F16 (for DSLRs). Learn more
- Set the ISO to 80 or 100.
- Turn off (disable) your flash
Note: The previous camera settings must only be done ONCE, not every time you shoot a photograph. (While using the same type of light, like fluorescent; otherwise simply do the white balance again).
Read our complete digital camera setup guide
5. Position your jewelry
This step can range from very simple to moderately complicated. There are various methods for how to position your jewelry, which method you choose depends on what specific jewelry item you are photographing and how "artistic" you'd like to get.
Methods for positioning your jewelry items
- Simply place your item inside - No accessories required. Place your item in the inside platform of your enclosed photography setup or light box. This choice is usually great for bracelets, necklaces, bracelets, bangles, certain earrings, and certain watches.
- Use white acrylic stands - There are various white acrylic accessories that will hold your jewelry at different angles. These items include a pendant stand, earring stand, ring stand, and watch and bracelet stands. These accessories are made from the same white acrylic found in the inside of the MK lighting systems. More information on these accessories. View accessory kits
- Use frosted (translucent) accessories - There are various jewelry accessories that are made from frosted (translucent) material, which is not completely white, nor transparent but somewhere in the middle. These accessories are usually the best to use when photographing jewelry in a white background as they seem to "fade" in with the background. Find some examples here. These accessories may be used for
holding necklaces (as worn in a neck), earrings (as worn in an ear), bangles (vertically standing), rings (at 45 degrees), and other jewelry.
- Use holding (positioning) wax -The holding wax is most often used when someone wants to photograph a ring standing up as if it were "floating" in space, without any accessories showing in the photograph. View how to use holding wax to photograph a "floating" ring
- Place a special type of background - You can use various backgrounds when photographing jewelry, the choice is yours. Important:The best thing to do is to use a physical background in your photos (rather than a fake one through photoshop editing) by placing it inside your enclosed photography setup or light box, then position your jewelry as you like (using any sort of accessories). Some background examples include black or white reflective acrylics (For artistic photos with natural reflections - learn how to use), a metallic background, stones, leaves, fabrics, plastics, etc. View sample photos here (Browse through the entire photo album).
6. Position your camera
The most important thing to do is to attach your camera to a stable camera bracket or tripod, this will ensure that your camera is not moving while shooting your jewelry. If you do not attach your camera to something and simply take photos using your hands, you'll notice that your photos will most likely come out blurry or out of focus. The human hand naturally tends to shake, for this reason you must stabilize your camera if you want properly focused jewelry photographs.
Here are a few examples for positioning your camera:
- Attach it to a camera bracket for straight down photos- If you own a photography lighting system from MK Digital, you'll be able to attach your camera at the top of the light box in order to photograph jewelry straight-down from the top opening. This is usually great for when you want to photograph a necklace, a watch, bracelet, earrings or pendants. View example on the left (straight down photo).
- Attach it to a tripod for photos of jewelry at an angle
You may photograph your jewelry at an angle if you attach your camera to a tripod. Position the tripod at different heights to change the photography angle. View example of the set of engagement rings photographed using a tripod, from the front of a Photo-eBox lighting system using holding wax.
- Attach it to the magnetic bracket for photos from the top, but at an angle
This method only exists on MK lighting systems. All MK Lighting Systems (except the Gem-eBox) come with a "magnetic camera bracket" that allows you to position your camera on the top of the lighting system itself. Using this camera bracket you can photograph items from the top, but at an angle.
7. Turn on (enable) the Macro Mode
Turn on your camera, and then turn on (enable) your camera's macro mode. In most cameras, you simply press the tulip (flower) symbol button. If you are successful you should see an image of a flower somewhere in your camera's screen.
By turning on the macro mode, you're letting your camera know that we'll be shooting "close-up" photos and we'll need the camera to focus accordingly. Note flower shown on the bottom right corner of the adjacent image (macro mode is turned on).
Important Note: Although some may consider this step part of the camera setup process, it is a step on its own because of the fact that you must turn on (enable) this feature EVERY time you turn on your camera. It's a setting that USUALLY never gets saved (when the camera is turned off). For this reason, this is a separate step, and you must remember to turn it on every time you turn on your camera.
8. Choose your camera's shutter speed (to choose the correct brightness)
Your camera's shutter speed is what controls the velocity at which your camera lens diaphragm will open and close to capture the light in front of it. The light captured by your lens will then become your photograph. By adjusting the shutter speed you'll be able to choose how much time the lens will open, therefore choosing how much light you will allow to come into the lens. Depending on how much light comes into the lens your photo will be brighter or darker.
In order to photograph jewelry correctly, you must choose the shutter speed that gives you the best balance of light coming into your lens; ensuring your photos are not too bright nor too dark. Rather than letting your camera's automatic mode select the shutter speed for you, you must select it manually. The shutter speed is usually represented by a fraction like "1/80" or "1/250", etc. Yet, the actual shutter speed number you will use will be up to you. There isn't a "right" or "correct" number.
- How do I know which shutter speed I should use for photographing my jewelry?
The complete step by step instructions on how to select a shutter speed may be found in our "Photography Startup Guide" under step 4.3 ( Visit this page, and press the word "Show" next to Step 4.3 at the bottom of the page).
9. Shoot your photos
In this step you get to finally photograph your jewelry! Now that everything else is set correctly (steps 1 through 8) you can proceed to learn what's left on how to correctly photograph your jewelry.
Simply follow these next few steps:
- Zoom into your item
Note: Zoom-in as much as you can, while making sure your camera is still able to focus. If you zoom-in too much your camera might not focus the item and you will lose depth-of-field. You should zoom-out and then crop your image to get the desired
section of your photo.
- Focus your photos
Most cameras will automatically try to focus the item you are photographing. If your camera is not focusing your jewelry properly it might be because of the following reasons: You don't have
a close-up (macro) lens attached to your camera, you don't have the macro mode (tulip symbol) turned on (enabled), your camera is physically too close to your item or you zoomed in too much.
10. Edit your photos.
The last step in order to get a final & ready-to-use high-quality jewelry photograph, is to edit your photographs' brightness and contrast. If needed, you may also "Crop" (cut) your image. The reason we edit photos for brightness and contrast, is to make sure that we get perfectly white backgrounds (which might be slightly gray before, even after choosing the best possible shutter speed).
Follow these steps:
- Open you photograph on a photo editing software - If you own an MK lighting system, please use the FREE Catalog Producer Software that was included with your system. Otherwise you may use a software like PhotoShop.
- Crop your image - Select the cropping tool, then select the area you want to crop with your mouse, and crop your image.
- Add brightness and contrast to your photo - The amount of brightness and contrast that you'll add to your photos depends on each individual picture. Play around with these editing tools until you are able to get a photo that has a perfectly white background, and DOES NOT distort the original and true look of your jewelry.
View step-by-step detailed instructions on how to use the Catalog Producer Software (Step 4.6)
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