Saturday, 27 October 2012

How to Photograph Handmade Jewellery - part 3

Previously I've covered some of the basics of photographing jewellery, and how to light shots. This time I'm going to look at how location choice can save you work and time, and how creating themes for your jewellery can improve the look of the final images.

Location, location, location

A perfectly crafted piece of jewellery deserves to look its best, and so the setting up of photos is a crucial part of the process. Once you have found how to design your photos in a way that you’re happy with, then you’re well on your way to having a photography process or workflow which will enable you to whizz through jewellery photo sessions.

First, try and find a suitable place to take your photos. If you’re lucky enough to be able to leave your photography set-up in place then I envy you! Chances are you’ll need to have somewhere to store all the different elements you’ll need for each session, so try and keep them together and close to the place you’ll take your photos.

Of course, these are hints designed to make things a little easier, and most definitely not rules. If you fancy using a different spot each time you take photos then go right ahead. However, if you prefer to use one particular location then spend some time taking photos in a variety of places, for example on a well-lit table or, my personal favourite, on a window sill, until you find the best situation for you. Some people take photos outside and that can work well if you can rely on it not raining (not so tricky in the UK for much of the year ...).

Dream on a theme

Creating themes for your photographs is an ideal way of also creating continuity in your work, and a unified look for your shopfront and gallery images.

Theming your photos can be simple or complicated. I try to keep it simple by often positioning my jewellery on one or more large stones. (I have a small collection, created for this purpose.) Their rough surface contrasts with the shine of the silver, and I like the subtle colours that (I hope) don’t detract from the jewellery. My theme is the difference of unrefined natural stone with the refined silver and gemstones I use. This reflects some of the natural and organic aspects I try and integrate into my work.

I also use wood as a prop and find, again, the contrast between natural and polished surface a good contrast (see image further down page).

Some craftspeople create collections of jewellery and style themes for each collection. For example, I often use hearts in my work, and so I could, if I chose, photograph all my heart inspired jewellery on a red background, to indicate love and romance. I also create quite a few leaf designs, and so I could chose to always photograph these on the open pages of a vintage book on nature.

However, I chose not to do this for reasons of simplicity but it is a valid choice to make, and many people use the idea of theming their work to add interest to their photographs, and to create a brand identity. But that’s getting into the field of marketing and we’re just dealing with photography here.

Another alternative is to let your imagination run riot with each individual piece of jewellery you create, especially if you’re creating highly detailed and intricate works of art. If something has taken you many hours to make then don’t let it down at the last by failing to invest time and imagination into the presentation. A careful photographic study of a piece of jewellery can only enhance it.


Often the simplest background is best, and the simplest choice for jewellery is a white background. This can be card or paper, or even cloth (although beware of tiny fabric threads on your work when taking close-up shots).

From personal experience I've found that black is a poor choice for a background colour. I experimented with this once and the high shine of the silver blurred against the black, and even seemed to bleed onto it. It was a disaster.

Silver photographed on a black background. Not good.

Silver photographed on stone. Rather better.

I sometimes see black backgrounds used in professional photo shoots for jewellery, but I think it takes far more equipment and know-how to make that type of high contrast photography work than I possess of either. My advice is, if you're looking to keep things simple, to steer clear of black backgrounds.

Following on from the principal of theming your photos, it can also be effective to be adventurous when choosing a background to place your work on. I use stones, as I’ve said, but some people use slate, leaves, or other natural items that contain texture. I've used pine cones on occasion, quite successfully, I felt.

Another popular trend, which I think works very well, is to use a book, either its cover or internal pages. Vintage books seem to work best, perhaps because of the texture they tend to have, and the contrast between that surface and the finish of the polished or highly-worked jewellery.

A jewellery box can be a wonderful prop, giving perhaps a vintage feel or a modern one. Make it clear in your description it’s not included in the price! And ensure it doesn’t detract from the jewellery by dominating the image. Chose large props with care.

Paying attention to the background is very important, whatever you decide to include in it. The background will always have an impact on the foreground. Either chose to make the background invisible (i.e. white), or decide on something bolder. But make the decision work for you by choosing carefully, and using with good lighting and deliberate focus on the jewellery itself.

Wood works (as a prop)

Sell your props!

Props don’t have to be purely aesthetic. Whilst it may be distracting and confusing to use other pieces of jewellery (although, for example, showing earrings that match a necklace, or vice versa, can be useful, especially if the other item is also for sale), as long as your prop enhances the overall image, then it can be interesting for the potential buyer to see, for example, the box that your jewellery will be packaged in. Including this as a prop to support your jewellery on, perhaps just in one of your photos, is a nice touch that inspires confidence in the overall buying experience.

Thanks for reading. Next time, I shall dwell a little longer on how to style jewellery, and will also look at where to find inspiration, and how to create a simple workflow to make photographing jewellery less time consuming.


Do check out my other posts with ideas and hints on how to photograph jewellery -
Part One on cameras and close-ups
Part Two on focus and lighting
Part Four on styling and inspiration

Also, keep a look out for my forthcoming ebook covering in far more depth how to photograph handcrafted jewellery.

Friday, 26 October 2012

Folksy Friday - Tick Tock

It's coming close to the end of October and it feel very autumnal and Hallowe-eny. Mists are descending and spider's webs appear while your back is turned. I even found a spider (sans web) in my car the other day, tucked happily behind the sun visor... You can imagine how much fun that was...

It's also the time of year in the UK when the clocks go back, causing general confusion but also a wonderful feeling on Sunday morning when you realise you can fairly claim an extra hour of sleep.

Driftwood Tide Clock by Seaside Stuff Vanity Fair Cover Clock by Ticking Image Oak and Metal Clock by Reclaimed Time Vinyl Record Horse Head Clock by Krissys Vinyl  Ceramic Clock by Bread and Butter Acrylic Fox Clock by Big Bad Wolf Design Driftwood Shelf Clock by Knottyburr Wood Crafts Maple Leaf Clock by Ode Oak Speech Bubble Clock by Aftertrees

In honour of the much-valued extra hour, I've collected together a few wonderful clocks from Folksy, any of which I'd love to own, provided they don't tick. I don't know if I'm alone in having a general loathing of ticking clocks and have even been driven to remove batteries in the past, just to get some relief from this strange ailment. So, to rephrase, I'd love any of the above clocks, as long as they tell me the time, but very, very quietly.

Click through on the clocks to go to their individual Folksy pages.

To all in the UK, enjoy that precious hour ...

Monday, 22 October 2012

Copper in Autumn

Last weekend I spent a few hours with a friend in her workshop, tucked away against the chill weather outside, surrounded by silver, copper, polishers, rolling machines, and enough tools to make anyone who makes metal jewellery rather happy.

Copper ring, with a rolled pattern. Like a leopard's spots, or a honeycomb.

We chatted about the price of silver (slightly decreased), the fact I've most definitely missed the final posting date for the Diamond Jubilee hallmark (boo), and that assay offices will now hallmark silver and gold even if they're attached to metals such as copper, something they didn't previously do (interesting).

Another ring through the rolling mill. This time the pattern is more abstract.

We drank a lot of tea, finished off a jar of hot chocolate, and ate too many biscuits and chocolates (very naughty in a workshop, I know).

Oh, and we also made some jewellery.

More roller textured copper, a little crown-like...

Crown-like also, but in a slightly more-committed curvy-way.

Unfortunately, I don't have any photos of the beautiful silver locket my friend finished, nor of the silver and copper owl she was working on, but I have included a few snaps of the four copper rings I made, and of the copper owl I did some work on (and no, we didn't converse beforehand, just coincidentally were both working on owls...), and which may well turn into a brooch. Or a pendant. Hmm...

The two crowns fit together, just, and make a wider ring.

Nothing I started is finished yet, the rings needing some more filing and polishing, and  the owl either needing more work on the detail, or me discarding it as a prototype or experiment.

A brooch in waiting. Or a pendant. Or just a copper owl.

But, still, not a bad way to spend a Saturday in autumn at all.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

How to Photograph Handmade Jewellery - part 2

In part 1 I wrote about some of the basics of photography and how important it was to take a variety of types of photos, with a variety of angles. This time, I'm going to deal with why focus and lighting are key to good photographs.

Sharp as a...


Macro and close-ups are all very well, but it is important that the end image is in sharp focus. Light has its part to play in this (see below) but also important is eliminating camera shake, and a small tripod can be useful to steady the camera. Another idea is to use the timer on the camera to take the photos - that way the camera itself won’t be jogged by your hand as you press the shutter down. Again, explore what your camera can do and experiment to see how it can help your final images.

Use the autofocus feature that comes as standard on many digital cameras - by holding down the shutter button very slightly, with the middle square of the viewing screen aligned with what you want to photograph, the camera should automatically provide the best focus for that image.  Be aware that backgrounds of a similar colour as the subject, such as in the photo below, can make it harder for the autofocus feature to find what you want it to focus on...

Three silver ladies

If your camera has manual focus then experiment with that, alongside the instruction manual, to work out the right settings for your photographs.

Shine your light


Good lighting is essential to good photos. The camera doesn't see what we do and small and subtle deficiencies in light and its quality can translate into dark and dingy photographs. Ensuring the camera not only has enough light but also the right type of light can help eliminate this issue.

And what is the right type of light? The right type of light is both bright and diffused.



Diffused light is vital, even if you are taking photos in the daylight. Harsh, unfiltered sunlight creates strong shadows, and the high contrast between light and shade can diminish how well detail is displayed in the photograph by creating both overly bright and deeply shadowed areas.

Taking this photo in bright sunlight has created heavy shadows on much of the silver ring. 

Ideal weather conditions are a bright, but cloudy day. In conditions of bright sunlight, try taking photos on a window sill which the sun doesn’t reach but where the light bounces off walls, so the ambient light levels are high. This will mean you won't get strong shadows but your work will be well lit.

If the shadows created are still too strong then consider using masking tape to fix tracing paper to a window to diffuse the light. The strong sunlight will scatter evenly and the shadows cast will be diminished. However, the power of the light will still be bright enough to enable a good photograph to be taken.

By diffusing some of that sunlight, the balance of shadow and light is far less stark

Another alternative is to create a light tent using net curtaining, or some other fine material, stretched over a simple frame. This tent or box effect ensures strong and harsh light is softened and diffused as it passes through the material before it hits the jewellery. The Digital Photography School, Strobist, and Instructables all provide helpful tutorials through these links on how to build light tents.




A downside of diffusing light is that it can have the adverse effect of making the light conditions too dull. If this is the case then find a piece of white cardboard and angle it to reflect light onto the jewellery. Another option is to wear a white top which will bounce light back as you snap!

Ideally, avoid using a flash when photographing jewellery. Nothing beats daylight and a flash can create areas of over-bright light in a jewellery photo that don’t represent your work at its best and can distort its true colour. However, if you only have evenings to shoot in then use a piece of white cardboard or tissue over the flash, to help diffuse the harsh light.

All this can seem hard work but getting the lighting bright but gentle enough can make all the difference between an image that looks dull and even blurry, and a photo that is sharp, clear, and well lit, with all the focus on what it should be - the jewellery.

Light is everything

The single most important element in photography is light. Without light we have no photographic images, and this is true for both film and digital photography. This is a simple rule and keeping it in mind whenever you're taking photos of jewellery and all crafts will improve the final result.

Exceptions to rules...

However, as an aside to all this, shadows can be used to add drama and texture to a photo. So do experiment with using shadow in some of your images if you think it will add interest to the jewellery. If you are using several photos to show an individual piece of work, then including an adventurous image amongst the more traditional views may be an interesting addition.

For example, this photograph below, taken in sunlight, has strong shadows and areas of brightness

but I do like the sparkle of sunlight on the silver, and it helps convey how light moves through the gemstones. I also feel it gives a sense of movement in the earrings, and I love the shadows of the earrings in the background.

But this more correctly lit shot also helps convey the shine of the gemstones, something that doesn't come through in the first photograph. 

So I would be happy using them both to showcase these particular earrings.

Next time, I'll focus on the importance of location choice, themes and backgrounds.

Thanks for reading and I hope the article has been helpful.


Do check out my other posts with ideas and hints on how to photograph jewellery -
Part One on cameras and close-ups
Part Three on location, themes and backgrounds
Part Four on styling and inspiration

Also, keep a look out for my forthcoming ebook covering in far more depth how to photograph handcrafted jewellery.

Friday, 12 October 2012

Folksy Friday - Autumn Leaves

It's come. The time of year when we have to stop trying to kid ourselves that it's still the end of summer. It is now the start of autumn, and the leaves, just a few, are starting to turn and fall.

I chose this selection of jewellery, inspired by nature in general and autumn leaves in particular, in the hope that the bright autumn colours and wonderful textures make the lengthening evenings a little more tolerable.

1 - An embroidered pendant, by Love in Idleness

2 - Five sterling silver leaves necklace, by Magic in the Grass

3 - Etched glass and silver bracelet, by Luce Di Luna

4 - A pendant in resin containing a real leaf, made by Wishes on the Wind Jewelry

5 - Made from individual organza leaves, this free-machine embroidered wrist cuff is created by Sally

6 - Oak leaf earrings in sterling silver, made by Jewellery Designs by Sarah Birt

7 - Copper enamelled earrings, made by Maggie Jones Enamels

8 - Made from recycled silver, this tree pendant is created by Ali Bali Jewellery

9 - Images of autumn leaves set in glass make a pendant, by Emily Made Me

Hope you enjoy a bright, colourful autumn.

Saturday, 6 October 2012

How to Photograph Handmade Jewellery - part 1

One of the biggest challenges involved in selling handmade goods online, especially for designer/makers, is photography. If a craftsperson cannot afford to employ a professional photographer (which is likely) and cannot find a photographer prepared to swap services (not impossible but certainly tricky), then they have to fall on their own resources and take their own photographs.

Like becoming skilful in a particular craft in the first place, gaining an understanding of photography can be a steep learning curve. Most people can use a point and click digital camera and take a decent photograph, but to take a detailed and quality image can be far harder. However, digital photography is the lifesaver here as you can take as many photos as you need until you have a collection that is good enough to publish. And a plethora of photo editing suites exist to refine and improve images.

It’s worth saying that I’m no photography expert but I do have a little experience, having taken shots of my own work for several years now, and (owing to a rather handy photography course I took a couple of years back) I do have a little insider knowledge when it comes to knowing my way around a camera. Having said that, while I’ve been reviewing some of my old photos as I’ve written these blog posts, it’s struck me how much I still have to learn, and that I need to apply what I do already know more keenly to my photographs. Hopefully the fruits of my labour will become evident in my next set of images.

Photographing Handmade Jewellery

First up, the importance of photos when selling online; the value of macro and close ups, along with that of the big picture; and how understanding jewellery will improve the photos you take.

A picture says a thousand words - explaining your jewellery without words 

Unlike in conventional shops, someone viewing your jewellery on the internet can’t examine how it looks from different angles, can’t pick it up and feel its weight, and can’t hold it up to themselves and see their reflection in a mirror. They’re dependent on the information you provide them with to make a decision whether or not to part with their money. The more information you offer the better, and providing that information in the form of good quality photographs is a wonderful form of shorthand that can convey the essence and quality of your work far more quickly than a wordy description can. Photographs, especially good quality ones, cut to the chase.

All you really need to take good jewellery photographs is... 

A camera with a macro button. Don’t become overwhelmed by the vast choice of cameras. Yes, a shiny new, top-of-the-range camera would be wonderful, thank you very much, but most modern digital cameras should possess the one essential you need to take decent quality jewellery photographs - a macro button. The button normally has a small flower icon on it, and when you press it the camera focuses far closer than it does for the average family or landscape shot. This means you can take sharp images of the detail on your jewellery.

My rather old and not-very-expensive (okay, cheap) camera has a neat trick which means if you press the macro button twice you get to super-macro, which focuses even closer and allows an extreme close-up image. Check your camera, and instruction booklet if you have one (it may well be in PDF form, or even only available online), to see if you have super-macro. If you do have it, you won’t regret searching it out, as it’s a super-handy facility.

Photo of rings taken on a macro setting
The same rings, photographed on super-macro

The big picture

Whilst macro close-ups are invaluable for displaying detail in jewellery it is also important that you pull back in some shots, to allow your item of jewellery to be fully shown. Provide a variety of images to give the viewer as much information and detail as possible. I aim to include one or two overall images of each piece along with several close-ups on macro and super-macro, using different angles to add interest and hopefully show the jewellery in interesting ways.

A picture of the whole piece of jewellery...

...a close-up of the same item of jewellery

Variety is the spice of life - angles and approaches

Jewellery is three dimensional but photographs aren’t. With careful use of angles and perspective however, you will be able to make your photos dynamic and give your jewellery a real feeling of movement and vigour. Experiment with taking photos from overheard, or low-down, close to the jewellery and from further away, as well as from the side and straight on. I’ve found moving the camera around to more extreme angles can increase how striking the jewellery looks, which can attract the eye of the casual browser. Using such images in amongst more traditional shots allows your jewellery to be seen clearly but also to create interest and excitement.

Hopefully still recognisable as a bangle...

In the next post on this topic I'll cover lighting and how it can be the most important element in your photo, alongside the jewellery.

Thanks for reading and please feel free to leave any comments, queries, or corrections on what I've written - I'd love to also increase my own knowledge into this fascinating and wide-reaching topic.


Do check out my other posts with ideas and hints on how to photograph jewellery -
Part Two on focus and lighting
Part Three on location, themes and backgrounds
Part Four on styling and inspiration

Also, keep a look out for my forthcoming ebook covering in far more depth how to photograph handcrafted jewellery.