I thought I would depart from the jewelry making/inspiration/lifestyle focus of my previous blog posts and this time offer a quick little tutorial on taking decent photos of jewelry with an iPhone. This is a low tech approach… no equipment, no lights, no set up!
I am a jeweler, not a photographer, but like so many jewelers, (and gallery owners), I find that I have to produce more images than I could possibly afford to have photographed professionally in order to feed the great maw of my social media accounts! Social media is a fun way to generate interest and excitement about your work, but of course poor quality images won’t advance your cause. Because many of us don’t feel that we have much time to spend on learning how to do this, or the money for a professional set up, I thought I would share what I have learned after taking thousands of (terrible) photos.
The following are some common issues and the fix:
Photo out of focus: This one is easy to solve…support your phone with a small box about 6″ tall, in order to hold it steady. The box should be either white or wrapped with aluminum foil to reflect more light back onto the piece…serves two purposes!
Lighting: I use natural light, which for me is usually a window ledge in the studio which faces south. Morning light on a cloudy day seems to work best for me. I find that bright sun casts too many shadows and late in the day shots tend to be too yellow. Once you get a feel for the right time of day and cloud cover, your success rate will go way up. You can edit/fix some lighting issues with adjustments in the photo program on your phone. I have found that the most useful ones to try are “exposure”, “contrast”, and “cast”, this is not a miracle cure however! If it is a sunny day and you can’t wait for the clouds, you can try taping a large piece of paper over the
window to filter the light. Test out different windows and angles to the light. You can also try hovering apiece of white paper such as an envelope over the piece to get some nice reflected light. This is when a third arm comes in handy…I somehow always manage to do this on my own and I hardly ever drop my phone!
Background: Blank 5”x7” index cards make for a nice clean white background. However when shooting on a white background, be sure to make a “frame” around your piece of a more neutral color, otherwise your image will likely be overexposed. In the photo showing my set up, I have cut a window/square out of a catalog page. This same tip works for shooting on a black background…you have to balance what the camera sees. Or you can use a neutral background…for instance some gray paper. Before posting, I edit/crop the catalog page out of the photo and rotate/adjust the angle of the piece as necessary.
Weird reflections: You may notice a weird pink glow on your piece…if you are white, this could be coming from your face or hands, or that pink jacket you are wearing. You can experiment with where you are standing with relation to the piece and the light source, and make sure that your clothing is neutral in color.
Supporting the piece: A small packet of black Model Magic does the trick here; you can buy this at craft stores and fashion little supports to use behind your pieces to keep them in the position that you want them to be in.
Fortunately with digital you can take many photos and experiment with getting the effect that you want, eventually you will get some nice photos!
These tips are for more casual jewelry shots…for producing jury quality images, you might want to use a professional photographer or at least learn to use Photoshop or similar. I use an open source program called “Gimp” to refine photos and add gradient backgrounds etc.