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Jewelry Photography Tips, Tricks & Equipment
How to take pictures of fine jewelry and precious gems

gold earring photogold earring photo
Taking good quality pictures of jewelry for most is an unsolved mystery.  However, there are some simple techniques used by the professional, which even amateur photographers can use to obtain dramatic results with minimal effort. The following examples show a few basic setups that should allow anyone to achieve results they can be proud of. These images were all taken using a Canon Digital Rebel camera with a 100MM lens.

The basic setup we used included an EZcube light tent as a light diffuser to soften the shadows and eliminate glare, while providing a clean and clutter free background. We used Tabletop Studio lights as the primary light source, equipped with true color daylight balanced compact fluorescent bulbs. We also used a special Diamond dazzler LED bulb to light up the diamonds and faceted gems in the example images on this page. For difficult subjects such as hoop earrings or studs, we used a "freeze frame" by Tabletop studio to suspend the earring in mid air, separating the subject from the background.

The keys to good jewelry photography are sharpness, lighting, exposure, and in the case of diamond photography, creating some sparkle. Good jewelry photography needs sharp, crisp focus. It is worth getting out your camera's manual to find out how to put the camera in "spot focus" mode. The normal focus mode of digital cameras is some sort of average focus mode. That means that the camera will look at a wide area of a scene and base the focus on that area. Since you want to control where the camera is focusing, it's better for jewelry photography to put the camera into spot focus mode, this will allow you to control more precisely what the camera will be focusing on. However, even in spot focus mode many digital cameras can't really "lock-in" on a small shiny object like gemstone jewelry using auto focus.So unfortunately, for close-up jewelry photography, you need a camera with good manual focus capability.

Another key to a sharp image is a tripod. It is absolutely essential to use a tripod or similar camera support when shooting jewelry. A sturdy tripod is better than a flimsy one, but any tripod is many times better than no tripod. Use a tripod.

Another key to good jewelry photography is the lighting. Normally diffuse (soft) lighting works best for jewelry. You have probably already discovered that an on-camera flash does not lead to good jewelry photos. Not only is the camera's flash too bright at such a close distance, but it is probably in the wrong position to actually light up the jewelry properly. On camera flash will also create harsh and distracting shadows. Rather than flash, we like to use continuous lighting for product photography. Using continuous lights makes it easier to visualize what the final image will be like.

We prefer daylight balanced compact fluorescent bulbs for lighting. These bulbs provide nice, natural-colored light and they produce very little heat so they can be left on for long photo sessions without over heating the photographer. Even fluorescent light bulbs will need to be diffused and for that we use an EZcube light tent as the diffuser. A small light tent makes it easy to reduce glare and control shadows for jewelry photography.

Proper exposure is also key to good jewelry photography. (For more information on adjusting the exposure for jewelry images take a look at this page.) Now lets look at some specific jewelry photography situations that go beyond the basics.

h

Two lights work well for many jewelry items, and may be all that is needed for great results shooting certain types of jewelry...

The two lights can be positioned to sides of the EZcube, which diffuses the light and eliminates glare. These lights provide the main light source for the piece of jewelry.

Be sure the lights are actually positioned so that they are lighting your jewelry. Try moving the lights around to find a position that flatters your piece. Look at your jewelry as you move the lights to see how the lighting changes

Experienced photographers will often use a more powerful light on one side to add dimension to the subject. You can achieve similar results by setting one light closer to the subject.

gSparkler light in front
ffRing hanging in Freeze Frame
ezcube top openingEZcube top access

How to add sparkle to diamonds or faceted gemstones... A light tent provides nice soft lighting for jewelry and makes for a pleasing image. However, the light tent will not provide the direct hard lighting necessary to "light up" faceted gemstones or diamonds.  Faceted gemstones & diamonds need to be illuminated by a hard light source that is positioned at nearly the same place as the camera, shining directly into the face of the stones. But you cannot use an ordinary light or you will get glare and hot spots.

jewelry shoot

The "sparkler" light is the third  light, and the key to having properly lit faceted gemstones. This light must be positioned so that you see the stones sparkle when you look through your lens.

Position the sparkler light to shine directly into the gemstone to illuminate the stone. Because this light is not diffused by the light tent, it needs to be a weaker light than the side lights. Move this light until you see the gem light up.  

I find it helpful to turn off all other lights while you find the perfect placement for the sparkler light. Look through the camera's viewfinder when positioning the sparkler light.

sparkler lightSparkler light
diamond dazzlerDiamond Dazzler LED
dazzler lightSparkler with Dazzler bulb

Adding brilliance to diamonds ... Tabletopstudio has a created a special bulb, for diamond photography, that has 18 daylight color LED's. The Diamond Dazzler bulb, shown above, provides the direct, focused, hard light that is needed to unleash the fire of your diamonds, without producing unwanted glare! This bulb is an absolute must have for diamond photography.

The daylight colored LED's are made to match our 5000k daylight color lighting products. This daylight colored LED bulb is made specifically to bring out a diamonds fire or add brilliance to any faceted gemstone without producing glare. It is conveniently designed to fit nicely into our sparkler lights 5" reflector.

Always be sure that all of your lights match in color or you will not be happy with the results. NEVER mix different light source bulb colors. I use all 5000K daylight balanced bulbs for all of my example images, and never need to make color corrections. Also, leave your auto white balance setting ALONE. Most cameras do a great job with this set to Auto. If you ignore this advice and change your white balance setting, expect a greenish color cast over the entire image. White balance settings will not give you a white background.


Stand up small charms or pendants using prop wax... Wax can be a great invisible hand when it comes to standing up small pieces of jewelry. Just place a tiny little bit on the bottom of the item you are working with. This is a great way to stand up rings or tall focal beads too. I used a tiny bit too much here to make the point that you don't want to see the wax in the final image. So be frugal, use the least amount possible. The wax is strong and will not dry out so it can be used over and over again.

This wax works great, as shown in this example, on black acrylic. I stood the seahorse upright on top of my black acrylic, and then casually had the gold chain meander through the background. This is a fresh alternative to the jewelry bust that you often find people shooting on these days. The jewelry busts were designed for brick and mortar storefronts, and do not make attractive photographic backgrounds. When in doubt always feel free to look at your favorite jewelry web site to see how they lay out their jewelry to be photographed. Tiffany of course has a beautiful web site full of inspiration.

camera angle

blank bracelet

White high gloss acrylic provides a soft reflection of the jewelry placed on top. We named this the "Tiffany effect" because Tiffany uses this effect so often on their web site ...

Position the bracelet in the middle of the acrylic panel, so the edges can be cropped easily out of the photograph. The angle of camera view will make the reflection more vivid or less, so always look through the camera viewfinder as you adjust your tripod position.

Be sure to clean your jewelry first and always spend some time on the composition or "styling" of the item. It's best to photograph the jewelry from several different angles to see what looks the most pleasing.

bracelet1
bracelet2
bracelet3

Even amateur photographers can obtain dramatic results with minimal effort. The gallery of images below were cropped, but otherwise unaltered and were taken using an Canon Digital Rebel camera with a 100mm macro lens.

jewelry gallery

black

Using high gloss black acrylic or glass creates a dramatic reflection. "Black ice" is a favorite of pro photographers and can be used to create many desirable effects depending on light positioning.

Black glass or black acrylic can produce many different effects so decide ahead of time what effect you're looking for. If you desire a dramatic reflection on a pure black background then you will need to insert a piece of black paper {the size of the EZcube sweep} into the EZcube.

The paper will make a sweep that goes along the back of the light tent and arches over the ceiling of the tent inside. This will block all of the refelctions you would see of the EZcube in the black reflective surface.

blackiceUnwanted white reflections
bracelet2
black paper solves problem
swarovski bracelet
Pure black desired effect

p

When photographing pearls, by using only one light source positioned above, the pearls will appear rounder with more dimension.

A 6' light stand positioned on the table next to the 20"EZcube acts as a boom light. I just opened the stand legs partially so the light stand would fit up close to the EZcube. The EZcube works great here to soften the shadows.

Styling your pearls, by positioning them in a smooth, pleasing shape is critical for a professional look. Professional photographers often hire a styling expert to help find the right layout. Be sure to look at good photos of pearls and copy the styling. The pattern "8" is a popular shape for longer strands, and a "dog collar" shape works well for shorter strands.

pearlsSingle light source above
gg
Pearls styled like an "8"
ooo
"Dog collar" shape

Basic Jewelry Photography Equipment

The jewelry photography lighting & equipment used to take the example images above is shown here in detail. Please note the sparkler light and diamond dazzler LED bulb are not neccessary for all jewlery. They are designed for use with facted stones such as diamonds and faceted gems. Pearls & Cabochons will not work with the LED Diamond Dazzlerand. Undesirable reflections of all 18 leds will reflect on the cabachon or pearl surface.

daylight bulbs

EZcube® light tent

  • For soft, diffused lighting
  • Reflection control
  • New design for hanging items

    Tabletop Shortez light set

  • 10" Flood lights & stand mounts
  • Adjustable stands
  • Daylight color CFL bulbs

    Sparkler Light

  • 5" Flood lights & stand mount
  • Adjustable 6' stand
  • 15 Watt small CFL bulb  

    Diamond Dazzler LED Bulb

  • 18 daylight color LEDs
  • LEDs unleash a diamonds fire
  • Fits in the Sparkler light 

    White & Black Acrylic 16x16

  • Black for dramatic reflections
  • White for soft reflections
  •  
    EZ Rigging
    *staging accessories sold separately.
    EZcubeEZcube with grommets for hanging items
    jewelry photo kit
    Sparkler light with the Diamond Dazzler LED bulb inserted
    kit
    EZcube top opening helps change items easy
    black acrylic
    Black & white high gloss acrylic

    "Freeze Frame" for Jewelry Photography
    Hanging earrings or pendants motion free

    gold earring photonecklace photogem hoop photo
    If you have been struggling to take pictures of earrings & sell jewelry online, guaranteed you will be happy about this break through by the Tabletop Studio folks. Many times it is not possible to hire a professional photographer due to cost or timing related issues, and you are faced with having to take your own photos. It is possible for you to get great shots of your items if you have the proper equipment such as lighting and camera and a few other extras to help get the job done well.

    The photos shown here are no doubt what all jewelers selling online are striving to achieve. The technique shown here can be used with an "open photographic set" which does not require the use of a light tent, such as the EZcube, if you have a soft box light. If you do not have a soft box we recommend using this tool inside of an EZcube light tent, to soften the light. We will show you how it can be used both ways, and will greatly reduce the large amount of time spent struggling to compose your jewelry before beginning to shoot.


    Use the Tabletop Studio Freeze Frame to "freeze" jewelry in mid air...

    Even professional photographers are challenged by how to hang earrings or pendants in a way that will work for taking a picture. Tabletop Studio developed a great technique to hang earrings and other small items using two fine filament lines for support. The first line supports the subject nicely. But the second line is the key to anchoring it in place so it does not swing for hours while you wait patiently by for it to stop moving. Choose the placement of these strings carefully so you have less photoshop work later.


    tabletopstudio

    A great secret to know when shooting earrings that match ... pros often shoot one and use software, like Photoshop, to create a duplicate.

    Run the first line of filament from side to side & clip in place. Hang the earring from it. Then run the second line through the lower portion of the earring and pull slightly downward to freeze the earring in place. Once the second line is secured you can further adjust the earring, tension will hold it in place.

    Once it is secure you can move the freeze frame, instead of the earring, to find a pleasing angle of view of the earring frozen in place. Now position the freeze frame 10" x 12" white background behind your earring and take a look through the camera.

    setup for jewelryJewelry Freeze Frame
    freezeframeJewelry Freeze Frame
    invisible threadUntouched image from camera

    dichroic glassNecklace in Freeze Frame
    dichroic jewelryNecklace hung on background
    necklaceAfter touch-up in Photoshop
    elocquinnAfter touch-up in Photoshop
    gold hoop earringsAfter touch-up in Photoshop

    Keep in mind that to avoid harsh shadows and reduce glare, jewelry photography, like all product photography, normally requires soft lighting, For soft lighting the Freeze Frame can be used inside an EZ cube or with the Kuhl Lite soft boxes.The primary light source for the examples shown on this page was one single 16" x 16" Kuhl Lite 120 soft box . This light holds four 30 Wattcamera angle compact fluorescent bulbs, putting out a substantial amount of light, which allows you to shoot with your camera set to a faster shutter speed.

    The image to the right shows a ring suspended in the freeze frame. In this setup the camera is shooting downward so the white freeze frame background is laying on the table surface and would appear to be behind the diamond ring in the photo. Because this is an open set {not an enclosed light tent} sometimes your shiny jewelry will reflect darkness from items in the room. Use the white fill card as shown in this setup to "fill" the darker areas with reflected light. The fill card should always face the light source it is reflecting, to be effective. Move the card around to find the right spot if your jewelry needs a little extra light in one spot.

    Be sure that all of your lights match in color or you will not be happy with the results. NEVER mix different light source bulb colors. I use all 5000K daylight balanced bulbs for all of my example images, and never need to make color corrections. Also, leave your auto white balance setting ALONE. Most cameras do a great job with this set to Auto. If you ignore this advice and change your white balance setting, expect a greenish color cast over the entire image. White balance settings will not give you a white background.

    The three most effective ways to whiten your background:

  • Camera exposure - increase the exposure time
  • Photoshop or Elements - adjust "levels"
  • Photoshop or Elements - remove the image background

  • Photographing highly reflective gold and silver jewelry...

    Even professional photographers are challenged by how to photograph highly reflective jewelry. There are always decisions and trade offs that need to be made in order to get the job done. The trick is not to eliminate the reflections but to "control" them so you get to decide which ones enhance the reflective appearance of your piece and which ones detract from it. You'll need to make some choices so be sure to take a hard look at jewelry images you admire first. Tiffany jewelry's web site is a good source of inspiration for reflective silver jewelry images. Although they do spend more time in Photoshop then we would suggest.


    gh

    If you eliminated ALL reflections in your jewelry, it would appear dull, flat and lifeless.

    A) The silver hoop earring hung in the freeze frame on a table, NO light tent. The earrings reflected everything in the room; looking "noisy". See setup A) below.

    B) the same earring hung on the Freeze Frame now placed inside the EZcube, leaving the front of the tent open. See setup B) below.

    C) eliminate even more reflections by placing the EZ cube front cover in place. It will be a personal choice which way to go & which style appeals most to you while shooting your product. This result is too dull for my liking. See setup C) below.

    hhA) NO EZcube Light Tent
    tttB) EZcube no front cover
    gC) EZcube with front cover

    reflectiveA) Freeze Frame NO EZcube
    reflective2B) EZcube - NO front cover
    reflective3C) EZcube - Front Cover
    elocquinnA) Freeze Frame NO EZcube
    gold hoop earringsA) Freeze Frame NO EZcube

    freeze frame

    Jewelry Photography Freeze Frame

    The Freeze Frame setup is ideal for holding subjects motionless while you shoot. Perfect for subjects that are typically very difficult to support, such as hoop earrings, studs and some necklaces. shown above with a 16" x 16" Kuhl Lite 120 soft box with table top size stand, 10" x 12" white background and 8" x 10" white fill card, to reflect additional light onto the subject where needed. This setup provides many ways of hanging the same piece of jewelry so you can find what works best for your item. Necklaces can be hung from the background or in the Freeze Frame.

    jewelry photography

    Kuhl Lite 120 soft box

  • 20" flood light & stand mount

  • Ideal for soft lighting
  • Four 30W daylight CFL bulbs
  • Adjustable 12" to 15" stand
  • Removable diffusion panel
  • Freeze Frame

  • 8" x 10" black frame
  • 8" x 10" white frame
  • 10" x 12" white background
  • 8" x 10" white fill card
  • jewelry freeze frame
     

    Advanced Jewelry Photography
    How to take pictures of jewelry on black acrylic or glass

    jewelry 2 jewelry pictures jewelry3
    If you sell jewelry online, you want to display your products in the most flattering way possible to attract more customers. Many times it is not possible to hire a professional photographer due to cost or timing related issues, and you are faced with having to take your own photos. It is possible for you to get great shots of your items if you have the proper equipment such as lighting and camera as well as a plan of action regarding the look you are trying to achieve. We will discuss here how to photograph your jewelry in one particular attractive manner popular in high end fashion magazines.

    The technique shown here requires the use of some very specific items to have success. We will list the equipment used as we go along, and a complete list can be found at the end of this document. This technique uses an "open photographic set" which does not require the use of a light tent, such as the EZcube. We will be using a soft box and diffusion paper to soften the lighting instead.


    Using high gloss black acrylic or black glass for photography...

    Professional photographers will use black glass to achieve this effect shown below, but high gloss black acrylic can be used in place of real glass for a safer setup. By looking at the setup below, the results are somewhat unexpected. The very shiny black background resembles a softly airbrushed background in the final image, instead of a reflective mirror.


    hint

    A small 5" reflector diffused by a sheet of translucent mylar creates a beautiful soft halo around the necklace focal point.

    It requires a great deal of patience to correctly line up the halo, produced by the lights 5" reflector, exactly where you would intend it to be.

    The "halo" or "bright spot" is created by positioning a light with a 5" reflector, behind a diffusion panel made of a white translucent mylar material. This small light is placed on the opposite side of the table from the camera, and on the backside of the jewelry. You will not be able to tell if the halo is in the right spot unless you look through the camera lens. Contrary to what you may think, this light does not need to be pointed downward.

    Raising or lowering the light stand will move the halo location toward the camera or away. The position of the light shown in these examples is the setup that produced these photos.

    setup for jewelry
    black acrylic
    swarovski photography

    The primary light source for the necklace shown, was positioned on the side of the table, facing downward toward the jewelry and table surface. A single soft box was used to soften the primary light source and prevent glare and hotspots on the surface of the crystals. We used one single 20" x 20" Kuhl Lite 120 soft box for this. This light holds four 30 Wattcamera angle compact fluorescent bulbs, putting out a substantial amount of light, which allows you to shoot with your camera set to a faster shutter speed.

    The large acrylic sheet used, has a protective sheet on both sides; we highly recommend leaving the second side covered with the protective sheeting until you intend to use it. The acrylic does scratch easily, so dragging jewelry across the surface is to be avoided when at all possible. Glass is more durable and can be used instead of acrylic; however it is more hazardous to work with due to the fragile nature of glass.

    This technique works especially well for jewelry that lies flat like the necklace shown. Because this is an open set and the black acrylic is highly reflective, it will take some patience to line things up just right so the acrylic is not reflecting things you do not wish to see in your image. If you have the opportunity to work in an area with high ceilings, that helps to reduce the overhead reflections a bit. Be sure to keep looking through the camera lens after repositioning any part of the setup. Unwanted reflections have a way of sneaking in just when you think you're all set.

    Be sure that all of your lights match in color or you will not be happy with the results. NEVER mix different light source bulb colors. I use all 5000K daylight balanced bulbs for all of my example images.


    "Black Ice" Jewelry Photography Equipment

    The equipment shown here works great for taking pictures of jewelry in the specific style shown above. This is a very popular style of photography seen often in high end fashion magazines.

    kuhl lite

    Kuhl Lite 120 soft box

  • 20" flood light & stand mount

  • Ideal for soft lighting
  • Four 30W daylight CFL bulbs
  • Adjustable 6' light stand
  • Removable diffusion panel
  • Sparkler Light

  • Creates the "halo" effect shown
  • 5" reflector

  • Daylight color bulb
  • Cool to touch {very little heat}
  • 23"x 23" Black Acrylic

  • Double sided
  • {top & bottom are high gloss}
  • High gloss

    8' Heavy duty stand with arm

  • Ideal for hanging the diffuser
  • Built in adjustable support clips

    Translucent sheet

  • Ideal diffuser for the second light
  • Large size provides flexibility
  • Durable mylar material
  • translucent material
    black ice jewelry photo kit
    halo light

    All images & written content above are sole property and Copyright © 2010 of TableTop Studio INC. All rights reserved.