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How to Photograph Jewelry to Sell

Updated on December 12, 2010

Whether you craft your own custom jewelry to sell or just want to sell your old jewelry, you should understand the importance of providing good photographs of your products. Buyers will make decisions about your jewelry based on the quality of your photograph. Fortunately, you do not need an expensive camera or any special equipment to get a good jewelry photograph; all you need is any personal camera, a few lamps, and a large plastic bin (such as a Rubbermaid container).

Professional photographers will often use a tool known as a soft box to photograph jewelry. Soft boxes (like the one to the right) are large tents made of a semi-opaque material that diffuses (makes softer) the light that illuminates the jewelry. Because the jewelry is not lit directly and instead is lit by diffuse light, there are no bright highlights or reflections that are distracting. Instead, your jewelry has a soft, even light that is more attractive to potential buyers.

Fortunately, you do not need to buy a soft box or expensive lighting equipment; you can improvise with your home materials.

Make a Soft Box

The first step is to build your own do it yourself soft box. Obtain a large, partially opaque plastic bin. Rubbermaid containers work quite well, but any semi-transparent plastic container will work. Look for file boxes, as these tend to be the perfect size, shape, and translucency.

Give the box plenty of light. Because you're using a soft box, you might need a lot more light then you expect. Moving your equipment outside on a sunny day is a great idea, but several bright lamps positioned around your plastic bin or Rubbermaid container will work as well. Place lights to the sides of the box rather than in front of it (just like the image of the soft box above).

Display Your Jewelry

Lay your plastic bin on its side with the open end facing you. Place something inside the box on which to place your jewelry. This decision is based on how the individual piece of jewelry looks and how you would like to display it artistically. A black sheet or other soft, black surface will work well for most jewelry. Photographing gemstones on a black backdrop will bring out their sparkle. If your piece of jewelry has a lot of detail, consider placing it on a mirror. Photographing beads, such as when you photograph bracelets, on a mirror will show the jewelry from more angles, allowing the viewer to see the intricacy of the jewelry.

Look at photos of similar jewelry for ideas. Earrings can be hung in foam or on a pretty card, and necklaces and bracelets may be laid out or displayed draped over your backdrop. A creative presentation is important to catch your potential buyers' eyes.

Photograph Your Jewelry

Turn off your on-camera flash, as it will only create glare. All the light that you need is coming either from the sun or from the lamps you have positioned around your homemade soft box. If your camera has manual controls, select a large aperture (low F/stop number) such as F/2.8 or F/4. If your camera does not have manual controls or if you are not comfortable using them, just set your camera to macro mode, which is usually denoted with a small flower icon.

Attach your camera to a tripod if you have one, or just set your camera on a study box or table in front of your improvised soft box. Get close so that your jewelry fills your frame. Some cameras will have difficulty focusing close, so back up a little bit if your pictures come out blurry. Make sure no part of the box is visible in your frame; if it is, simply cover the area with more of your backdrop.

If you have questions, please feel free to leave me a note in the comments box below!

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