Photographing Jewelry with a Scanner
Do you have a scanner in your computer setup?
Flatbed scanners can be a great tool for photographing jewelry. For years I took all my jewelry photos this way. Scanners are fast, simple to use, and can take beautifully artistic photos.
I started out trying to photograph my jewelry with a cheap, older digital camera - but after a lot of time and frustration I realized that my camera was just not capable of getting close, clear jewelry photos.
So following the suggestion of a shop owner where I consigned some of my jewelry, I put a necklace on my scanner glass, shut the lid, and scanned it.
Wow! Even though the only backdrop the necklace had was the white inside of the scanner lid, I saw right away that the shot was much more clear than anything I'd ever achieved with my cheap digi-cam. And it was ridiculously easy!
So I really began pushing the envelope of scanning jewelry, and worked on developing different tricks to make my scanner shots better and better. Except for the occasional very 3-dimensional piece of jewelry like a cuff bracelet, or a ring, most jewelry photographs quite well with a scanner.
Although a flatbed scanner can't equal the sharpness and quality of jewelry photos taken with a high-quality digital camera, it can still produce very good images of your jewelry.
If you're on a tight budget or short on time, it's really hard to beat the fast, fabulous results of photographing mainly flat jewelry (which includes most necklaces, pendants, bracelets, earrings, anklets, etc.).
Learn more about photographing jewelry yourself and getting professional looking results.
What Kind of Scanner Takes Good Jewelry Photos?
Try taking some jewelry photos with the scanner you already have. If you're not thrilled with your results even after trying all the tips in this Hub, you might want to invest in a cheap 3-D scanner - available for well under US$99.
However, if you do decide to buy a scanner that's designed for scanning 3-dimensional objects, be sure it's not just a scanner with a lid that's engineered to close around a thick book on the glass (which is what some manufacturers will tell you is a 3-D scanner).
It doesn't matter what the lid can do; you're looking for a scanner that's designed to photograph a depth of field.
See more jewelry photography tips.
Tips for Taking Jewelry Pictures with Your Scanner
These tips will eliminate 99% of the problems involved in using scanners for shooting photos of beads and jewelry:
- Wipe the scanner glass clean. Even tiny specks of lint or dust come out looking enormous, dirty, and tacky in a jewelry photo.
- Place a clean, clear sheet of plastic (such as a page protector from an office supply store) on top of the scanner glass so the glass won’t be scratched by your jewelry or beads. When the plastic sheet starts to get a bit scratched from use, discard it and start a new one.
- Clean and polish your beads or jewelry to a jewelry-store shine, and wipe with a lint-free jewelry polishing cloth.
- Arrange your beads or jewelry on the scanner glass that's already covered by the plastic sheet protector.
- Place a background for your photo against the back of your jewelry or beads. There are all kinds of wonderful things you can use for backgrounds in your jewelry scans. Different colored or textured papers, lace, fabric scraps, flowers, leaves - look around and find something neat that would make a pleasing background for your photo. Just be sure it enhances the jewelry and doesn't distract the eye away from it. And if you have trouble with over- or under-exposed jewelry scans, try using a neutral gray or blue background.
- Place a small box on the scanner glass, somewhere out of the jewelry shot. The box is not part of your photo; its only purpose is to hold the scanner lid off of the back of your jewelry or beads, so that the lid doesn't knock them askew from the way you've just arranged them on the glass. Close the lid of the scanner so that it rests on the small box, safely off of your arranged jewelry.
- Cover the entire scanner with a dark cloth so no outside light can seep in around the edges of the scanner lid, since it's propped partly open by the small box.
Design Your Jewelry Photo for the Scanner
Okay, now the fun begins!Set the piece of jewelry face-down on the clean scanner glass that’s covered by the clean plastic sheet protector. Turn the jewelry a bit, this way or that, till you get an appealing angle that’s appropriate for the piece.For earrings, I’ve found that it’s a nightmare to try to make both of them perfectly vertical and perfectly parallel to each other, and anyway I think placing them at artsy angles to each other is much more visually intriguing and dynamic, and romanticizes the piece.So don’t kill yourself trying to achieve a perfectly vertical earring shot, especially if the earrings have round beads that make them roll around.For necklaces or chains, try different cool ways of swirling or coiling the strands or chain on the scanner glass for the photo. Be sure the clasp shows clearly. If the necklace has an extender, that should be clearly visible too. Make sure chains don’t look angled or awkwardly kinked.Again, don’t try for perfectly vertical or horizontal shots — tilt the piece till you get a neat angle.
When your photo design is all set up on the scanner glass, close the lid against the small box (as in step 5 above) and press your pre-scan button.
When your scanner software shows you the pre-scan image, scrutinize the photo. Does the jewelry appear to its best advantage? Is a necklace clasp hidden by beads, or is one earring at too wacky of an angle? Is there a distracting wrinkle in the background fabric? Adjust whatever needs to be fixed, if anything, and pre-scan again till you get a good photo design.
When you like the pre-scan shot, use your scanner software’s cropping feature to make a nice, tight, closeup shot of your jewelry. Bring the edges of the crop as close to the jewelry as possible without cutting out any part of the jewelry or the slight shadow it has cast against the background. Most of the background will be cropped out, but make sure that any remaining background looks good.
Now make your final scan. The larger your scale and resolution percentages, the sharper the image. It also means the image's file will be bigger and slower, so experiment and use your discretion!
Send this final scan to disk or hard drive. Don’t remove your jewelry or background from the scanner glass yet. Wait till you see the picture in your photo editing software first, because you might want to make small adjustments to how the jewelry is arranged and scan it again.
Artistic Ideas for Scanning Jewelry
- Thread a ribbon, piece of lace, strip of velvet, long flower stem, or neat twig through pendant bails.
- If you’ll be using more than one shot of this piece, consider a photograph showing the back of the piece instead of a second view of the front (also with a different background), especially on items where the back showcases your craftsmanship.
- Experiment with small props such as tumbled stones, crystals, bamboo stalks, dried flowers, a lady’s fan, driftwood, a pine bough or pine cone, crocheted doily, leather or suede, autumn leaves, fake fur, seashells.
- Again remember to keep the jewelry the focus of the photo, and have only a small part of the prop in the photo—for example, just the ruffled edge of a seashell.
With just a little experimenting, you'll quickly find out the best way to get very professional-looking jewelry shots with your scanner.Have fun with this jewelry photography technique!