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Jewelry Photoshop Techniques: Upgrade Your Jewelry Photos

Updated on November 3, 2011

Make Your Jewelry Pictures Really Shine

Want to learn how to Photoshop jewelry pictures? You're certainly not alone. There are plenty of reasons to want to take on this task, from creating great pictures for your Etsy store to creating marketing materials to having good-looking photos for your own personal use.

The first thing you need to figure out, of course, is how to take good pictures of your jewelry. Although Adobe Photoshop can fix many ills, it's not a cure-all, and it will be much easier if you start out with high quality, high-resolution images.

You'll also want to have a basic familiarity with the software you intend to use. You can find great guides on Lifehacker; alternatively, do a search for Photoshop Guide.

Ready? Read on to see the steps I've taken. Each section is preceded by a series of pictures that illustrate my process.

Special thanks to marciag, who kindly let me use her jewelry photos for this tutorial. To learn more about her work, check out her Dawanda shop.

Jewelry Photoshopping: The First Steps - Getting the Basic Look

Click thumbnail to view full-size
This is the original photo.The photo is cropped to focus on the product.Levels are adjusted by creating a New Adjust Layer for Levels.Lighter areas are darkened to match other areas using Burn.The jewelry is lightened using Dodge to emphasize.
This is the original photo.
This is the original photo.
The photo is cropped to focus on the product.
The photo is cropped to focus on the product.
Levels are adjusted by creating a New Adjust Layer for Levels.
Levels are adjusted by creating a New Adjust Layer for Levels.
Lighter areas are darkened to match other areas using Burn.
Lighter areas are darkened to match other areas using Burn.
The jewelry is lightened using Dodge to emphasize.
The jewelry is lightened using Dodge to emphasize.

Step 1: Cropping, Levels, Burning, and Dodging - Roughing Out the Overall Look.

  1. Cropping. Cropping your photograph appropriately is very important, because the way you crop can have a huge effect on the end product. You'll want the jewelry to take up as much space as possible. Also, don't put the piece dead center; an off-center item will look more dynamic, and create more interest.
  2. Levels. Adjusting levels is one of the easiest and most effective ways to improve the look of your photo. I like to create a layer for this, so that I can play with it later. In the "Layers menu on the menu toolbar, scroll down to "New Adjustment Layer," and select "Levels." You'll see a black, a gray, and a white arrow below a graph. Move these arrows from side to side to see how the picture changes. The idea is to get a good contrast in your photo, with true blacks and bright whites. Make sure that you don't lose any detail in the process, though.
  3. Burning. If you've ever worked in a darkroom, you probably know this technique. Basically, what it means is that you're "burning" sections of your photo, that is, darkening them. This tool is located in the toolbox along with Dodge and Sponge, and it looks like a hand with thumb and forefinger touching. (Make sure you have the image layer selected in the "Layer" toolbox before using this tool). If areas of your photo have gotten over-exposed due to flash or too much external light, you can Burn them to match the other parts of your photo. I always reduce the exposure to around 10% (in the dialog under the menu toolbar at the top of the screen) and adjust the brush size to fit my needs.
  4. Dodging. Dodging is the opposite of burning, that is, lightening areas of the photo (such as shadows) that have gotten too dark. This tool is located with Burn and Sponge in the toolbox. Again, reduce the exposure to around 10% (in the dialog under the menu toolbar at the top of the screen) and adjust the brush size to fit your needs.

Jewelry Photoshopping: Isolating the Piece - De-emphasize the Surroundings

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Start using the Pen tool to trace the main part of your piece.Trace all of the way around with the Pen tool.Go to the "Paths" tab in the Layers workshop. Right-click on the layer, select "Make Selection," return to the "Layers" tab, select the desired layer, select Inverse, and delete.Repeat for other sections of the jewelry, then merge layers to isolate the piece.Blur the background/non-jewelry layer.
Start using the Pen tool to trace the main part of your piece.
Start using the Pen tool to trace the main part of your piece.
Trace all of the way around with the Pen tool.
Trace all of the way around with the Pen tool.
Go to the "Paths" tab in the Layers workshop. Right-click on the layer, select "Make Selection," return to the "Layers" tab, select the desired layer, select Inverse, and delete.
Go to the "Paths" tab in the Layers workshop. Right-click on the layer, select "Make Selection," return to the "Layers" tab, select the desired layer, select Inverse, and delete.
Repeat for other sections of the jewelry, then merge layers to isolate the piece.
Repeat for other sections of the jewelry, then merge layers to isolate the piece.
Blur the background/non-jewelry layer.
Blur the background/non-jewelry layer.

Step 2: Isolating Elements Using the Pen Tool - And Creating New Layers

This is one of the most time-consuming parts of using Photoshop, but also one of the most rewarding.

  1. Duplicate your photo layer. Right-click on the layer that contains your most recently manipulated photo layer (the one you want to use for your final photo) and select "Duplicate Layer."
  2. Getting used to the Pen tool. The Pen tool can take a while to master. It's located in the toolbox, and looks like the head of an old-fashioned pen. To start, click the Pen tool on your screen once; it will leave a square dot. Move your mouse, and click the Pen tool again; another dot will appear, connected to the first by a line. Now it gets tricky: click the Pen tool a third time, but DO NOT release your mouse button. Instead, move your mouse around; you will see a curve form. Release your mouse button, hold the ALT key, and click on the dot you just formed (trust me on this). At this point, you will start to see a dark background forming; if this interferes with your tracing, adjust the opacity in the "Layers" toolbox. Lastly, click on the first dot to form a completed path. For more information, check out this Pen tool Photoshop tutorial.
  3. Tracing your piece. With a little trial and error, you should now be able to trace your piece using the Pen tool. Once you've created a path around your item, make sure it's selected in the "Layers" toolbox, then select the "Paths" tab in the "Layers" toolbox. Right-click on the path, and choose "Make Selection." Press OK in the dialog box; you'll see that a selection appears where you've just traced your line. Select the duplicated layer from above in the "Layers" toolbox. Next, got to "Select" in the menu toolbar at the top of the screen and choose "Inverse" from the menu. Finally, press the DELETE key to delete the background from your piece.
  4. Multiple parts? Does your piece have multiple parts? Repeat the above process, duplicating the base layer every time. You will end up with several layers with parts of your jewelry piece. Click one one of these layers, hold the CTRL button down, and click on another layer to select them both. Then, right-click and select "Merge Layers."
  5. Done! You will now have two separate layers, one with the entire photo, and one with just the jewelry piece. Make sure that you hide or delete the Pen tool path layers, as these can interfere with the next steps. To blur the background, as I did below, select the background layer in the "Layers" toolbox, choose "Filter" from the menu toolbar at the top of the screen, select "Blur" from the menu, and select "Gaussian Blur" from the submenu. Use the slidebar to adjust the amount of blur to your taste.

Jewelry Photoshopping: Finishing Touches - Little Tweaks

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Sharpening jewelry layer to make it stand out.Using Smudge and Eraser to get rid of dust particles and edges around the tracing.Playing with Saturation - more saturation.Playing with Saturation - less saturation.Playing with Selective Color - less Magenta in Red.
Sharpening jewelry layer to make it stand out.
Sharpening jewelry layer to make it stand out.
Using Smudge and Eraser to get rid of dust particles and edges around the tracing.
Using Smudge and Eraser to get rid of dust particles and edges around the tracing.
Playing with Saturation - more saturation.
Playing with Saturation - more saturation.
Playing with Saturation - less saturation.
Playing with Saturation - less saturation.
Playing with Selective Color - less Magenta in Red.
Playing with Selective Color - less Magenta in Red.

Step 3: Touch-Ups and Color Levels - Really Make It Shine

  1. Sharpen the jewelry layer. Sharpen doesn't always work that well, so it's a good practice to only work with crisp, sharp photos to start out with. In this case, however, Sharpen did improve the look. Select the jewelry layer in the "Layers" toolbox, then select "Filter" in the menu toolbar at the top of the screen. Scroll down to "Sharpen," then select the "Smart Sharpen" submenu. Adjust the "Amount" and "Radius" scrollbars until you achieve the desired look.
  2. Remove dust and particles. You're almost always going to have some artifacts in a close-up photo like this. Luckily, they're easy to remove. Select the Smudge tool from the toolbox (it looks like a pointing finger, and is in the toolbox with Blur and Sharpen). Adjust the brush size in the dialog at the top of the screen under the menu toolbar, and set the Strength to about 50%. Using short strokes, "massage" each spot from different angles until it disappears, being careful not to disturb the surrounding structure too much. Alternately, you can use the Eyedropper to select a nearby color, and then use the Brush Tool to paint over the spot.
  3. Saturation. Adjusting the saturation of an image is a great way to make it pop, especially if it's taken in low-light situations. Select "Layer" from the menu toolbar at the top of the screen, and scroll down to "New Adjustment Layer." Choose "Hue/Saturation" from the submenu. Use the scrollbar to adjust the saturation; to the right makes the image more vivid, to the left makes it less. Go all the way to the left to get a black and white look.
  4. Selective color. Sometimes, you just want to adjust a particular color, not all of them at once. Select "Layer" from the menu toolbar at the top of the screen, and scroll down to "New Adjustment Layer." Choose "Selective Color" from the submenu. Use the "Colors" drop-down list to choose a particular color that appears in your photo (I chose red). Then, use the scrollbars to adjust how much cyan, magenta, yellow, and black is in your red. You'll quickly see how this adjustment works.

And Finally, a Comparison - Old Vs. New

Final touches: I used the Eyedropper tool to pick up some of the lighter skin-tone from the fingers, then used the paintbrush set to low opacity to paint them and brighten them a bit. I also used the Selective Color tool to add some yellow to the background and make it more green, as a contrasting color helps to set off the red in the jewelry.

This is my first attempt with this photo, and I think it turned out pretty well. If I were to do it again, I'd probably blur the background a bit less, and maybe use a picture without hands (although they're good for scale).

Things That Might Come In Handy - More Resources and Tools

A book guide, Photoshop Elements (a cheaper version of Photoshop with fewer features), and my favorite camera.

Jewelry Photoshopping: Example 2 - Same Techniques

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Original image.Adjusted the image Levels.Increased the Saturation a little bit.Used Selective Color to add some warmth (magenta) to the "White" color.Burned some of the wire to make the details stand out, Dodged the highlights and some of the wire to make it pop. Adjusted Selective Color some more.
Original image.
Original image.
Adjusted the image Levels.
Adjusted the image Levels.
Increased the Saturation a little bit.
Increased the Saturation a little bit.
Used Selective Color to add some warmth (magenta) to the "White" color.
Used Selective Color to add some warmth (magenta) to the "White" color.
Burned some of the wire to make the details stand out, Dodged the highlights and some of the wire to make it pop. Adjusted Selective Color some more.
Burned some of the wire to make the details stand out, Dodged the highlights and some of the wire to make it pop. Adjusted Selective Color some more.

Again, a lot has to do with preference.

Photoshopping, like jewelry making, is an art. Practice and you'll soon find yourself producing great images.

I'd love to hear what you think :)

Thoughts on Photoshopping Jewelry Photos? - Share Them Here!

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    • Coreena Jolene profile image

      Coreena Jolene 

      6 years ago

      Great tutorial. Nice tip about working with layers. I tend to forget about them.

    • kislanyk profile image

      Marika 

      6 years ago from Cyprus

      Oh wow, awesome tute on jewelry photography! And you transformed my so-so bland pictures into real beauties. I think I'll take now some older pics, fix them and reupload to my shop. One thing I know is that since people can't see jewelry in real life, the pics need to be real good to sell the pieces. Well done job!

    working

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