View Full Version : Taking Good Product Photos

Serendipity Diamonds
12-12-2017, 10:50 AM

I have recently joined this forum, in the hope that I can offer some much needed guidance and pointers to aspiring jewellery photographers. So many of us have websites, online shops and social media profiles, and photography is the essential medium for showing our work. I have spent around 10 years learning jewellery photography, most of which is self taught and the result of continued experimentation and improvement.

I'll gladly offer whatever help I can to anyone who wants to improve their photography to make their jewellery look as good as possible.

Working daily on jewellery photos for our website, I get the chance to experiment for best results. And for anyone disappointed with their current results, take a look at an example of my photography when I started, and how much it has improved with persistence over the years.


12-12-2017, 11:54 AM
Dear Serendipity, welcome to the forum and thank you for your kind offer.
Why don't you post some tutorials on product photography. I am sure they would appreciated, particularly if they use inexpensive solutions. Dennis.

Serendipity Diamonds
12-12-2017, 01:47 PM
Hi Dennis. Great idea and thanks for suggesting this. I've added some detail from an article I wrote not too long ago. I'll look forward to adding some more in-depth guidance, but for now, this gives a few pointers and a list of some of the equipment which will be useful to budding jewellery photographers.


Before I begin, let me make it clear that I have received no formal training in jewellery photography. The advice given here worked for me. Most of the photographs I take for our jewellery website, for social media and for blogging. My learning comes from many hours of practice, reading articles, experimentation and practice. The cement holding it all together is the creative enjoyment it brings.

In the early days (thatís 10 years ago) I made a start with a light-box purchased from Ebay. It cost me 30 pounds and frustrated the hell out of me. I played with everything from compact cameras to camera phones. I felt like I was working in one of those laboratories. The type where you insert your hands into fixed gloves on the outside of a glass tank. I experimented with holding jewellery using blue tack. I progressed to white tack, but the jewellery kept falling over. Most of my photographs were a muddy grey colour. Rings displayed the obvious blob of blue-tack peeping out from under the ring. Anyone who has experimented with jewellery photography will understand.

The incredible thing was that I persevered. I kept trying. I kept taking photographs. This is what you have to do if you want to get better. It is surprising how many hours it takes to learn something. Not to just learn something, but to master a subject to the level of expert. I have not yet reached this stage, but Iím on the journey.

Why photograph jewellery?

There are different reasons why you might photograph jewellery. Perhaps it will be to sell jewellery online or to share on social media. Maybe you want to create photography for a blog. I practice jewellery photography for all these reasons and more. I love the creative aspect of jewellery photography within my working environment. But jewellery photography goes way beyond the photograph alone. In this post I aim to cover some of the basic skills needed. Iíll also answer some common questions.

Starting out

First of all, itís fine to use basic equipment. The cost of photographic gear can be quite staggering. Start with a basic digital camera. Persist and you will soon master the basic skills. As you practice more, youíre photography skills will improve. If your photography shows your jewellery at its best, you will sell more. This will enable you to improve your equipment and so on. Photography becomes easier when you are familiar with your kit. Practice improves both skill and familiarity.

Essential equipment

Basics youíll need include a digital camera (obvious) with a high resolution. When you crop redundant space from a photograph, you donít want the final image to be too small for use. After many years using a simple point and click camera for photography, I upgraded to the Canon 5D MKIII but remember to consider a good Macro lens (see below).

A macro lens is best suited to jewellery photography. It allows the camera to get close to the subject. This is ideal for detailed jewellery photography. Limitations of a macro lens include a narrow depth of field. While engagement ring prongs are clear and in focus, other parts of the ring can appear blurred. If this happens, try pulling the camera further away. Keep a general purpose lens for other photography (packaging shots etc.) Invest in a compatible Macro lens for your close up photography. Added to the Canon 5D MKIII the compatible Macro lens will create stunning high resolution images.

Next, lighting is one of the most important factors. Natural lighting is great, but I prefer a reliable, constant lighting source. I use two large lamps with diffusers to soften the light. In my opinion the more light the better. You can always adjust camera settings to reduce the light within each shot. A bright diffused light will give a more even light across your subject. I prefer to position lights over a table, rather than to use a light box. Light boxes provide good lighting but restrict your working area.

Always use a tripod to photograph jewellery to avoid blurred shots. Ensure there is no camera movement whilst taking the photograph. Choose a sturdy tripod, robust enough for the camera you are using. Manfrotto tripods are reasonably priced and well built. If you are using a digital SLR camera, check to see if there is a mirror up setting. This will reduce camera shake when you take a photograph. Use the camera timer or a remote switch to take the shot. This will reduce any movement during the shot as you take the photograph.

PC / Mac / Photoshop
Good photo editing software is crucial. I spend a lot of my time working in Photoshop. It takes time to edit a photograph. Donít skimp on free versions. Most software includes a trial period. Find someone who can teach you the basic skills or jump online and learn via tutorials. You will need a computer to run the software and somewhere to store and share the photographs. We use Dropbox for this purpose.

Decide what type of background you want for your photograph. Are you taking product photographs for a website? Or do you prefer a more natural setting? Sometimes both styles of photograph suit different areas of a website. Achieving a completely white background will take time to master. Seldom achieved by camera alone. Suitable lighting and post photograph editing are necessary. Avoid cutting out (photoshop) your subject to add to a white background. Losing natural shadow and reflection make the results appear unnatural. Try taking photographs on different surfaces and textures. Remember textures look different under high magnification.

Holding wax
To hold your subject in place, use fixing wax. Donít use Blue-tack. The internet is full of photographs with bad poor lighting. Or rings held in place with a large blob of Blue-tack. A small piece of fixing wax will suffice. It is possible to Ďhideí the fixing wax under an engagement ring band. Or it you can edit this from the photograph afterwards.

When handling jewellery for photography, wear good fitting micro-fibre gloves. These will keep the shine on jewellery as you handle it ahead of the photograph. Macro jewellery photography will show fingerprints, grease, dust and scratches. Avoid handling the fixing wax and then your jewellery item. Place a small amount of fixing wax in place. Place gloves on. Wipe over the ring and position over the wax.

I'll add some examples of jewellery photographs and how to improve them through some very simple techniques.

13-12-2017, 12:19 PM
Hi Mark,

Some good tips there. We have found that dental wax is a good option for holding items in place. Not sure if the "proper" holding wax is maybe a little softer but dental wax can be softened by warming it with your hands. It can be had for pennies too. One thing I did learn early on however is that depending on your background it can leave a mark when removed. We went through a phase of using wood veneer in our photographs and it wasn't long before it was covered in marks!

I would be interested to know how you avoid reflections without the use of a light box. My wife does 99% of our photography and like you she prefers shooting without the light box however reflections can be a problem.



Serendipity Diamonds
13-12-2017, 01:21 PM
Hi Sam,

The dental wax sounds like good advice. The holding wax is hard to get hold of but since I ordered a few blocks of this, I think they'll last me a very long time. I use the tiniest amount so that it does not overlap the shank of rings. If the wax overspills on the far side of the shank, this is easier to edit out using Photoshop. I'd be happy to add an example or two sometime.

I find product photographs with some natural reflection and shadow best. Shadow and reflection can be isolated as a layer in Photoshop and minimised. Alternatively you can burn the shadow more in the same application for a darker effect. For white background I use bright white satin photo paper. This is easily sourced in high street shops like W.H.Smith. You get minimum reflection and a little shadow.

This is a photograph of my setup. Large lamps for maximum light over an open surface give me elbow room. Light-boxes are a little restrictive and caused much frustration in the early days.


13-12-2017, 01:44 PM
Thanks for sharing.
Like Sam I also wonder how you work without the light box ?
I stopped using mine as I find the result too clinical and actually I think some reflections make it look more natural which suits me but managing them is still an issue.
I also stopped using the pro lighting that my husband leant me as I prefer natural light but we are lucky in that we live in Portugal so thats rarely an issue.
There is certainly a huge improvement from your first photo !

13-12-2017, 02:54 PM
Dear Mark,
Thank you very much for your tutorial. Posted on a web site, our work can only be judged by the quality of the photograph, so it's important to do our best with it. The sticking point is the high cost of equipment.

Regarding a tripod, I am using a Manfrotto magic arm clamped to the table for lack of floor space. This works just fine until it periodically seizes up, requiring readjustment with Allen keys which is really frustrating, endangers the camera and jolts the display. Regards, Dennis.

14-12-2017, 08:40 PM
Nice tutorial, Mark. Thanks for it!:)

10-10-2019, 11:45 AM
Thank you for this tutorial!