Saturday 6 October 2012

How to Photograph Handmade Jewellery - part 1

One of the biggest challenges involved in selling handmade goods online, especially for designer/makers, is photography. If a craftsperson cannot afford to employ a professional photographer (which is likely) and cannot find a photographer prepared to swap services (not impossible but certainly tricky), then they have to fall on their own resources and take their own photographs.

Like becoming skilful in a particular craft in the first place, gaining an understanding of photography can be a steep learning curve. Most people can use a point and click digital camera and take a decent photograph, but to take a detailed and quality image can be far harder. However, digital photography is the lifesaver here as you can take as many photos as you need until you have a collection that is good enough to publish. And a plethora of photo editing suites exist to refine and improve images.

It’s worth saying that I’m no photography expert but I do have a little experience, having taken shots of my own work for several years now, and (owing to a rather handy photography course I took a couple of years back) I do have a little insider knowledge when it comes to knowing my way around a camera. Having said that, while I’ve been reviewing some of my old photos as I’ve written these blog posts, it’s struck me how much I still have to learn, and that I need to apply what I do already know more keenly to my photographs. Hopefully the fruits of my labour will become evident in my next set of images.

Photographing Handmade Jewellery

First up, the importance of photos when selling online; the value of macro and close ups, along with that of the big picture; and how understanding jewellery will improve the photos you take.

A picture says a thousand words - explaining your jewellery without words 

Unlike in conventional shops, someone viewing your jewellery on the internet can’t examine how it looks from different angles, can’t pick it up and feel its weight, and can’t hold it up to themselves and see their reflection in a mirror. They’re dependent on the information you provide them with to make a decision whether or not to part with their money. The more information you offer the better, and providing that information in the form of good quality photographs is a wonderful form of shorthand that can convey the essence and quality of your work far more quickly than a wordy description can. Photographs, especially good quality ones, cut to the chase.

All you really need to take good jewellery photographs is... 

A camera with a macro button. Don’t become overwhelmed by the vast choice of cameras. Yes, a shiny new, top-of-the-range camera would be wonderful, thank you very much, but most modern digital cameras should possess the one essential you need to take decent quality jewellery photographs - a macro button. The button normally has a small flower icon on it, and when you press it the camera focuses far closer than it does for the average family or landscape shot. This means you can take sharp images of the detail on your jewellery.

My rather old and not-very-expensive (okay, cheap) camera has a neat trick which means if you press the macro button twice you get to super-macro, which focuses even closer and allows an extreme close-up image. Check your camera, and instruction booklet if you have one (it may well be in PDF form, or even only available online), to see if you have super-macro. If you do have it, you won’t regret searching it out, as it’s a super-handy facility.

Photo of rings taken on a macro setting
The same rings, photographed on super-macro

The big picture

Whilst macro close-ups are invaluable for displaying detail in jewellery it is also important that you pull back in some shots, to allow your item of jewellery to be fully shown. Provide a variety of images to give the viewer as much information and detail as possible. I aim to include one or two overall images of each piece along with several close-ups on macro and super-macro, using different angles to add interest and hopefully show the jewellery in interesting ways.

A picture of the whole piece of jewellery...

...a close-up of the same item of jewellery

Variety is the spice of life - angles and approaches

Jewellery is three dimensional but photographs aren’t. With careful use of angles and perspective however, you will be able to make your photos dynamic and give your jewellery a real feeling of movement and vigour. Experiment with taking photos from overheard, or low-down, close to the jewellery and from further away, as well as from the side and straight on. I’ve found moving the camera around to more extreme angles can increase how striking the jewellery looks, which can attract the eye of the casual browser. Using such images in amongst more traditional shots allows your jewellery to be seen clearly but also to create interest and excitement.

Hopefully still recognisable as a bangle...

In the next post on this topic I'll cover lighting and how it can be the most important element in your photo, alongside the jewellery.

Thanks for reading and please feel free to leave any comments, queries, or corrections on what I've written - I'd love to also increase my own knowledge into this fascinating and wide-reaching topic.


Do check out my other posts with ideas and hints on how to photograph jewellery -
Part Two on focus and lighting
Part Three on location, themes and backgrounds
Part Four on styling and inspiration

Also, keep a look out for my forthcoming ebook covering in far more depth how to photograph handcrafted jewellery.


  1. Gorgeous jewellery and very handy tips, I will look into the double macro as I didn't know about that feature. Thank you!

  2. Thanks so much for your comment. Yes, do check out the macro as it can make a real difference to the detail you can photograph. Thanks again :-)

  3. Very interesting and informative - and great shots. You are right about the macro - it's the reason why I've stuck with my 10 year old point and shoot, but didn't know about the double macro, so will check that one out. Thanks!!

  4. Thanks so much for the compliments :-) I adore macro, and super macro. I use them loads whatever I'm photographing - if I had a better camera I like to think the results would be even better too! ;-)


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