Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Photography - May/June 2020

The May/June blog hop for the Jewelry Artisans Community is about photography.  Specifically, how we photograph our jewelry.

My jewelry photos have definitely evolved over the years.  They've gone from out of focus, reflecting the glare of a flash and poorly composed photos to fairly well composed, well lighted and in focus.  There is room for improvement, but I'm mostly satisfied with the quality of my jewelry photos these days.

I use a Cannon Power Shot SX720 to take my photos.  I'm very pleased with the Power Shot; it not only does a good job for close up work, but it takes terrific photos of landscapes, wildlife, people and even action shots.  With it's powerful zoom I can even get photos full of lots of detail from far away.  It's said that taking good pictures isn't so much the camera as it is the person using the camera and I believe this.  I've seen stunning photos taken with a smart phone camera and lousy photos that have been taken with a high end, expensive camera.  What I think is really important is to learn how your camera works (both it's strengths and weaknesses), study lighting in various scenarios, work on composition and practice, practice, practice.

My current set up is to take photos in a corner of my kitchen where a west facing window and a south facing window meet in a sort of 'L' shape.  The light is filtered by the over hanging eaves, and thanks to the eaves, I never have to work in direct sun.   Using this location, the window of opportunity to take the best photos is between 11:00a.m. and 2:00p.m., when the sun is high in the sky and isn't making deep shadows.

I use three large pieces of foam board as background and to reflect the light.  I put one piece of foam board on the counter and lean two of them against the window.  The reason for two pieces of board against the window is because I find that the light coming in from outside shines through one piece of board, but two is enough to block it out.

Laying on top of the bottom foam board is a piece of off white textured scrap booking paper.  I gave up long ago on having bright white backgrounds which are difficult to achieve as they often have either a bluish, yellowish or grayish tint.  Instead, I favor having a bit of texture to give visual interest to my photos without creating a distraction that takes attention away from the jewelry which is the main subject of the photos.

Next, I usually place a small prop on top of the textured paper.  It could be a piece of coral as pictured here, a rock, a piece of wood or a white plate.  There is a great deal of debate among jewelry photographers about the use of props.  Some feel that they create busy backgrounds that distract from the item that is being showcased, while others feel that they enhance the photos and tell a story.  I happen to love props, but I always keep in mind that they should be something simple and I avoid the temptation to go overboard with props.  In this case, I'm using a piece of white coral as a backdrop for a pair of earrings.

When taking photos of small items such as these earrings I use the macro mode on my camera and get in as close as possible to the subject.  The camera lens is no more than an inch or two from the item being photographed and I take several shots from many different angles.  The end result is a close-up shot that is clear and shows all of the detail in the earrings.

When photographing earrings, I also want to show what they look like hanging in order to give people an idea what they would look like being worn.  A white coffee mug makes a good prop for this purpose.

Again, I get in as close as possible with my camera:

At this point, I will often crop my photo to remove distractions such as the line where my foam boards meet, to take out most of the mug and to focus attention on the jewelry:

A tripod is a valuable tool to use when taking photographs as it eliminates camera shake which is often responsible for out of focus photos.  I use a gorillapod mini.  It's small, easy to put into most any position and prices start around $25.  They are also cute, colorful and fun!

When it comes to editing, there is also some debate about that.  Some photographers feel that photos should be published as is and that editing is a form of cheating.  Personally, as long as the item being photographed remains true to it's real life appearance, I think editing is a valuable tool.  I use a free online editing program called BeFunky and I'm quite happy with the site.  There is also a pay version that includes many more features than the free version. 

My photo editing is mostly limited to cropping, resizing, brightening and adjusting colors.  I also like to use the sharpening tool.  When editing, I think it's important not to over edit; the idea is to simply enhance the photo just enough that it's the best photo it can be.  If that can't be done with minimal editing, it's time to take more photos.

Overall, I very much enjoy taking photos, both of jewelry and of things I see while going about my days.  When I look back at photos I took a few years ago, it's really quite rewarding to see how much progress I've made with improving my skills.  I look forward to continuing to improve as I try new techniques and learn new skills.

To see what the other participants of this months blog carnival have to say about photography, please click on the links below:

Cat's Wire


  1. That is so different to what I have! A great spot to take photos.
    My room with the most light has the stained glass windows, so that's not really an option.

    I do love the picture next to the plant, by the way <3

    1. Thank you, Cat! I do like the natural light that comes through those windows, but I'm thinking that if I had a light tent set-up like yours, I could get more consistent results and would also be able to take photos no matter what time of day it was.

      I love that you zeroed in on the photo next to the plant. That is the black lab mix we affectionately referred to as the "devil dog" because she was alway, always, always getting into some type of mischief. She's been gone a few years now, but lived to the ripe old age of 16 which is pretty good for a medium to large sized dog.

    2. I still miss hearing stories about her! The little devils have the best stories ;-)

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