The Barefoot Photographer®

a photography blog

Monday, July 28, 2008

Photographing Your Jewelry or Other Collectibles.


There may come a time when you would like to photograph a piece of jewelry or another small object.  Keeping photos of jewelry is a good idea for insurance purposes – and really, a photo of any collection that is of worth is suggested.  I like to suggest taking shots of individual items and then a group shot as well.  Here are some tips on photographing these items.  After you get the photos you want – where should you store them for safekeeping?  The first thing I always think of is a safe deposit box.  But if you don't have one or would like easier accessibility to them, you could just upload them to the internet to one of many online photo service websites.  (Of course, keep a backup on CD or DVD or even just a jump drive.) 


Many people think that macro, or even with some cameras super macro, setting is the one to choose for jewelry photos.  If your piece is not very dimensional – maybe that is OK.  With macro your depth of field is shallow, meaning a small section of the photo is in sharp focus and the rest is blurred.  It is great, artsy – but it won't show a 3D object completely sharp.  If your intent is to show the object – use a regular setting and zoom to get in close to the subject.  If you have a high number megapixel camera – you can crop down to get just your piece if need be.  Cropping does reduce the size of your photo file – so if you crop a photo taken with an 8mp camera in half – you end up with the same size of photo as if you had used a 4mp camera.


Landscape setting is the "semi" auto setting on most cameras with the largest depth of field.  Portrait setting will probably get your whole subject in sharp focus and have the background slightly to very blurred (depending on how far the background is from the subject).  If you are going more manual with this – choose a high number fstop – 11 or greater.  The higher the fstop the more is in focus.  The lower the fstop – below 8 usually – the more you have blur and sharpness in a photo.  If I were doing jewelry I would choose aperture priority and play with my setting from f11 and on up to see what I get that I like best.  Keep in mind that pros experiment with settings a lot to get the look they want – and they take a lot of photos.


If you need flash consider using auxiliary lighting instead.  A flash can create an unflattering glare that will take center stage and perhaps hide details on a piece.  Set your item by a window – take it outside.  But do not go for direct sunlight as this will create glare and shadows.  If you use a flash consider outside and something like fill flash.  If you need more light and want to put a "spotlight" on the piece with a lamp – think about using a screen to soften the lighting.  Use white plastic (like a Target bag) stretched on a coat hanger.  Place this between the object and the light to soften the light and reduce glare on the piece.  If you are using no flash and your camera's shutter is working slower because of it -- you may need a tripod or just place the camera on a table or any other steady surface.  If you are using a slower shutter speed -- just the push of your finger on the button "could" give you enough camera jiggle to not have a super sharp photo.  Set the camera down, put it on timer, push the button and stand back.


Think about your background.  Many people I know photographing art pieces will use one large piece of fabric for a background and under the piece – that way there are no seams, lines, or changes in colors behind the object.


So take some photos!  This is a great way to document your collection and practice with the camera – killing two birds with one stone.


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