So some of you like the way I take pictures of my jewellery… I thank you 🙂 I am of course not an expert, but I thought I’d run through a bit of my processes, starting with the basics.

White balance

A lot of frustration I’ve heard is about not being able to “get the colours right” – to make them look the same in the photo as they do in person. I’ve picked something mostly transparent, not much colour but you can see how “white” turns up in various preset white balance settings.

The first and second pics were taken with the wrong settings. Most of the time, you should be able to use the “auto” option – as in the third pic. I use either this or the “daylight” setting, as I shoot in natural daylight next to a window. Now, while the third pic is the best representation of natural light, I adjusted the colour balance (increase cyan/blue tones on highlights) in Photoshop to remove the slight yellow cast on the whites. Whites are tricky to shoot and sometimes need a little extra help!


This white balance business is also why I prefer not to use white backgrounds (although it would be much easier if you use a light tent with strong fixed lighting, but that’s another different story). I feel that different coloured backgrounds are able to enhance or emphasise the piece you’re shooting.

Again, this example is pretty straightforward because of the almost lack of colour in the piece. But you can see how the crystal quartz stands out so much more on the dark background and gets kinda lost on the light one. I would never shoot on a light background unless I was sure I have a very good light source, because I know I’d be adjusting it like mad in Photoshop! Also, I could have chosen any dark background – grey, brown, green – but I picked blue. Why? I prefer to complement the colours on my pieces – rather than fight them or lose them – so that the picture looks more cohesive. And I know what you read about colour wheels and stuff, but I’m not really a fan of having contrasting backgrounds, e.g. a bright pink background for a green-themed piece unless it’s a fun or kitschy piece and that’s the mood I want to extend into the photo.

Depth of field

Super layman explanation here: Depth of field basically refers to the part of a picture that is in focus. Shallow DoF means less of it is in focus, resulting in more blurry parts, and vice versa. When combined with a macro lens, shallow DoF allows you to isolate a particular detail of the photo subject by focusing sharply on one part while blurring out the rest.

When shooting with shallow DoF, the positioning of the subject and the angle at which you shoot becomes important. If an item is laid out flat and you shoot from a low angle, much more of it will be blurry than if you were to move up higher and shoot almost perpendicular to it. If you prop the item up such that most of it falls along the same vertical plane, you can get it in focus while making the background appear super blurry.

Choosing the option that best works for the piece is also critical to how you communicate what’s in a photo. In a piece that is uncluttered and simple (example), I would go for a f/2.8 to draw the eye to details like faceting or texture. However, for a piece that is more complicated (example) I would choose f5 and above and shoot along a different plane.

Here are some examples of the same necklace taken at different aperture sizes and shutter speeds with my Sigma 50mm macro lens (SOOC!):

See how more of the necklace and chain comes into focus? The last photo there was taken with my point-and-shoot Canon IXUS in macro mode. I haven’t shot jewellery with this camera for so long I’d forgotten how it was! Kinda difficult to get used to now. But as you can see, I can’t manually control the aperture size and so… most of the necklace is somewhat in focus and the mood is quite different. A bit clinical. It would suffice if you just want to take normal photos of jewellery or other things, but if you want the pics to look more “artistic” then I suppose you’d want to consider getting a DSLR with a dedicated macro lens.

One thing I’ve found is that using a macro lens, I can shoot my photos in a much smaller space (I graduated from laying out on the floor to using a small shelf 1/3 of the original floor area) and it doesn’t matter so much what the background is because I can blur it out if I want. I’ve had comments that the jewellery appears larger than it actually is in person – well of course it does, that’s how you get to see closeup detail. I can’t tell you how many times I got so annoyed with pictures that don’t show enough – I want to see the wirework, the clarity of gems, etc BUT yes of course I do also want to see how it drapes or might look when worn. Bottom line – show your product in as many different angles and settings as you can because it’s solely your pictures that are going to have to sell your product to a remote audience.

That’s all for now – if you’ve actually finished reading this, thank you! Next time I will talk a bit about post-processing in Photoshop.