Tag Archives: photography

Processing & developing photos of your jewellery

Processing and editing your jewellery pictures can be challenging but photographer and website creator Gary has advice to help you make a start.

Once you’ve got your well lit and nicely composed photos (see the blog post on taking great jewellery photos) it’s time to process and develop them using software. This involves adjusting things like exposure (if you didn’t quite have enough light or you had a tad too much) and white-balance (necessary to counter the yellow-ness of indoor lighting). You can start by letting whatever program you’re using ‘auto-adjust’ these settings (and more) and then refine the results yourself afterwards using the individual controls. Now and again auto-adjust doesn’t make the best decisions, however, and that’s when a human eye is needed.

Once these adjustments have been made you can then move onto bringing more detail out of the photo by lightening any particularly dark areas and darkening any areas that are too bright. You can also adjust the vibrance and saturation of the colours in your image. Take a conservative approach to all these adjustments, however, because it’s quite easy to overdo them, which can degrade the quality of the photo and make it grainy.

Here’s a tip. When you’re applying adjustments to your photos make sure your laptop or mobile device’s screen is on maximum brightness. This will ensure you’re not deceived by the darkness of your screen into overdoing your adjustments. It’s a simple thing, but it’ll save you the hassle of having to re-process photos you subsequently realise don’t look quite right.

 

process2

 

Software and apps

Many people use Adobe Photoshop for processing and developing photos, but personally I prefer Adobe Lightroom. I also use a third-party plugin called Topaz Detail, which does a great job of specifically enhancing details in photos, and can also work with Photoshop. In terms of processing and developing photos Photoshop and Lightroom are equally capable, and so which you use comes down to personal preference.

You don’t necessarily have to spend time and money learning how to use these sophisticated (and rather expensive) software packages if you don’t want to make the investment just yet or at all – or don’t have the time to. There are some capable and very easy to use photo editing/processing apps and web-based apps available for free, which will give good results but not as good as Photoshop and Lightroom. Here’s my personal favourites.

Picmonkey is a free web-based photo editing suite that has everything you need to make your photos pop. Just by using the ‘auto-adjust’ feature you’ll get a better looking photo. There’s also some impressive filters and you can add text to your images, which comes in handy for Pinterest. Picmonkey also has a facebook header collage which is automatically the correct size and shape for facebook – very handy!
Another good, free online photo processing site is pixlr.com, which also has an app and is particularly good for creating collages.

Snapseed is a free photo app for Android and Apple devices that has a clever interface which makes working with photos using a touch screen very easy. There’s lots of competing photo apps for mobile devices out there, but Snapseed is my favourite so far. I use it to process photos I take on my tablet and phone, and it has solid adjustment features that give good results.

Remembering why you’re doing all this

“Photography is one of the most crucial marketing jobs for designer makers – without amazing images your work will not be selected for shows, promoted in magazines or blogs, and go unsold in online shops.” Patricia van den Akker, Design Trust, UK.

The ultimate aim of making adjustments and enhancements to your photos is to create a well-balanced photo – in terms of exposure, colour, and contrast – which has detail in all areas of the photo where detail is important (i.e. there aren’t parts of your jewellery that are black due to excessive darkness or completely white due to excessive brightness). And the ultimate aim of photographing your jewellery is to persuade people to choose your piece over everyone’s else’s.

Web companies like Etsy have created the biggest arts & crafts markets in human history and a platform for designer-makers to sell their work in that market. The potential for sales is staggering because, if you think about, tens of millions of people are browsing through it looking to buy something handmade at any given moment. Great photos can catch someone’s eye, and make the difference between lots of sales and few sales – or worse, none.

Whilst free apps like Snapseed and picmonkey are great at making average photos look a lot better and definitely have their value in terms of ease of use and convenience, you’ll get the very best results by taking good photos in the first place; and then making them look awesome using digital photo processing software like Photoshop or Lightroom.

At the London Jewellery School you can learn how to take photographs of your work and how to use Photoshop to process them. You can also create your own website and learn how to use social media effectively to promote your business.

Gary is a photographer and website creator who runs craftywebsites.com, a company that works one to one with crafters to create an affordable website.

 

Taking great photos of your jewellery

We know that you are always interested in learning more about taking pictures of your jewellery, so we’ve asked photographer and website creator Gary for some advice about taking photos of your jewellery.

Having great looking photos is essential for jewellery makers looking to sell their creations online. If you can’t afford to pay a photographer to take photos of your work, then despair not because all is not lost. If you follow the advice I’m about to give, then you can take photos of your work yourself and get surprisingly good results without necessarily spending much money. Let’s begin.

The Camera

You don’t need an expensive DSLR camera, although obviously if you have one that’s great, but I would recommend having a digital camera with at least 10 Megapixel resolution (the cheapest digital cameras today start at around the 7 MP mark). Camera phones are getting better all the time, in terms of megapixels, but even so I would recommend using them only if you have nothing else.

The Lightbox

jewellery photography

Mini-studio kits are available online

Armed with a decent camera, it’s time to either make your own mini light studio, or buy a cheap one like this or this. Making your own one is very easy. All you need is a cardboard box and some tissue paper. Here’s a good tutorial on how to make one.

The Light

Unless you have a very bright room in your house, then you’ll most probably need some additional lighting in the form of spot lamps. A lamp capable of producing light equivalent to daylight is ideal, like a Lumie for example, but one or two normal spot lamps that can be brought in very close to your object and produce a directed beam of light can also work. It doesn’t really matter how you achieve it, the goal is to get enough light coming into your light studio and hitting your object such that your camera can take the shot using as fast a shutter speed as possible. This is most important when you’re holding the camera in your hand to take the shot, which I guess most people usually are. If the shutter speed is too slow, then your photo will be (to some degree) blurry – and this is something that can’t really be remedied using software afterwards. If you’re using a tripod, then you can usually still get a sharp photo (which is the most important thing) but you will get ‘noise’ or graininess in the image. However, this can be remedied quite well using software afterwards.

If you have one, then always use a tripod because you’ll get the sharpest possible image, but if you don’t have then one don’t worry; as long as you’ve got enough light a tripod is not essential. Gorilla Pods are highly bendable mini tripods that can attach to any camera that has a tripod screw hole on the bottom. I have two sizes, a very mini one for my compact digital camera and a not-so-mini one capable of holding my heavy Digital SRL camera.

Gorilla pods are lightweight and inexpensive mini tripods.

You might be thinking: why can’t I use the flash on my camera?

The answer is because it’s too harsh and will almost certainly create bright reflections or high contrasts. Diffused light from a few different angles (or all around if you’re outdoors) is the best way to light your object and will minimise shadows, which are generally undesirable because they’re distracting.

Creating enough light can be the trickiest aspect of photographing your own work. If your lamp or lamps isn’t bright enough, then buy the brightest bulbs you can find and use them whenever you’re taking photos. If you can position your mini light studio close to a window with lots of light coming in, then do so. Or if you can go outside, then do so. Make use of natural light wherever possible. Your aim is to get enough light for the camera to take a picture without it wanting to use its flash. You can turn the flash off of course, but the fact that it wants to use its flash is a sign that light levels aren’t good enough for it to produce its best quality results.

The background

Most of the time a crisp white background is the best thing to use, unless your jewellery is white in which case a darker background will work better. A suitably sized piece of quite stiff bright white card, the kind you can get in a graphic design shop, makes an excellent background. Push it into your lightbox and bend it (without creasing or folding it) up against the back wall. This creates what is known as an ‘infinity’ background. The main thing about backgrounds is that they should not distract from the object being photographed. They should compliment it, they should make it stand out. As a rule of thumb avoid patterned or textured backgrounds.

Composition

After light, composition is the next most important thing. Composition is how you frame the photo. As a golden rule don’t position your object in the centre of the frame. Position the most interesting or important part of it to the left or the right of centre, horizontally, and below or above centre vertically. Have a look at the example below to see what I mean. Also, make sure you’re not too far away from what you’re photographing. Generally, if your photo isn’t good enough, then you aren’t close enough.

 jewellery photography

An example of composition where some of the piece is blurred but the rest really stands out

When it comes to jewellery I like to add depth to the images by shooting from a lower angle and not from directly above. This blurs the parts of the object that are further away from the camera lens, which makes the part closer to it really stand out. You can achieve this look by using the ‘macro’ or ‘closeup’ program on your digital camera. However, when using these modes you may need even more light and, ideally, a tripod. If you’re able to use more than one photo wherever you’re selling your pieces, then I suggest having a closeup shot showing lots of details and/or textures, and a wider shot showing the whole piece. Obviously it depends on what size and shape your piece is, but generally this is a good way to capture the true beauty of your piece.

If you would like more help with your jewellery photography why not attend our photograph your jewellery class

Gary is a photographer and website creator who runs craftywebsites.com, a company that works one to one with crafters to create an affordable website.

The power of great photography

In September we ran a competition to win a professional jewellery photography shoot from photographer and LJS tutor Matt Cheetham. 

The winner was Kim Styles with a silver and prehenite ring featuring flowers and vines. Above is Matt’s final picture of the ring and below Kim’s original. The ring looked attractive in the original picture – after all it won the competition – but Matt’s picture lifts it to new heights showing why getting your photography right is a must if you plan to sell your jewellery.

Competition winner: Kim’s style set for photography makeover

September jewellery making competition winner Kim Styles made this ring by hand. It is sterling silver and has 42 solder joints done without paste, just using torch control, and is set with a large faceted cabochon prehenite.

Kim says she “struggles to get her jewellery photographs to do justice to her jewellery”. So she is over the moon to win a professional photography shoot of five of her pieces by photographer and LJS tutor Matt Cheetham.

Here at the school were are excited to see which pieces Kim chooses to have photographed and the final images, some of which we will hopefully share with you here on the blog.

Meanwhile if you want to improve your photography skills, find out how you can learn from Matt on our one-day workshop.

Last chance to win a professional photoshoot

Don’t forget that our exciting competition to win a professional shoot of five pieces by pofessional jewellery photographer Matt Cheetham closes on Sunday.

Matt has worked Heineken, Addidas, Diesel and Uniqlo, amongst others as well as independent designers and jewellers throughout London. Take a look at some more of his work here.

He also  teaches Jewellery Photography at the London Jewellery School so if you miss out on this exclusive prize there is still an opportunity to tap into his expertise.

For a chance to win this exclusive and valuable prize, send a picture of the best piece of jewellery you have made recently to press@londonjewelleryschool.co.uk. Please include any details of Facebook pages, blogs, websites or any other social media so that we can promote you on our own pages.

Please note that Matt will need the winner’s pieces for a few days to complete the shoot, ideally in early October.