Sometimes you need more than just basic edits when it comes to your jewelry photography. Maybe you want to take less photos by using one photo to represent multiple types of stone or metals, or maybe you need to remove unwanted light streaks and spots. Here we'll discuss how to do those things.
There will be times when the basic edits I discussed in Editing & Clipping Your Jewelry Photos may not be enough. Before we go any further, did you first do your basic edits? It’s always important to complete basic editing before applying these more advanced techniques. Basic edits to finish first include:
- Brightness & Contrast
- White Balance
- Ambiance/Luminance (aka adjusting the highlights, shadows, whites, & blacks)
Think of basics as “universal edits.” They can usually be turned into a preset and applied to an entire shoot, as long as you kept the camera settings and lighting setup the same throughout. The next set of edits we’ll be talking about can sometimes be grouped with the basic edits in a preset, while other times they apply only to one image and can’t be applied universally.
We talked about curves a little in the basic edits blog, but I’ll go over it in more depth here since it can be a powerful tool when you are editing jewelry photos.
The Curves tool allows you to make specific edits across the shadows, mid-tones, and highlights range. You can see in the image below that you have a line going from the lower-left corner to the upper right. The lower left represents the blacks of the image, while the upper right represents the whites.
How to Use
You can adjust the curves tool by creating and moving points. As you can see there are already two points created - the one for the whites and the one for the blacks. Dragging the black point up will lighten the dark areas of the image. While dragging the white point down will darken the highlights. You can adjust both points or add in extra adjustment points anywhere along the line. Simply click somewhere along the line to add a point and then drag up or down to brighten or darken that particular range.
Let’s say you want to increase the contrast of your image, how exactly would you do that with the curves tool? You’ll create what’s known as an S-curve. To do this you will leave the white and black points where they are, then add in a highlight point and a shadow point. Increase the highlight point and decrease the shadow point to create an S-curve shape. What’s nice is you can control exactly how much you want to adjust your highlights and shadows to create the perfect contrast for your image.
I like to add a “matte” look by creating two points near the black portion of the line and then dragging the black point up. It’ll turn an area of blacks into gray.
The lighter gray graph you can see behind the line represents the histogram of the image. A histogram depicts how much of the image falls into the different areas of the tonal range. So if there was a huge bump on the left side, your image has more dark tones than light tones. And vice versa if there was a bump on the right side, that means your image has more light tones than dark.
Reds, Greens, & Blues
You may be thinking that the curves tool seems really simple for it to be in the advanced jewelry editing blog. What makes the curves tool stand out is your ability to not only adjust the tonal range (whites through blacks) of the image but the range of the reds, greens, and blues of an image. You’ll notice above the adjustment area there is a dropdown menu that says RGB. That means that you are currently adjusting all the reds, greens, and blues of the image.
Understand that there is a difference between the main RGB adjustment that you have already learned in basics and the adjustments that happen when you mess with just the reds, greens, and blues on their own with the curves tool. If you were to adjust the blue curves you’ll notice that dragging the line up won’t lighten the blues, but instead add more blue to whatever area (highlights, mid-tones, or shadows) you adjusted. Lowering the line won’t make the blues darker but instead, reduce the blues or add more yellow to that tonal range.
So how exactly is this useful in practice? You may take an image where the shadows have a blue tint to them while the rest of the image is fine. You can then use the curves tool to target the blue shadows directly instead of having to do an adjustment that affects the entire image and mask out where you don’t want it to hit.
Fixing Overexposed/Underexposed Photos
Badly exposed metals images will lose most visual structure. For instance, wire starts to look like flat sheet metal since you can no longer see shading and contours.
To avoid this issue, try to shoot your jewelry at the correct exposure and worry about fixing an under/over-exposed background when you edit your final images. Your jewelry is so much more important than the background. A helpful tip is to shoot your images in RAW format. Raw saves more information than jpegs so if you make a mistake you will have an easier time fixing the white/black areas.
But, sometimes you just end up with an overexposed or an underexposed jewelry piece so let’s talk about how to fix that. First off, revisit masking techniques. Often, the jewelry will be too bright or dark as compared to the background so you will only want to make the edits to the piece itself. If you don’t know how to use masks, read our blog Editing and Clipping Your Jewelry Photos. You'll want to be familiar with it since I reference masking several times throughout the rest of this article.
Unfortunately there will be times where editing cannot fix your image. Instead of spending an hour trying to fix an unfixable image, you may just want to retake the photograph. As you get used to editing your jewelry photography you'll get a good feel of what can and can't be salvaged through editing.
First, make your mask of the jewelry item, then start on your edits. Here are a few different tools you can try:
- Levels - this allows you to adjust the blacks and whites of an image. You want to adjust the output levels, which is the bar below the histogram. For underexposed metals draw the black slider to the right, and for overexposed metals draw the white slider to the left.
- Exposure - For underexposed images drag the Exposure and Offset sliders to the right to add in lightness while dragging the gamma correction slider to the left - this will help reduce the added texture that comes with underexposed metals. For overexposed metals, you'll want to do the opposite.
- Camera Raw - Here you'll want to focus on adjusting the Exposure through the Blacks sliders under the basics tab. For underexposed metals, you'll want to increase the exposure, shadows, and blacks, maybe even reduce texture and clarity if there are a lot of scratches. For overexposed metals, you'll want to reduce the exposure, whites, and highlights.
Adding in Color
For non-silver pieces, you will most likely need to add back some color. First, you’ll start off by correctly exposing the piece before you do this step. Find a photo with the same type of metal that has a good exposure and color and use the color picker tool on a nice midtone spot. Move back over to your problem photo and create a layer with its blend mode set to color. This will add color without changing the tones of the metal. Brush in color to the areas that need it, making a mask if needed.
For the GIF below I created a mask and then used the paint bucket tool. As you can see the results aren't perfect so use sparingly. Obviously, this can also bring up the issue of faking metals, which is unethical should you color a piece to look like gold and send the customer a silver item. But it is not unethical if you were to use this technique to bring back color to a gold-filled item that was so washed out it looked silver since you are actually helping out the customer to see what the metal color actually is.
Completely Faking It
When adjustment layers just won’t do the trick and you don’t have the option of retaking the photo, you do have the option of faking your metal tones. This may be necessary when you sell a prototype piece before you circle back to photography edits. Metal tone edits will work for both underexposed and overexposed metals. Both require a middle gray tone to fix the midtones, though different blend modes (soft light, screen, overlay, luminosity) may fit your image better. Don't be afraid to cycle through the blend modes to find the best fit.
When it comes to flat pieces of jewelry with little dimension, the gradient tool will be your best option. As before, you’ll want to create your mask, this time focusing on one surface that needs the fix. Add your gradient, making sure it matches the lighting of the image, and play with the layer blend mode.
For wire, your best option is to use the brush tool. If you don’t have a steady hand the easiest way to create a path that follows your wire is to hold down the Shift key (on a computer) as you click around the jewelry piece. This will give you nice straight lines between where you click. When you encounter rounded spots you’ll want to click closer together whereas in straight spots you can click farther apart.
Once you have a path that follows the wire, you then double-click on the layer to open up the layer options. Choose an inner glow and adjust the size and opacity to fit your wire and image.
Removing Spots/Light Streaks
This is a common issue for many jewelers who photograph their pieces. While you can do your best to minimize the chance of capturing spots and light streaks, sometimes it will happen regardless. Here we will discuss a few ways to remove them in post-production. This blog is made using Adobe Photoshop tools, so if you use a different program just look up “(tool being discussed) (the program you use)” to find the equivalent for that program. An example would be "healing brush tool Snapseed" to see if Snapseed has a healing brush option. We do discuss several different tools, so if your program doesn't have one, it will hopefully have one of the alternatives.
This tool may have different names under different apps, but how it works is generally the same across the board. Adjust the brush size to be just a bit larger than the area you want to heal. I suggest if the app allows it, to have the brush feathered a bit as well. Feathering is basically how soft the edges are: a hard brush will have a hard outline while a feathered brush’s edges will blend into the background. Using feathering on the healing brush will help the edits blend in with the unedited areas of the item. This tool works best for small things like specs, hair, and smudges but may have issues with larger areas like the light reflection on the stone.
As you can see below, I didn't just use the tool once. I did several passes to get the best look, which may be what you'll need to do as well.
This tool is great for larger areas that need to be fixed. It allows you to control which source area you select to fix the problem area. When you have a stone or textured metal, the patch tool will allow you to pick an area where the pattern is similar enough for it to blend in. To use it you will lasso the spot that needs to be removed and drag that area to a similar-looking area. Sometimes the automatic filling will not look pleasing so you may have to try a couple of times.
There are two settings that can change the outcome of the look: Normal and Content-Aware. The normal setting will copy over the texture and colors of the area into the problem area whereas the content-aware setting will try to match the new fill to the surrounding edges of the problem area. You may need to experiment with both to see what option works best for your problem area. And just like with the healing brush tool, you may need to do more than one pass of the patch tool to get the best looking fix.
Clone Stamp Tool
In instances where the automatic fills of the Healing Brush or the Patch Tool don’t work, you may have to do the fixes yourself. There are a few ways of doing this, but the clone tool is probably your best option. As with the Healing Brush tool, you’ll want the edges of the tool to be feathered to help the edits blend in.
First, you’ll need to define the clone source by Alt-click (Windows) or Option-click (Mac) on the spot you want to clone from. Brush over the problem area to fill it in. You can change the opacity to help blend in the changes. Multiple clone sources may be needed in order to properly fix the problem spot.
Try to pick a spot that’s not too close to the area you want to fix or to other unwanted elements. The clone tool mimics your brush movements so you could possibly draw in those unwanted elements. Notice how in the GIF below how the clone tool is just shifting over the light streak since the source was defined too close to the brush area.
Color Correcting Metals and Stones
Different lighting conditions can change the colors of your metals, sometimes drastically. It is a problem when your gold-colored items end up looking more like copper or your silvers look more gold. In order to properly convey to your customers what type of metal your jewelry pieces are, you may have to do some color correcting.
Make sure your monitor has been calibrated so it is displaying colors correctly. Otherwise, you may end up turning your metals green. We also suggest having the piece on hand to look at as you color correct. Or have a reference metals chart that you can use when editing photos.
Use a Mask
In most cases you’ll be doing edits that are specific to the metal or stone so you’ll probably need to use a mask, otherwise, the entire image will be affected. I suggest that after creating the adjustment layer for a large edit area you create your mask before you color correct. This way you can easily see where your mask is applied. Once your mask is ready, you can then work on color-correcting the metal or stone.
The Hue/Saturation tool is very powerful. The default option is for the tool to work on all colors, but you can edit just the reds, yellows, greens, cyans, blues, and/or magentas of an image. This is helpful especially when it comes to editing colored metals - I tend to edit the reds and yellows instead of using the master when it comes to correcting gold-toned items. I find it helps keep the gold-toned items from being too monotone.
The hue slider will adjust the color, the saturation option will adjust how colorful or gray the edits are, and the lightness option can brighten or darken the colors.
The curves tool is another option for color correcting metals. It will have less range than the Hue/Saturation tool as it only can edit the reds, greens, and blues, but it can still be a great tool for your arsenal. Follow our instructions at the beginning of this article to see how to work the curves tool.
Turn Colored Metals Into Silver
You may have items available in multiple metals. Sometimes it can be easier to just use one photograph and desaturate the metal to make it silver. The trick to making it look more realistic is to brighten it after you finish desaturating. Silver is brighter than gold, gold-filled, copper, brass, etc. so just desaturating the item won’t look realistic. I like to brighten using curves or levels so that I can adjust the midtones without flattening out the shadows and edges.
You may also have styles you sell that are available with multiple gemstone or CZ color choices. You can use the same tools and processes as above to change the stones from a single photograph.
It is easier to change the colors of transparent stones when you keep the adjustments within similar tonal ranges. For example, use a dark red stone base image to make a dark green stone replica image. Or, use a light blue stone image to clone into a light purple. While it can be done, trying to turn a dark green stone into a light green one is difficult and may not look right due to the differences in the way the light reflects through the material.
Again, take care that your edited photos are true-to-life compared to products your customers will receive. It's okay to use one sample image to show stone selection options to customers; but, the edited images should accurately reflect the stone colors and saturations they can expect.
Prepping Your Jewelry Photos for Export
Check for Scalability
Will your image look good on the full width of a computer screen as well as on a tiny phone screen? This is especially important if you will be including copy on the image. What looks good on your computer screen may be too small to read once it's shown on your phone.
You'll want to check this before and after cropping your image - if you can barely see your piece at a small size you may want to crop in more closely for your social media exports. While this step is a little bit easier to do on a computer screen, you can check for issues while on your phone. First you'll want to look at the image fit to the screen you're working on (aka no piece is cropped out of view) - does it look pixelated? Can you see the details of the jewelry? Next zoom out so the image is much smaller. Now how does it look? Finally zoom in (again this will be a little bit harder to do on a phone since it has much less real estate than a computer and it is hard to gauge how large a website header for the computer will be on your phone.) Is it pixelated? If your jewelry was out of focus is it too obvious at such a large scale?
Once you have completed all of your basic and advanced edits to your photos you'll then need to prep them for exporting. First make sure to save your file (and always save several times throughout editing if your software doesn't autosave for you) in case you accidentally make a change you can't undo. Now you'll need to list out the places you'll be using the photo - will it be going just to your instagram or will it also post as a product image and as a header to your website?
If you are posting to several places you'll want to crop and resize the image to fit the where it'll be posted. Instagram generally takes 1x1 ratio images while your website header may take more of a 16x9, or even skinnier, ratio. Want to post it on tiktok? Now you need to worry about a 9x16 ratio. While it is possible for some images to be exported once and resized in app to fit the different ratios, some images should be cropped before export in the editing suite. Most apps will have crop presets where you can choose which ratio you want. When I have multiple crop sizes I need to export I'll put the ratio as a suffix, so Green-Earrings_16x9.jpg so I know which is which.
Website headers may ask for a specific pixel ratio such as 1920px x 1080px. That translates to an image that is 1920 pixels wide by 1080 pixels tall (pixels being the web's unit of measurement.) Some editing apps will allow you to set those parameters in the crop tool so that your image won't just have a 16x9 ratio, it will have that exact size. This will help you make sure you aren't bogging down your website with overly large images with massive file sizes.
This may be more of a Photoshop issue, but make sure the box for Delete Cropped Pixels is not checked. Otherwise when you commit to a crop it will delete everything outside that crop area. This will of course make cropping for multiple ratios extremely difficult or impossible.
One thing to note - make sure to specify px after your number. Your image may be using a different form of measurement such as inches, if so when you type in 1920 by 1080, your image will end up massively large at 1920"x1080".
Exporting for Web
Some of you may have noticed that some images look fine on your computer but the colors look off once uploaded to your website. The problem is most likely due to having the wrong color profile.
What are color profiles you ask? You probably have heard of them before though you may not know exactly what they mean. First up is CMYK - this profile is used for printing. Have a printer? Check out its ink cartridges and you'll see that it uses Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and blacK. Most likely your image is set to this color profile if your colors look off on the web. To fix this issue you'll need to change the image's color profile to use RGB - which stands for Red, Green, and Blue. Now keep in mind if you plan on using the jewelry image both for print and web you'll want to save two versions, one with the CMYK profile for print and one with the RGB profile for web. When I do this I will add the word Print or Web as a suffix to the image name so I know which one is what.
To change the profile you'll want to go into the menu and select Image > Mode > RGB.
My preferred way of saving images for social media and websites is to use a legacy option called Save for Web. There it will automatically convert the exported image's color profile to RGB as well as give you options to adjust the image quality (to reduce the file size) and image size. I love this option because whatever sizing and quality changes I make here do not effect the working file. If I change the export size from 2400x2400px to 300x300px, my original file will still be at 2400x2400px.
Always keep a Working File - basically the full size, uncropped image file that has all the edit layers. When I'm editing in Photoshop this would be my PSD files.
Why would you want to keep these files? If you were to resize an image for a thumbnail, let's say 100x100px and save, when you come back later to save for Instagram at 1800x1800px, you will have a very poor quality pixelated image. Best to keep a high quality working file on hand that you can resize without any degradation of quality.
Another issue can come from saving after cropping. Let's say you saved an image after cropping it in a 1x1 or square ratio for Instagram and then come back later on and try to crop it at a 16x9 ratio for your website. Most likely you will be cutting off a lot of your piece depending on how close the original square crop was to the item. See how weird the image below would look? With such a close crop on the pieces, the image looks off and may come off as unprofessional on your website.
What to do if I:
Only Saved the Cropped Image?
Some apps have the ability to fill in blank areas when you expand an image. To do this in photoshop you will set the ratio or size you want the crop to be and then check the Content-Aware box. When you commit to the crop, the program will do its best to fill in the area. This option works best for images with simpler backgrounds. You can see how well it works with the GIF below:
Only have a Low Res Image?
First you need to understand what exactly resolution is. Let's say you want to submit your a jewelry piece to a magazine competition. The competition requests hi res images of at least 300 PPI with the shortest side of the image no smaller than 1000px. What exactly does that all mean?
Well from our last section you know that px means pixels so that when your image is exported the shortest side needs to be at least 1000px in length, that part is pretty easy. But PPI (or DPI) may be a new term for you. PPI means Pixels Per Inch while DPI means Dots Per Inch, which are the forms of measurement for the resolution of your image which is highly important when it comes to printing. Where pixels dictate how large an image is, PPI dictates how much information is packed into the image.
If you were to scale up two images of the same size but one has a resolution of 72 PPI and the other 300 PPI, you will notice that the 72 PPI is much more pixelated than the 300 PPI. Both images pictured below are 8x8 inches. The one on the left is at 72 PPI and the one on the right is at 300 PPI. See how much of a difference PPI can make on an image?
The magazine would probably reject the image on the left due to poor quality, it would be unprintable for them. Where might this problem come into play for you? Maybe the image you want to submit is only available from your Instagram. Most images after having been uploaded to a social media platform have their resolution reduced to 72 PPI, which means when you download the image it will not be print quality.
So how do you fix the image to make it print ready? The good news is editing programs have gotten pretty good at guestimating the missing data of an image. Granted you probably can't go from a 1x1in 72 PPI image to a 8x8in 300 PPI image, but you may be able to at least help the quality of your Instagram image. Watch the GIF below. At the start both are of the same size and resolution of 1080x1080px at 72 PPI. The left image is then adjusted to have a 300 PPI resolution, which you can see bumps up the image size to 4500x4500px - do not try to resize back down to 1080x1080px, you can't pack more pixels into a pixel. You'll notice that there are a few options tested from the Resample dropdown menu - these are the different ways in which your editing program tries to fill in the missing PPI information. You can see as I toggle through how the options effect the outcome of how sharp the new image will be. Once the image is resized, you can see best in the chain area how much less pixelated the resized image is.
As with all things, there is always loads more you can learn when it comes to editing your jewelry photos. We have several several recommendations below that can help you advance both your jewelry photography and editing skills.
For more beading information try these articles:
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