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Jewelry Photography Tips: How to Use Your Phone

Here are some tips and tricks on how to take your jewelry photography to the next level using your smartphone camera.

Here are some tips and tricks on how to take your jewelry photography to the next level with your smartphone camera.

Great product photos are required in today's age of online stores and social media. But, trying to capture your jewelry in flattering images can be difficult. Thankfully phone cameras can now take amazing photos. It is no longer necessary to invest in a DSLR as one of your first business purchases; however, you may still want to plan for that step down the road. Here are some steps you can take to improve the quality of your photography with minimal equipment- and draw in more customers!

Getting Started

Graphic - settings for picture sizes In the camera settings, set your camera to save the largest possible files (Androids only, iPhones have no such settings without use of a third party app).
Graphic - no flash Never use your phone's flash! When you use the flash on the camera it flattens out the piece. Have you ever seen restaurant photos of food that looks dull and lifeless? Odds are they were taken with a front flash. Amazing jewelry (and food) photography always has side lighting - this gives the piece more life and depth.
Graphic - no zooming Also, never use your phone's zoom feature. Zooming to take the picture will cause pixelation or other unwanted distortions. Crop the image while editing afterward or step in closer to the jewelry piece

Prep Your Jewelry

Graphic - clean your jewelry Clean and polish to remove dirt, oil, and fingerprints (try not to get any more on the piece after you do this!)
Graphic - lay out your jewelry Lay out the piece - make sure all quality stamps are flipped away from the camera and any ornaments are facing forward. Try to lay out pieces in a visually pleasing manner. As a beginner, it is best to stick with simple or plain white backgrounds. Images with props add complexity to lighting and staging plus, they will feel dated more quickly.

Tip: If you do decide to use props, go with a theme. The theme can be based on the brand, the jewelry collection, or could be seasonal. A theme helps make your marketing more visually appealing and helps customers associate the images to your brand.

Setting up Lighting

A lightbox is always your best friend, but in the event that you do not have one here are some lighting basics:

Graphic - outdoor shoots in the shade Outdoor shoots in the shade generally work best. You'll get a nice natural light without the glare and sharp contrast of direct sunlight.
Graphic - shoot by window out of direct sunlight Another way is to set up the shoot by a window out of direct sunlight. Use a lamp, white sheet/paper, or foil opposite of the window to bounce light back onto the piece. 
Grpahic - using lamps/lightboxes The third way is to use at least two lamps/light boxes (make sure they both have the same type of lightbulb). Best placement for the light sources is at the 4 o'clock and 8 o'clock positions around the piece. A third, softer light source can be set up directly behind the piece (another lamp or reflector works fine). 

Tip: If you are getting harsh black shadows on your piece, set up a white sheet or piece of aluminum to reflect light in the area that is creating the shadow.

Taking Clear Shots

Graphic - holding your phone A phone tripod is the best solution. Simple phone tripods are readily available for $10-$15. If you don't have one, the best way to stabilize your phone is to use both hands and brace your elbows against your stomach or on a hard surface.
Graphic - iPhones can use headphones to take photos iPhone users can use the headphones that came with their phones as a remote shutter release - just tap the volume controls to take the shot.
Graphic - use volume control for shutter control On Androids, you can also use the volume control on the phone as a shutter control. Do not use your thumb, your pointer finger will probably work best.
Graphic - use burst mode for multiple photos Use the burst mode - your phone will take multiple shots at once. This way you can choose the best photo from the bunch. 

Tip: Do a couple of test shots and review before moving forward. Zoom in on the pictures in editing mode to see if you need to make any adjustments to the setup or the lighting. If you have one, look at the photos on a computer or tablet, the larger screen will help you to detect any issues with the photos.

End Game

Graphic - review your shots Review all of your shots and select the best ones. Make a new folder dedicated to the shoot and move the photos to it. Zoom in again on each to double check for flaws.
Graphic - edit your photos Once you have the chosen few images selected, you can edit the photos. Most phones have basic editing software, but if you want to get more in depth, you can check out third party apps. The most important edits are cropping, exposure, and color correction. Another helpful tool is the healing brush. This allows you to edit out things like hairs, smudges, dirt, and reflections.

Going Further

There are many other things you can do to improve your photography.

    • Watch videos on phone photography - they don't have to be dedicated to jewelry photography, many can give you great tips on the features of your phone, composition, lighting, and more.
    • Find editing tutorials. You can take great shots but if you want them to be amazing you usually need to edit them. Apps generally have videos and tips on how to use them, but any tutorial on how to do basic editing will be a great help.
    • Read up on your phone's features - there are many differences in taking photos not just between brands (such as Apple and Samsung) but between the models too.
    • Look into photography and editing apps. There are many great free ones, but even $2.99 is a small price to pay for greater control and more functions. Just make sure to do your research before you buy - some even have free options where you can try out the app first.
    • Get inspired. Cut out ads from magazines, look through jewelry tags on Instagram, create Pinterest boards. Study these photos - why are you drawn to them? What do you like about them? Does the style go with your jewelry collection?
    • Finally - take photos! Experiment with styles and lighting, have fun with it! The more you practice the better you'll get.

We also have a couple of videos that show how we photograph stock and the equipment that we use in the Halstead photo studio: Jewelry Photography Tripods: Essential Equipment for Professional Images and Photo Studio Tips.

Halstead can help you build your small jewelry business.