We had a conversation at our guild meeting last month about photography and I thought the topic would make a good blog post. I’ve been making jewelry in polymer clay, beads and lately silver for around 8 years now and taking pictures of my work along the way. I’ve never taken any classes in photography and I certainly have a lot more to learn, but I am proud of the progress I’ve made.
(click the highlighted words for resource information)
Photo taken in January 2003 with a Cloud Dome:
Photo taken March 2004 with a homemade light box (translucent plastic box):
Silver bezel bracelet by Don Geer, polymer clay by me
Photo taken September 2008 with an EZ Cube:
I think I have improved. And I am still learning. There’s a lot of trial and error involved. Here are my tips on how to improve your jewelry photography:
Get a decent digital camera.
It is the most important piece of equipment you need. You don’t need to have a camera with all the bells and whistles or the most megapixels available, but you do need a camera with an excellent macro function and the ability to change the white balance settings. A great place to research cameras is DP Review.
Identify the style of photography you like.
Research good photographers who do jury photography and look at their portfolios online and in books. It will really help develop your own photography. A few excellent professional photographers (in no particular order):
You can find others by checking the photo credits in the Lark 500 Series or in Ornament or Art Jewelry magazines.
You can also do this by looking at the artist photos for high end craft shows like the American Craft Council Shows or Craft Boston.
Get (or make) some basic equipment.
A tripod. You really need this to keep your camera still.
A light tent. You can buy one from many places including Tabletop Studios or Alzo or Ebay or Amazon. Or you can build one yourself. There are loads of instruction online: here or here or here for example.
Lighting = Daylight bulbs. I used Ott lights that I had in my studio originally. Then I bought a set from Tabletop Studios. You can also buy bulbs and use them with inexpensive clip-on fixtures. Or you can set up your photo tent outdoors and use natural light.
A background. I like to use a graduated background, but you can use other backgrounds. Personally I think the background should be neutral and plain. I used a piece of silver posterboard for a long time and I think it worked pretty well. (see the middle photo above) Avoid fabrics that wrinkle or show dust easily. If your pieces are small you can print your own graduated background.
Photo manipulation software and a book to go along with it.
I recommend Photoshop Elements to start. The price is reasonable and it’s a very powerful piece of software. The auto settings aren’t too bad either. If that’s out of your price range search the web for free photo editing software. I am sure there are some great products out there. Buy a book about your software. It really helps to have a reference book. I like the “for dummies” books to start. They’re really basic and easy to follow.
Research online tutorials.
Some of the ones I like are: