How to Photograph Jewelry

Commercial photographer Jessica Marcotte shares her tips for shooting jewelry.

As you probably know, jewelry is very difficult to photograph because it can reflect up to 99 percent of the light it receives. To make the job even harder, it’s small!

In many cases, photographing a piece of jewelry is like taking a picture of a mirror. You may see all types of items reflected in the piece such as lights, camera, yourself, the table, etc. If you use a flash, you will either “blow-out” (over illuminate) the item or create dark shadows that can distract from the item’s shape and confuse the viewer.

However, if you take the time and use a reasonable camera with a tripod along with a designated clean area, you can achieve great results. Here are a few guidelines that will help:

• Clean your jewelry thoroughly; dust or fingerprints will show up in the photo.

• Set up jewelry displays to highlight the jewelry, not detract from it. Good jewelry photos include crisp focus, good lighting, and plain backgrounds. Many photographers recommend using an off-white background (you can use a piece of paper or fabric) rather than props or patterned backdrops. Be sure to remove any extra objects in the camera’s view.

• Turn off the flash. Not only is the camera’s flash too bright at such a close distance, it is in the wrong position to actually light the jewelry properly. An on-camera flash will only create harsh and distracting shadows.

• Lighting should come from an additional source—for example, other lights in the room. You might also consider purchasing diffusing tents and tungsten lights.

• Start with a tripod and a camera that has “macro” capabilities (the ability to focus within 18 inches); otherwise the object will be very small. Using the macro setting gives a close-up view so there is less need for enlarging and cropping, which reduces the quality and sharpness of the image.

• Correct images by removing dust, cropping, balancing color, and sizing with digital software such as Photoshop Elements or Picasa from Goggle.

Photos courtesy of Jessica Marcotte

Jessica Marcotte has more than 25 years of experience photographing for a range of clients, including Hearts On Fire Diamonds, Wenger Swiss Army, Speidel, Samsonite, Titleist, and Special Olympics International. Learn more at