JCK is the only jewelry trade publication to conduct its own original photography on a monthly basis. That is likely because photo shoots are no small undertaking—they involve viewing new products in the market, considering the uniqueness of styles, selecting pieces to request, and then the physical process of calling and/or emailing to request items, and then inspecting and inventorying everything once it arrives. Pulls also mean insurance, a guard, and a jeweler’s safe. The magic of photography lies in what the rest of your team—photo editor, art director, and photographer—creates in pictures that will ultimately help sell your jewelry.
I’m on set again today for still-life photography for the February issue, so I decided to interview our own JCK team for tips on how readers can organize their own great photo shoots. My team of experts includes Leah Rudolfo, JCK’s photo editor; Lance Pettiford, JCK’s senior art director; and Ted Morrison, a still-life photographer who specializes in fine jewelry and on whom JCK has relied monthly for several years to shoot some of our new product pages.
I asked each for their best tips to conduct great photo shoots. Here’s what they had to say.
“Preplanning is important. This means sharing and communicating ideas with your team and making sure everyone understands the goal of the shoot. You have to have the right team—including a photographer who is not just a shooter for hire but is a collaborator and knows your brand. For example, at JCK our focus is always the jewelry, that is the star of every shoot. So our photographers must understand the intricacies of jewelry, know how to highlight its details and make sure it’s in focus and in the right position.”
“For inspiration, observe what other people are doing and how they are presenting their jewelry. Investigate photographers and educate yourself on visuals to get ideas for what you might like. Chat with photographers about shooting jewelry. The biggest thing to understand is what will show your product in the best light—what will make it stand out to viewers and make it sing in a way that’s different than other products—beyond your own capabilities and skills as a designer. You always want people to aspire to what you are creating.
“Know that photography is an investment, and if you do not understand it, then surround yourself with people who do and have done shoots before. Ask them a lot of questions and for tips about what you should be doing and looking for in a photographer.
“I am amazed at how few people invest in photography! You have to spend money to make money.”
Ted Morrison of Ted Morrison Studio says…
“Use a fill card—it’s a simple white card that helps to control the light of the shadows. Fill cards soften all the shadows around pieces. (See photos for examples.)
“There is beauty in simplicity. Keep setups simple. Put less stuff in the picture—this is especially important for nonprofessionals, as they generally put too many items in photos. For your store or catalog, consider a maximum of three pieces per shot or composition.
“Invest in a macro lens or a macro-lens attachment because the focus of most cameras is typically not close enough to capture the detail of jewelry. Macro lens attachments are available for iPhones.
“It never hurts to have a meeting before a shoot to talk about what you want to end up with—how many photos and what and where they will be used (in print or online). I like to determine those details ahead of time. There’s also the matter of what surfaces and backgrounds you’ll want to use.
“Shooting is different for print versus Web. Light sources differ between those that are projected (screens) and those that are reflective (print). On a screen you can see into the shadows better than you can in print. If you take a moody shot from a screen, it won’t print well—it will be too dark.
“Also, remember that you get what you pay for. Good photography will cost you because jewelry photography is a specialty. It has a lot to do with lighting.”
A fill card in action on set today
Hard shadows on a piece appear without the use of a fill card.
Shadows soften when a fill card is placed to the right of the piece.
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