Photo Faux Pas: How to Make the Most of Photography

Last year, JCK shot Kathy Ireland for one of its covers, and I had the opportunity to attend the shoot in Los Angeles. At the end of the shoot, for fun, I jumped onto the set to be photographed with Kathy. 

A week later, the photos arrived. I was happily clicking through the digital images when the one of me popped open. Honestly, I nearly screamed. For anyone who has ever wondered what a little “airbrushing” can do, let me tell you: a lot of it can be scary. It was a strange sight: I had not a hair out of place, my skin was like plastic, my eyes a white one shade brighter than untouched New England snow. The result was a robotic, Stepford Wives-looking version of me that (lucky for me) my co-workers keep around to torture me with every now and then.

It’s tempting to try to create a “perfect” vision in photography. In reality, however, people, objects and, especially, jewelry—and their photographic images—are more appealing when they are real.

This week, art director Todd Gast and I worked with our favorite jewelry photographer, Michael Cuiccio, on a product shoot for the next issue of JCK Luxury. Michael is one of the best in the field when it comes to photographing jewelry. Why? Because he not only has the technical knowledge, but also that highly trained eye for shooting this special product.

During the shoot, Todd and I—who see our fair share of good (and, unfortunately) bad photography, came up with our top list of tips for photography, especially jewelry photography, and we think they are useful enough to share:

1.Keep It Simple. Avoid the temptation to pile everything into one shot—be it jewels or relatives.

2.Go to an Expert. If you want a good shot, use a photographer who specializes in the product. If it is jewelry you are shooting, use an experienced jewelry photographer, because it takes special knowledge, especially when it comes to lighting. (You wouldn’t hire a pet photographer to shoot your wedding, would you?)

3.Tread Lightly. Though the temptation is great to overly retouch photos in the quest for perfection, remember that jewelry (like me in my photo with Kathy Ireland) begins to look like a fake version of itself when the retouching goes overboard.

4.Create Interest. Sure, you should be able to see the product (or subject), but keeping every last thing in focus creates a dull, flat photograph. Think about the best photos you’ve ever seen—the ones interesting enough that you want to go back and look again. Most of them likely employ depth of field, where some elements are clear and some are blurred.

Follow these general rules for photography, and not only will your jewelry will look better, but maybe you can finally get someone to look at all your family vacation photos as well.