How to photograph jewellery with your smartphone

CPM Jewellery phonography

Today’s marketplace is undeniably, and increasingly, online. Phonography (a term coined to define photography using a smartphone) is a cost-effective, convenient and user-friendly way to produce images good enough for your website and social media accounts, and perhaps even for display on smaller printed materials. Make no mistake – this will not produce the same result as DSLR cameras, and you may want to spend a bit of money on a better camera app, tripod or proper grip attachment or even a lens – however there are cheap DIY hacks for this you can try as well. Team CPM have put together 7 tips to get you going:

Tip # 1: Starting with your camera app:

If you’re on Android, go into the camera settings and make sure to select the largest possible file size for your photographs. iPhones do not have this function unless you’ve downloaded a third party app. The ones listed below are the top rated options currently, but do a bit of research as technology moves quickly and new ones may be out by the time you read this!

  • Camera + for iPhone (cheap)
  • Camera Zoom FX for Android (free or cheap)

 

Tip # 2: Prep your jewellery

It goes without saying that items must be clean and polished, but don’t forget to build time into your schedule do this first crucial step. Once clean, handle the pieces through a soft cloth or with gloves on to avoid the natural oils present on the skin, as well as fingerprints, from transferring to the metals. (CPM stocks a fantastic range of jewellery cleaners and polishing cloths!)

DIY-Light-Box

Check out this video: Easy DIY light box

 

Tip # 3: Adequate and correct lighting

Sufficient lighting is crucial to avoid grainy images and to get your stock to sparkle. Ample, indirect natural lighting in addition to any electric lighting is highly recommended to avoid glare and harsh shadows and to achieve that soft look you see in professional shots. Do not be tempted use your built-in flash as this will make your images look flat. Great photography uses side lighting – or multiple light sources – to give the subject more life and the image more depth. Use a piece of white cardboard or polystyrene on the opposite side of your jewellery to the brightest light source to reflect the light back onto the piece and soften shadows. If you are using little desk lamps as spotlights, the best placement for these is at the 4 o’clock and 8 o’clock positions relative to the piece. A third, softer light source can be set up directly behind the piece (for example another lamp or reflector). Keeping with our phonography theme – you could even borrow other smartphones from staff and see if their torches do the trick!

 

Tip # 4: Backgrounds and composition

A plain white background is pretty standard in this industry (and many others) – but you will need to decide what will best visually represent your stock, based on your brand, and the colours and design of your jewellery. Unless it makes sense to your brand identity, avoid intricate backgrounds that will distract the eye from the jewellery pieces. Especially as a beginner, it’s best to stick to very simple backgrounds with minimal props until you get the hang of it, unless you have good reason to be incorporating a theme into your shoot. Arrange your items as best you can – you will learn quickly through trial and error here. It’s also a good idea to spend a bit of time looking through the websites of brands you aspire to be like just to get an idea of which angles and compositions look appealing to you. Resist the urge to copy another jewellery store’s style outright, even if you’re in love with it. Spend some time and thought developing your own visual system. Copycatting will eventually be noticed and is damaging to your reputation.

TRY THIS: your white bathtub makes an excellent shooting environment! Check out this video for more


Tip # 5: Avoid the Zoom function

It’s natural to want to zoom into your shots to get a close-up of the detail in a jewellery piece, but this reduces the quality of your images, causing pixellation. Smartphone cameras use a digital, rather than optical zoom – which basically swaps out clarity for size. Rather take the shot with the phone placed as close to the item as possible, and crop the image later in a free photo editing software application.

 

Tip # 6: Taking clear shots

Make sure the device can’t move when you take the shot. A phone tripod is the obvious solution and they are relatively inexpensive. Otherwise, you can stabilise your phone by using both hands and bracing your elbows against your stomach or your forearms on a hard surface. You can also prop the device up against two stable items on either side of it, like two stacks of books, or clamp it to a weighty object. Make sure the lens is not obstructed. iPhone users have the option of turning the headphones that came with the phone into a remote shutter release by tapping the volume controls to take the shot. Android users can use the volume control buttons on the side of the phone to trigger the shutter. You can also shoot with the camera on burst mode to give yourself the option of choosing the clearest shot – but be mindful of the time it will take you to go through these afterwards. It’s best to do a few test shots and then review before diving in. Zoom in on the images, preferably on a computer or tablet, as the larger screen will help you to detect any issues quicker.

 

Tip # 7­­: Photo editing apps:

Snapseed or Adobe Photoshop Express are free image editing applications for both Android and iPhone smartphones that come highly recommended. If you’d prefer to edit on a computer, there are various free software options that claim to rival Photoshop. Read reviews and decide for yourself if you need high functionality and features or if something very easy and simple to use is best for you.

 

Best of luck and let us know how it goes!

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