How to photograph jewelry: DIY tips from successful designers #1

First post in a new series: Photo Fridays

You have to look closely at Hilary Hachey’s website to tell the professional shots from those she took herself. Most look almost as though they were shot in black and white. Given that most of her work is in sterling and shot on a neutral background, monotone images serve to highlight form – which is what her jewelry is all about.

Like most established jewelry artists (Hilary’s work is featured in top-tier craft shows and the Artful Home catalog), she depends on professional images for publication, promotion and juried exhibitions. Every year she sends a few showpieces to Hap Sakwa, a jewelry photographer in Santa Rosa, CA, and considers the results well worth the investment.

Avocado Harvest earrings of sterling & 14k white gold designed, made & photographed by Hilary Hachey

Avocado Harvest earrings by Hilary Hachey, photographed by Hap Sakwa














Even without the hassles of color balance and tricky gem reflections, it’s taken Hilary years to master the art of photographing her jewelry. When I spoke to her, she had just photographed several pieces to post on her newly-revamped website and was so pleased with her results, she told her husband: “You know, I’m starting to get kind of good at this.”

That feat is more impressive when you consider her entire “photography studio” (pictured below) cost about what she probably pays to have one piece shot professionally.

2 Box earrings designed, made and photographed by Hilary Hachey

Sakwa’s images are the ones you see in the Flash slideshow that appears on the homepage of Hilary’s website. But she shot the majority of images herself using a Nikon Coolpix – your basic point-and-shoot. “I use the macro setting for closeup shots,” she says. “It’s alright. I could probably be doing better with an SLR.”

She doesn’t use a tripod. “I should have a tripod, I know,” she says. “When you don’t use flash, you get that shake.”

When she makes a new piece of jewelry and wants to post an image on her site, she sets her camera to the macro setting, positions her jewelry between two photographer’s lights (the kind with metal reflector umbrellas) on a plastic table-top backdrop lined with black background paper – all of which she bought online.

To get rid of unwanted reflections and the green hue florescent lights produce, she began masking the area around the shot with black fabric. Photoshop helps with that too, she says. “I lay the jewelry out and look at the shot on the camera’s digital screen. I hold the camera with one hand and move the lights around with the other,” she says. “When the light looks good, I stop moving it – very non-scientific!”

Hilary Hachey's tabletop photography setup

Hilary’s equipment:

Nikon COOLPIX (current version: 6.1 MP with 26x zoom lens): $199

Tabletop studio lighting set: $34

Tabletop background stand with colored paper: $32

Black background paper: $35

10×20′ black muslin backdrop: $38

Adobe Photoshop: $550


Next Friday, we’ll hear from Lauren Schlossberg, who takes her jewelry photography as seriously as she takes the jewelry itself – and it shows.

Related posts:

How to photograph jewelry: DIY tips for successful designers #2

How to build your own website to sell your jewelry

How to photograph jewelry: tips from the pros

How to photograph jewelry: Photoshop tips from the pros

Free passes to International Gem & Jewelry Shows

Jewelry in the digital age: Ganoksin, CAD & romanticizing craft

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3 comments for “How to photograph jewelry: DIY tips from successful designers #1

  1. November 4, 2012 at 4:30 pm

    The background stand you offer a link to doesn’t appear t be the same one shown in the image? The one shown in your article has a scopped shape woth a string to keep the angle you want. Did the artist make this herself or is it offered for sale somewhere? I phtograph all of ur jewelry and do a fair to good job but I don’t get consistent results. I have purchased many light-boxes, table-top studio set-ups and have a good camera. But this one item would really make my job a lot easier. I’m so glad I found your article.. I’ll keep reading future posts for helpful tips.

  2. Cathleen McCarthy
    November 4, 2012 at 5:46 pm

    Jessica, I looked on a few sites and that was the closest I could find. I’ll ask Hilary where she bought hers. As for the string, I’m betting she rigged that up herself.

  3. November 5, 2012 at 12:06 pm

    Yes, I thought it was possible that this was a self-made item. I can rig it up…but lif a premade option had been available I would have snatched it up. thanks for the links!

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