Jewelry Store Photography Project


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Jun 9, 2013
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Hi all,

I've been working the past 6 months developing a website for my Dad's jewelry stores. The site itself is great but one of its most important parts is still missing - photographs of the product inventory. The stores feature higher-end gold and diamond jewelry, and I'm willing to invest both the time and money necessary to make the photography on the site look as if it was done by a professional. With that said, here are the areas in which I would love your input:

1) Purchasing a camera
- From my preliminary research, it's become clear that a DSLR is the obvious choice for the project. However, I'd love some advice on selecting the actual brand and model.

2) Purchasing a lens
- From what I understand, the lens is just as important (if not more important) than the actual camera for this project. Which lenses would you recommend for a macro-jewelry photography project like mine.

3) Lighting and Setup
- This portion is where I will need the most help. Many variables are involved and small mistakes make big differences, from what I'm told. What do I need to know regarding the equipment necessary as well as the actual setup and execution for this project?

Any and all responses will be received with open arms. Thanks for your input!
Just a suggestion, but have you considered contracting with a local photographer that has both the equipment and the experience? You may find you get better results and even save money in the long run..

Is the jewelry one-off custom jewelry? Do the artisans offer or provide stock photo's already?

Thanks for the comment! Hiring a photographer is definitely something I've considered. The issue is that the inventory consists of 500+ pieces and they are changed out as often as every six months, so outsourcing this work would be a recurring and expensive cost. I feel it would be a better investment in the long run to purchase my own equipment and learn the process myself...

To answer your questions. The jewelry comes from a handful of distributors, some of which provide photos. However, I'd like the photos on the site to be done in the same way to ensure a consistent look and feel.
I will not give you advice, sorry. Hire a photographer with great product images in their portfolio. Your time is better spent working on your store, not trying to avoid hiring a professional by buying a camera and spending many many hours trying to learn what the pro already knows. I promise you your time is worth much more than you'll pay the photographer in the first several years, and your images likely won't come close to theirs if you pick someone familiar with product photography.

If you want to get a camera and learn photography because you love and want to get better, that's a different story. But from your post, that's not the case at all.
We have moved the thread to a forum where you will be more likely to get the most pertinent replies.

It usually takes from 1 to 3 years before someone new to photography can consistently produce professional quality product shots.

Lighting, particularly for highly reflective items like jewelry, usually takes the longest to master.
You not only have to add light, but you often also have to subtract light.

A good way to start learning the lighting fundamentals is - Light Science and Magic: An Introduction to Photographic Lighting

You will also need to understand most of the subjects covered in this group of tutorials - Digital Photography Tutorials
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I appreciate the response. I think I misrepresented myself in my first post. I'm actually genuinely interested in learning product photography, and not only for this project. I'm a recent graphic design and marketing grad now working for Adobe (not at my Dad's store). Getting serious about photography has always been on my list of things to do, and I finally have the time to make a serious go at it. I view this project as an opportunity to get my feet wet in a hobby that will improve me professionally and give me something to get excited about in my free time, as well.
KmH, I apologize for the multiple posts - I wasn't sure which forum to post in. I am a quick and proactive learner, and I appreciate the suggested learning materials. I will certainly check them out. As far as the camera and lens are concerned, do you have suggestions for my project? I'm looking forward to acquiring the necessary materials and devoting the time and effort necessary to become adept at this type of photography (whether that be 6 months or 3 years).

I'm glad I came across this site and am excited to grow from the knowledge and resources shared by its members.
Well how much free time do you have?
an inventory of 500 always changing let us look at this from a time to do the work yourself point of view.

it takes about 15 min to set up, light and photograph a product if you know what your doing cleaning, dusting, adjusting, all takes time; one spot on the item, one hair, one piece of fuzz = ruined shot

then there is post all your photos need to be cleaned up a bit in post that is just how it is ;color adjustments, cropping, adding that bit a spark, changing file types(maybe) all takes time on my very best day 5 min a photo if you want the best it can be editing 10 min a photo If it only need small things done.

exporting and unloading If i drop 20 photos into flicker it takes an hour

taking photo 15*500= 7500 min
editing photos 5* 500= 2500min
unloading we will say 3 hour total for that
that bring us to about 167 hours worth of work to DIY if your good at it I would triple it for your first round

if you still think you want to do this check out youtube lots of how to's and how not's on there you will want to get adobe lightroom or Photoshop and you should get the VERY best tripod you can drop the big bucks get a very nice one no going to walmart or best buy for this it needs to be a rock solid tripod get a light box and more light then you think you need lots and lots of light you can always tone light down but it is hard to add more.
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If you insist on doing it yourself, I would suggest the best compromise would be to hire a professional for one session and pay him extra so that he could walk you through the process and advise you on the equipment, standart settings and workflow. Write it down in detail, get the equipment and try to replicate. If you find a good guy willing to do it, at least you will know how to do most basic things for this particular kind of job, and it will save a lot of time and effort. Additionally google "how to shoot jewelry" and you will find a lot of YouTube videos etc.
or - to answer the OP's question -

any modern dslr will produce sufficient quality
macro lens in the 100 mm focal length area (90-105)
product enclosure (like this Impact Two-Light Shooting Tent Kit - Large DLH-KM B&H Photo )

white balance card or color-checker
remote shutter release
incidentals to manage light and provide different backgrounds.

Software to manage images and do minor editing.

time to experiment.
taking photo 15*500= 7500 min
editing photos 5* 500= 2500min
unloading we will say 3 hour total for that
that bring us to about 167 hours worth of work to DIY if your good at it I would triple it for your first round

I hadn't done the math but that seems pretty reasonable. Add to that the maintenance time of the equipment and space, cataloging, and you have made a pretty good case for a half-time staff photographer.
As several have mentioned, it's going to take not only the purchase of the right gear, but a considerable investment of time to learn how to do jewelry photography really well. Product photography can be tough, and jewelry photography especially so--too many shiny, reflective things that have to be controlled. As Keith said, not only do you have to add light to the right places, you have to subtract it from the "wrong" places. And all those reflections...not something *I'd* attempt anytime soon.

Have you considered a compromise? Buy a DSLR, a lens or two and some lighting equipment with which you can learn to do this. But in the meantime, hire a professional to do this initial shoot (and maybe the next one, if it's as often as every six months). That gives your dad excellent, professional photography of his products immediately, and gives YOU time to learn the equipment, the techniques and find out if product photography really is for you.
Is your store website a sales portal, with a substantial percentage of sales coming from it?
If its not, I would argue that you shouldn't bother putting your entire inventory online.
Your web sales would have to pay for the time involved in upkeep, and management.
Most stores put a few examples of lines they carry, Tracori, Simon G, Gottliebs, Troll Beads, for example.
Most stores want to get the customer in to the store to make a sale.
If your website isn't generating a decent percentage of online sales, the then showroom is subsidizing a loss.

If your goal is to generate sales, then you need to take a minimum of 3 images to show each item in 3 views.
Now your talking about 1500 images!

I would argue that it could take a part time person six months to finish this, and if you turn over that inventory in six months like you say, you will never, ever, keep up.

Also, people who shop online are typically looking for a better price than your retail brick and mortar.
That's why places like Blue Nile are a success. They are undercutting retailers big time!

kidswid; you're getting some very good information here, from people who know.

As for me; put me in the "go for it" column. If you are as fast at learning as you claim, you can do this, although it will take some time to get good at it.

I second the idea of getting a pro photographer to do the initial shoot, and you can learn a lot in the process.

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