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Photographing Costume Jewelry

Posted by Laurie Zeiden on

Taking a great photo of your jewelry is crucial if you want to compete as an internet seller. You can do a search on any website; eBay for example, for "butterfly pin" and you'll get hundreds of results. If you're like most shoppers, you'll scroll through the list looking at the photos. You probably won't even look at the listing title or price until you happen upon a photo of interest. Try it for yourself. Go on, I'll be here when you get finished.

My goal here isn't to tell you what to do or what is best, but to show you jewelry photo options. I will make comments along the way.

I've taken photos of three brooches on a variety of backgrounds. If I were listing them for online sale today, these would be my choices for gallery the images. Shot on a black background inside a lightbox.


Here they are shot on the deck in indirect sunlight- two of each, with the grain of the wood in different directions. Notice how washed out the bright yellow is. And by contrast, how much truer the colors are in the multi-colored piece than in the image above.


Shot on different pale neutral backgrounds. My biggest issue with these is that I can never get the background color to be consistent. The first row is tan; the second row is silver-grey. They both look muddy to me.


Shooting on pattern can work against you. Sometimes the photo is nice, but it shows as a work of art and that's not the goal. It should show as merchandise for sale. You want the viewer to see your jewelry, not your artistic leanings.

These are shot on a wood plank and give an effect similar to the outdoor shots above.


These are shot on a shiny surface so the glare gets in the way.


If your pattern is too busy or if the color of it clashes with your jewelry, your piece will likely be overlooked. The first of the next three examples is out-of-focus. I thought it would be interesting to show how detail can be lost if it is presented that way.


If your backing is textured, the jewelry may sink into the fabric slightly and you can lose some of the detail you want to show off.


Shooting with props can work for you if you remember that it's the jewelry you want to show off, not the photo composition. Or, if you're like me, props rarely work. Take a look at these to decide for yourself.




Showing angles provides the viewer with a better sense of the piece's composition. I usually show a head-on photo first followed by one or two angle shots.


Cropping a photo is important. Leave too much background and the jewelry is swallowed up. Show too little and the eye moves from the jewelry to whatever is next to it on the page. Most online sites provide room for a square image. If your photo is cropped horizontally, it will fit, but will not fill up the space offered.

The first row will show the jewelry without any cropping of the photo. The second row shows the photos cropped as tightly.



Don't neglect the reverse sides of your jewelry. A photo of the reverse is essential. Buyers want to see construction, condition and hallmarks.


The only one of the three pieces I've been using that is hallmarked is the grapes pin, so I'll end with hallmark photos using the grapes pin in my examples. In the first example, the hallmark is illegible. Most cameras can't zoom in close enough to get it any better than this and so this how many sellers show a hallmark if they even bother to show it at all. The second photo shows the hallmark but the viewer has to strain a bit to see it. The third leaves no doubt what the hallmark reads.


Need a new camera? Here's my tip: Take three pieces of jewelry with you to the store and take photos with different models. Which one has the best zoom? That's probably the one you'll want.

My apologies to Dan Campbell, Tim Furlong and Robby Hoke. They are professional photographer friends and are likely rolling their eyes at my tutorial.

Please visit my shop next time you want to do some jewelry shopping. I have lots of inventory and lots of photos.

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  • Lovely blog, great imput thanks.

    kate barry on
  • Thank you for this helpful guide Laurie, I appreciate your suggestions and examples a lot!

    Mary Ann Wilson on
  • Good advice Laurie! Thank you for taking time to share it!

    Denise Bartram on

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