Written by Brandi of Catie’s Blue
Since I started selling online, the importance of great product photographs has been hammered into my brain. With jewelry, it is your selling point. People can’t pick up the piece and hold it the way they can at a craft show, so the photo will determine if someone clicks to view your listing or just leaves your shop.
Good photos have become an obsession of mine, so I figured I’d share what I know so far. Please note, I’m not saying that my photos are the best ever nor am I a professional photographer (I’m not); but I do work hard to make them the best they can be. In doing so, there are four major things I think about when it comes time to start snapping away – lighting, macro setting, staging, and editing.
This is Part 2 of a four Part series, broken down for easy reading. Missed Part 1: Lighting? Click here to view it.
II. Macro Setting
The macro setting is the “close-up” setting on your camera, and if you’re photographing small items, like jewelry, it’s really the setting you want to use. I never use anything but macro when I’m photographing my jewelry pieces.
Macro allows you to get extremely close to a piece to pick up the fine details that may be lost on a wider shot. You have to be generally within 2 feet of the item, and you probably want to get even closer. Macro has a narrow depth of field, or a very short range of focus. What this means for your photos is that anything in the background and anything in the immediate foreground will be out of focus or fuzzy, which is kind of nice for an artsy shot if that’s the style you’re going for.
For an example, look at the photo above. Notice how the bottom third and top third of the photo is fuzzy? How only the middle third is actually clearly in focus? That’s what I’m talking about. If you use a smoother surface with no discernable pattern, like a stone table top or a smooth piece of paper, you may not see the fuzziness as well.
When taking photos, press the shutter button down halfway – on most digital cameras, this will cause the lens to focus and a box or brackets will show up on your screen. Whatever is in that box or those brackets will be what the camera is focused on first. Here’s a digital recreation of what you might see on your screen.
By playing with the angle of you in relationship to your piece, i.e. stand up, sit down, hover over it, etc., you can play with what’s in focus and what’s not. If you want to get one particular part of your piece in focus, do your best to have that piece be in the center of your screen, then press the button down halfway to double check. If it is, go ahead and press the button down all the way just like normal.
As for me, I get right up to my piece, leaving only a few inches of space between my camera lens and the piece itself. I go as close as I can without losing focus, so you may have to move around till you find that threshold. Additionally, I try not to use my zoom if I can help it. Digital cameras now come with two kinds of zoom, optical and digital. Optical is what the actual lens in your camera can do – mine has a 10x optical zoom, meaning the lens itself can zoom in up to ten times. When it reaches that maximum, that’s when the digital zoom kicks in.
Digital zoom is when the little computer chip in your camera takes over. It’s not actually zooming in any closer; rather, it’s blowing up the image, which can distort it by making it fuzzy, and completely defeats the purpose of a close-up. Think of it this way: a digital image is comprised of thousands of little pixels. The digital zoom enlarges those pixels, but it’s not adding any new information. So, at some point, you’ll begin to see the blank bits in between those pixels; hence, your photo will be fuzzy.
It doesn’t really matter what style of camera you have, or what brand it is. Most digital cameras now come with at least a few options, one of which is the macro setting. Take a moment to look at your camera. Macro is usually denoted by a little flower, so just switch to that setting, and stay there. If in doubt, pull out your camera’s manual and look at the diagram written there to find it.
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