Learning to Photograph my Handcrafted Jewelry
A major goal for me over the last year was to finally get the jewelry website up and running, which gave me a lot of motivation to brush up and expand my photography skills. As a self taught jewelry designer and lover of all things creative, I really wanted to learn how to take beautiful pictures to showcase my jewelry. From the beginning, way back in 2002, I’ve been taking pictures for my business and learning how to improve my pictures. As much as I enjoy the process of learning, at the time I quickly discovered that photographing jewelry has very specific challenges. Attempting to capture all those small, intricate details and colors can be quite difficult. Especially if you don’t know anything about photography in the first place, which described my situation pretty well when I started. But you gotta start somewhere, right?
Over the years, and in addition to designing and creating my jewelry line, I spent a lot of time learning about photography. It’s not easy, and I gained a lot of respect for it both artistically and technically in that time. It always seems like it’s evolving with the emergence of new technology, which can confuse things further. Especially for newbies. Photography is definitely one of those things – there always seems to be something new to learn. But if you keep going, there is a point when everything starts to fall into place. I really feel like I’ve hit my stride in the last five or so years, and have come to enjoy that part of the job.
Once I started planning to launch my new online jewelry shop, I began to realize I’d been missing something really important. All this time, I’ve been so focused on the honing my skills for product photography that I didn’t work with models as much as I should have. I decided it was time to change that – mainly because one of the most common questions I get from potential customers is to see my jewelry on a model! The launch of a new site was the perfect time to deliver on those requests. So when I started getting things together for the new online shop just under a year ago, I began working to understand how to transfer the knowledge I’ve gained from jewelry photography to photographing people. I’m so glad I did! It’s given me the opportunity to work on my first real photo shoot for my brand for Fall/Winter 2017.
The Process: Creating the Concept for my Fall/Winter 2017 Jewelry Photo Shoot
I’ve been on set for a few photo shoots before, and have a little experience with the behind the scenes magic that brings everything to life. I was a little nervous to get everything right. I’ve been making handcrafted jewelry for so long that it almost feels second nature, but creating a larger concept that would require more people and time to see through? It’s always been on someone else’s shoulders and I was worried I had taken on more than I could handle. Once I started creating on the concept and putting ideas together, things really blossomed and that feeling began to melt away. My initial reluctance was overtaken by a sense of excitement and possibility, which is a much better place to be.
I’ve had a ideas rolling around in the back of my mind for quite a long time to really show off my new jewelry designs. I know fall tends to make one think of darker or muted tones, but that wasn’t exactly going to fit in with what I had in mind. As much as I love neutrals, I wanted the jewelry to be paired with more vibrant tones. I gravitate towards color, and some of the most colorful gemstones in my handcrafted jewelry designs this season are malachite, lapiz lazuli, and abalone (shown above). I’ve managed to score some gorgeous specimens with intricate details for the new jewelry collection, and these beauties needed the perfect backdrop. I wanted to be able to showcase these pieces against pretty neutrals, bright colors, and lush textures. I decided to go for a natural make up look, and textured hair that was half up/half down for a little versatility.
I think my biggest challenge was securing a wardrobe. After casting Dana, my awesome model, and getting her measurements, I studied a couple recent images and videos to get an idea of what would work best on her body type. She’s not my size, so I needed to figure out how to get a few looks together. I’m not a fan of buying clothes with an intent to return; I’m a retailer so that kind of thing bums me out a little, truthfully. The good news? I’m a child of the 90’s, and grew up thrifting. I will happily spend all day going through piles of clothes to find those special pieces. And lucky me! I happen to live on a street that has three large, well stocked thrift stores within just a few blocks of each other. It takes some time, but these shops never fail to deliver surprisingly great pieces. When I go, I tend to have a hard time finding my size, but always see items that are the noted size of my model! I figured I could get this done in no time. In a weird twist of fate, this was literally the one time most things I gravitated towards were my size. Go figure, right? It just meant I had to look a little harder, and resist the very real temptation to buy stuff for myself. All in all, things worked out nicely in the end. The best part? I have never seen anything over eight bucks, and most of the time things are marked between $2-$4. Even better? There’s always 50% off on certain items. It took a couple days, but I managed to source about five different looks, which was pretty damn awesome. Along with a very awesome neighbor that has fabulous taste (and lots of velvet!), a visit to fave high end vintage shop Mia Mora, I was able to get everything for just under $100. Not bad for an entire wardrobe!
Take a peek at my Fall/Winter Inspiration Board below!
Shoot Location + Other Details
Something else I needed to figure out was location. Living in a city like Chicago, the possibilities are endless! The main thing I had to consider was the fact there there would be a ton of changes involving clothing and jewelry. This meant we were gonna need some space. I decided to keep it simple, and do the shoot at my place. We have a front and backyard with some cool little spots, covered areas if necessary, and some places indoors that photograph nicely. I figured we could go inside in the absolute worst case. I did get a bit worried about the weather, that’s always the one thing you really can’t do much about except have alternate plans. I had been watching the forecast a couple days prior, and of course it seemed as though rain would be falling during our original time slot. I opted for an earlier shoot and I’m so glad I did. It began pouring just after we wrapped! If you were in Chicago at all, you might remember this. We had an epic double rainbow after the storm, which was a perfect end to this whirlwind of a shoot.
Now that it’s all said and done, I’m so thrilled with the results! There may have been some challenges, but it was worth learning how to manage them and still produce work that I was proud of. Photography has been a journey for me, and it’s exciting to finally branch out from my comfort zone of taking product images to working with models! I’m so glad I can finally showcase how my jewelry looks on people, and how it can be styled and worn.
There are a few new jewelry designs featured in the shoot that are not yet available on the site, which means I have a some site updates to do! I plan on rolling these out on social media and using them on the site as things progress over the next couple weeks. For now I’m going to leave you with a little sneak peek of one of my favorite images from the shoot below. If you’re in the Chicago area, you can find these sweet leather bracelets and beaded stacking rings at my Andersonville Galleria shop, or at my booth during upcoming weekend markets and shows.
Stay tuned to see more! 😘