How to Photograph Earrings
Earrings are one of the most varied, vibrant categories of jewelry worldwide—there is virtually no culture that doesn’t have a history with them. A fashion staple, the right pair of earrings can make or break your attire and first impression. You may argue they’re just another category of product to photograph. However, a pair of these beauties are deceptively complex to photograph. The sheer variety in size, shape, material, and design of the jewelry calls for special consideration. That said, here are tips and tricks on how to photograph earrings like a pro!
1. Asking the right questions
Find out as much as possible about the products you’re photographing, if possible, through pictures, so you know what you’re working with. Something like this can help you on your journey knowing how to photograph earrings.
What are the goals for the shoot?
A launch, a promotion, a campaign, or functional product imagery? How premium are the pieces? Is it a collection? And what do you hope to achieve with this project? The answers to these questions can decide if what you need is a thematic or lifestyle product shoot; a promotional shoot with the earrings modeled; or a functional product shoot for general use. This can drastically alter the project’s constraints.
Similarly, you’ll also need to consider where the images will be used. If they’re e-commerce images for Amazon, for example, that comes with specific requirements (like a white background). If they’re meant for a print catalogue, you might need to make sure your final images are a higher DPI, etc.
What are the earrings made of?
Are they metallic? Crystal, glass, or gemstones? Alternative materials? Are there any key features to show? These answers are crucial in deciding how to light the product. Metallic, transparent, and crystalline materials shine and reflect light differently.
This is decisive in identifying the angles you need and ensuring there’s no shift in color when you photograph. (Note: If you don’t want any color at all, you can always desaturate the photo in post-production, removing any issues you have with, for example, your lights making the earrings look more yellow or blue.)
How are the earrings best showcased?
The goal of the shoot, budget constraints, and the facets of the product can help you make your decisions here. The answers to each of these questions provide direction on how your shoot is planned. You can pick your camera angles, lighting, props, and hacks to highlight the earrings’ qualities. We recommend assembling a production document that carries these details to help organize the entire exercise.
What are others doing?
Do a little reconnaissance for inspiration. Check out what successful brands or individual product photographers are doing, and think about how you might get results similar to theirs. What makes their images successful? Are they employing tricks of the trade you can try to replicate?
2. Setting up your shoot
For everything so far, we’re essentially encouraging you to have a plan. Have a strategy in mind and think critically about how you aim to achieve your goals for the shoot.
Once you run through your questions, you will eventually zero in on the tools and props you need to achieve the best results. And now, you’re ready to set up.
Thematic, lifestyle, and promotional
Thematic and model-based shoots involve identifying a theme and creating sets to showcase the product’s qualities. This is also called lifestyle photography. Rather that simply communicating the facts about a product—how it looks, what its best features are—you’re painting a picture for the audience of how these earrings could fit into their style.
You could feature a model, dressing them up to theme, or compose props and backdrops to create a thematic backdrop. Sometimes, it can make sense to travel to a location as opposed to a studio assembly. The backgrounds and props you choose must accentuate the earrings, and yet be subtle enough to fade away compared to them. Your setup can never outshine the jewelry itself.
Product and functionality
The goal of product and functional shoots is usually informative and thorough, designed to find a place in catalogues and image banks. Typically, a front, side, back, and angled view, as well as some well-composed artistic shots are taken.
Simple monochrome sets are usually the norm, and a tabletop light box setup is usually sufficient for this. When the setup is straightforward, the artistry lies in lighting and the skills of the photographer. There’s always plenty of room for flexibility and creativity, even with the most simple setups.
3. Adjusting your lighting
As you are probably already aware, the standard light that all earrings are seen in is sunlight, which becomes your baseline for artificially lighting your sets. Some shoots may require thematic lighting. Light bouncing off the colors of your thematic sets can potentially recolor your products.
Gold may look like rose gold, platinum can be mistaken for silver, and rubies may pass for crystal. This changes things in online shopping, where customers tend to judge based on what they see. Knowing how to photograph earrings also includes ensuring the jewelry does not look recolored in your shots, and they stay close to how they look in sunlight. You’d be surprised how tricky color correction can be for e-commerce photography, and if it’s ignored, product sales will suffer.
Having multiple light sources that you can manipulate along with your main light can help add sparkle and highlight curves, cuts, and details. Sharpen and diffuse light based on where you want to create highlights and where you want them passively lit. Managing accidental reflections is a skill in knowing how to photograph earrings so the jewelry doesn’t appear flawed.
You may benefit from checking out our deep dives on “how to build your first lighting kit” or “how to use a softbox,” the latter being useful if you’re aiming for a way to diffuse light and get a softer look with fewer hard shadows.
4. Camera setup and shoot
In addition to a good camera, you need the right lens. If you’re trying to buy a macro lens, you can start with a general focal length of 60mm. Set up your camera a short distance away from your products, so you’re likely to get a good magnification. High-end macro lenses can give you a 1:1 magnification, which is excellent for detail.
Pick an aperture such that the earrings stay in greater focus than the background—important when you’re shooting thematic compared to a plain backdrop. What you’re adjusting is your depth of field.
Whether you’re using macro mode on a mobile, or a DSLR, ensure that you don’t have a depth of field that’s so shallow that part of the product itself is out of focus, which may take away from the depth and detail you need to show. Thankfully, this is often not as big a concern with small products like earrings.
Shoot staples include a tripod for stable shots, and also diffusers, like a paper or a cloth to manage light. This is true whether you’re using a DSLR or a mobile camera.
A suitable ISO, whether you’re photographing in daylight, or in a studio, and the fastest possible shutter speed, helps eliminate shake without compromise on exposure. Remember that the number of details in your thematic set can also impact the ISO you may need.
Today, a significant share of photography is done using mobile phone cameras. We suggest you pick macro mode, use an app that lets you make professional adjustments, a timer to give your mobile camera time to focus, and eliminate shake.
When your shoot involves a model, ensure that your shot’s focus lies more prominently on the earrings as opposed to the model. Remember, our protagonist here is the earring.
Robust post-production tools are available today for photographers to use, and it is common for vast visual changes to take place once the raw images are taken in. A number of tools are available, from free applications to professional tools, prominently, Adobe’s Photoshop and Lightroom and Serif’s Affinity Photo.
Post-production also allows you to adjust overall lighting; removing and cleaning up flaws in the jewelry; ensuring sparkle, focus, and reflections are correct; and blurring out unimportant elements. Small changes like airbrushing the model, or reducing the intensity of background textures and colors, can make a massive compositional difference.
Perhaps the most important part of post-production is ensuring the materials and scale of your earrings are represented accurately on screen, as in real life. Matching material, reflection, sparkle, and light overall to the actual object is a skill for the keen-eyed individual.
However, we recommend not over-relying on post production, and trying to achieve as much as possible during the shoot itself. Post-production is built on top of the actual shoot, so even the smallest of misses or human errors can visibly derail an entire exercise. And if you make enhancements that look artificial to the audience, their faith in the product will pretty much drop to zero.
Once you’ve finished post production, you now have a considerable bank of beautiful earring images to choose from. Ultimately the techniques and hacks you will come up with are your own, and we merely hope to set you off on the journey. Go forth, use them wisely, tailored to the platform you plan to use, and enjoy the process.