Photos and images can really spice up a website, well, that is they can spice up a website if they are done correctly.
Jewelry websites are especially vulnerable to poor quality product photos since jewelry photography is actually pretty tough.
We have a skewed opinion of jewelry photography, in that we believe it should be true to the item and not photo retouched. You don't want the customer opening their eagerly awaited online jewelry purchase to be met with disappointment because your photography was too good.
It's especially important to include some type of scaling comparison in your photography, like a coin or a pencil for example. Avoid using a real hand unless you actually hire a "hand model."
A professional photographer will charge anywhere from $25 to $200 per item photographed. It all depends on how many angles they are shooting and how much retouching they will need to do. If you use the correct lighting in the first place you shouldn't need to retouch the images at all.
Oh, and for heaven sakes people, stop color modifying white gold or platinum to look like yellow gold! This must be one of our biggest pet peeves and a sure way to cause customer disappointment. Spend your time or the extra money with a professional, to take real photographs of the jewelry you sell.
To get started taking your own jewelry photos you will need your own camera and light box. We originally ordered ours from MK Digital Direct before we found out that B&H Photo has much better prices and far better customer support. If you call MK Digital they will have a bungled package that includes a box, camera and all needed accessories to make the job easy. B&H usually has an MK Digital bundle without the camera so you can choose any of their digital cameras. You should realistically plan on devoting a week of your time learning just the basics of jewelry photography. (We don't get a commission for recommending MK Digital or B&H, we just happen to know from experience they are great.)
In the long run it's better to have the photography skills in-house. The largest and most difficult part of setting up an online jewelry catalog is the photography. On a good day we can only photograph 7 items an hour. Then it takes at least an hour per item to resize correctly for the website. If you start out with 3000 items in your online catalog, you are easily talking about 428 hours of photography and 3000 hours of work in Adobe PhotoShop.
For a single person we're now talking about 86 weeks of full time work. With this realization in hand, you should understand why we always say to start small and only start with items online that you can restock.
We could provide an entire day's training on photography, but let's just review one last idea before concluding: The image name.
After the photography is completed you should give careful consideration to the image name. Directly from your camera the JPG is probably called PIC0001234.JPG. Instead of uploading it to the website like that you should actually rename it to be descriptive.
If the item is an engagement ring with a 1ct SI1 then you should consider calling the image: engagement-ring-1ct-round-diamond-si1.jpg.
Google provides a fantastic image search feature, and accurately names images will generate a lot of additional traffic to your website.