Your e-commerce website will thrive or starve based on your jewelry product photography. This is a tough topic that I've spoken about at the Las Vegas JCK show, at MJSA Expos, and have even given presentations to students at the Fashion Institute of Technology in NYC.
Even though I'd like to teach the entire industry about the best methods to take jewelry photography it seems like there's still a huge misunderstanding about the right and wrong ways to take jewelry photos for your website.
Jewelry Photography That Sucks
Before I get too deep into this Daily Golden Nugget, let me just state the most important thing that you need to know up front. Your jewelry photos need to look professional. This means they need to be taken with a professional grade camera. You can't use a webcam, a point-and-shoot camera, or even your smartphone.
Webcams simply don't work for high quality photos. They are poor at best for your repair intake process, and should never be used for marketing or website photos.
Circa 2003, I was dabbling with point-and-shoot cameras for jewelry photography. Back then, a DSLR camera was still quite expensive and only professionals used them. Point-and-shoot photography was the only choice for most e-commerce product photography.
I love my smartphones, but as of this writing there's simply no way to get the perfect jewelry product photo from them. I've tried, and quite frankly wasted a lot of money on smartphone apps in the hopes of finding something that will rival a DSLR camera for jewelry photography. Although the 11 apps currently on my smartphone are wonderful, they just can't handle the needs for jewelry photos.
DSLR Cameras Are A New Business Tool
A DSLR camera isn't simply a luxury that you need to save up for, like all the required tools at your jewelry repair bench; this is now a required tool for today's digital realm of business.
Right now, I'm using a Canon EOS Rebel T3i for my photography work. At the time of this writing, you could get the T5i model bundled with a few lenses and a flash for less than $1000 from Amazon.com.
In case you haven't realized it yet, I am suggesting that you learn to take your own jewelry photos. You won't have to become an all around photography professional, but you need to eventually master the art of jewelry photography if you want your e-commerce site and related marketing to succeed.
Hiring A Jewelry Photographer Is Expensive
There are a few issues with hiring a professional photographer for your jewelry photo shoot. Jewelry insurance is the first issue I'll point out. If you do hire a professional, you must make sure they are equipped to handle jewelry, as in, they have a security system, a safe, and jewelers block insurance.
If the photo shoot will be held at your own store then it's okay to hire a photographer that doesn't have the insurance protection, but you better make sure they have experience shooting jewelry.
I found a few websites that offer to take photos for $35 per shot. All you need to do is ship them your products. A local photographer might charge you per photo, or they might charge you per hour. Either way, it's going to get very expensive very quickly.
Staging a photo shoot for a single item takes me at least 30 minutes. I'd rather take a dozen photos with different camera settings than spend an hour working on photo retouching in PhotoShop.
I feel it's in the best interest of the jeweler to hire photographers who work by the hour rather than by the photo. You're going to need several different photos per item. A photo shoot of 30 items cold easily yield 150 photos. Even if it took 40 hours to shoot and retouch that many photos, at $60 per hour you would have a $2400 photography cost. At $35 per photo the cost would be $5250.
More Is Better
Back in the days of film cameras, we were limited to 36 exposures per roll of film. A photographer needed to carefully plan every shot. Thankfully, digital cameras have removed that limitation and now we can snap many more photos than we'll ever need. Or so you might think.
Your website should have multiple photos of every product, taken from different product orientations. You should have the same orientations for every type of product, i.e. have all rings shot in the same 5 directions, all pendants shot from the same directions, etc.
Even though you might only use 5 photos on your website, you should shoot the jewelry in different orientations or with different backgrounds so you can use them in your online marketing. Having extra photos in reserve will help on those unexpected days when you want to write a blog post, or share a product photo socially. In those, situations it's always better to use an different photo than what the customer will see in the product catalog.
Jewelry Photography For Better Marketing
Your jewelry photography will either make or break your sales, but before it can get to the sale stage, the photos need to catch someone's attention.
Shooting jewelry on a white background for your e-commerce website is a necessity that you can plan for, but most jewelers don't plan very far ahead for their marketing, especially their online marketing. It's not uncommon for an online idea to be born in the morning and launched that afternoon.
This is where those extra photos come into use. You can sift through your photo library and find the right image, or, as a better option, you could stage and shoot the perfect editorial photo as needed.
An "editorial photo" is one that is specifically designed to attract attention. As the name implies, this style of photo is what you see all the time in magazine ads, on magazine covers, and even those photos which accompany online editorials.
You can shoot almost anything right in your own store when you have your own photography equipment, and the right lighting, and a collection of background and props. It will take a little bit of practice to create the eye-popping photos that will lure people to your website.
Sourcing Jewelry Photos From Vendors
The last topic I'll cover for today is image sourcing. Many e-commerce websites will simply download their jewelry photos direct from the manufacturers. Although these photos usually look really good, they have their own set of inherent issues as follows:
* Usually only 1 photo is available
* Other jewelers are using the exact same photo
* Limited size, or sometimes the size won't fit your website
* Photography is not consistent between vendors
Because sourcing photos from vendors doesn't allow for online marketing options, I prefer to avoid this method. On the other hand, there are many retail jewelers who successfully use this method when their goal is to attract more people to the store, rather than trying to sell online.
Jewelry Photography Highlights
1. Get a DSLR camera and learn to do it yourself.
2. Include multiple photos for every item in your product catalog.
3. Multiple photos each need to show something different about the product.
4. Editorial photos are used in marketing to attract buyers.
5. E-commerce sites should not source photos from vendors.