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Photo surfaces


I’ve seen a number of tutorials and tips on the internet regarding
how to photograph jewelry, but I’m not seeing info on one of the
biggest issues I have with photographing my work. And that is the
background. I want a couple things, but the most important is just
some sort of surface to set my work on that doesn’t reveal it’s
structure when photographed.

For example, a fine silk cleaning cloth looks wonderful when jewelry
is placed on it, until you look at the photograph and the camera has
picked up the now very large looking weave pattern of the fabric.
The “cleanest” most detail free surface I’ve found so far is to use a
paint-chip card from a paint store, but those have their own
drawbacks with surface gloss, and they aren’t perfectly smooth
either, they are grainy when photographed.

I think I saw one reference to acrylics, but it was in regards to
getting a reflection, but are there non-reflective options? I just
want a surface that will not detract from the jewelry piece, and
that means no surface details at all.

Also, is there a low cost tack that I can use to stick cabochons to
the surface, or hold them at a specific angle?


but the most important is just some sort of surface to set my work
on that doesn't reveal it's structure when photographed. 

Suspend the jewelry (on very fine monofiliment line) or support it,
(on a wire support made so it’s hidden behind the jewelry and not
visible in the photo. This allows the jewelry to be a bit out in
front of, or up above, the background you choose, and thus out of
focus. That eliminates the problem.

The setup I used back in grad school works as well today as it did
then. In a light tent, the work was generally suspended in the middle
of the tent. Behind, a sheet of matte transluscent mylar plastic
sheeting hung a couple inches behind. If it’s clean, it has very
little texture to begin with, and being transluscent, there’s not
much to focus on. Then behind that would go a sheet of color
graduated paper placed so the diffused image of light and shadow
this gave would give apparent shadow depth to the photo, even if the
whole shadow is out of focus. the work then appears to be floating,
but in a 3D space. It’s a bit of a pain to set up each time, but the
results are great.

For a less complex setup, again, try the transluscent matte mylar
drafting film, shiny side down. You’ll probably want a new clean
sheet for each photo session, as any dirt, dust, scratches on the
mylar still show up. But a clean sheet fresh from the pad is
pristene, and the matte surface fine enough so it’s almost
impossible to actually see the texture at normal jewelry
magnification. Support this on a piece of glass, and a background
color or material or color graduated material as described above, can
be placed under the glass. Again, the idea is that the actual
background is out of focus by being far enough under or behind the
object to be out of the depth of field. Add appropriate light tent or
light diffusing methods to control reflections and hot spots visible
in the photo, and you’re in business.



Get a sheet of matte white cardboard, and rest half of the cardboard
on the wall and half on the floor. You will have a seamless

Light from multiple angles, take your photo.

The best thing, I think, you can buy (or make, but they are pretty
cheap) is a light tent.

Regards Charles
P.S. Don’t know about the “tack”.


black perspex [plexiglas]…take the glare off it with 00000 steel
wool, or to your particulars. what about a silk scarf ?


Jon- We use non glare glass set up on top of four clear plastic cups
so that the piece appears to float in space. It also has the
advantage of illuminating the piece from underneath as well as the

Have fun and make lots of jewelry.
Jo Haemer


You can purchase photographic backgrounds, printed and designed just
for this purpose. Here is where I purchase mine:

Beth Wicker
Three Cats and a Dog Design Studio


there is a kind of paper called “color-aid” ( which is
totally matte. i believe the color is silk screened on, and you have
to be careful not to scratch it or get fingerprints on it, etc. BUT,
there is absolutely no reflection and it is perfectly even in color.
of course, you will have to deal with the shadows from the object you
are shooting.

i have been using black velvet, to avoid the issue of shadows. you
have to get high quality stuff. i bought a half yard @ $26/yd. (and
had a 50% off coupon at joann’s so it was pretty cheap in the end)

to support pieces i have been using pins used for macrame (t-pins).
under the velvet, i have a piece of 1/4" foam core. i stick the pin
thru the velvet into the foam core, and put a dab of the grey sticky
stuff used to tack posters to the wall. any trace of the t-pin in
the photo i wipe out in photoshop.

this has worked nicely, especially standing up rings.

now if i can only get my lighting to be a bit more exciting!

Dale Wilhelm


I’ve spent ungodly amounts of time photographing jewelry, with many
different types of backgrounds.

I find certain ceramic tiles very smooth and feature free… but
it’s tough getting them in the right colour. Check out floor tile

Also, certain types of paper will be quite feature free. But you’ll
need to experiment with different types, cause it depends on the type
of paper. Some paper just looks “pixelated” under a macro lens…
it’s tough to see which will work until you try it yourself.

Another person, actually a photographer, mentioned using the
grey-to-black photo background paper under a piece of reflection-free
glass. Which looked very professional. Problem with using that paper
directly is it scratches very easily.

I have experimented with cloth… at the scale of an earring (or
cabochon), the texture of the fabric looked like a series of
canyons… terrible!



Check out Small Scale Photography: How to Take Great Shots of Your
Work by Charles Lewton-Brain. It is out of print I think, but Amazon
has used ones for thirty bucks.

Charles’s book outlines how to make both a shadow box and a grey
scale background to photograph jewelry. In a nutshell… your
background is lighter in front and darker in back… grading from
almost white to dark grey. You place the object near the front and
then bend up the back in a curve until… a piece of poster paper and
a can of dark grey paint can work wonders. I have successfully taken
pictures using this type of back ground using frosted plexiglass to
diffuse an external light source using a 35mm camera… Am sure a
digital would work just as well. Again, Charles’s book goes into much
further detail. It is harder call on how to hold the piece for
display so as not to be distracting… I kinda like driftwood… Or
nothing. I guess that choice depends on the genre of the piece.

Good Luck!


For gradient paper, check this out for $17

We use non glare glass set up on top of four clear plastic cups so
that the piece appears to float in space. It also has the advantage
of illuminating the piece from underneath as well as the rest. 

This is what I learned to do for photographing jewelry. We put a
piece of neutral grey paper below the non- glare surface which we
originally set on old wooden thread spools (tells you how long ago I
learned about this). It worked incredibly well with my old camera at
that time (slides only). Boy have we come a long way. I usually try
to photograph outside in the early morning or early evening when the
light is lovely (but then I live in Sarasota where it’s almost
always lovely and light outdoors. But it does beat having to set up
the photo floods.



Jon, I use a vinyl that is gradient (that I found online, it was too
long ago so I can’t tell you where anymore but with care it seems to
last. I like the gradient background, I got a larger sheet and cut it
down the middle to fit in my photo box. As far as low cost tack have
you tried silicone ear putty? You can roll little balls of it to set
the angle you desire, I find it very helpful. Good luck,
photographing is something i’m always trying to get better at.

Lisa Hawthorne


For background I use a sheet of plain white paper from a 27" x 34"
presentaton pad from Office Depot (for one source). Fasten the top
edge to a vertical surface so half of it drapes down onto your table.
Put the piece to photgraph on the surface for a non-textured seamless
smooth background. Lighting, of course, is all important. I use
several 5500K screw-in flourescents in clamp-on fixtures.

For temporarily sticking items to a surface for photographing I use
a product called HandiTak by SuperGlue. I got this at a Dollar store
and have seen similar reusable adhesives in craft and hardware
stores. It lasts forever and works great for everything from belt
buckles to pendant and pins to link bracelets. I stick the items on
a piece of 1/4" white foam board. This allow me to tilt the board
(and item) as necessary to minimize unwanted glare and reflections.

Another way to minimize reflections is to cut a hole the size of your
camera lens in the center of a 2’ x 3’ white 1/4" foam board and
shoot through it. This will eliminate a lot of distracting reflection
from the photographer’s clothing and skin.



I use 12 x 12 card stock from my local craft store. There are many,
many colors to choose from and most are texture-free. I have a stack
of about 20 colors that I can cycle through to find the one that
compliments the jewelry. Sometimes I hang the sheets at the back of
my light tent and sometimes I lay the piece of jewelry right on the
paper. I also like to use 12 x 12 sheets of stained glass. A little
more expensive, but very nice.


Also, is there a low cost tack that I can use to stick cabochons
to the surface, or hold them at a specific angle? 

Blu-Tack works wonders. :slight_smile:



I like using Epson photo paper in my MK Gembox to create an
"infinity" effect on floor and the back wall. I cut it to fit the
angle closely and that way you don’t get a horizon line. The gloss
paper gives you a nice little bit of reflection with no grain but
there is matte paper as well. I just replace it occasionally as it
gets bits of wax on it from sticking jewelry down.



Epson Matte paper works great. You can print out a nice gradient on
it, too, if you want. By the way, Kate Wolfe’s Wicked Sticky Wax is
great for holding rings upright. A very tiny amount will hold some
pretty top- heavy rings.

BK in AK


While colored backgrounds may compliment the jewelry they start
playing a “role” in the photograph making it appropriate for a
commercial application or a specialized use.

If you use a colored background, I suggest you also photography the
work on a gradient background (available from a photography supply),
or neutral white (such as new foam core.) This will be the shot for
sending your work out to a juried opportunity such as show,
exhibition, book or magazine.

Harriete Estel Berman


I use black foam core. It has a smoother surface than matte board or
illustration board. It also scratches somewhat easily but is cheap,
readily available, and, depending on the lighting set up, can
produce shades, ranging from black to medium gray.

If I’m shooting on white (for process photos), I use matte ink jet

Tiny blobs of plasticine (non hardening modeling clay) work well for
holding up rings and other pieces that need propping.

Victoria Lansford


We tried exposing our own gradient paper in the darkroom with much
success, although if you want a white or black surface… Sheets of
white or black plexi glass work really well. Also using a bit of non
reflective glass works well on most papers.