Tips for Photographing Jewelry with a Scanner
by Rena Klingenberg
Scanners are an easy and excellent piece of equipment to use for
photographing jewelry. For years I took all my jewelry photos this
way. Scanners are fast, simple to learn your way around, and can
yield beautifully artistic photos.
I started out trying to photograph my jewelry with a cheapie digital
camera, and after a lot of time and frustration I realized that my
camera was just not capable of getting close, clear jewelry photos.
So following the suggestion of a shop owner where I consigned some
of my jewelry, I put a necklace on my scanner glass, shut the lid,
and scanned it.
Wow! Even though the only backdrop the necklace had was the white
inside of the scanner lid, I saw right away that the shot was much
more clear than anything I’d ever achieved with my cheap digi-cam.
So I really began pushing the envelope of scanning jewelry, and
worked on developing different tricks to make my scanner shots
better and better. I decided that, except for the occasional very
3-dimensional piece of jewelry like a cuff bracelet, I’m sticking
with using my scanner. It’s really hard to beat the fast, fabulous
results it gives for photographing mainly flat jewelry (which
includes most necklaces, pendants, bracelets, earrings, anklets,
Try a jewelry photo with the scanner you already have. If you’re not
thrilled with your results, you might want to invest in a cheap 3-D
scanner - available for well under US$99. If you decide to buy a
scanner that’s designed for scanning 3-dimensional objects, be sure
it’s not just a scanner with a lid that’s engineered to close around
a thick book on the glass (which is what some manufacturers will
tell you is a 3-D scanner). It doesn’t matter what the lid can do;
you’re looking for a scanner that’s designed to photograph a depth
Now that you’ve got your scanner, here are a few hints that will
help you achieve excellent results when you photograph beads and
jewelry with it. These tips will eliminate 99% of the problems
involved in using scanners for shooting photos of beads and jewelry:
Wipe the scanner glass clean. Even tiny specks of lint or dust
come out looking enormous, dirty, and tacky in a jewelry photo.
Place a clean, clear sheet of plastic (such as a page protector
from an office supply store) on top of the scanner glass so the
glass won=E2=80=99t be scratched by your jewelry or beads. When the
plastic sheet starts to get a bit scratched from use, discard it and
start a new one.
Clean and polish your beads or jewelry to a jewelry-store shine,
and wipe with a lint-free jewelry polishing cloth.
Arrange your beads or jewelry on the scanner glass that’s already
covered by the plastic sheet protector.
Place a background for your photo against the back of your
jewelry or beads. There are all kinds of wonderful things you can
use for backgrounds in your jewelry scans. Different colored or
textured papers, lace, fabric scraps, flowers, leaves - look around
and find something neat that would make a pleasing background for
your photo. Just be sure it enhances the jewelry and doesn’t
distract the eye away from it. And if you have trouble with over- or
under-exposed jewelry scans, try using a neutral gray or blue
Place a small box on the scanner glass, somewhere out of the
jewelry shot. The box is not part of your photo; its only purpose is
to hold the scanner lid off of the back of your jewelry or beads, so
that the lid doesn’t knock them askew from the way you’ve just
arranged them on the glass. Close the lid of the scanner so that it
rests on the small box, safely off of your arranged jewelry.
Cover the entire scanner with a dark cloth so no outside light
can seep in around the edges of the scanner lid, since it’s propped
partly open by the small box.
Design Your Jewelry Photo for a Scanner
Okay, now the fun begins! First, look through some clothing /
jewelry catalogs to see how the most effective jewelry photos are
designed. What do designers do to make persuasive shots when
photographing jewelry? What=E2=80=99s in the photo, and what=E2=80=99s=
feeling does the photo give you about the jewelry, and why? You can
also click around some jewelry websites, enjoying the eye candy
there, studying the same things.
NOTE: Don’t copy other people’s photo designs. Just learn from what
you see, and get inspired so you can take off in your own direction
that’s best for your own jewelry.
Now take a good look at the piece of jewelry you’re going to
photograph. What mood or feel does it have? What kind of style? Keep
the piece’s personality in mind when you design the photo. If you
have a neat photo design idea but it’s not really right for that
particular piece of jewelry, save the design idea for a different
piece. Keep a notebook or file of photo design ideas for
photographing jewelry, so you can pull it out and design a shot
Set the piece of jewelry face-down on the clean scanner glass that’s
covered by the clean plastic sheet protector. Turn the jewelry a
bit, this way or that, till you get an appealing angle that=E2’s
appropriate for the piece.
For earrings, I’ve found that it’s a nightmare to try to make both
of them perfectly vertical and perfectly parallel to each other, and
anyway I think placing them at artsy angles to each other is much
more visually intriguing and dynamic, and romanticizes the piece. So
don’t kill yourself trying to achieve a perfectly vertical earring
shot, especially if the earrings have round beads that make them
For necklaces or chains, try different cool ways of swirling or
coiling the strands or chain on the scanner glass for the photo. Be
sure the clasp shows clearly. If the necklace has an extender, that
should be clearly visible too. Make sure chains don’t look angled or
awkwardly kinked. Again, don’t try for perfectly vertical shots.
tilt the piece till you get a neat angle.
When the jewelry is arranged to your satisfaction, it’s time for the
background of the shot. Choose a plain piece of
interestingly-textured fabric, some natural or silk leaves or
flowers, or a sheet of special paper to place over the back of the
jewelry for the photo background. Cheesecloth, gauze, denim, lace,
linen, fur, etc. make good fabric choices for photographing jewelry.
Paper in a light, interesting pattern or printed with scenery is
good to try. Your background shouldn’t contrast too fiercely with
your jewelry in terms of color or style. And remember that the
jewelry and not the background is the star of the photo.
If you have trouble with too much contrast in your jewelry scans -
like pearls being invisible or onyx looking like a dark blop - try a
neutral-toned background. Experiment with medium grays and blues and
see if that helps.
If you’re photographing jewelry for your website, I recommend using
the same background for all shots. If each piece on your site has a
different color and style of background it can look like a
disjointed hodge-podge and distract attention from your jewelry. I
think it’s best to choose a single background to use in all photos
for your site so your jewelry will be the focus of shoppers’
I don’t recommend using a coin in the same photo as your jewelry as
a way of showing the size of the piece. For one thing, the glare on
the coin can make for a difficult lighting contrast in the photo.
But more important, it doesn’t seem like a good comparison to put a
piece of well handcrafted jewelry right next to 25 cents! You don’t
want people subconsciously thinking the coin represents the value of
your jewelry. If you must show the scale of the piece, I recommend
using your hand or even a ruler instead for photographing jewelry.
Your hand is best because it adds the bonus of lending the jewelry a
very personal touch. Put your palm or fingers against the back of
the jewelry so the piece will look like it’s resting in your hand.
When your photo design is all set up on the scanner glass, close the
lid against the small box (as in step 5 above) and press your
When your scanner software shows you the pre-scan image, scrutinize
the photo. Does the jewelry appear to its best advantage? Is a
necklace clasp hidden by beads, or is one earring at too wacky of an
angle? Is there a distracting wrinkle in the background fabric?
Adjust whatever needs to be fixed, if anything, and pre-scan again
till you get a good photo design.
When you like the pre-scan shot, use your scanner software’s
cropping feature to make a nice, tight, closeup shot of your
jewelry. Bring the edges of the crop as close to the jewelry as
possible without cutting out any part of the jewelry or the slight
shadow it has cast against the background. Most of the background
will be cropped out, but check that what background remains looks
Now make your final scan at no less than 100% scale and 100%
resolution. The larger your scale and resolution percentages, the
more detail it will have, but the bigger and slower the photo file
will be, so experiment and use your discretion! My scanner does best
with 100% scale and 300% resolution. I then make the pictures
smaller in my photo editor.
Send this final scan to disk or hard drive. Don’t remove your
jewelry or background from the scanner glass yet. Wait till you see
the picture in your photo editing software first, because you might
want to make small adjustments to the photo design and scan it
Here are some artistic ideas to try when you design your jewelry
Thread a ribbon, piece of lace, strip of velvet, or neat twig
through pendant bails.
If you’ll be using more than one shot of this piece, consider a
photograph showing the back of the piece instead of a second view of
the front (also with a different background), especially on items
where the back showcases your craftsmanship.
Experiment with small props such as tumbled stones, crystals,
bamboo stalks, dried flowers, a lady’s fan, driftwood, a pine bough
or pine cone, crocheted doily, leather or suede, autumn leaves, fake
Again remember to keep the jewelry the focus of the photo, and have
only a small part of the prop in the photo=E2=80=94for example, just t=
ruffled edge of a seashell.
With just a little experimenting, you’ll quickly find out the best
way to get very professional-looking jewelry shots with your
About the Author:
Rena Klingenberg publishes
A collection of of tips on marketing handcrafted jewelry.