What Do You Do When Your Jewelry Photos Reveal Imperfections?

by Rebecca Stone.
(Rebecca Stone Designs)

Playing with different backgrounds can give your pieces a wide range of looks

Hanging necklaces in mid-air lets crystals light up against the blurred background colors

Using different colors as backgrounds might help customers visualize wearing a piece with different outfits

A black background adds drama and makes the jewelry pop out

Rebecca Stone has been experimenting with different aspects of shooting and editing jewelry photos, with lovely results as you can see above.

But while she was achieving great photos like these, Rebecca also discovered a problem with her enlarged images. . . .

After figuring out how to make my jewelry images clickable for enlargement, I realized that they now can be enlarged to the point that any imperfection in my work gets really magnified (tool marks, etc.).

I guess this is a good way to check your work (before posting), but now, even though I’m pretty careful with my pieces, I’m feeling like I should go over all of them with a magnifying glass, loupe or maybe just shoot and enlarge all of them.

Enlargements also show cat hair, lint, etc. on both the jewelry and the background.

Below are some photos I left as-is, for examples.

This one had cat hair that I didn’t even notice till I looked at the shot on screen – and I use a lint roller frequently!

Easy to fix in Photoshop, but if you don’t have such a program, could be a problem.

Same thing, actually, with an enlargement of this piece – there be fuzz there that can easily be taken care of in Photoshop, but… You can also really see the tool marks in this picture, which a buyer may or may not find attractive (also, one loop is askew):

The tool marks and fuzz aren’t as noticeable in a less enlarged shot of the same piece:

In the photo below, the white background had some black cat hair in it, but no more. Thank God for Photoshop! It’s the little things, isn’t it?

Anyway, blow these photos up enough and more imperfections are bound to show up. I guess it’s an interesting question to pose:

How much imperfection are we willing to allow ourselves?

Magnification to the nth degree is going to show tool marks, probably even on machine-made jewelry.

But some of my shots, when magnified, have me running for the pliers to tuck here and straighten there, things that escaped me before I saw them on screen.

As a relative newcomer, I’d be curious to hear what others think.

How do you – or can you – ensure perfection (or near perfection)? When does fussing cross the line into obsession?

Time is money, and how much more time should we be putting into finessing a $25 piece of jewelry?

At what point do we let our children go?

Rebecca Stone
Rebecca Stone Designs on etsy

Comments:

Jewelry Photos Showing Imperfections
by: Rena

If it makes sense in the spot where the tool mark is, I sometimes add decorative hammering or other texturing to the metal to help cover tool marks.

You’re right that enlarged photos are a great way to see where we can improve our techniques, which is always a good thing.

But don’t be too hard on yourself when you see larger-than-life photos of your jewelry.

Remember that most people who buy handmade goods feel that one of the beautiful things about “handmade” is that it doesn’t look “machine made”.

As long as the piece is high quality, these customers appreciate the natural imperfections that happen when an object is wrought by human hands and heart.

And the people who are most likely to notice the tool marks and other flaws in your jewelry at any magnification are your fellow jewelry artists! :o)

Our eyes are trained to look for those things.

But people who don’t make jewelry are unlikely to notice those imperfections – because their eyes aren’t trained to see them.

Instead, they’re looking at your enlarged jewelry photos and thinking about whether or not they like the colors, design, materials, etc.

For example, I’ve looked at art created by people who make things other than jewelry, and even when they point out the “flaws” in their work, I can rarely see what they’re seeing.

My eyes aren’t trained to see the flaws in their type of artistry – so I either perceive the flaw as a natural part of the craft, or I didn’t see it at all. Even when it’s a glaring error to the other artist, it’s invisible to me.

And regarding lint, pet hair, etc. – I always study my photos for any hint of that stuff that needs to be removed with my photo editing program. Somehow it sneaks in during photo shoots! :o)

Imperfections or Character….
by: Daylene Horn

I have too found that in enlarged pictures, flaws in the workmanship or even imperfections in gemstone can be very noticeable. It think it really depends on the piece as to whether the flaw is acceptable or not.

There are times when they are true imperfections and other times it is what gives a piece it’s character and style.

There are times when I will redo a piece and other times I will leave it. On certain pieces you can emphasize the tool mark or other imperfection as part of the design.

Happy Creating
Daylene
Twisted Stone Desings
www.twistedstonedesigns.artfire.com

Working with Imperfections
by: Jamie Santellano

Here is my two cents worth Rebecca, as far as the cat hairs and things like that I would re-shoot the image if photoshop isn’t an option. I’ve had similar things happen, but it’s easily fixed.
The imperfections on the jewelry is something you can work with.
I just took a Blacksmithing workshop last week and one thing the instructor said about imperfections such as hammer marks and making them so consistent that they start to look machine made is that it’s good to leave some of them. People like to see hammer marks of the craftsman. He said they don’t care how the piece was made and they like the texture that the hammer gives. It is after all handmade!
Now that’s the case with Blacksmithing and as for much smaller work such as beaded jewelry I’d think about investing in some Optivisors if you really want to get critical about your plier marks etc. This way you can see the marks that are being made before you even finish the piece. This way you don’t have to be retaking so many photos, or even redoing a piece of jewelry. Remember that your materials can be very expensive especially when working with Sterling Silver.
I would also suggest investing in some needle files and some 1000 grit sand paper for cleaning up imperfections. Use these tools to your advantage. The files are great to get into those hard to reach places with the pliers and you can buff down some of the ends of the wire wraps. This will bring up the value in your work and the prices of your pieces. Make your work feel good against the skin…now that’s the finesse.
Why not sell the work as handmade high-end quality? Your clients are paying you for your time and time is valuable and so is your hand work.
After all it is you that loves what you do, and your clients want to pay you for something you created by hand. It should not stop at great photos. It should start in the creation process.
The rest is really just practice. The more you make the better you’ll get, and I know for a fact that when you start using the Optivisors it will make all the difference in the world! It really has in my work, and you don’t have to use them all the time…just when the work gets critical.
I hope this helps.

Great comments
by: Rebecca

Daylene and Jamie: Thank you so much for you valuable insights. Since I seem to be working more in metal these days, I did just get a set of needle files. Very helpful. I have a pair of the Optivisors and they do certainly come in handy. I guess I should start using them also just prior to photo shoots, but I still see much more after I’ve taken the shot and blown it up on screen. Is there a particular brand, Jamie, that you like? Maybe mine are not powerful enough.

Thanks again!
Becky

And….
by: Rebecca Stone

Rena: I very much appreciate your take on this. Very helpful and reassuring. I sure do strive to make my pieces strong, clean and poke-free, but sometimes, as you can see, the flaws escape my notice till they make their screen debuts. And I’m sure glad I’m not the only one shooting cat hair! Thanks again for sharing your newsletter in this way.

Becky

Optivisors
by: Jamie Santellano

Becky,
The brand I use is the OptiVISOR by doneqan optical. I think you should use what ever is most comfortable. I feel it’s more about the lens rather than the brand. I have two pair of them and one has a #5 lens with an adjustable loop and the other is a #10 without the loop. The #10 is much more stronger and for fine detail work. The majority of my work is silversmithing, and there is a lot of fine detailing. You may not need that for the bead work, but the pair with the adjustable loop may by perfect for what you do.
BTW great photos!

~Jamie
www.santellano.com

OptiVISORS by Doneqan
by: Rebecca Stone

Cool, Jamie, I’ll check it out. I’ve been using a $12 pair from an electricians shop, and though they do have a swing-down loupe, and come in handy for working with beads, they don’t seem to give me the magnification I need for some kinds of work (especially the metalsmithing, which I’m getting more and more into lately). Thanks for the tip!

Becky

I had the same experience!
by: Karen at Paper Demon Jewelry

I’ve had the same shock—-thinking my piece was sale-ready only to look at my closeups and see all these tiny flaws! And, not good flaws like hammer marks, but actual flaws…. ARGH!

I always use my Picasa to remove photo flaws like fuzz.

Sometimes the flaws in the photos showed me that my design just wasn’t ‘there’ yet and needed more refinement!

I’ve gotten much more careful, that’s for sure. Which is a good thing!

Karen

Dealing with dust
by: Tracy Carothers

For me it is a matter of pride in my product and presentation. I don’t think the cost of an item should be a factor in how much effort and time you spend on preparing your images. I spend the same amount of time on a $25 item as I do a $200 item because it matters to me – first.

I like to shoot most of my images on a black or gradient background and as we all know black is the worst for showing dust and everything else. My answer has been to use photoshop to “remove” the unwanted grief and yes it is time consuming but as they say you only get one time to make a good first impression. My thinking is – I don’t want it to be something I did or didn’t do to present my piece to be the reason they don’t look at other pieces.

Tracy L. Carothers
http://jewels2liveby.com

Jewelry photo backgrounds
by: Jane Jennings

I used to use fabric as backgrounds, but got fed up with, not only dust and lint showing up, but, any wrinkles in the fabric. Now I almost never use fabric. Instead, I have a collection of art/handmade papers from AC Moore,and art supply stores. I either lay the jewelry on flat, or set up something behind the paper so it gently curves up enough to provide a backgroud. Or – hang the paper with thin wire (strung through tiny holes in the top of the paper), and hang the jewelry in front of it. This gives some nice dimension. I sometimes poke tiny holes in paper, and hang earrings through them. I still use photoshop to correct a few things (including wire, and tiny holes in paper, both easy fixes), but the paper really helps. It’s pretty and textural, too.

gold & silver
by: Virginia

I find the hardest jewelry to photography is my gold & silver pieces. Glare & imperfections showing up are the biggest problems for me.

Beautiful no matter what you see
by: Teresa Massey/Wyoming Angels

I have found that this is the true handmade signature. Plus consider people who are viewing this piece on a person are not going to be looking at it through a magnifying glass, therefore these imperfections will not be noticeable. I have some let’s call them professionally made or manufacturer pieces that are worst looking as far as tool marks and more.
Perhaps consider coating your pliers with the removable rubber tipping. I know that there are places that sell this. You just dip the plier head into it and they are now smooth.
I agree with Rena about adding the texture. Again it’s part of our nature (perfectionist) to judge our own work harder than others would. My first wrapped ring had several nicks and bumps that I saw immediately. An art teacher at school looked at it and said “stop it, it’s gorgeous and that is what makes it special”
So don’t be too tough on yourself and just keep going. Your technique may change as you do more pieces and you may not notice these things as much.

On Purpose Imperfections
by: Lisa Kewish

I make purposeful imperfections. It makes the piece real.

Is it the Navaho weavers? That purposefully introduce a flaw…because only the Creator makes perfect things…and they do not want to assume to be perfect…

Boo-boos add character.

We have cats too. We just did an event tonight…had a black velvet bust on display…I was talking to a customer, look over…and see this long white hair just waving away on the bust.

Yes…and I had used a lint roller.

Your work is lovely. Rock on!

No cat hair
by: Selby Girl

I notice you used fluffy (for want of a better word) fabric that other fibres will easily cling to. I use a piece of silk fabric, doesn’t have to be expensive. also colour – I think a soft blue grey is a good neutral background or a soft light blue. Hope this helps. Selby Girl at Etsy

Great Q and A
by: Cynthia

This is some really great advice! Sometimes its easy to get overwhelmed by all the tiny flaws we see! Glad I’m not the only one and there are ways to deal with it!

Cynthia
www.make-paper-crafts.com

Thanks!
by: Rebecca Stone

Hey you guys: Thanks for taking the time to put in your two cents. What I’m getting from most of you is that imperfections can be just a part of the character and appeal of handcrafted jewelry, as long as the craftsmanship is good. There is so much good information here:

Jane: I agree with you about using paper. I’ve also been experimenting with acid-free artists paper (Artagain by Strathmore) in different pastel shades. It’s great to work with. But, I just also like using fabric for the variation in texture, which more closely resembles clothing (heck, sometimes I even just use clothing as a backdrop). I love your idea of poking holes in the paper to hang earrings from!

Selby Girl: I’ll have to give silk a try. Have you ever used satin? I had wondered about reflection (but I’ve seen some great shots taken on reflective surfaces like black acrylic and would like to try this). Actually, what looks like “fluffy” fabric is actually microfiber and velvet. I found that in certain light, in a tight shot, even high-quality velvet can look like a wool blanket. Yikes!

Teresa: Coating the pliers — I love it! I’ve heard of this before and now I’d like to try it. Have you used this stuff before?

Karen: I know what you mean — my little photo experience here has certainly taught me to be way more careful with my craftsmanship. I am now making much more use of files, bent-nose pliers and magnifiers than ever!

Tracy: I completely agree about pride in product regardless of price. I want anything that’s associated with my name/brand to be as good as I can possibly make it. When I’m experimenting with a design and new techniques — I usually just chalk it up to a learning experience, no matter how long it takes. But I guess I start to wonder if the price needs to be adjusted upwards when the piece requires more time to finesse (unless you’re just fixing mistakes). And, yes, thank God for Photoshop!

Virginia, Lisa and Cynthia: Thanks so much for sharing. By the way, Virginia, I had the best luck reducing glare on light-colored backgrounds, in afternoon shade. Have you tried that? Lisa: I love the black velvet display story — I can just see it! Cynthia: Looks like we’re in good company!

Jewellery imperfections
by: Kate

I’ve just read all of this column and found it interesting. I do not have good photos of my pieces. I will be trying out all the good tips in here. Thanks to all you ladies.

try using Japanese washi paper
by: Karen at Paper Demon Jewelry

I futzed around with tons and tons of backgrounds until I finally had this “ah hah” moment of, “why don’t I use the Japanese washi paper that I make my jewelry out of????” (like, duh). I am talking about the plain colored really fibery paper sometimes called rice paper—NOT the chiyogami patterns that are bright and busy and often shiny.

Washi paper is matte and textured with fine fibers, and comes in all colors. It’s the best background I’ve ever tried.

If you are doing small items in close up, you can use small 6″ squares that come in multi-colored packs from sites like Kims Cranes (my favorite for paper packs—their “arasuji washi” pack is good). Then, you can switch out the white, cream, yellow, pale blue and pale green depending on the color of the jewelry you’re trying to photograph. Once you brighten on photoshop, the color of the paper does not necessarily show through, but the different colors highlight and contrast the jewelry in different ways that can be really dynamic.

I’m not expert–this is just stuff I figured out from trial and error. Good luck!

Interesting
by: Rebecca Stone

Hi Karen: Washi paper. Sounds interesting. I’ll have to give it a try! Thanks for the tip! By the way, have you ever tried laying your pieces on something reflective like black granite? I’m going to try this later today when the sun comes out.

And Kate: Hey, good luck! You’re in good company, that’s for sure.

Background for Photography
by: Cindy C

Oh man! I read the post above about using art papers from stores like AC Moore for backgrounds when photographing jewelry. I’m having the identical problems with photography you all are — problems using fabric, busts, lint, etc.

I had a HUGE “Ah-HA” moment when I read about using art papers as background! Why in the world didn’t I think about using art papers before???

AHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!

Thanks so much for all the tips! Best wishes to everyone who offered them!

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