Here are images that illustrate some of the most basic and most common mistakes in jewelry photography and image editing. Though these were created for a presentation three years ago, the issues are just as relevant today.

Note: We manipulated images from our own books to illustrate the following points. No jewelry was harmed in the creation of these photos.

The photo on the left has a good exposure. The top right image is too dark, and the bottom right image is too light. Some images can be lightened or darkened by the printer, but not all. It is always better that the original image has the correct exposure.

The top left photo has correct highlights and shadows. On the right, the highlights are too bright. On the bottom left, the shadows are too dark. When highlights are too bright, they are literally white to the printer. No ink will appear on the page. When shadows are too dark, they will print black and the edges will bleed into the background. (Like exposure correction, highlight and shadow issues can sometimes be fixed by a printer, but not always.)

An image is said to have a “color cast” when it appears to have an incorrect all-over tone. For example, the photo on the right has a strong magenta color cast.

Camera shake…the name says it all. However, you may not see the problem in an image until it is enlarged and examined closely (see detail, right).

Sharp focus is a requirement. The whole image does not need to be sharp, but at least part of it must be. You may not realize an image is out of focus until it is enlarged and examined closely (see detail, right).

It’s acceptable to have portions of a jewelry piece fall out of focus intentionally. Here four good examples. In photographic terms this is called “depth of field,” and it can be a good tool to experiment with to create drama in photographs or pull focus to the most important element.

“Noise” is graininess or specks on an otherwise smooth surface. It can be thought of as visual static, similar to what you would encounter in a radio transmission or television picture. All digital images have some degree of noise. High levels are unacceptable.

Altering images is risky business unless you are highly trained. Photo-editing comes with it’s own share of easy-to-see mistakes. Here are a few of the most common.


Resampling a digital image to a size that is larger than its native capacity results in grainy to severely pixelated images. In this example, an image shot at 72 DPI has been resampled to 300 DPI.

Using a magic wand tool to silhouette, or knock out, the background of an image can have undesired consequences. In this sample the magic wand removed part of the ring itself.

Using the eraser tool can result in a murky and inaccurate edge.

DIY drop shadows often produce an unnatural, “floating” effect, with a halo of light on the edge of the metal and jewelry appearing to sit on top of the shadow rather than cast it.

Some side effects of manufacturing a background for a silhouetted piece are jagged edges, false curves, and the dreaded halo effect.

In this example, we used a lasso tool to “clean up” firescale. Unfortunately, we were left with an unnatural image that drew more attention the problem than if it had been left alone.


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