The Best Backgrounds for Jewelry Photos

I’ve taken more than 9,000 photos of my jewelry since I bought my camera back in 2006. That sounds impressive, but honestly, it represents a lot of trial and error. Photographing jewelry can be tricky. Jewelry’s often shiny or reflective and can have many small details that are hard to capture. There are dozens of decisions to make when taking photos of jewelry: Should the jewelry be modeled on a person or on a flat surface? What kind of lighting works best? Should the photo show the full piece or close up? What about the side or back? How do you show scale? Should you use props? Today I’m going to talk about just one of those issues: background.

Why Photo Backgrounds Matter

Backgrounds should showcase the true colors of your jewelry and set a certain mood or tone. By looking at the photo, the viewer will know whether the jewelry will help her feel stylish, sophisticated, carefree, moody, trendy, or romantic.

Examples of jewelry backgrounds

When selecting a good background for your jewelry, avoid backgrounds that blend, clash, or distract from your jewelry as shown in these examples.

The background should provide good contrast with your jewelry. That is, you should be able to see your jewelry easily. Avoid backgrounds that are the same or similar color as the jewelry or that are so bright that they’re distracting. Patterned or textured backgrounds such as woven cloth can be tricky. You’ll likely be zooming in on the background to capture your jewelry, so little details like the weave of a fabric may suddenly become large and distracting.

Cuffs photographed on gray, white, or black.

Popular backgrounds for jewelry include gray, white, or black. It’s hard to go wrong with one of these!

 Three Favorite Photo Backgrounds

If you look at jewelry online, you’ll often see one of three different plain backgrounds:

  1. Gray works especially well with silver and gives your photos a sophisticated look. Bead colors typically remain true to real life when photographed on gray, making this a favorite background for many jewelry and bead sellers.
  2. White gives the jewelry a crisp, clean feeling. It’s easy to see the jewelry, especially if it sports a lot of color. While this is a timeless, classic look, some pieces (silver especially) can be extremely hard to capture on a white background. It’s also easy to overbrighten a white background and make your jewelry look washed out.
  3. Black finds favor with some high-end jewelry sellers.  It provides a good contrast to shiny metals and clear, sparkling stones (think diamonds!), but can feel distant and cold.

Other Options for Backgrounds

While gray, black, and white are time-tested colors that work well for most jewelry photos, that doesn’t mean they’re your only option.

Sample backgrounds for jewelry

Top row, left to right: scrapbook paper, fabric, stone tile. Bottom row, left to right: scrapbook paper (wood pattern), wood, scrapbook paper (chalkboard pattern). When looking at your own photos, think about which photo (if any) best fits the style or mood of this piece? Which ones shows the colors best?

More Photo Backgrounds to Try

Here are a few of my other favorite backgrounds to use when photographing jewelry:

  • Scrapbook paper
    This affordable option typically runs less than a dollar a sheet, sometimes much less at your local craft supply shop  You can mimic almost any look such as marble, fabric, or faded chalkboards.  Scrapbook paper supplies change with the seasons and trends, so it’s easy to find something new to try.
  • Poster board
    Not just for school science fair projects any more!  Poster board propped against a wall or window can create a seamless background for your item.  You can usually find poster board in white, gray, black, and neon brights.
  • Fabric
    This can be a tricky option, but it can work well to add a little subtle texture and interest to an otherwise dull photo.  It’s important that your fabric isn’t wrinkled and that any woven pattern won’t be distracting close up.
  • Stone or tile
    The hardware or home improvement store often sells single tiles that can make great backgrounds for earthy, natural, and organic jewelry designs. Look for ones that are matte, not shiny, for an easy-to-photograph finish.  Be careful of any distracting features such as a large, jagged crack that will be more noticeable close up.
  • Wood
    An old tabletop or a piece of raw lumber can give your piece a natural or homespun feel depending upon the color and finish of the wood.  Make sure your wood does not have a glossy finish that will cause a glare or reflection when you take the photo.
  • Chalkboard
    Chalkboard backgrounds are especially trendy right now. You can buy chalkboard paint and transform any surface into a possible background.

Have fun experimenting with your photos to see what types of backgrounds best works for photographing your jewelry!

 

Michelle Mach

About Michelle Mach

Michelle Mach is a jewelry designer in Colorado. Her work has appeared in numerous magazines including Jewelry Stringing, Beadwork, BeadStyle, and others. She also edits jewelry how-to books, most recently Fine Art Wire Weaving, Bead Metamorphosis, and Mastering Herringbone Stitch. She is the author of Unexpected Findings: 50+ Clever Jewelry Designs Featuring Everyday Components.

Tags: , , , , ,

3 Responses to “The Best Backgrounds for Jewelry Photos”

  1. Molly Schaller Molly Schaller says:

    Michelle, I love these ideas! I think my favorite is the black of the white, gray, option; and I think it’s interesting that the crackled wood is my favorite background of the last grouping of images, but it doesn’t really go with the theme of the bracelet, with its elegant swirls. Great article!

  2. I have struggled with this for ages! I just bought a new set of 5 discounted slate tiles from the home DIY store. I love that I can use both sides, they are textured without being distracting, and their matte natural colors make my jewelry stand out, but it also suits the jewelry I make.

    I also have a stack of 8 vintage leather bound ‘how to’ books. I love to use their cobbled surface, or use them staggered for a step like arrangement perfect for showcasing a pendant. I also love the titles… the one I like best is Opportunities and How to Make the Most of Them! ;-)

    I struggle with how to take pictures on models, especially earrings. So I invested in a custom piece of art from an illustrator I found that is a pen and ink drawing on white canvas of a lovely woman with long flowing hair. One of her ears is shown and I poked a hole in it to dangle the earrings. Gives a great non-competing background and a bit of a size reference.

    Great article, Miss Michelle! Thanks for all your tips!

  3. Erin Strother Erin Strother says:

    Over the years I’ve tried a lot of different backgrounds as well. My LEAST favorite is a piece of off-white travertine tile. While it always looked good to my eye, the jewelry always seems to be washed out in the photo. My favorite background currently is a dark brown suede jacket. It seems to make most jewelry really pop, and is a bit warmer than pure black, plus the suede texture adds more interest than a plain background, but isn’t a competitive pattern.