Jewellery Photography – Gemstone Necklace

This beautiful blue gemstone necklace photography class is the first in a series of jewellery photo shoots.

This class provides a detailed explanation of the entire process, from selecting and creating backgrounds to testing lights and adding interesting props. Karl also explains a few common mistakes when it comes to jewellery photography and how you can overcome these.

Using just three lights, he combines a graduated ambient light with a few extra light sources to make the gems sparkle. He then experiments by adding small black stones for a more interesting final shot.

In this product photography class we cover the following:

  • Product photography: How to photograph jewellery
  • Jewellery photography tips
  • Common mistakes when photographing jewellery
  • Lens choices for jewellery photography
  • Studio lighting setups for jewellery photography
  • How to make jewellery sparkle
  • How to photograph juxtaposing textures

If you have any questions about this class, please leave them in the comments box below.

NOTE: This photography class is available with English subtitles.


  1. This content never disappoints! Another great video. I think I prefer the image with the fine stones added in. Adds a little more interest for me. Lovely!

  2. Thank you for making such great videos.

    Please could you let me know if the acrylic used for diffusing the light is frosted (clear) or white opaque (light box type)?

    I’m looking forward to experimenting.

  3. Why use acrylic instead of diffusion?

    1. Hi, Acrylic is relatively rigid which means you can lean it easily at an angle. You can do this with diff material if it’s in a frame but then you may have the frame reflecting in the jewellery too.

  4. Hello,
    I’m having a really hard time sourcing slate textured plastic. Any ideas where I can find this? Thanks!!

      1. I have but sizing is limited to small (12inx12in) not to mention the cost and weight. I’ll keep looking. Thanks!

  5. Hi Karl & KTE Team,

    I have a question about the acrylic squares. Do you usually buy the square/board already painted or do you paint them by yourself (matte and glossy)?
    In case you paint them: do you start with a transparent board or a white one? and the result could be perfectly smooth and without lumps with spray paint?

    Thanks so much for your time and for sharing your knowledge and experience

    1. Hi Marco, the acrylic board in white, black, grey, matt or gloss we buy directly from Sign Service companies that use lots of different plastic materials for their signs. Or if you are buying in bulk you can go directly to a plastic supplier company like this there are plenty to choose from across Europe and the world.

  6. Hi Karl,
    Great tutorials again,
    I have a question regarding photographing Swarovski Crystal figures etc,
    I often focus stack when taking these shots, I use electronic focusing rail made by MIOPS i.e.they call it the Slider rail, which works great and the stacking I can perform OK,
    Over the years of shooting all things shinny and reflective , can you please advise me on the best way to tackle the lighting set up, I can use a twin light macro set on the lens, I have a type of light tent, I also have some studio lights , soft boxes and the like, but with so many facets reflecting the lights, I am running out of ideas, or is the only answer to calm down the multiple reflective glare in post, any help regarding set up or post would be very appreciated
    many thanks
    Barry Amos

    1. Hi Barry, I’ve done a number of diamond shoots in the past but not focus stacked. My technique is very similar to the one in the rings tutorial on this platform (where I did use stacking) and that is to surround the object with largely flat soft light and then introduce one or two point light sources for sparkle but I always find that these sort of gems still need post work to add more sparkle and selected contrast.

      1. Many thanks, Karl I think I have been using to many bright light sources around the subjects,
        I will soften everything right down and then add some tiny spot light with my projection light modifier to give more sparkle where I think it needs it, then some post work after that,
        many thanks
        Barry A

  7. Hi team I have just been watching a gem stone shot and I am just wondering as you are using your Hasselblad H6 with a 100MB capture, is it necessary to use that amount of resolution for each test shot, as you may take sometimes 15-20 tests while composing your lights etc, is there any reason that you could use say, set the camera to a smaller size , say 20Mb for the test shots, then reset to 100MB when you are ready to go, would it make that much difference to the assessing the capture, apart from the very large amount of memory on the computer while you are carrying out the test shots,
    I suppose it depends on you computers capacity.
    Barry Amos

    1. Hi Barry, as far as I’m aware you can’t make the H6 take lower resolution images, it always shoots the full resolution you can only make it export lower resolution files from the RAW file. I generally have enough space on my drive or I have my computer connected to an external drive for extra storage.

  8. if there is a black cast on subject, is it confirmed to use white paper in one shot and merge it to another shot with original black background? or it seems unnatural look.
    would you please advise?

    1. Hi Reza, It’s similar to my recent live motorbike shoot (you can watch on replay in the live section) you’ll see me occassionally use grey card so it looks more natural.

    1. Hi Warren, they usually come as a set of three (try Kenko extension tubes) the thinnest one is the one I use most often

      1. Hi Karl,

        Thank you for your response. Kenko’s set of extension tubes are great value but I’m using a Hasselblad and they’re only available for Nikon, Canon lenses. So I’ll assume from your
        answer it would be the 13mm tube which is the smallest for Hasselblad lenses.

        Great stuff Karl!

        1. Hi Warren, sorry I didn’t realise you were on medium format, I have the set of three and I purchased them as a set but I mostly use the thinnest one and occasionally the medium. I’m not sure I’ve ever used the thickest one.

          1. Hi Karl ,
            Which extension tube do you recommend to use on 80 mm 2.8 lens ( h System) for jewellery shots?
            I only have a 80mm lens .


          2. Hi the one’s I have are a set of three and 90% of the time I’m using the thinest one and only occasionally the middle size.

  9. Hi Karl. Great tutorial as always. Just wondered where you got that state effect board from as I’m struggling to find something similar?

    1. Hi Jason, I think that was Anna’s from a food shoot, she had it made by a plastic supplier but you can buy slate slabs at stone suppliers and then spray paint them to look better.

      1. Thanks Karl, I did give up on that idea and bought a couple of slate roofing tiles and sprayed them, they came out great. Thanks Karl.

  10. Hi Karl

    When shooting jewelry with lots of diamonds and gemstone, will it be better to first take care of the lighting on the stones and then bring in the broader fill light?


  11. Hi Karl

    When shooting these type of jewelry with gemstone and diamonds, will it be better to first light up the specularity and sparkle on the stones first using smaller lights and then introduce the broader fill light?

    Many thanks.


  12. Nice tutorial but not all has that kinda equipment and assistance. May be these tutorials are only for already established professionals?

    1. Hi for studio photography you obviously need lighting but I could have done this shoot with speedlites if necessary, the rest of the stuff was mostly home made. You must try to think about the techniques rather than the gear and understand the first 15 chapters in our portrait section on lighting theory.

  13. Hi Karl,

    i try too make similar photo of aquamarine necklace but when i shoot from other angle then right from the front, there is no drawing cut in the stone. Try many position of lights or camera and only way is direct front shot. Stone have very beautiful cut so necklace is no problem. Any idea about my mistakes? I know its hard via text but maybe… :-). Many thanks for any idea.

    Greetings from Czech republic ( srry for my poor grammar )

    1. Hi, I’m sorry but you are right it is not possible for me to understand from the text what exactly the problems were that you were up against? In many ways we would need to see the image but I’m not sure this would help as it’s the 3 dimensionality of the object and how it interacts with light that will ultimately dictate the exact reflections from the stone. All you can do is systematically apply each light at a time and have an assistant move the light until you see the resulting reflection necessary.

  14. Hi Karl,

    Do you have any tips for photographing pearls? I am realizing soft light is making them look really flat… so I am thinking hard light. Any tips would be wonderful!!

    Thank you for this resource to constantly learn 🙂


    1. Hi Anastasia, I would still go with a scrim and gradients but I would consider putting the bare light much closer to the scrim to create your harder light or using a standard reflector like the P70 on the light to harden the gradient. Check out the latest live show on shooting glasses, some similarities there with a pearlesque material when I bring the scrim lighting in from the right.

  15. Hello Karl
    Do you notice any big difference in the luster when photographing swarovski crystals or cubic zirconia as opposed to precious gems? I’m looking at creating a jewelry portfolio but I don’t have access to this sort of high end jewelry. Thanks in advance.

    1. Hi Tim, I don’t think there would be a huge difference and certainly you’d be able to sparkle it up in post.

  16. Thank you for the tutorials on photographing jewellery! It would be nice if you also explained how to photograph earrings 🙂
    I have trouble understanding how to make them stand on the white acrylic to have the shadow beneath them like in regular pack shots.
    Thank you!

      1. No, as they are chandelier earrings. Unless, to hang them on the string. Otherwise, they will fall.

        1. If they lay flat on a surface in an attractive form then it sounds like you could use the same lighting as here for the necklaces?

    1. Also, why do I keep seeing my e-mail as display name, even though I changed my nickname in the account settings?

  17. Hi Karl,

    you are using a white, glossy acrylic here.
    Would there be a visible difference if you took your 5mm matte frosted Acrylic?

    A big thank you for your outstanding education platform!

    best regards,

    1. Hi Jens, thank you for your kind comments. Matt acrylic would work and it is likely you would just have a very soft light shadow and no reflection if using the same set up.

  18. Lens question: on a 35mm sensor, would a 24-105 or 70-200 be sufficient in focusing closer? I don’t own any prime lenses at the moment and I’m assuming the sharpness isn’t going to be as good, but would be interested to hear your thoughts.


    1. Hi John, some 70-200 lenses have a good close focusing option on them but you’d have to check yours. Also you could consider using an extension tube (which are inexpensive as they have no glass) these allow you to focus close.

  19. This is excellent, thank you. I joined just two months ago and have l learned so much, but the best thing of all is the amount of inspiration you provide. Certainly got me fired up again.

  20. Karl, amazing lessons thank you so much !!!
    is there any pico lite for Elinchrom or for speedlight ?

  21. Hello Karl,

    I remember you did a review on Siros lights.
    I know own a bunch of them and I would like to know one thing.
    I sometime need an extra light coming from top and I was asking myself if those big chunky light source would be ok at the end of a C-stand arm while having a sand-bag at the bottom of this one.

    If you, or anyone else has the answer I would be glad to read it.


        1. Yes that could hold a Siros light but it won’t be very functional and a bit unstable even with a sandbag. You’d be better going with the mini boom I showed you that fits onto a C-stand.

  22. Great video Karl, as always. One of my main struggles is to find/make backgrounds. It would be great if we could have a tutorial with all your tips on backgrounds, how to choose and make them ?
    I work in a fablab, it allows me to get custom-made acrylics and other materials.

  23. Thanks Karl.

    After posting my question I further gave this suggestion some more thought and as an alternative to the crumpled metal foil wondered if one could also try a long exposure and then using a hand held speedlight on a low power setting, fire off a number of flashes in random positions around and behind the camera to create some extra sparkles.

    As always, thanks to you and your great team for wonderful learning experience

    1. If you were to try that Peter, mask the speedlite front to be smaller with black tape and make sure you were wearing black sleeves and gloves.

  24. Hi Karl, That’s a amazing tutorial thanks a lot!

    From business perspective , should jewelry photography be charged a premium, and how much % wise , versus other types of product photography considering the complexity? It would be great if you can talk about that in your upcoming tutorials.

    I am specializing in jewelry and gemstones so it would be great to know how to negotiate future contracts.

    Thanks again!

    1. Hi Marya, thank you for your comments. If you check the business section of this website you will find a chapter where I discuss pricing. As you will find my day rate is the same for nearly all work with the exception of higher profile campaigns and/or levels of responsibility that may incur an increased day rate. However I do not have a different rate for product, food or jewellery it is simply the time it might take to shoot a given product properly will be longer and need to be quoted as such. Kind regards Karl.

  25. Hi Karl. What an interesting tutorial.

    To add some extra sparkle, would it work if one was to bounce a point light source into some crumpled metal foil positioned in front of the scrim or somewhere above the camera so that the resultant multiple sparkles in the foil are then reflected in some of the facets of the stones?

    And yes, as one of many of your South African based students, we would certainly like to put in a group bid for our fantastic home grown girl, Ashleigh. She really knows her stuff and is a great helper. Keep up the great work Ash.

    1. Hi Peter, good thinking. The physics of what you describe makes sense. The opportunity for more reflections (sparkles) off of the facets of the gem stones could come from multiple point light sources so in theory yes if the crumpled metal foil created that but it would have to be tested to be proven! And yes Ash is a very good assistant, I will pass on your fellow South African regards.

  26. I really liked this one; I occasionally make wire-wrapped or beaded necklaces/earrings and have struggled with the lighting. As far as the aquamarine color grading, is this an example of where you may use the color checker for its color specifically instead of the regular neutral gray method? I know that high end gemstone dealers are adamant about accurate color to avoid misleading the customer, at least for sales of loose stones.

    1. Hi Peter, my experience (other than for auction) is that they usually want the colour enhanced for advertising. Using the colour checker and the colour samples is an option for measuring the expected values from the checker yes.

  27. Hi Karl, Big thanks for this. Maybe in the future, you can demonstrate us an e-commerce way. Shot with white background and with shadow or reflection. Thanks a lot.

    1. Hi Eduard, I think the forthcoming rings tutorial will be good for you. But simply if you had put the product on white acrylic and used the same lighting setup you would have got what I think you needed.

  28. Hi Karl, another useful tutorial – many thanks.

    From a business point of view:

    How might the insurance work in this case? Is it the jeweller’s or the photographer’s insurance that covers the item ?

    Also, would a jeweller ever expect a shot of their piece ever to be done on their premises, therefore being able to keep the piece secure ?

    Thanks, again

    1. Hi Barry, it is the jewellers insurance that should be covering this. Personally I think it would be very difficult to undertake jewellery photography at a Jewellers shop. I once had to photography 2 diamonds worth $25million, they sent a security guard for that job!

    1. Hi John, you can start bidding for Ashleigh but she’s very valuable to us, so you’ll need to put in a good offer! 🙂

  29. Hi Jared. I have personally tested all 3 different types of diffusion material (Tracing paper, lea diffusion paper and acrylic sheet) Any one of them will do but the tracing paper can catch fire if the modelling light is to close to the scrim. I don’t think there is much a difference in terms of gradation of light between the acrylic and the paper. But the acrylic sheet is stiff and can work better in different scenarios. But this is the challenge with product photography as there is no one size fits all.

    On a side note.. Can you imagine the client saying. “Wow I love how blue you got the gemstone on our £14,000 necklace! How did you do that?” Karl would be like. ” Yeah we stuffed it with white tac.. 🙂

      1. So your going to laugh Karl. I had some drop off some antique jewellery for me to shoot today about 2 hours after my comment. Guess what! It had a purple stone on it and I needed to make it look lighter as I was shooting it on black. So what did I do?? Yeah. I stuffed it with white tac. Hilarious….

  30. Nice shot. Seems fairly simple. Will practice it this week. Curious if there is a difference between the tracing paper you normally use versus and that acrylic white board in this shot as far as lighting goes ? I guess why did you choose this white acrylic sheet ? Ease of use?

    1. Hi Jared, in something as mirror like as jewellery then it reflects anything such as even a ripple in the paper or the texture of the paper, acrylic doesn’t do this as it is smoother and flatter but it has disadvantages that it is heavy.

Leave a Comment