If you’re looking for a professional jewelry photographer, this article is for you.
I’m Chelsea Lister, a Charleston area website builder, and the more complicated websites I build are for jewelry clients. There is a lot of work that goes into the images for your website as that is where you are going to either land a sale, or a customer is leaving the page. Jewelry photography takes a lot of time and planning if done right and I wanted to understand how this time gets reflected in the client’s cost. I spoke with professional jewelry photographer Kate Benson for a better idea.
There are a variety of images styles you can take for jewelry, but I’m going to focus on e-commerce website images. These images are extremely important, because they are your first impression to your customers. If you don’t catch their attention now, there’s risk of loosing sales. Think of it like real estate photography. You want to go see the home with the beautiful lighting and bright, full-frame images that capture the architecture and space. Not the house with cropped room pictures that are too dark to see in. Jewelry photography is the same. You want it perfectly lit, in focus, and captivating to your customers. But jewelry is one of the hardest products to shoot. You need to make sure it’s done right.
Why hire a professional jewelry photographer
With all the tools at our disposal, it’s tempting to try to cut costs for photography. You can easily search for DIY tutorials, order your own equipment, or compare quotes between photographers to find the cheapest rate. The difference is that a professional jewelry photographer will make your piece look stunning, and go above and beyond your expectations. You’ve invested in your jewelry, so you should invest in excellent photography that will be true to your products. Having build websites for clients who went both paths, the websites that invested in their product photography out sell (by a lot) those who don’t.
If you get quotes from multiple photographers, make sure you compare apples to apples. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. “Know what you’re paying for. I always include overhead,” said Kate. She also adds other anticipated costs in her quotes, but not everyone includes extra fees. One way to understand what the quote includes is to ask to see an example of what the jewelry images will look like at that lower cost.
Another reason to hire a professional jewelry photographer is because they want you to be successful. One of the reason’s I like working with Kate is that I often hear her offering suggestions to clients about different ways to photograph a piece, or other angles to consider taking. Professionals photographers have also seen what sells and what doesn’t. It might make costs a little higher, but having a photographer who is also a consultant can be huge. They’ll be able to guide you because they’ve done this many times before.
A big consideration to hiring a professional, but not the most obvious, is repetition. If you continue to work with the same photographer, your images will stay consistent from shoot to shoot. For example, Kate showed me some of her studio notes. For each client she records all the values for the lighting, studio setup, and camera, notes about the post processing, and pictures of the studio. These details allow her images to look the same whether they were shot back to back, or 6 months apart. And with the complicated setup for jewelry, these notes are critical. By paying more for a professional jewelry photographer, you know you’re working with someone who knows that they’re doing. They are careful and precise in their work.
The cost of hiring a professional jewelry photographer
The cost of jewelry photography varies widely, and can run anywhere from $10 to $2,500+ per image (especially when you factor in shots on models which include a lot of other team to product), which is a pretty big range. There are many contributing factors for your per image cost. Kate focuses on four main variables.
- Quantity of images
- Art Direction
- Quality of the Jewelry
In general, photographers essentially charge based on time + costs + usage (which is minimal for website photography). The more shots you want, the more time the photographer needs to shoot, so the larger the overall estimate. Make sure your estimate includes overhead fees like the time it takes for the lighting setups. To get a good base for comparison, take the quote you get after adding all of these items together and dividing it by the number of products you want shot to get a cost per shot. The more jewelry pieces you have and shots you need the higher the estimate total but the lower the per image cost will be. One way Kate minimizes costs is to be efficient. She organizes the jewelry, and shoots everything that requires the same setup, trying not to move the lights until she has to (as changing the setups increases the overall time spent shooting and raises the costs). She gave me a great example of how important quantity can be toward your end jewelry photography costs. One of her clients gave her a few jewelry pieces to shoot, and Kate sent them under 15 files, at a per image rate just below $60 each. For a later shoot, that same client Kate sent over 150 files, and the per image rate was under $30 each. It’s best to send large quantities of your jewelry over to a professional photographer at a time, to minimize your costs throughout the year.
According to Kate, the largest deciding factor in cost is art direction. This variable dictates exactly what the photographer needs to do. What you want your jewelry to look like will depend on many costly options. For example,
- Do you want your product on a plain background, or on model?
- Models can significantly increase your costs. Not only do you need to pay for the model, but also depending on the shot you’re looking for, you might need a hair and makeup artist, and/or a stylist, and possibly a location.
- Do you want reflections under the jewelry, shadows, or neither?
- How many shots are you looking for?
- Each angle of a piece of jewelry is one shot
- Multiple pieces of jewelry in one shot would still be one shot but the cost for that shot could be higher since it has more time to style and more pieces to retouch.
- Details/closeups of jewelry are also one shot
- Do you want to use any props?
- Depending on the props, this might be an insignificant charge, or huge
As you can see, there are many cost factors that a photographer can determine from receiving art direction from you. An example of good art direction is this image:
The availability of everyone involved will also determine your image cost. Sometimes, you needed your jewelry images yesterday and want to get them rushed. In most cases, there’s a large rush fee. When I found out about how Kate accommodates a rush job request, I thought it was really well-put. I wish I had thought of it. Instead of you paying a “rush fee” and pushing another client’s work to the side, you pay for Kate to either work overtime, or get an extra set of hands to help finish the projects before you. That way, all of her clients still get the images they need on time, but you got yours faster than typical. I know, because I’ve occasionally asked for her to rush shoots for my clients.
The last major cost factor Kate mentioned is the quality of the jewelry. When a professional jewelry photographer is trying to make a piece look as good as possible, there might be additional production necessary. Extra retouching could be needed if the jewelry being shot are samples that show signs of handling. Those pieces might need additional retouching to make sure any flaws that are not representative of the actual product are not present. Fine jewelry might need extra time in setting up the shooting space if the product has insurance requirements that restrict where it can be shot.
Overall, if you have a very simple setup, where the lighting doesn’t need to change, and the products are all shot at the same angle, your setup costs will be broken down into your per image shot. And that will be much cheaper.
How you can minimize your costs
You want to hire a professional jewelry photographer, but it’s still a little too expensive. Is there anything else you can do to minimize the costs? Yes, because remember: time and cost go hand in hand with photographers. The quicker they can shoot your jewelry, the less it will cost.
First, treat your jewelry as if you are getting ready to hand them to a customer. Make sure to polish them before giving them to the photographer. If they’re used, such as antiques or auction pieces, it’s best to get them professionally polished. Having the pieces ready for the shoot means the photographer doesn’t have to spend much time polishing and cleaning the jewelry when it arrives, they can quickly move from piece to piece during shooting, and it minimizes the time it takes to retouch the pieces in post production. And the less time the photographer needs for your shoot, the less expensive the invoice.
Another way you can lower your costs is by recoloring. If you have the exact same jewelry piece (including chains, if applicable) in gold, rose gold, and silver, or if you have the same piece with different fine stones, a professional photographer like Kate can often recolor the images for you. First, they style one of the pieces and take the image. Next, they take images of the other pieces for a color reference (no styling necessary). Then, after retouching the styled jewelry, the photographer can go and recolor it using the references from the other jewelry images. This process saves time because the color references are not styled, and the photographer only needs to Photoshop (retouch) one file (the styled jewelry piece). For example, Kate recolored some fine stones for a client, and the cost per image was under $3 each file.
If you’re in love with a jewelry photographer’s work, but don’t need to have them on location, you might be able to mail them your pieces. This will save you the photographer’s travel expenses. When Kate handles jewelry that was shipped to her, she offers to do test shoots to make sure the images are what the client wants, or live previews where the client can receive the images in realtime and make any necessary corrections to the art direction. She might also offer the option to hire her for an hourly rate. So, if you’re looking to work with a jewelry e-commerce photographer, shipping might be the best way to save some money.
The price difference between everyday and fine jewelry
Being able to ship your jewelry is dependent on what you carry. If you sell everyday jewelry, your overhead costs will probably be lower, and you can ship your jewelry to the photographer to save travel expenses. However, if you sell fine jewelry, there are strict insurance regulations. Jewelry is a unique product in this regulation, so your photographer will have to come to you. When I asked Kate how she handles fine jewelry, she said she travels all over the country to shoot for clients. One of her favorite shoots was in a vault, where she had to go through extensive security before being able to see the piece she was photographing and bring in battery packs for all her lighting.
Hiring a professional jewelry photographer for your e-commerce website will help you in the long run. You are hiring a photographer who not only knows how to make your jewelry look stunning, but also acts as a consultant who knows what works and what doesn’t, and who can give suggestions to enhance your brand. It is worth the cost, but there are certainly some ways to help lower your per image rate.
If you are looking for a professional jewelry photographer and would like more information, or a free quote on your project, contact Kate Benson Photography.
Good luck with your e-commerce website!
Get a quote from Kate Benson:
In all businesses you reach a point in growth where you can’t do it all by yourself anymore. It’s a great thing to have happen but at the same time, it’s hard to give up control. It’s how we photographers go from being a one man (or woman) show to becoming a brand. It doesn’t usually happen overnight but over years with hard work and maturity. My business has been hitting these growth points for the last few years and I’ve solved them by everything from hiring full time team to outsourcing smaller tasks. In fact, I have a meeting tomorrow to hand over another part of the business into more qualified hands (seriously, I don’t have the time or interest for Instagram… I know it’s important but it’s just way to narcissistic for me). Last summer, it was time for me to bring in new eyes and get a photo editor to help me with my website. What occurred was a huge and much needed/overdue change. We went with a design for the website that really challenged the edit workflow and so if you are seeing things moving around a lot lately, it’s because I’m trying to put new work on a couple times a year but the flow of the website makes it hard. So hang tight with me on that. It will get to where it needs to be.
Which brings me to jewelry. One of the hardest items to photograph is jewelry. I’ve talked about it a lot. Often, as you’ve likely seen on my blog and website jewelry is photographed on a clean background. But, every once in a while, I get to play. I’m really interested in cut paper backgrounds. I love that they are whimsicle and playful. So for a fun personal project, feeling like I needed something on my website with jewelry in a different way, my assistant Chelsea and I created a fun forest set with gold necklaces and earrings. I’d love to know what you think of it!
Charleston South Carolina Fashion Photographer | Kate Benson | Studio and Lifestyle Model Test Shoot
If you’ve been following my product and model photographer feed on Instagram, you probably have seen a new face lately. This stunning model is Eliza, and I had the opportunity to help her with a model test shoot at the end of February.
Eliza is looking to attend school in New York, and wants her model book to showcase her versatile looks to the NYC market. In order to add more variety to her portfolio, her modeling agency gave her some art direction to move forward with. During our conversations leading up to the model test shoot, I was able to take that art direction and play with different ideas for the desired two studio and two lifestyle shoots.
We had a lot of fun shooting around my neighborhood just outside of Charleston, SC. It was supposed to rain, so instead of doing the lifestyle looks outside around sunset, we changed it up and did them first thing in the afternoon. We were just too excited to get photos from the marsh and around the budding foliage that we rushed around from location to location to beat the rain. Luckily, we wrapped up the second look just as it started to drizzle! Eliza was a trooper and worked around mud and no-see-ums to get us these images.
Once we got in from the rain, we moved into the studio. Eliza has beautifully long red hair, and I wanted to find a way to accent it. After looking for some inspiration, I decided to go with an untraditional two-colored backdrop, using red and blue. I also had a red chair to use as a prop. Eliza brought some great clothing options for the studio looks, and once I saw her amazing yellow jumper, I knew I wanted to play with the primary colors. As Eliza was getting her makeup done by the talented Rosa, I found my stellar large Christian Roth sunglasses and a yellow industrial fan and finished setting up the studio space. Here are some of my favorite, fun, over-the-top images from the first look.
After the playful first look, we moved to the second, more serious shoot. Some of the art direction from Eliza’s modeling agency was to have her modeling in menswear, with slicked-back hair. So we put her in a men’s blazer, sat her down in my red chair, and took a variety of shots. After a few images, Eliza wanted to finish her shoot without any makeup, and the results are stunning!
We all worked a little later than anticipated, but the results were definitely worth it. Eliza was able to add images to her book from 4 very different looks, and I hope she finds success in NYC! A special thanks to Eliza’s mom for being a great assistant and bringing plenty of fun outfits and props to use, Rosa for working hair and makeup magic and Chelsea for overall photographer assisting!
It’s been a busy start to 2018 here in Charleston, South Carolina! I’ve been working on various product photography projects, including a large one for Moonglow Jewelry. They are a jewelry company based in Miami, Florida who reached out to me while looking for an e-commerce product photographer. They wanted a new direction for their website product photography.
Moonglow’s website is filled with unique pendant jewelry. They truly take their saying “every moment has a moon” to heart. Their beautiful pieces contain a moon pendant that is customizable. You pick a date, and they tell you what the moon phase was and use that as your pendant. It’s such a great idea to remember those special dates by!
At first, Moonglow contacted me for a test shoot. Their art direction was to make the jewelry products look like Tiffany & Co’s. I was ready for this request because I always treat jewelry with the same care and attention to detail, whether it’s costume jewelry or a 2 million dollar ring. I strive to present products in the most flattering way possible. Moonglow sent me a few pieces, and I played with the lighting until I was satisfied with the image, and they agreed. Afterwards, they sent me the rest of their products.
This shoot was unique because of the number of products and the amount of recoloring needed. Moonglow sent over 150 jewelry pieces to shoot after the test products. Included products were necklaces, bracelets, rings, earrings, and a few other accessories. I often had to do a new setup for each style of jewelry.
Here are some examples of my jewelry product photography for Moonglow.
It look a lot of careful movements working with the different setups and getting the lighting right, but I am pleased with the results. After the shoot, they came back and asked if I could create the missing birthstones in some of the pieces they didn’t have all 12 colors in. So we used CGI to create the remaining 11 months of stones.
Just a little fun note that today my image is the featured image on the landing page of Wonderfulmachine.com. This was a food shoot I did for fun after I moved to Charleston, SC. The food scene in Charleston is unbelievable. Before moving here, Sam and I asked anyone we met what were they the most proud of being from Charleston to which repeatedly the answer was “our food”. For the most part, I’ve left food off my website. I always knew other great photographers who shot it and once we became buddies, I never wanted to compete with them. I’m the photographer who really values my friendships (but that might be a Boston thing too). There might be more of it starting to creep into my website since I’ve been shooting more and more food lately. I’ll keep you posted! In the meantime, as I’ll only be on the landing page for a day, here’s the screen shot of my work:
Recently, I was approached by contact lens subscription company Sight Supply. They were looking to build their online brand through e-commerce and lifestyle product photography, and to make sure they stood out from the competition. They needed both a photographer and art director to get this job done!
First, I tackled the art direction. I put together a mood board showcasing unique e-commerce shots. After talking with Sight Supply, we agreed that the lifestyle images needed to be diverse and unconventional. With this knowledge, I chose unusual locations that still showed the contact lenses being a part of your life. Here are a few samples from the mood board.
After discussing which ideas they liked best, Sight Supply gave the okay for me to get props and start shooting! It turned out to be a day and a half of creative shots. They were able to receive e-commerce pictures with clipping paths, (so their graphic design team can use them over and over,) and a whole social media library. Here are some of my favorites from the shoot.
Because of the desire to stand out and play with the color in the packaging, I let my inspiration go and got some fun results! I think these product photographs for their social media library will certainly make them stand out.
A little under a year ago I joined A Wonderful Machine and have really enjoyed working with them. This summer I hired them to do some consulting work as well as a bit of a rebranding and have to say hiring that out has been a great decision. As photographers we get so emotionally close to our work that it’s hard to see just the image without the story of shooting it. This morning Wonderful Machine sent me a sweet note to let me know that they are using this shot from the current season of my shoot for Beija Flor Jeans as their homepage image for a bit. I’m pretty excited and flattered of course.
Beija Flor Jeans is one of my favorite clients, based in the Carolinas and I have had the blessing of getting to shoot a few seasons for them now. The shoots are always very diverse and fun. If you love amazing jeans, here is the link to their website: https://www.beijaflorjeans.com and if you haven’t checked it out, Wonderful Machine is pretty cool as well: https://wonderfulmachine.com
Bellow are three different collections of my fine art photography work. All of these are created in camera. My fine art photography is very abstract. I shoot so much literal work that when I create art photography, embrace the imagination. These collections are about finding your own story for what you view. The experience of looking at the images and imagining what they are and how they were created is as important as the strong compositions, colors and contrasts that are apparent from first viewing. These are all small samples of larger projects. More images are available on request from any of the three series.
Contact Studio@KateBenson.com for requests and commissions
A few weeks back, food stylist, blogger, editor and author Ashley Strickland Freeman reached out to me to grab lunch. She is joining the flock of uber talented folks that have fled city life to seek out beautiful quite land…. (how do I really feel about moving to Charleston?) Her story was not unlike my own when I took off to Miami in 2006. I made that move with the goal of throwing myself at fate completely and trusting that brave moves with no logic to them could have great rewards. So instantly, I admired Ashley’s bravery, of course. Along with that, during our conversation I learned that she has quite the resume of accomplishments and is coming into this town with an arsenal of knowledge and talent. I’ve dabbled in food before and felt inspired by her visit to do some shooting of my own in the f&b world. Plus, it meant I could cook a feast for my friends later that weekend (sous vide pork tenderloin with a bourbon/caramelized onion/fig/pomegranate/blackberry compote, roasted Mediterranean artichokes and purple sweet potatoes if I remember it all right…. no recipes sorry, I was just winging it)! What’s the good of being a food and beverage photographer if you don’t get to reap the rewards? Come on! Especially in Charleston where the culinary scene puts everyone to shame… I had to try!
So I thought this would be easy, and it turns out, it was (mostly). My biggest challenge after sourcing my props was getting away from product photography. No kidding. I bought all these crazy beautiful ingredients and couldn’t stop photographing the glassware and barware…. So this is how things progressed:
The first setup: Barware. I had a very tasty cocktail that I made for this, a thyme, lemonade, pomegranate, champagne drink. Luckily since this wouldn’t last a few days for me to get time to cook, one of my girlfriends Sharon stopped by to help taste test my work.
The irony of my test shoot of food and beverage becoming a light study on the barware does not escape me. This is totally one of those, “of course I would do that” moments. So happy with the above I decided to explore how some crystal glasses would look. At which point, I spiraled down into the rabbit hole again of exploring the light and shadows and never actually filled the glasses with anything.
At this point, I was hearing myself for the last several years telling anyone who asked if I did personal work a lecture on topics being to broad for me to do that and that I needed limitations if I was ever going to get anywhere. I know myself pretty well when it comes to images.
So the clock was ticking down and it was time (past time) for me to shoot some food and beverage. So I stripped away all the distractions that I could (shadows, accessories, etc) and just started playing with ingredients and light.
Then I allowed myself to put back in small accessories.
And after photographing the almost inappropriately sumptuous pears, I called it a wrap. That and by this point I couldn’t let Sharon drink by herself anymore. What kind of friend does that?
So needless to say, I am looking forward to our newest Charlestonian arriving around Thanksgiving. To check out Ashley’s work, visit her website: http://ashleystricklandfreeman.com hopefully we will have the opportunity to work together soon!
If you follow my Instagram, you’ve likely already seen this new face on my feed over the last week. If you don’t follow me, what’s taking you so long? https://www.instagram.com/katebensonphotography/
Lily contact me a few weeks ago and had a pretty cool back story. About a year ago she was approached by two ladies (I bet I could guess who) from a local modeling agency DirectionsUSA and they asked her 3 questions, “how old are you? How tall are you? When are your braces coming off?” The answers were 15 (at the time), 5’8″, and in a year. Turns out, Lily had just had her braces removed when she called me. She needed a model test shoot and needed it ASAP. In addition to sending her images off to the agency, she needed to send them to Charleston Fashion Week for consideration for the upcoming event.
Shooting a 16 year old is a fun change for me, as is a first time model. There is something really amazing about fearless way a model will try different poses and expressions when they haven’t already learned what their looks are. Lily brought so much more character and fun to the shoot than I was every expecting. In this little series for example:
We shot these in the marsh in Mount Pleasant behind my friends house so for part of this shoot, we had an audience watching. Let me just add, in addition to being a new model, to have to model in front of strangers adds to the challenge. But she killed it. I intentionally started shooting her later in the day in studio so we could move out to the locations once the light was where it needed to be. With the help of my new intern Chelsea who was assisting this day, we didn’t spend more than an hour total on the marsh. I wanted to get a variety of locations in before the sunset (which is about 6:30pm now).
So we wrapped up the marsh and ran off to the beach racing the sun, because, did I mention, I have a thing about using natural light so we were going to be done no matter what once the sun was gone. We did two looks there, a swimwear look and another younger look.
Our last look was inspired by some beautiful erosion at Breaches Inlet on Sullivans Island. That and the fun beanie Lily had brought. As the last of the sunlight slipped away behind the island, we quickly shot one last round of images.
These had the most amazing Maxfield Parrish feel to them (one of my favorite painters of all time). I loved them so much I am pretty excited to get back out there and shoot again. Lily as of this shoot, was unsigned and starting to look for agencies. I have no doubt that she’ll find one and have many, many more amazing shoots. As for me, I hope to get another chance to photograph her soon! Extra thanks to Chris, Lily’s mom for being such an awesome assistant on set as well as to Chelsea for all the computer/lens/reflector wrangling, Phil and Sandi for letting us invade their backyard and always offering me their home as a location (again), and Sam for watching Moose extra late that night and making sure there were some takeout tacos for me when I got home. He knows the way to my heart!