The photography of jewelry can achieve a whole lot more than just depicting products. It can focus on unique details that generate very different feelings and can contribute to the visual communication of the jewelry’s inspiration.
The jewelry by the Berlin-based designer Carl F. Dau can be described as a composition of aesthetic attraction, coupled with simplicity and clarity. The photos which his jewelry are communicated speak exactly the same language: they are precise and clear and nonetheless full of tension due to the contrast between calm and movement
Unfortunately, we see time and again that jewelry designers adopt a strangely ambivalent position when faced with how to communicate their products. This applies in particular to jewelry manufacturers in the initial stages of their careers. It is a crying shame that there are so many designers able to achieve the highest standards of precision and perfect craftsmanship in the production of jewelry and then proceed to take inferior photos of it that in no way do justice to their own excellent work. Conversely, established designers who are familiar with trade fair business and with handling the media have usually already discovered or experienced how important it is to define a clear approach in communicating one’s own style of jewelry and its special features. An idea of who is or may be the target group for the jewelry can help the photographer or designer find a suitable language of images. However, this does not mean that a product requires a complete (and expensive) image campaign immediately after market introduction in order to get a foot in the industry’s door. A well thought-out minimum of professional communication has never damaged an item of jewelry. However, jewelry designers should not entertain giddy hopes of success and should take note that it takes time even with professional help to establish oneself on the market.
Art + Design spoke with Matthias Hoffmann, freelance photographer in Düsseldorf, who works for the Dusseldorf agency H.P. Hoffmann among others, on the topic of photographing jewelry.
Art + Design: Photographs can do more than simply depict a product, they can create an atmosphere and establish contexts. What opportunities do photographers have to capture jewelry in just the right light?
Matthias Hoffmann: From a technical point of view, of course, a photographer has an incredible wealth of possibilities. However, in order that they can be used properly, the designer – i.e. the creative person behind the jewelry – must first of all be clear on what goals they have and must discuss them with the photographer. How should the jewelry appear? Who should be attracted? In other words: the designer should develop clear goals concerning the style and form of his work. Depending on this idea, the photographer stylistically complements the jewelry and portrays it with his whole repertoire of technical know how. The whole look will appear more authentic if the style of the jewelry and that of the photography are harmonious.
Art + Design: lf we assume that a designer has created new jewelry and would like the press to report on his work. What is the most sensible kind of photography? A simple product photo, a model photo or an image that shows the jewelry in a set environment?
Matthias Hoffmann: You can only answer that question individually, depending on the design in question. There is jewelry, for example experimental body jewelry, that should really be photographed worn, as its special manner of wearing and three-dimensional structure only really become fully apparent when placed in context with a body. The focus with other jewelry may be on certain details: a new setting technique or the use of particularly rare stones and such like. The answer to the question concerning the type of image is in effect carried within the jewelry itself. Its uniqueness and characteristic features lay down how it should be photographed. In the best case scenario, the photography subordinates itself to the needs of the design, lending support.
Art + Design: Would you make a distinction between press and advertising photography in this context?
Matthias Hoffmann: An authentic photo that takes into account the special characteristics of the jewelry and the stylistic objectives of the demand can be used for press and for advertising purposes. This is of course not quite the same for photos that try to create a certain mood, instead of focusing on the product. Pictures like that are usually difficult to use in jewelry editing offices, although as part of the image concept, they do support the overall statement of the design.
Art + Design: No matter how different the tastes may be in the selection of jewelry, the taste with regard to portraying jewelry is equally diverse. In your experience, however, is there a style of photography that generates more than others the wish to own this jewelry?
The flowing, organic forms that the jewelry designer Sabine Brandenburg Frank lends her jewelry, are symbolized by the living element of water.
Matthias Hoffmann: No, of course not. The buying urge is generally down to the product. You will only buy the presented jewelry if you feel affinity towards it. And no matter how fantastic a photograph may be, it will never be the decisive factor in deciding whether an item of jewelry is pleasing or not.