Neilson Photography is a Glasgow-based photography company specialising in watches and jewellery. Founder Andrew Neilson fell into the industry, the way he tells it, but 20 years later his business is going from strength to strength. He has even trained as a jeweller and micro pave diamond setter to enhance his understanding of the pieces he photographs.
Here Neilson tells Professional Jeweller why not just anyone can photograph jewellery and why, with websites and social media presence becoming more important every day, now is the time to invest in a professional shoot.
You specialise entirely in fine jewellery and watch photography. What got you into this area and how many years has the company been working with the industry now?
I have always had an interest in macro photography, and had put together a small studio for shooting small items.
At some point around 2000 I shot some vases for a friend for her stand at a trade fair. I went along to see the fair open and got talking with other stand holders.
I ended up leaving the fair with various pieces of jewellery to photograph. 20 years later we are still shooting jewellery and watches.
Why is it important for jewellery brands and retailers to work with a specialist photography agency such as Neilson when it comes to creating jewellery images?
Jewellery photography requires some very specific lighting combined with a deep knowledge in retouching.
General commercial studios simply don’t have the equipment or post-production expertise. We have reshot many websites for people who had trusted a non specialist only to be let down.
I also trained in 2014 as jeweller and micro pave diamond setter, which has been a huge benefit, as I now understand completely the process of jewellery creation and manufacture which makes discussing shooting options with clients very easy.
What’s the process for brands and retailers that want to use your services? Do you create a detailed brief based on what customers want shot?
It depends on the type of shoot. For stock items say for a website, we will agree shooting positions, and retouching style ahead of the shoot.
The product is then shipped to us, shot and returned, with the final images coming a week to 10 days later.
If your livelihood comes from selling jewellery you should pay a specialist to get the most from your work.”
For lifestyle shots for magazine or print, we normally agree a full brief with mood boards, et cetera, and prop design.
In some cases the client will come to the studio and style the jewellery, but in most of our shoots we do the styling as we have built up massive experience over the years.
You operate a secure studio in Glasgow. Presumably you work with brands and retailers from all around the UK? Do you also photograph on site or at third party locations?
The vast majority of our work is studio-based as the equipment and lighting we use is not portable. We work in the UK and Europe, with a few clients further afield in Dubai and Australia.
Clients either ship us product or come in person. We very occasionally shoot at retailers.
How would you say watch and jewellery photography has evolved in the last five years? Are there any trends that have directly affected your business?
There are a larger number of businesses entering the product photography space, mainly to support the ever increasing need for imagery for web and social feeds.
The number working at our level in jewellery though has not changed much. We now do more video and 360 animations than we did five years ago.
Again this is being driven by the need for more engaging content in an increasingly competitive market.
How do you achieve the most vibrant and high resolution shots possible?
We invested many years ago in large format architectural cameras and on these we mount digital backs, from the Danish manufacturer Phase One, and complement this with specialised lenses.
The camera system is tethered to a workstation that has a fully colour calibrated monitor connected so we can see exactly what we get when we are shooting. Accuracy of colour especially shooting gemstones is critical.
What kind of jewellery clients do you work with in the UK?
We shoot for the entire industry. From the large trade volume manufacturers, through multiples to single store owners and all the way down to individual designer-makers.
What are the most common jewellery photography myths that you’d like to bust?
Anyone can take photographs of jewellery. If your livelihood comes from selling jewellery you should pay a specialist to get the most from your work.
Having good product imagery was always necessary, however it’s now absolutely critical”
The jewellery market is the most competitive it has ever been. Your website and social feeds are the face of your brand; you need the best images to stand out.
What recent jewellery shoots or projects have given you the most satisfaction?
We shoot so many gorgeous pieces it’s hard to pick one out, however a recent shoot was an award-winning piece that was handset in titanium with over 400 diamonds. The craftsmanship in it was incredible.
Do you think the growth in e-commerce and online is having an impact on the significance of having the right product visuals for jewellery retailers?
Having good product imagery was always necessary, however it’s now absolutely critical. The majority of the public now research any product that are going to buy online whether or not they actually make the purchase that way, or decide to visit a retailer.
The events of this year have highlighted this even more with retailers who had no or poor online presence suffering much more than those fully committed to their online marketing.
You also offer 360-degree photography and animations. How popular are these and do you see any exciting future developments with this kind of technology?
This year we have seen a larger pickup in this service, it’s clear it’s another channel that retailers are taking to provide a more fully immersive online experience.
We have seen an increase in the use of customisation websites where clients can build jewellery by changing the colour of stones, and metals. I think this will continue to grow.
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