In this post, a dedicated reader of ASK Harriete submitted a group of photos where the "hand in the photo holds lots of problems." These were selected from the Internet as "worst case" examples. Below are 5 common mistakes and solutions to improve your photos.
Hands holding jewelry.
Don't use your fingers or hand to hold a piece of jewelry or sculpture. The fingers or a hand are always a distraction. In this example, I am betting the person held the brooch over a scanner bed, hence the black background and light on the fingertips.
A similar problem exists in the next photo where the jewelry is cradled in the hand. While the hand may have been an attempt to provide scale, this hand is distracting at best. The fingers are wrinkled and dry, the skin color distracts from the clarity of the glass, and the partial background of white aquarium stones is problematic. Notice that this is a left hand, the right hand is probably trying to hold the camera and shoot at the same time. It's not working. This is not a good photo of the jewelry.
SOLUTION: Avoid holding jewelry if a plain background will work much better. Options include pinning a brooch into a plain piece of paper or cardboard. Earring posts or ear wires can also go through the background paper.
Avoid being your own hand model. Lay the necklace, beads, or jewelry on a neutral background and do your best photography with two hands!
To establish scale: Write the dimensions of the jewelry/object in the description.
Fingernails that look like talons.
Obviously, carefully manicured fingernails are important, but these long fingernails painted in a dark, high contrast color are a distraction. Describing these fingernails as talons may be overly harsh, but you get what I mean.
SOLUTION: A lighter, less dramatic nail color may have fixed the problem. This example also demonstrates how important it is to focus on the art or craft work in the photo and avoid distractions.
The Stiff Hand or Arm
The arm (above left) looks stiff, flat, and awkward.
SOLUTION: Have the hand in a more natural position (near the body), clothing behind the arm should not have any pattern to work as a "neutral background."
Model not appropriate to jewelry.
In the next photo (right), the arm is too large for the size of the small, delicate bracelet. For some reason, the bracelet seems like it is in the wrong place on the arm.
SOLUTION: Jewelry should always be displayed on a model appropriate to the work. Delicate work should be displayed on a small, delicate model. Sophisticated work on a sophisticated model, etc.
Amputation of the hand.
Cutting off the hand at the wrist is always a bad composition. (The hand may not be relevant to the work, but cutting it off never works.)
SOLUTION: Either include all of the hand or don't put the jewelry on a model's arm.
The previous post (about photographing 3-dimensional objects, clothing, or jewelry) described a few of the issues when including the hand in photos. This is part of an extensive series about photography as a foundation for the upcoming Professional Development Seminar.
Previous posts in the series Side by Side Comparisons of Different Photos:
Photo Magic or "POOF" Photo Disaster - The Hand as a Prop in the Photographic Image
This post was updated on January 27, 2022.