Gemstone photography


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Oct 25, 2015
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[/URL][/IMG] Hi
I'm nota photographer in any sense , but now need to be . I facet gemstones and need to get pics to sell them. I would love some info on what to buy , macro and camera , tripod and bits and pieces. Of course I would like to do cheap as possible , lets say under 2k , but could stretch it a bit. I'm just a bit lost to find what will do a good job . Here are a couple of photo that my friend has tried to help me with , not sure what camera , think it had a macro , but might have just been a setting . Any help would be nice :) I also saw someone using image stacking , is that the way?
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First, you should perform a search of the forums to get started.

Hopefully, one of the experienced jewelry photographers will offer some suggestions.
Thanks , fair enough . But wanted recent info for a product " up to the time " . I started to go back through posts , but seeing the years go by and not much on stones thought I'd ask here . Thanks for welcome , hope I can find what to buy:)
I think it's more about training and experience in photography in general instead of just equipment.

Knowing how to pose and light your subject is critical if you are selling your services or merchandise using photographs.

As for your equipment purchases, I should think that a medium-level DSLR and the right lens is a good start, then you might want/need to purchase at least one light (strobe flash) and some reflectors and other modifiers.

(edit) Now I see your photographs. For me, the biggest problem area is the choice of background. It's not a good color.
A few thoughts:
Bitter Jeweler - Bitter Jeweler | Photography Forum - search through that guys threads, he's done just what you have. His earlier threads back when he started might have some good content and some of his latter more details on this kind of photography

1) ANY DSLR will do this kind of photography and do it well. Differences will be minor between the various models so honestly I would say that you can pick and choose any current DSLR from pretty much any company - although Canon and Nikon are the top choices.

2) You will want a macro lens capable of "true macro" which is generally defined as when the lens has a reproduction ratio of 1:1- that is when the size of the subject reflected on the sensor by the lens is equal to its size in real life.
Note that most lenses with a single focal length (primes) with "macro" or "micro" in their name will do this. Zoom lenses with macro/micro are generally close focusing only and whilst good will not do such a high level of magnification.

3) Lens wise I would suggest a lens of at least 60mm in focal length and any limit on the longest focal length (although practically speaking I would say 105mm is the longest you'd need). With macro lenses the focal length affects the working distance, which is the distance from the front of the lens to the subject*; with longer focal lengths having a longer minimum focusing distance and thus generally longer working distances. 60mm is around where the cut-off point is for practicality at 1:1 magnification; any shorter and lighting becomes a real problem and 90-105mm is a general "sweet spot" of ranges good to start with.

4) Lighting is KEY for this kind of work. You'd be best to library loan/buy a copy of "Light science and Magic 4th edition" as a starting point. At its most basic you want big light sources relative to your subject so that the light is diffused well; there are also key elements regarding shadows, reflections and the angle at which you set your lights (hence the book recommendation). Thus chances are you will want to look into things such as:
a) Light boxes - essentially a box with white paper walls which has the subject in the middle of the box; flash/constant lights then shine in through the paper and the paper is (relative to the subject) the light source - and being much larger is thus diffused
b) Softboxes - essentially a box with a white screen front and a flash put in the rear; again its like the light box in that it increases the size of the light source relative to the subject. Bonus is that with a couple of softboxes and stands you can move them around more freely.

Lighting is a curious area as you can do a lot with very cheap setups. I would suggest looking into at least:
1) Two speedlite flash units. You can get studio flash units as well which will give you more power for your money; but at the same time they are larger and quite honestly for this kind of work they are overkill - speedlite flash units are more mobile and thus can also be used on the move with other photography should it take your fancy (most studio flash units require mains power or heavier battery packs - there are some mobile options but again its overkill and they are very expensive for the mobile versions).

2) Two softboxes - or a light box - a bit of a personal preferences aspect this one and you can read into loads of different setups (the book is helpful at giving you some guidance and you might find reading it confusing at first, but its well setup for beginners to get some grounding which might make your choices easier to make).
Note that ideally you will want some stands too; bigger softboxes tend to come with them as part of a kit; smaller ones might not but you can get cheap stands for not much cost - second hand (ebay) tripods also work well for this (tripods tend to devalue fast - even the good quality heavier ones). Note avoid the ultra cheap aluminium tripods (the cheap ones sold in most shops) as they are just too cheap and lightweight.

3) With the flash units you want a wireless radio release system. Thus means that you can position the flashes where you want and trigger them; without a cable getting in the way (there are wired systems and if finances get tight you can use wired as it is cheaper).
Canon currently has built-in wireless in their top of the line speedlite flash the 600EX however the cost of two of them plus controller for the camera is rather high for what you need. Cactus is a company that makes 3rd party wireless remote triggers and are generally considered good for a cheap and practical option - Pocket Wizard are the leading manufacturers; but rather like the Canon Speedlite option, its going to be most costly.

Camera and lens wise:

a) Lens wise I'd suggest looking at the Tamron 90mm f2.8 macro; Tamron make it in a variety of mounts for different DSLR bodies and its a generally considered great choice for getting into macro. The Sigma 70mm macro is also a good choice and if you can find them the previous version of Sigma's 105mm macro is good (the newer is mostly adding OS which you won't really need for this).

b) You will want a tripod, Manfrotto make some good choices and their 055 series are a good quality affordable brand line.

c) Along with the tripod you'll want a tripod head (good tripods separate head and legs, but you can often get legs with a head in a kit). The best for this kind of work is the Manfrotto Junior Geared Head - its costly but really shines in macro work and if you're doing macro work a lot its really the head I would get. It offers fine toothed control in each of the 3 axis; its a slower head to use (you can't really pan or do action work with it) but for macro it really shines.

d) A macro/focusing rail. This lets you move the camera and lens back and forth; which is often how you take macro photos (you set the focus and then move the camera and lens to get focus; since AF tends to be rather poor at macro work**). The small distances a rail lets you move back and forth are much easier done than trying to move the tripod back and forth to get the same effect (although on a firm indoor floor its possible - outside or on carpet/rumpled ground its very hard).
There are good cheap rails on ebay which are good enough; manfrotto also makes one though I'm not a fan of their design. Velbon also makes a good quality rail (oft sold on shops or ebay).

*different to the minimum focusing distance which is sensor to subject distance
** some of Canons newest cameras such as the 7DMII when coupled with their newest 100mm f2.8 IS macro can do a much improved job; but that setup is expensive and, honestly, your rocks are not going anywhere so you don't need the AF

edit - PS - on your second photo your friend has "dust bunnies". Those dark dots are dust on the sensor, which shows up when using small apertures (big f numbers). They are easily removed with the "spot heal tool" in photoshop and lightroom (note you can get both those software packages from Adobe for a very low monthly subscription cost now - worth looking into).
Sensor cleaning can be done in nearly any good photography shop or you can do it yourself (lots of guides out there). Sensor dust is part of digital photography and you won't avoid it totally - however in general its easily removed and if you get it you can clean it off so its something to be aware of but not worry about.

Note a clean white sheet of paper with a small aperture (big f number) is the best way to show up sensor dust; complex scenes will hide it and wide apertures (small f numbers) won't show it.
Wow ... That's a reply ! I'm going to have to re- read that . Thanks , so I guess Ill get the larger 105 , cause its only going to be for gems . I have the little tent , yet wasnt sure about lighting , so got some tips now :) didnt think a tripod wasnt just a tripod ! Ill be looking into that , think my mates had spirit levels in there , is this the one I'm aspiring for?
I also saw someone using image stacking , is that the way?

Depth of field is a concept in photography that describes the depth of "in focus" elements which the camera capture and renders "sharp". The depth is rather like a sheet of paper parallel to the front of the lens; where the thickness of the paper defines the depth of field.
Small apertures (bigger f numbers) will have a much thicker sheet of paper; whilst wide apertures (smaller f numbers) will be much thinner.

Distance to the subject also plays a big part; the further away the greater the depth of field will be; and the closer the thinner. Thus in macro work you can really be working with a razor think depth of field on your subject.

Now you can use smaller apertures; and if you've got flash lights and a tripod it won't be a problem to expose clearly and correctly. However there is also the factor of diffraction to consider. You see sharpness is also dependant upon the aperture as well; this generally follows a curve.
The lens will be less sharp when used wide open (biggest aperture the lens can do - smallest f number). In most its still a very usable level of sharpness and in top line lenses (and most macro) its very sharp still
The sharpness then increases up till around roughly f8-f10 (it varies depending on the lens and camera used)
The sharpness will then start to decrease again. Still remaining useable up to around roughly f13/f16 or so - thereafter taking a much bigger drop into softness.

Thus in macro work you want smaller apertures for the bigger depth of field; but at the same time you want the sharpness too. Generally you can find a happy middle ground; but sometimes you want ultra sharp and very deep depth of field. Focus stacking comes into play then where you take a series of shots and very carefully move the camera closer (focusing rail is great for this) so that each shot overlaps the previous in depth of field, whilst adding a bit more.
You then take the resulting photos and use software to blend them together to give the end result. That's a rough breakdown of the process; for your kind of work you should be fine without needing it and in the first place you've got to learn to take 1 good macro shot before you can blend them together - but its certainly there as a method you can look into in the future.
Wow ... That's a reply ! I'm going to have to re- read that . Thanks , so I guess Ill get the larger 105 , cause its only going to be for gems . I have the little tent , yet wasnt sure about lighting , so got some tips now :) didnt think a tripod wasnt just a tripod ! Ill be looking into that , think my mates had spirit levels in there , is this the one I'm aspiring for?

A spirit level isn't really needed for this, although many do have them as do many tripod heads (good for landscaping and buildings and some other situations).
Best thing you can do is do some googling and looking around and write out a shopping list and budget then come post it up - once we get an idea of how you're thinking we can chip in and say if we feel that you're getting stuff which is going to work well or if there is a better way to organise your funds.
Manfrotto is what I'd look at for tripods - although Silk are also making some good affordable tripods now.
Thanks heaps , I heard sigma made a dslr that had not so good reviews except it had a sensor that showed true color , something that would benifit me , I guess . Any thought on this camera ? Dosnt look cheap though.
Also , what seems to be available here in the manfrotto tripod is the three way or pistol head , are these what I'm looking for ? Cant see the junior one for sale here , thanks again:)
When you reference a source, you should post a link so if we want to read what you read, we can just click the link.
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I think this was it Sigma SD1 / SD1 Merrill In-depth Review: Digital Photography Review , sorry , I'm as bad with computers as with cameras . I really aprieciated everything so far . I'm getting the book , and so far working on getting a 100mm or so lens, and a camera :) I might even have to stretch the budget a bit though . But probably worth it . This will be an ongoing thing . I'm trying to achieve photos like / or better than what some of the other facetors out there , one is in my city .. Bespoke gems . Com . He has nice photos , uses smokey glass i think under the stones .
This is the Junior Geared head - also called the 410 410 Junior Geared Head 410 - Geared Heads | Manfrotto

There is also this one XPRO Geared 3 Way Head With Adapto Body MHXPRO-3WG - Geared Heads | Manfrotto which is a newer design which I've not heard much of/used myself. However its price is a little cheaper and for what you're interested in might be more than good enough.

The Sigma Camera does something different in that it has 3 sensors, one for each colourband, that it then merges together. It has a very niche following and whilst its got some good concepts its likely a bit too niche for most. Canon or Nikon will do true colour so long as you read up about "white balance" and how to set a custom white balance. If you shoot in RAW mode on the camera you can change the white balance (colour) effortlessly and if you've the same lighting (ergo flash) for every shot without ambient being part of the exposure then you'd only have to set the white balance once and it will be the same for every other shot.
Thanks again , so far I've gone into " camera house " here in Australia , this is where ill be buying my items from . From your input i looked at some camera and lenses yet they all look the same to me:) so here is what they have around the guidelines that have been suggested so far , they have cannon dslr in 100d , 700d , 750 d , 1200d , these all seem about my price range yet not sure which one. . As for lenses i see they have sigma 105 f2.8 dg os hsm , tamron sp 90mm f/2.8pi VC usd, cannon ef100mmf2.8 . I see they have the manfrotto in the three way head at about $600 here , which I guess ill have to stretch the budget for . I figured if I can give you the shop I'm buying from ( camera house . Au ) you could see the prices and what I can get. You people have been so helpfull , but probably get more questions once i get the thing :) should I just buy a body or should I get one with a lens , even though it won't be the one i need , yet may want to use it for other stuff , if so what would you suggest as an everyday one in those packages? Thanks so much ... Again :)
Here is a link to a post , this is his gemstone setup . • View topic - here is one of my stove top zircons
It dosnt seem he uses a flash , more subtle lighting . I have ordered the book " light ,science , magic " the 200mm might be out of price range . And another • View topic - Gemstone Photographyand another one . . and another one Gemstone Photography: Fact and Fiction | all this will help others that want to get into two frustrating things .cutting gemstones , and the daunting prospect of capturing them in an image:)
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