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 Post subject: Gemstone Photography
PostPosted: Tue Aug 12, 2008 10:15 pm 
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I’ve had lots of people ask about my gem photography techniques, so I’ve taken some pictures and tried to document it here. I’m certainly no expert, but I’ve examined lots of gemstone pictures and tried to “reverse-engineer” them as best I could. Photography has always been a hobby of mine so that helps, as I realized that gemcutting and photography are similar because both are all about manipulating light.

The first requirement is a decent digital camera. I now have a digital SLR and dedicated macro lens (the equivalent of a 100mm macro on a 35mm film camera), but I’ve actually taken good gem photos with an inexpensive digital camera with a macro setting. I also have an extension tube for very small stones, but I usually don't need it for web pictures. Another camera requirement is a remote shutter release or a self-timer feature. For other equipment you’ll need a good daylight lamp (I like the Solux lamps at www.solux.net) and a tripod. The background can be anything you like, but my current favorite is a clear matte plexiglass sheet over a black sheet of paper. I also suspend a bit of sheer white fabric between the lamp and gemstone to soften the light a little. Here’s what my setup looks like.

Image

After setting up the equipment and setting the white balance on your camera using a white sheet of paper, set the stone on the plexiglass & black paper. This is a 1.8 carat, 7.3mm square barion amethyst, and if you took a picture now it would like like this.

Image

Hmmm - not too impressive. Here’s what’s missing – a way to channel the light into the front of the gem. I wish I could remember where I got this idea as I can’t take credit for it, but this really is the key idea. Take a white piece of cardboard or white foamboard (about 1 ft x 1 ft) and cut a 1” hole in it. When placed in front of the lens it will bring light onto the front of the gemstone, as well as hide any reflections of the camera on the crown facets.

Image

You’ll need to play with the placement of the gemstone and the whiteboard to get the light to reflect off the facets just right. I usually like some reflections on the smaller facets to highlight the polish and meetpoints; too much on the table will usually overwhelm the shot.

Image

After cropping and removing the inevitable dust spots with Photoshop, here’s the result.

Image

I very rarely need to adjust levels or saturation, and only do it if I feel that the picture does not represent what I am seeing with my eyes. I’ve found that very pale stones are most difficult to photograph, and usually need a little saturation adjustment.

Gary

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PostPosted: Wed Aug 13, 2008 12:03 am 
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Hi Gary,

Thank You for taking the time to share your photographic technique and set-up! I for one need all the help I can get!
That reflective white board really makes a great difference as you have shown with that last picture! Very Nice!
That PVC you use looks nice and light, and perfect to clip lights to.
Looks like its off to the Depot to pick up a few items tomorrow!
Need to pick up a tripod as well.

Thank You again for sharing how you get Your Great Gem shots! :D

John


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PostPosted: Wed Aug 13, 2008 3:48 am 
That's a simple but very effective technique--great photo!
I'm going to try this lens-through-reflector setup. It looks far easier than my current method involving two spots w/diffusers.


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PostPosted: Wed Aug 13, 2008 3:30 pm 
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:smt023

Nice! Will try! Thanks for sharing...


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PostPosted: Thu Aug 14, 2008 10:50 pm 
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Gorgeous! I checked out the lighting site, do you use the 5000K, and what wattage do you like to go with?

Ahh, looks like the 50W, 4100K clip on..


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PostPosted: Thu Aug 14, 2008 11:28 pm 
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I recall that it came standard with a 4700K 50W bulb. I am curious to try the 3500K or 4100K since that's what Solux recommends for gemstone lighting, but I liked the results so I never bought the extra bulbs.

Gary

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 Post subject: Re: Gemstone Photography
PostPosted: Fri Aug 15, 2008 1:01 pm 
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Finewatergems wrote:
... I’m certainly no expert....
Gary



Sorry, Gary, consistently taking pics like yours places you in the expert category. TOO nice.

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PostPosted: Sat Aug 16, 2008 8:53 am 
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Thanks! I've dabbled in photography for many years so I guess it's finally starting to pay off. I used to build 360-degree rotational panoramic cameras for fun, but that's another story...

Regards,
Gary

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PostPosted: Thu Apr 30, 2009 5:01 am 
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Hi all,

I wonder what sort of camera you need to take these kinds of photos or at least the standard of a decent photo you would see on Ebay?

I have tried a few shots on a 4 x zoom 3 mp and a 6mp 4x zoom but they won't even focus on an object close up.

I don't know a lot about cameras but what sort of DSLR spec would I need?

Any help would be appreciated.

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PostPosted: Tue May 05, 2009 1:04 am 
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Thanks for the information.
I try to do my best to show on my website (www.gemfrance.com) the correct color of my stones.
I want to ask to every body what do you prefer? Stones on black or stones on white for pictures on websites?
Personally I prefer on black for "artistic" purpose.
But I think that to show the gemstone for a "trade" purpose it is better on white.
So for what do you vote? Black or white?

An other one point. How do you do to have the true color on your screen monitor?
I had first the Samsung sync master 940BF and now I use twice monitors. I have added the Samsung Syncmaster T200. I can work faster with 2 monitors...
But the problem is to have the correct color.
I have done my best to obtain the true colors on the 2 but impossible to obtain exactly the same result.
And when I see the same picture of a gemstone from my website on one or the other screen it is not exactly the same color.
So, as I use the 940BF since the beginning, I keep using it to adjust the correct color of my pictures.
After I have made the picture, I check with the stone under a daylight bulb. So, on my screen it is exactly the same color than under the daylight bulb.

But... where is the truth!



sorry for my bad english...

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PostPosted: Tue May 05, 2009 10:02 am 
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If the picture was meant for printing, it would have had a colour scale. Too bad these transparent, colored prisms are that much more complicated...


GEMFRANCE wrote:

But... where is the truth!



On the other side of the screen, I suppose, counting from either side. 8)


Last edited by valeria102 on Tue May 05, 2009 10:56 am, edited 2 times in total.

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PostPosted: Tue May 05, 2009 10:09 am 
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I prefer to see gemstones on a white background :)

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PostPosted: Tue May 05, 2009 10:21 am 
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Robert Weldon's rule of thumb is light subjects on a darker background and darker subjects on a lighter background.


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 22, 2010 12:51 am 
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Do you know what would help is if people posting their gem shots would include their type of camera and equipment used, liked the size of the macro lens and other useful techniques.

I know that most of the references for techniques can be picked up on a multitude of sites, but most often the camera make and lens strengths are more difficult to find using 'search' parameters.


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 22, 2010 4:00 pm 
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Camera make/model doesn't really matter unless you want total accurate color, then your only choice is a Sigma as they are the only ones who use the FoveonX3 sensor, and it is the only sensor that captures true colors.

Otherwise, all other cameras are pretty much created equally as long as they can use a macro lens, macro attachment, and/or a macro mode in the case of a P&S style camera, and ability to set a custom white balance. If they can do this, then brand/model... style... type... megapixels....etc. makes no difference at all for internet web posting of images. One can use a $120 P&S(Panasonic LZ8 for example) or a $1000 dSLR(Pentax K-7 for example) and get totally acceptable results from both that once reduced for web one would not really be able to tell which came from what camera.

In fact, P&S cameras are actually easier and better to use for gemstones and jewelry photography for web sized images simply because you get far greater DOF(depth of field) from them due to design and it is also easier to control DOF with them as well, again, due to design.

The key to gemstones & jewelry is like any other photography, light, light & camera position, etc. It plays more into the shooter then the equipment actually in most all cases. Exceptions being like trying to compare a dSLR + Macro lens to a camera that can not get as close to the subject, now this would be a negative impact to the camera that can not get as close, because the user can not control this factor.

Dwelling on equipment can often cause a negative impact. In the photo industry we call this chasing the "magic bullet". There is no magic bullet that gets those excellent shots, it is either luck or skill on the side of the shooter or, as often see anymore, folks good at photoshop that photochop images severely to make up for what they couldn't capture in camera.

But getting a good shot is much more dependent on lighting, angles of lights and camera, and setting a proper custom white balance.

And for accurate representation of colors, any non-white/clear gemstone should be shot on a pure white background and base. There is a reason diamonds and such are color graded on white. Any other color then white will actually artificially enhance and/or distort, alter, etc. the actual color tones, depths, saturation, etc. Some can greatly enhance the actual colors, case in point a trick reaching back decades by ruby salesman... showing the stone on a slightly yellow tinted paper increases the saturation and tone of the stone all while helping to disguise/hide inclusions. The same thing happens when using a camera, especially when using a digital camera, due to how the Bayer base sensor works(one used in almost all cameras)! Any colors in the surrounding or base or background can trick the Bayer sensor and cause poorer stones to have much better saturation, color tones, and even make it seem to be of a better clarity as well. The exception is white/clear stones, those are sometimes easier to shoot on black. I personally shoot everything on white when shooting product shots, if just going for ohhsss and aaahhhs then I will shoot artistically on other colors and backgrounds, but when shooting images for the purpose of accurately representing a stone for sale then white it should be, or even a mirrored base can work as well.

Just remember when shooting on a white background you need to expose at +.5 to +1.0 stops, easiest to do using +.5 to +1.0 EV. When shooting on black you should underexpose the same amount, -.5 to -1.0, again, easiest to do by setting -.5 to -1.0 EV. This is due to how the camera's exposure meter works.


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