I am going to post an excerpt from my CD “Jewelry Photography Made
Easy” which addresses your question. I hope it is of some value to
When the subject of jewelry photography comes up, the most
frequently asked question is always the same: "What's the best
There is no right or wrong answer to that question, but I
suggest it is the wrong question, and here's why....
There are many ways to light an object; some ways will emphasize
form, other perhaps color, or texture. Creating the image that
YOU want is about creating the correct lighting environment.
Once that is done, the camera is used simply as a recording tool
to capture the scene as it existed. If you get the lighting
right, you'll have a good image. If the lighting is done poorly,
the finest camera on Earth is of no help.
The goal of this guide is to help you create images of your
jewelry that you can be proud of, whether for simple record
keeping purposes, for appraisal work or for advertising locally
or on the Internet. Buried in here is a guide to a simple setup
that works, and it works every time. It's buried because I want
you to read a little to uncover it; you'll be learning on the
I also hope to help you in your camera choices. I firmly believe
that good tools are a joy in life, and you should not scrimp.
Investment in a functional and efficient tool will pay you back
many times, not just in results, but in ease of use. Not only do
we get a better end product, but we get it more quickly. Good
tools make difficult work easy and time is money! As jewelers,
we invest in expensive inventory and equipment all the time with
the expectation of profit. I can guarantee you that a nominal
investment in good photographic equipment and the education to
use them well will pay you back handsomely.
The choice of camera is not trivial, but I want to emphasize it
is not the camera that makes a "good" or "poor" image, it is the
lighting environment. Just like a setting bur, torch tip or
polishing buff, a camera should be chosen for the task at hand.
A camera well suited to the task is a joy to use. It makes the
job easy and the results predictable. Often, the camera that is
fine for everyday snapshots may be the one you wish to press
into service here, but for the demanding tasks we are engaging,
it may disappoint, frustrate and not produce the desired
results. Get the right tool, it's worth it.
For photographing jewelry and other small objects, here are the
options a camera should have:
1. The camera must have the ability to focus close enough so
that the image in the viewfinder screen is at least one-half of
the screen height. Additionally, it must do so without getting
so close to the object that light from the camera direction is
blocked. Generally, we will need to be at least 6-8 inches away
from the subject to avoid serious lighting problems.
2. The camera must have the ability to function in a fully
manual mode, i.e., you should be able to independently adjust
the aperture and the shutter speed. Many digital cameras in the
less expensive range lack this feature, although many also
3. The camera must allow a choice of white balance options or
have the ability to take images in RAW mode. White balancing is
one of those necessary chores we often avoid, with unhappy
result. A camera capable of recording images in RAW format makes
worrying about white balance a thing of the past. White
balancing is not necessary in RAW mode; we can use any light
source and not have to concern ourselves with setting white
balance. In addition, use of RAW mode opens up the possibility
of much nicer processed images. RAW capture is becoming a common
feature, look for it. It's not necessary, but nice.
4. The camera should have either a self-timer for delayed
exposure or be able to accept a manual or remote shutter release
device. Any of those features are a real help when it comes to
vibration-free images. No matter how gentle you may think you
are, it is nearly impossible to use your finger to release the
shutter without introducing some form of camera movement. This
slight movement may not be noticeable in informal snapshots, but
in close-up or macro photography it is painfully obvious. Using
the self-timer to release the shutter is often the best and
5. Although not an absolute prerequisite, a mirror lock-up
feature is very useful. This feature eliminates the possibility
of vibration from "mirror-slap" causing blurring in your images
at certain slow shutter speeds. Vibration from mirror-slap can
be a problem at shtter speeds in the range of 1/15th to BD
A camera capable of producing a 3-4megapixel image is more than
adequate for full frame prints up to 8x10 inches or for images
that will be used on the web. More pixels help if you are
cropping the image substantially or need very high quality
prints. The standard today seems to be about 6-10 megapixels,
easily sufficient for our needs.
There are many fine camera choices at any given time. Complete
non-biased reviews of almost all cameras and related equipment
can be found at www.steves-digicams.com or www.dpreview.com.
Just about every digital camera ever available is fully
described at those sites. In addition, you will find discussion
groups and a great number of links to other photography-related
sites, both equipment and technique related.
I very strongly recommend that you consider purchasing a D-SLR,
which is a digital camera with interchangeable lenses. The
ability to use a true macro lens or extension tubes with a
normal or zoom lens is a tremendous aid to getting better
images. Not only are the lenses optically excellent, but these
cameras allow a comfortable working distance between the lens
and the subject, something that can make like much easier in
close-up photography. Also, the digital sensors used in the SLR
style of camera are considerably larger than the sensors in the
smaller, fixed lens models. The larger sensor provides a finer
image although the difference may not always be noticeable until
we get to the printing stage.
The field is always changing, but cameras from Canon, Nikon,
Sony, Pentax, Samsung, Fuji, and Olympus are all solid pieces of
D-SLR's operate very similarly to 35 mm cameras, and even the
simplest ones today offer a very impressive range of features
for the money. If you are considering creating finer images for
magazine advertising, or glossy brochures or flyers, the range
of features of the D-SLR's should really be considered. A camera
like the excellent and top-selling Canon Rebel xTi with a very
fine Sigma 105 mm macro lens, ideal for jewelry (and portrait)
work is available for about $1100 as of this writing (January,
Hope there’s some help there!