[again] Photographing jewelery

I know there was a very long thread concerning scanning jewelery
for the internet recently, however I need info. as to the best
camera-in-a-box for taking old-fashioned photos. I’m updating my
protfolio and need high-quality images.



Steve, if you are going to do it yourself, find an old Nikon or
Canon manual model. A Nikon F or FM model is best with a 105mm Macro lens.

I would like to know the thoughts on a fixed miniture studio
for jewelry photagraphy. I have had trouble with interior
pictures versus outside in shaded full light. Ron Kreml

I just use an old Pentax 1000, with a modern Macro lens. The
camera is not as important as the person behind the it…the
lens, however has made an incredible difference in my results!

Brian Marshall

Steve -

I’ve done a great deal of commercial photography but am stumped
by your espresso “camera in a box.” What is it you’re really
asking for? Some sort of camera, lighting info, film format or
what? What do you want to end up with? How are you going to use
the photos?



Steve, There have been some really good threads on ArtMetal
about digital cameras. Seems the ones they all like best are the
CoolPix and the Kodac DC120. Me, I’m still stuck with scans -
for only a while longer, but their pix are absolutely fantastic.
If you need a url to see some of them, let me know.

Nancy Bernardine-Widmer
Bernardine Art Jewelry

G’day; Suggest you go to a specialist camera shop and take a
long hard look at the Nikon cameras, tell the assistant what you
need, and check out hisher suggestions and get firm prices. You
may not need the highly swept-up models with automatic film
winding, rapid repeat shot mechanisms and other expensive bells
and whistles. Then with what you have seen in mind, go somewhere
else and get their prices for the same items, because good
cameras ain’t cheap and various shops have varying
prices/mark-ups. It has been my experience (in this country
anyway) that good photographic shops won’t try and fix you up
with expensive toys that may come back to haunt 'em later, but
discounts is discounts, innit? Even better if you crackle
folding money… Cheers and good hunting, –

    / /
   / /
  / /__|\      @John_Burgess2

At sunny Nelson New Zealand

Ron Kreml,

I have done exactly that, I have two setups…one is a copy
stand with translucent cones under which I shoot flat objects
(ie. pendants, buckle sets) the other is a shadow box setup (from
Charles Lewton-Brains’ book) on which I shoot rings, bracelets,
and 3D pendants. Every single custom piece made in my shop is
photographed, dated, and thereby the copyrights are documented.
I use two old Pentax K1000 bodies. The copy stand camera has a
standard 50mm lens with which I use screw in diopters for
magnification, and the shadow box camera has a 100mm macro
lens…Both cameras are set up and loaded at all times. I make
enough extra money from photographing clients and other jewelers
pieces, to more than make it worthwhile.

Brian Marshall

Brian: Thanks for the info. I’m just using a series of screw-on
close up lenses and an old Cannon AE1. I think I’ll experiment
with a simple cardboard box lined with paper/cloth. Any advice
as to how to hold the jewelery in place? Lighting?



I use an old cannon AE1 , it is the macro lens that make the
difference. If you are in need of a a camera go to you local
photo stores and handel them all, then buy a photo magazine and
call the 800 numbers and check websites. I just bought a camera
off the photonet.com and paid considerably less. hope that helps
Eileen, in cold New York on her way to warm Tuscon.

I have a friend who’s getting her doctorette in photography, and
she used a 90mm lens on a pentex 35mm slr manual, to photograph
all my things(14k and sterling) and everything was beautiful, in
focus and the debth of field was GREAT. For stones,
reticulation,texture, and high polish. I like diversity and she
captured it well!!!
try it Mary


When I said “camera-in-a-box” I was refering to the rectangular
box with the Poloroid camera inside. A rather primitive device
that’s been around for years. I was thinking of something to be
used w/a 35mm. I may simply dust off the old Cannon, close-up
lenses and make my own. I’m designing and fabricating some
pieces and adding them to my portfolio of stills. Any advice?
Incandescent or fourescent light? Devices to hold the pieces?



Hi, I use my old 20+yrs Pentax K1000 too! I use the old screw on
magnifying lenses. I have three that I combine or use alone to
get the right distance. An important part of photographing
jewelry is getting everything into focus ( keep the camera out of
the reflections). This is accomplished by using a tripod and
slowing the speed of your camera.

Check out a master at focusing

Susan Sarantos

Another suggestion–not too kosher, but will save you big
bucks–after you research thru local camera stores and decide
exactly what you want, pick up an issue of one of the
photographic magazines and check out the New York sales
houses–just be sure, if price is substantially lower, to ask if
warranty is for U.S. rather than Europe/Asia. If you want to be
strictly ethical and spend the bucks, buy thru your local camera
store and get to know your salesman: if you have problems in the
future or need to know how to use a certain lens or piece of
equipment, you then have a source to beg instruction from! I
have an excellent source in Huntington WV–Larry Rees at Mack &
Dave’s, 3rd Ave., who will take as long talking to me/you as
needed to be sure you understand what you’re doing–either in
person or by phone. If you’re interested, his work # is
304-697-4211–just mention my name. Sharon Holt

Ron, I would highly recommend the book Photographing Minerals, Fossils, and Lapidary Materials by Jeffrey Scovil. It is available
from amazon.com for $32 plus shipping or from Jeff (fax (602)
254-0735). The cost from Jeff is $40 plus shipping, but you can
have it signed by the author! If you are not familiar with Jeffs
work, look at the photo credits in any issue of Lapidary
Journal. The book gives you complete instructions for creating a
small studio in the home, with details on the types of lights,
films, lenses, backgrounds, etc. Jeff also explains how to
highlight different surfaces to give depth and a three
dimensional quality to your shots.

While the title focuses on minerals, Jeff’s commercial work is
heavy on jewelry. The techniques outlined for minerals are the
same as for jewelry, since the reflective surfaces present the
same type of lighting issues and the sizes of the subjects are
the same.

Hope this helps, John

John E McLaughlin

        I would like to know the thoughts on a fixed miniture
studio for jewelry photagraphy.  I have had trouble with
interior pictures versus outside in shaded full light.  Ron

I think it’s a good idea, at least it will keep your
photographs/slides consistent; making a clearer record of your
work. Just find a spot inside where you can leave all of the
equipment and lights set up. It becomes a quick and easy habit.
And of course, follow the “Small Scale Photography” book for
equipment details. As far as a camera goes, I’d recommend a
fully manual camera, Like the Pentax K1000, which is often
referred to as a “student camera” because it’s easy to learn on.
I have one of these and a Chinon CM-5, They both work just fine.
The 100mm (50mm would work if you can find one) macro lens was
the most expensive part (but absolutely necessary!). A new Pentax
K1000 cost about $350.00, I went to every pawn shop in San
Francisco looking for a used one, the cheapest was $200. I
finally bought one on eBay http://www.ebay.com for $125.00 with
no hassle. I’d also recommend any basic photography class or book
if you’ve never used a manual camera before. It helps to
understand why it works the way it does.

Happy Shooting!

Amy O’Connell
Amy O’Connell Jewelry

Hi All, I highly recommend Charles Lewton-Brain’s book and video
on photography. It will answer every question that you have and
others that you didn’t know to ask.

Susan Sarantos


Steve – when I had to take pics for something last time, Don
(my prof) recommended using small pieces of sticky-tack to hold
awkward things like rings and stuff in place. It’s the bluish
stuff you can get at hardware and stationery stores that holds
posters to the wall (I think you can get it in white too)…
kneadable sticky eraser works well too. Also, in a pinch, you can
use bubble gum (pre chewed of course… eww). Hope this helps,

I reviewed Charles Lewton-Brain’s photography video for Lapidary
Journal- he has some great suggestions for saving money and
getting professional shots. The book and video combo are worth
the money, in my opinion. Lighting, holding the jewelry, gradiant
backgrounds- we have tried several of his techniques.

Excerps are on the Orchid site.

Rick Hamilton

Richard D. Hamilton
A goldsmith on Martha’s Vineyard
Fabricated 14k, 18k, 22k, and platinum Jewelry
wax carving, modelmaking, jewelry photography,
and sailing whenever I can…


If you want soft lighting and a lack of reflections, use a tent.
There are all kinds of elaborate setups for this, but I find
that a roll of computer paper or similar works fine, just roll a
cylinder and place it around your jewelry standing up vertically.
See how a cylinder works, make a cone if you are bothered by
reflections (look in your viewfinder) from the camera or near the
camera axis. In this case you will have to trim the edge of the
paper to it to get it to atand up straight. My advice for
lighting would be to use a little “cigarette pack” flash out of
the junk drawer at your local photo shop on a cord so you can
move it around. I would start by holding it at two o’clock
relative to the jewelry and experiment. You can also use more
than one flash if you have a way to mount them and a slave unit
to get the first flash to fire them. You might find a slave unt
in the junk drawer, too.

If you get picky and need specular reflections (points of light)
for stones or highlights, you can cut holes in the tent and angle
the flash to get both diffuesd and direct light from one source.
Hold the flash so it has a direct line to the jewelry through the
hole, but hold it far enough from the hole that it also diffuses
through the tent. You can get your lighting right by making some
experiments on cheap color negative film. Just try different
distances from the tent for your flash. You can hand hold the
camera, glide into focus position and trip the shutter while
holding the flash at the right distance in the other hand . . .
easy with a little practice, I have the photos to prove it. The
flash probably has a Guide Number of about 45, so try eighteen
inches from the tent with 100 ASA film. regardless of where you
start, if you halve and double the distances from a few inches
away to a few feet, after a roll or two you will have your
exposure right. Remember you will need a different distance for
the flash for each camera distance from the jewelry.

If you need something more sophisticated that this, you can poke
your camera through a cone or floodlight reflector and bounce the
flash from down by the jewelry back up at the reflector at about
a 30 to 45 degree angle. If your lens is long enough and it has
a hood on it, you won’t get flare at the lens. You can use a
couple of light sources, as described, and even put little
mirrors into the reflector for bright spots. I haven’t tried
this setup, but I’ve seen it described, with the (good) pix in
Kodak publications. Well, that’s more than you ever wanted to
know about this, right?? Next thing is, I’d try to upgrade the
lens, and there are some cheap ways to do this . . . . . .