[Digest Post] Digital photography

However, without a program like Photoshop (which is the best of
all the others) your digital images will never look 'great'. 

The objective of a professional photographer, at least the three I
have worked with, is to capture the original image as precisely as
possible. As a general rule it should not require a great deal of
image enhancement to make the photos “look great”. Adobe Photoshop is
a wonderful program and an excellent tool, but in my experience good
photographers don’t usually rely heavily on after image manipulation
to produce high quality work.

Michael David Sturlin, jewelry artist
480.941.4105 Scottsdale, AZ USA

Hi, One word of caution regarding checking out photos on web sites:
remember that computer monitors display images at 72 dpi. So an image
that looks great filling the monitor may not look good when it’s
printed out. If you plan to submit your images to magazines, print
them on postcards, create slides for show juries, etc., you need
significantly higher resolution: most magazines minimum acceptable
resolution is 300 dpi at 3" x 5" You can’t necessarily tell the
difference between a 72 dpi and 300 dpi image on the computer screen,
but boy, can you see the difference when you print it on photo paper
with a good quality printer, or use a 4 color printing process. Just
something to keep in mind. Su

Suzanne Wade
Phone: (508) 339-7366
Fax: (928) 563-8255

Hi Friends,

One consideration I haven’t seen in this discussion is the objective
of the photography. The purpose (or “mission”) of the images should
have an influence on your decision. If you are creating slides for a
jury, to get into a show, it is in your best interest to use a
professional photographer. The more competitive the show, the less
“wiggle room” you have for your slides. I think it is imperative to
have the most incredible slides possible. You can then use a slide
scanner and scan the slides for images to be used in other places.

If your objective is for general use, Web site, or archive, digital
photography will do well if you take the time to “master” it.
Computer monitors are either 72 or 75 d.p.i., so high resolution
gains you nothing except a longer download time. The monitor display
is so relatively bad, compared to print, that a lot of precision
tuning of the image is wasted. Variables in the calibration of
monitors and video cards makes it much of a crap-shoot anyway. You
can’t be sure the image will look the same on other monitors,
especially as you cross the Mac/PC frontier.

If you are going to be using a professional photographer, be sure
you understand the pricing in advance. Don’t assume the new guy (or
gal) you’re going to try is going to have pricing in line with others
you’ve used in the past. The photographer has to pay for his new $40k
professional digital camera somehow! Great results… but at what

Karen Christians (of Metalwerx) turned me onto Robert Diamante, who
was written about by Suzanne Wade. He’s absolutely incredible! Being
my own worst critic, as most of us probably are, I know it’s a great
slide when I look at my piece and say, “That looks AWESOME!” It’s a
logistical challenge sending my work to him in Maine, but if you have
the time, it’s top-notch. He also did a lot of the photography for
Tim McCreight’s Boxes and Lockets book, if you want to see samples.
Scanned images of his work can also be found on my Web site (look for
the photo credits), and bear in mind the actual slides look MUCH

I’d also like to echo the comments about making sure the
photographer specializes in, or at least has an emphasis specifically
on jewelry photography. A while back I used the official show
photographer at an ACC show where I was helping out. It was a
convenience thing. I assumed that since he was well versed in
shooting fine craft he would do a decent job. Not a good assumption.
Out of the ten-or-so pieces he shot, only one came out really well. I
showed him my Diamante slides so he could try and provide some
consistency for jury slides, and let’s just say he failed at that,
too. All I can say is, “archive slides…”
Enough from me on that subject, I guess!
All the best, Dave

Eric – Thank you so much for that posting!!. I have recently begun
to think about hiring a professional photographer and have been
grappling with how to evaluate one with respect to the kind of work I
do. I often think getting answers to my questions is the easy part
– it’s coming up with the right questions that I find difficult when
approaching something new; you have certainly given me some great
material to think about.

I think this topic would make a good discussion, and I’d love to
throw it out there – those of you who have used professional
photographers – how did you find them? How did you evaluate them?
How involved in the actual work of the photographic sessions were
you? What kind of time did it take to have this work done? Were you
happy with the experience? Were you able to see in the setup the
photograph that came out of it (make sense??)? Do you use different
photographers for different purposes (e.g., web vs. postcards vs.
retail brochures vs. whatever else??) or perhaps different
photographers for different kinds of work – silver vs. gold/ stones
vs. no stones/ objects vs. jewelry??

Thanks!! Laura

Hi, I know there are photo’s posted at www.gemvision.com the
gemvision people offer a camera , variable light “dome” complete
with jewelry fixturing devices and software, [even a rotary turn
table is available ], a complete jewelry “photo” studio if you will.
I have one and photo’s I,ve taken have been used in proffesional
application. The “cloud dome” has been well recieved here on Orchid
I’m sure that others can direct you to photo’s taken by its use.
Mark Clodius Clodius&Co. Jewelers

Alan, We do all of the photos on our website with a digital camera
and touch up with photoshop. They are low-res for the internet but
will give you some idea of what is possible. We use the same camera
(Kodak DC290) to take photos for our jury slides. Once we get images
that look good, the files are sent to a graphics/photo service bureau
that “prints” the digital files as regular 35mm slides. We used to
pay big bucks for a pro photographer to shoot our slides. Economics
forced us to find a less expensive method. The quality may not be as
good but we can’t see any big difference and have juried into some
pretty competitive shows with our digital slides. If you decide to go
that route, you will need to spend some time figuring out your best
display/lighting scenario and even when you get the best result, it
will almost certainly benefit from some photoshop tweaking. The
camera we use was top of the line 3 years ago and cost about
$1000.00. Something equivalent should easily be had for $3-500.00. If
you don’t want to teach yourself photoshop, you could probably get a
graphics shop to play with your files for a reasonable fee and pick
which you want to have for slides. I think our slides run about
$10.00 each with duplicates running around $7.00

HTH, Mike Dibble

Combined threads digital photography & JPEG settings

Hi Noel, Here are a few of my thoughts regarding your recent post:

I am finding color balance to be very difficult to get right,
shooting jewelry.

That’s true. I never get color balance correct in camera. It is easy
to to correct it with a photo editing program such as Adobe Photoshop
or Jasc Paintshop Pro.

the viewfinder isn't easy to see detail in, much less the little

I’m not familiar with the Nikon Coolpix 995 but have you tried
hooking the camera to a television set and focusing while using the
television screen as a viewfinder? I haven’t tried this method with
my digital camera but I used to do it all the time when I was using
my video camera for close up work.

Dan DanielBe JewelryFrom: “Cave, Jerry D - CNF” Cave.Jerry@cnf.com

Digital cameras appear to be a hot topic for discussion. I am also
shopping for my first digital. My phototography ventures began
about 25 years ago and I still shoot a fair amount of 35mm film,
mostly jury slides. The camera I’m looking at is the Oylmpus E20N.
Any thoughts on this unit for jewelry photos?

Thanks jerry

From: “Dave Sebaste” davesebaste@carolina.rr.com

It also asks if I want "Best Compression" or "Best Quality". 

Hi Beth, As with most of the JPG settings, it’s a compromise one must
work out. Best compression and best quality are opposite ends of the
same continuum. The quality of an image is dependent on the amount of
stored in the image, which makes it larger (in bytes). On
the web, that equates to a longer download time. The typical
objective is to get the smallest image size that maintains acceptable
image quality. For selling or showing art on the Web, I find that
maintaining high image quality is more important than in some other

The appeal of the JPG format is it’s compressibility… one of the
reasons it’s a Web standard, and not used much in print media. In
print, image size is basically irrelevant (no download time)… but
if you’re doing quality printing, you’re probably not using a JPG

Every time a JPG image is saved, some is lost when it
recompresses. In most scenarios, saving with highest image quality
the loss of image data is not perceptible. However, you may still be
able to increase the compression and maintain an acceptable image
quality. That’s where the “dance” comes in. Some applications allow
you to preview the resulting image to determine at which point the
loss image quality starts to outweigh the advantage of file

As Larrie pointed out, the Progressive setting allows a degraded
image to appear early, improving with subsequent “passes” as the file
is downloaded. This improves initial display of a Web page, but as
with all things good, it’s not “free.” It adds a little to the file
size, again increasing the download time a bit. It’s a trade-off, as
with the compression/quality issue.

As far as smoothing… JPG has a very deep color palette (millions
of colors), as compared with the GIF format (256 colors). In order to
improve image quality in most cases, the JPG format will dither, or
smooth sharp edges by interpolating color for borderline pixels and
actually adding colors to the transition areas. The reduces the
perception of “jaggies.” The good news is that since the JPG color
palette is so deep, it won’t add to the file size by adding colors
which are already on the palette. In some cases, especially if you’ve
added text to an image, you don’t want smoothing… you want the
edges of the characters to be crisp and sharp. One example of when
you don’t want smoothing.

A bit of research didn’t uncover anything on the Huffman codes. I
would try saving an image with it toggled off, then with it on.
Compare the images visually, and if you can’t perceive a difference,
go with the setting that yields the smaller file size. Generally
speaking, “optimized” means improved file compression, but check the
visual “cost” first. You may be able to get some specific information
by checking the help file of the application with which you are
manipulating the image.

P.S. Another Photoshop tip I learned recently: if you are scaling a
JPG image down more than 50%, you maintain better image quality by
scaling in two passes, with neither being more than 50%. I wish I
knew this earlier! :slight_smile:

Hope this helps… and isn’t too redundant to what has already been

All the best, Dave Dave Sebaste Sebaste Studio and Carolina Artisans’
Gallery Charlotte, NC (USA) dave@sebaste.com

From: “Dave Sebaste” davesebaste@carolina.rr.com

My Nikon 990 takes a lot better picture than my Nikon 990. 

Hi Dan, I agree with what you say, and can tell you know of what you
speak. Could you clarify this sentence… I know it was a typo, but
I’m thinking about moving up from my old Sony Mavica.

Thanks, Dave Dave Sebaste Sebaste Studio and Carolina Artisans’
Charlotte, NC (USA) dave@sebaste.com http://www.CarolinaArtisans.com

From: “Eric V. Schmidt” ESP@lrbcg.com

Beth; Sorry - I thought I was sending post to the group. I’m
resending it - so the next post from me, you’ll already have.

Might. The diffusion does a lot of good. I would say that you’ll
get an OK image, but nothing spectacular.

Watch what you try - the lights get hot you know. Don’t think I’d
try a sheet - unless you put it a couple of feet away, Plexiglas
(white ) would work closer up. If you have access to a video store
get some 24x30" diffusion material. Maybe tough white or half tough
white. I’ve also seen some real heavy visqueen - like used as
temperature barriers at doors that have to be left open. Some of
the frosted ones would maybe work, but I don’t know how they will
take the heat.


From: “Andrew Horn” drew@fiodh.com

  the window asks me if I want "Progressive", if I want to
"Optimize Huffman codes", if I want "Smoothing", and how much; and
then there is a "Component Sampling" setting.  It also asks if I
want "Best Compression" or "Best Quality". 

Beth, Don’t select any of these options, they are ways of
compressing your images farther while sacrificing image quality. The
only setting you may want to consider is “progressive”. It was
important in the early days of the internet, when people were on 28k
modems… what it does is send part of the image at a time, letting
the image appear in the browser earlier than it would if you had to
wait for the entire thing to download. The image first shows up
blurry or pixelated, then “PROGRESSIVELY” get sharper as more
picture is downloaded. Not so important now, and I rarely use it.

The best thing with JPEG is to use those quality settings, and keep

them at “good” or better quality… somewhere between best
compression and best quality, if you have that setting. I usually
set my jpegs at 6-8 or so in Photoshop, unless they are really small,
then I go for 2-3. Actually, to get an idea of what compression
looks like, save a few copies at different qualities, and you will
see the difference. Once you know what you are looking for, it
becomes quite evident. Sort of blocky colors and bands start to
appear in gradiated tones. As a matter of interest, you can actually
see JPEG compression on your DVD player in the background when
watching movies, and also on digital satellite or cable services on
regular TV. It’s the same mathematics.

Good luck! Drew Andrew Horn Designer, The Master’s Jewel

From: “Dan Tregembo” leftybass@attbi.com

Hi Everybody, I recently started selling jewelry on eBay and have
taken photographs of the items i sell. You can view them by clicking
on this link:


The items I photograph are very small with most measuring 10mm x
10mm. Here is the equipment I use:

  1. Nilkon Coolpix 775. It has two very important features: macro
    capability and white balance adjustment.

  2. Two desklamps with a flexible metal “gooseneck”. The desk lamps
    are designed to use regular tungsten screw in bulbs however I use the
    60watt Phillips halogen bulbs because they produce a whiter light.

  3. A $4 set of white plastic bowls from the local dollar store. I
    cut a round hole in the top through which I insert the camera lens
    and then aim the lamps at the bowl. This method gives a rather
    “flat” look to the photographs which works well for some items but
    not so well for others. Sometimes I tilt the bowl to let some direct
    light to shine on the object. I am going to experiment with poking
    holes in different parts of the bowl to let light enter and give the
    jewelry a highlight effect.

  4. A lamp that looks like a 7" x 7" x 7" frosted ice cube with a
    25watt bulb inside and a slightly wavy surface. I place the jewelry
    to be photographed on top of the lighted cube. Again I use the
    goosneck lamps for the main light source. I use the cube when I do
    not want shadows to appear under the jewelry and have found that the
    wavy glass creates interesting reflections. I am going to experiment
    placing the jewelry on glass blocks (used for glass block windows)
    lit from below.

  5. The MOST important thing (next to the camera of course!) is
    decent photo editing software. Adobe Photoshop is great but is quite
    complex. I use JASC Paintshop Pro. It does most of what Adobe does
    but is easier to learn. Still, it would help to sit down with
    somebody who is familiar with photo editing software to give you a
    few lessons on how to use it. (Most highschool kids know how to use
    it. I’d offer to take them to Pizza Hut afterwards and I’m sure one
    would accept your offer!) With photo editing software you can do
    things like trace around the object so that you can essentially “cut
    out” the image and eliminate the background. You can create drop
    shadows where you want. You can brighten the picture or alter the
    contrast to “flatten” it or “punch” it up. Or you can eliminate the
    color cast if the photograph looks too yellowish or whatever. You can
    even sharpen photographs that are slightly out of focus. And a very
    important feature for me is jpeg compression to compress the file
    size of the photo so that it doesn’t take very long for the image to
    download. (This is especially important on eBay. If your photo’s take
    too long to appear, people just pass you up and go to the next item.)

  6. Get a USB flash card reader. You can get em for about $15. This
    isn’t really necessary but it does simplify things since you don’t
    have to hook up your camera to the computer. You just insert the
    flash card into the reader and your computer treats it as another
    drive. Flash card readers often look like and are similar in size to
    your computer mouse.

  7. When I get the money I plan on purchasing a Wacom Graphire 2
    digital drawing pad. This lets you draw on a flat surface using a
    digital “pen” which replaces your mouse. It gives you much more
    control than a mouse.

I will be constructing a light box shortly because I will need to
photograph larger items.

Hope this wasn’t too wordy. Let me know if you have any questions.
I’d be glad to help. Thanks to everybody who has responded to this
thread. I have found it to be very beneficial reading!

Dan DanielBe Jewelry http://www.stores.ebay.com/danielbejewelry
P.S. Dave Sebaste is cool!