Digital photography

Oops - when I compared the Nikon 990 to the 995 I was confused, I
was really comparing the 950 to the 990. Things change too fast, I
guess. So take others advice and go to

Tom Kruskal

Does anyone know a place or a way that I could see samples of
digital jewelry photography taken by a do-it-yourselfer with a
high-end consumer camera (3 to 4 mega-pixels)?

I’m on the verge of paying to have photos taken ($750 for 10–is
that a good price? They’d be digital, from a $30,000 camera) but so
many people seem to go the do-it-yourself route, while others say
that can never be as good as using a pro.

For $500, I could buy my own digital camera and take new photos as
soon as I finish a new piece, but the last thing I need is yet
another hobby/career. I think I’d have a good eye for photography,
but not the technical expertise. What’s better in the long run? I
don’t know which way to go but I need photos asap!

Alan Goldin
"The Shape of Things"

Alan, Buy the camera. I bought a 3.4 megapixel camera, (Olympus)
about 18 months ago and have been getting very good results. I would
be happy to email you some examples if you contact me off-line. Joel

Joel Schwalb

Alan; Hello. As a person who has made my living making images (still
photography, film, and video) I’ll take a shot at answering your

As far as the price - it’s hard to say. Some photographers charge a
whole lot more than others. There are some that will be a lot more
expensive than this - and a lot that will be less. Cost is not the
way to judge it - but the results are. I take it that you do not
feel comfortable doing it yourself at present.

You have to decide if these images will do the job you want them to.
If they are, they may be worth the price. It’s the results you are
paying for. And can you get the results cheaper - if not, stay with
the photographer.

It is an art, just like metalworking. I’m sure you will be able to
relate and put yourself in the position of the photographer when I
say that a lot of people look at the picture and say “I can do that,
why does he charge so much?” But they don’t do it. And
realistically they can’t do it because they don’ have the experience
or equipment to tweak the final image like the photographer has done.
As in the metal working profession, non photographers (and non
metalworkers) don’t have any idea of what all is involved in the
pursuit of our craft what all is involved, the experience needed,
the mistakes learned from, the time put in, or the tools needed to
get exactly this final product.

Where are the final images to be used? If on the web, the images do
not have to be as high a quality as if they are going to a
publication or a glossy for display purposes. Web wants 72 dpi (dots
or pixels per inch) for quick downloading. There is not as much
in this image as there would be, for say, the glossy
which could go up to 1200 dpi or more.

The detail is lost in the lower dpi. I would say if your final
output is for web only you may want to think about the money you will
be spending. That much will buy a decent camera for web photography
and all you will have to do is learn to take decent pictures or find
someone within your sphere of contacts that will take them for you.

There are many books and videos that will assist you in learning
photography. Highschools and colleges offer classes also.

That said - taking pictures is easy, all you do is point the camera
and push a button, taking good photos is not as easy, there is a lot
that has to be considered - composition, lighting, shadow, color,
depth of field, focus, etc. As in anything else it takes time to
make all the mistakes that teach you how to take great photos.

Returning to web photos- even though the is not as great
as in a photo for magazine reproduction or for glossies you still
have to be concerned with the above mentioned other considerations.
The picture has to be properly exposed, composed, and in focus. Plus
everything has to be eliminated except what you want to say in the

Some people have a natural bent for it, others do not. (I’ve always
said I took up photography because I can’t draw.) Photography can be
learned by anyone. It takes time - the experience is more important
than innate ability.

I’ve talked to photographers who are a lot better at it than I am
who say that if they don’t do it for a day or two there is a
difference in their ability to take a photograph - they lose their

There has been in the last few days a thread about a setup that will
help out a lot in lighting control (shadow box) plus there have been
others for other lighting control implements (cloud dome? and others
too). The thing with jewelry photography is you have to control
spectral highlights -either eliminating them or placing them exactly
where you want them. The other thing to control is unwanted colors
being introduced by the light being reflected off of colored
backgrounds. I’m not saying it has to be eliminated but you have to
be able to control it - you may want to introduce a color into your
photo to help induce a certain action or emotion in the viewer.

Light is the tool we use. Light is our palette or our metal. We
use light to create an illusion of a three dimensional object in a 2
dimensional image. We “paint” with light. Shadows give an illusion
of depth and highlights give us a feel for detail.

Usually spectral highlights are pinpoint reflections. The lighting
controls mentioned above work not by eliminating the spectral
highlight but by broadening it out -making the object awash in a
subdued highlight so that it is in essence covered with a spectral
highlight (thereby eliminating it in a sense).

There are other things to take into consideration but to cut this
off I’ll stop here.

It comes down to are you getting the result you need and do you have
the time and inclination to learn a new discipline.

It’s a personal decision -no one can say over the web what you
should do with the limited in a posting.

One thing about professional photographers is that they probably
have to tools and toys to do a lot more than someone with a light and
a camera.


Hi Alan, I have taken all the pictures on my website. I use a
Toshiba PDR-M4. Purchased this camera about 3 years ago, and with
much experiments, have very good results. I especially like being
able to see immediately what I have taken making instant
adjustments. Saves time and appeals to that instant gratification
streak in me. I think it depends on what you wish to do with the
photos, but I also print out many photos for portfolio and
advertising/price list flyers. You should try to get a camera that
can g et very good closeup shots, my zoom is digital, and I think I
would rather h ave an optical zoom. At the time i bought the camera
opical zoom was not as common as now. Here is my site/examples/photo
work. http://www.portabd ay com/protozign.htm Professional
photography is expensive, but they are for many reasons. Lighting is
critical. I shoot my fiber art in the Sun lite, the best, bu t
trickiest lighting sometimes. The jewelry I shot indoors. I think
more work needs to be done with my jewelry shots, and when I have
free time (o r necessity) I’ll be doing it. Pros already know much
that I have to lear n. Hope this helps. Pamela Rambo Rudduck
Helping to promote clean bottoms and happy endings.

I have the new Nikon Coolpix 5700, much more than $500, and I am NOT
happy with any of the photos I have taken of my jewelry! On the
other hand, I am NOT happy with any I’ve done with my 35mm Canon
either! I’m inclined to think it is more an issue of the
complexities involved in photographing jewelry as opposed to
photographing paintings, prints, and sculptures, which are what I am
accustomed to photographing.

If you go with a professional photographer, choose one who has LOTS
of experience with jewelry, and insist on seeing samples ahead of
time. I am a “former” professional photographer, used to be the
photographer for a decent sized museum, but I never did jewelry - and
I can assure you it is a whole different beast!

Best wishes,

Hi Alan, Hmm… the great expanse of digital photography!

I am a graphic designer now working in the jewelry business, and my
speciality these days is taking and editing digital images.

The long and the short of it is:

a) I don’t believe that what you were quoted is a fantastic price
for the photography (also obviously depending on what your were
asking for).

b) The real trick in digital photography is not so much in taking
the picture, it is what you do with the picture afterwards in
Photoshop! I must admit that I have had quite an extensive training
in Photoshop (and I still constantly learn things as I go along).
However, without a program like Photoshop (which is the best of all
the others) your digital images will never look ‘great’. And don’t
forget the learning curve that will most definitely be attached to
that option.

I am branching out at the moment and offering jewelry photography
for other people in the industry. I use a 3.3 megapixel and an Image
Dome. You can see examples of my work at However, as
it is a wholesale website, and it requires a registration process
before you can browse through the site, though there is a ‘sample
page’ to look at. If you would like me to send you some examples of
various options I offer via e-mail, or answer any other questions, I
will be happy to do so too. You can contact me offline at:

Hope this helps!

samples of  digital jewelry photography taken by a
do-it-yourselfer with a  high-end consumer camera (3 to 4

Alexa and Peter Smarsh took the digital photos in the article about
their gold cloisonne enamel work, themselves, with their first (
can’t remember what sort - maybe Coolpix ? ) digital camera, a cloud
Dome and bugger-all experience. Both the photos and the works are
brilliant IMO. The images are reduced in size to fit the newsletter

Al Heywood

Hi, I finally found a subject that I feel comfortable posting about.
If the decision to take or not to take your own photos without
taking an extended period of time to learn the craft’, is driven by
cost, then, I would find some friends who would let you take some
photos with their digital cameras for practice.

I had my own studio in SC for 16 years, and used 35 mm and a
Hassleblad 500. For years I used this for work with travel mags, and
portraits and sports.

When I started having to showcase jewelry, I used a scanner, as my
darkroom equipment was long gone. The scanner wasn’t exactly what I
wanted. Then the prospect of setting up a studio with artificial
lights in the house or with outside light outdoors was dependant upon
the weather with the 35 mm and Hassleblad.

I solved the problem by using a Sony Mavica 73 which has Zeiss
lenses, and the capability of good close-up work and features which
are very flexible. Using floppy disks rather than a memory card was
something I preferred, as I didn’t want something else ‘hooked’ up to
my computer. I just have an easier time with floppys I can keep more
organized and labeled (just a personal opinion).

It took me about a week to feel comfortable to post and print the
photos, which are the closest representation of what I’m showing to
the Blad, or Contax, I think because of the Zeiss lenses. Cost at
KMart, (after checking Sony’s website) was $245. Feel free to email
me for examples. Cheers! Dinah (from the frozen tundra of the
Southern Tier of NYS and it’s time to feed the horses)

Dear Alan, All the images on both of my sites were taken with either
an Olympus D66L or an Olympus Camedia. Both were not terribly
expensive. We shoot all shots in an old Photomaster light box. The
whole set up cost less than $800.00. You can find the cameras on line
and comparison shop. The AJT pictures were the Camedia and the TRH
pictures were the D66L. I dropped the D66L on the floor and had to
buy the newer one. Want to buy an broken Olympus D66L cheap?

Best Regards,
Todd Hawkinson
T.R. the Teacher

Alan, I look at a LOT of photos, from all kinds of set ups, digital
and film. The best photos are almost always the ones taken by a
professional photographer. (Assuming the photographer has experience
photographing jewelry – if yours doesn’t, find someone who does. Ask
to see his jewelry portfolio. Otherwise, you’ll end up paying for the
photographer’s sometimes lengthy learning curve. That’s fine, if
you’re comfortable with it and it gets you a big discount, but you
should know what you’re paying for. And yes, I believe the price you
were quoted is within the normal range for these types of probjects.)

A professional not only brings lots of expensive equipment to the
table (not just the $30,000 camera but thousands of dollars in
lights), but experience. Having a good eye is essential, but it’s not
the only thing a professional has. He also has the experience earned
from shooting hundreds, maybe thousands, of not-so-good pictures.
When you pay a pro, you don’t have to learn from the mistakes

I see plenty of pretty-good and even some really-good photos from
home set-ups. I also see a fair number of truly dreadful photos from
home set-ups. The camera is only the beginning: you also need good
lighting and a thorough understanding of close-up photography. Then
you need to practice, practice, practice. If you really aren’t
interested in a new hobby, my advice would be to pay a professional.
You’ll get good results immediately, and you won’t have to invest the
time and money in mastering another skill set.

Along these lines, I’m currently working on an “photo make-over”
article with Robert Diamante for Studio PMC, the newsletter of the
Precious Metal Clay Guild. If you work in precious metal clay, and
have some good home set-up photos of your work, I’d like to hear from
you. The piece depicted in the photos needs to be available. Our plan
is to take the piece you photographed and turn it over to Robert – a
very talented and experienced jewelry photographer. (His work
frequently appears in magazines and other publications.) We’ll
publish both photos, and let readers judge for themselves whether he
earns his pay. Robert is also planning to produce a “disaster”
photo of each piece to demonstrate what NOT to do. The three artists
selected for shooting will receive one copy of the slide Robert
produces (the good one!) Anyone who might be interested in
participating can drop me an e-mail at @Suzanne_Wade1.

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

  I don't know which way to go but I need photos asap! 

Part of the confusion is that I, for example, both shoot things
myself, and use a pro. His shots are way better, but I need to
document other work myself–can’t afford to send everything to him!

I used to do all my own photography, and got decent results, until I
got into titanium, which is a bitch to photograph. My pro has
trouble with it, too. But I digress.

What I wanted to say is, I just got a Nikon Coolpix 995, and am
trying to learn to use it. I am finding color balance to be very
difficult to get right, shooting jewelry. With my SLR, an ancient
Nikkomat, you just match up the film and the lights, and it works
great. But the digital is much more difficult-- too many variables.
I can’t even hand-control the focus, and the viewfinder isn’t easy
to see detail in, much less the little screen. So, I prefer to shoot
the old-fashioned way, then get the slides digitized, when there’s
time. But, in time, I hope to get used to the digital, otherwise I
wasted enough money to have bought a nice roller mill!


Hi Alan, If you take a look at the images on my website , most of them were taken by me using a
Nikon Coolpix 995. I would call them adequate, but the few that were
professionally shot should stand out as being all around better
images, and I have been doing this (taking my own photos) for over 20
years. Depending on your needs and the economics of your business, I
think that using a professional photographer for important images,
ie. jury slides, promotional images, images for publication will work
to your advantage, but you can certainly acquire the skill to take
images that do a good job of recording everything you make. That
being said, I have had professionally done images that I was not
happy with, and I have taken shots that I liked as well as the pro’s.

As to the cost, I think that the last slides I had done, by George
Post, cost something like $35 to $50 each, so $75 does seem a bit
high, but not knowing what exactly you will be getting it may not be
comparing apples to apples. You might want to check out some other
jewelry photographers prices to see if you are getting a good value.
Good luck!

Best regards,

Well, I have been through lots and lots of rolls of bad pics, by
friends, professionals and myself. For everything from
bad/inadequate lighting, wrong f-stops, cat hairs, not
centered…you name it, I have had it wrong with my pics/slides. My
work is runs from high contrast to very subtle monochromatic. Very
hard to light for the dark stones, without blowing out the pearls or
metals. The monochromatic work is much easier to photo, relatively
speaking. My husband has torn out a lot of hair over this
issue…And we have had quite a few of “discussions”.

We have finally gone the route of just digital. And it has made a
huge difference for me. Even though the camera we have isn’t the
best, it still is much better than going through a roll or two of
film & developing, only to find it was a waste of a day, and the $$.

With a semi-professional photographer/professional video hubby,
thankfully I have access to the lighting. With lots of ideas, input
from all over, we have put together a table top set up that works out
pretty well. Using light screens to diffuse the light, a frosted
sheet of 1/4 plexi (you can also use a textured piece of glass, or a
clear one, set up about 8-10") set up on 4 clear 4-5 inch tall
glasses, with the backdrop cloth underneath that. We set up lights 2
lights over head, and generally 1-2 lower down. He sets up the
lights, the tripod & camera, and the plexi/backdrop. I set up my
jewelry, the way I want it, and take the pics. I usually use the
zoom. (and turn off the flash so it doesn’t throw off the lighting,
or put a extra highlight in) Then put download into my computer,
adjust or crop as necessary. (that part takes more help/patience
need slides I send it to Imagers. For the under construction
website, I save them as jpegs.

The websites I have found to help with all this aRe: for a lightbox.
Also some of the discussions/tips on the But you will have to do a search for

For a professional photographer, I liked the site, examples of this
gentleman’s work. (this was the next step if we couldn’t get the
digital thing to work for me…) I think I found him on one of the forums. Which is where I found Imagers, the company who
makes slides from digital pics.

Bottom line, IMO, is that you have to be happy with how the picures
represent your work. I freely admit that I am retentive. And that
makes me very hard to please when it comes to representing my
jewelry. It has made for a lot of frustrations, arguments, $$ spent.
But now we have finally found a solution that I am happy with. It
makes my work look like it does in person, the colors are right, and
the detail is there.

Just my .02

AJ, still cold in MN…When is spring coming??

Thanks for the back-up John! Photographing jewelry is one of the
hardest realms to master, as the beauty and essence of the jewelry is
brought out by the presence of light in ‘real time’. If I am not
making myself clear, basically I am trying to explain that in
reality, as the jewelry moves, or our eyes move around it, reflective
light makes it glisten and shine and it gives it ‘life’. Now when
photographing these items, you are trying to capture this ‘life’ of
a 3-D object in a flat 2-D format.

In summation, a photograph can never be as good as reality, but the
goal is to be as close as possible. There is no doubt that Photoshop
gives you the ability to get closer to your goal in the digital

Some points of advice: Ask yourself what quality is good enough for
you. Don’t get ripped off by people charging too much for ‘mediocre’
work. Being able to see detail is the key.

Once again, I hope I have helped! Melinda. If you want to contact me
about good quality photography at reasonable rates:

Those of you who have not already dropped the big $$$ for Photoshop,
check out the GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program.)

Available at, the GIMP is free of charge, and
maintained by volunteers. It is recognized by many as being as
powerful as Photoshop, but is free of charge, and without
restrictive licensing agreements. The GIMP was written for Linux,
but there is a Windows compatible version also, and success has been
reported running the GIMP on the Mac OSX (I run Linux, myself.)

Lee Einer

Dear Fellow Digitial Picture Takers, I have been taken both Digitial
and 35mm Macro and Micro pictures for over 20 years. I have spent
$10,000’s on at least five different camera setups and try new
systems and camera’s several times a year. The first question is
what are you going to do with the pictures? Are you going to print a
billboard or are they going over the Web. I have a retail store and
keep pictures of every ring we make and for appraisal work. I give
CD’s to customers of the last 700 rings we have done. We run
slideshows all day, in store of our latest 700 designs. I tried all
the new Nikon Interchangle Lens 6 meg.Digitial One camera’s and the
Nikon 5700 4-5 meg camera’s. On my 19 inch Digitial Viewsonic with
the latest card, the Nikon 990 1 meg Jpeg shows far better than the
Nikon 995, Nikon 5700, or Digitial 100. The compression used to make
a 2-3-4-5 meg picture fit on to the 1000 plus or minus lines on the
best monitors, does not improve the picture. Unless you are making
large format print, it does not improve the picture on your monitor
by increasing the picture size. I know, I did not believe it either
but I tried before I bought my six digitial camera. My Nikon 990
takes a lot better picture than my Nikon 990. I have attached three
pictures shrunk from 1 meg to 640 x 480. I hope ganoskin will let
let the pictures be posted. If not, I will gladly sent off-list to
anyone who wants to see. These take about 10 seconds to 1 minute to
set up. Comments welcomed! Good Luck and Good Shooting, Dan Dement
Stone Oak Jewelers

*** Attached pictures removed ***

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