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Issues with macro photography

Hi Guys,

Having zero fun photographing an 18k (very) shiny ring.

Just comes out blurry, my camera is awesome, but it’s about 5 years
old, so the technology is a little dated.

I have a decent light tent, and some very nice halogen lights, but
still no joy.

Any tips, or a good link that anyone can share?

Regards Charles A.


rning to adjust the white balance on my camera made a big
difference. Now I have a new camera and need to learn all over. I
use a cloud dome and 5700 K bulbs that I let warm up for about 10
minutes. Good luck. Rob

Rob Meixner

Are you relying on the camera’s autofocus? I wonder if the bright
polish might be making it difficult for the autofocus to work
correctly. If your camera has a manual focus setting try that.


Hi Charles,

Could be one (or more) of several things:

(A) camera shake. You are shooting from a tripod, right? If not.
This is the usual culprit.

(B) Camera shake caused by hitting the button. Try shooting with a
cable release, or IR remote. Failing that, set the timer, and let it
count down.

© Crap on/in the lens. Try focusing on something normal, and see
how the picture comes out. Make sure there’s nothing on the lens.

(D) Bad diopter adjustment. Are you manually focusing? Does your
camera have a diopter adjustment for the viewfinder? If you are, and
it does, make sure the diopter adjustment isn’t cranked in. You
could be focusing to what looks right to you. through the diopter
compensated viewfinder. Which will screw things up if it doesn’t
match you.

(E) psychotic autofocus. Modern AF cameras are pretty, good, but not
foolproof, and jewelry targets are some of the hardest for them to
deal with. (the high contrast and bright specular reflections drive
them nuts.) The problem is that modern cameras junked all the fancy
split prism focusing aids, so manual focus with a modern AF camera
is a real pain in the tail. But it can be done. Try it, and see if
that doesn’t solve the problem. Alternately, get a good, solid AF
lock on some part of your piece, and then turn the AF off, so it
won’t move, and then take the shot.

(F) auto mode. Rather than shooting in full auto, try shooting in
aperture priority, where you have control of the F-stop. Don’t let
it set the lens to wide open. That’ll give you minimum depth of
field (focus depth) Since you’re on a tripod anyway, you can afford
the long exposures required to get down towards the bottom of your
lens’s range, say f16, or f22. That’ll give you a much deeper area
of focus, which should help with many of these possible problems.

For whatever that all was worth.

Ps–>$1/sqft (USD) is northern California, for what amount to
industrial sheds. Big sheet metal buildings with roll up doors, and
empty concrete floors. If you’re lucky, they have a bathroom. For us
and our machines, that’s just fine. The machines aren’t really
housebroken, and they tend to do bad things to carpet.

You could turn one of those into a pretty nice jewelry school, if
you were of a mind. Lee and I are pondering moving, and one of the
spaces we’re pondering has an area that could double as an area for
workshops once or twice a year, so it’s a subject near to the top of
what passes for my mind at the moment.

Hi Charles,

The major concern in my mind is your depth of field, which is
controlled by the camera’s aperture. The larger the aperture number
the smaller the opening, the smaller the opening the better depth of
field. Each lens will be slightly different, but if the aperture
goes down to f16 or f22 you should be good. A great lens will go
down to f32. Some of the old view camera lenses go down to f64. A
smaller the aperture opening though will require either more light,
or a longer exposure (sometimes both), but the increased depth of
field when shooting a small object will be worth it.

One other thought is if your camera has automatic focus I would turn
it off and manually focus to just behind the front of the piece.
This will increase the depth of the piece being photographed.

I hope that this might help.

I’ve solved this problem by placing a dull penny on or in front of a
shiny ring. Focus your shot on the penny, then hold the focus,
remove the penny and take the picture.

Having zero fun photographing an 18k (very) shiny ring. Just comes
out blurry, my camera is awesome, but it's about 5 years old, so
the technology is a little dated. I have a decent light tent, and
some very nice halogen lights, but still no joy. 

Are you using manual focus? If no, do so. I think some cameras
auto-focusing can be fooled by really reflective surfaces. Or
possibility of it not focusing where you think it is.


(A) camera shake. You are shooting from a tripod, right? If not.
This is the usual culprit. 

I have found a couple of solutions to this. One is to use enough
light that I can set the ISO to 100; then I can get good results
without a tripod. But that’s not always possible with my cheap,
improvised lighting setup, so usually I use a tripod. However, my
tripod is a cheap one (I think it was $25), and pressing the shutter
button jiggles the camera a bit. So I put the shutter on 2-second
delay; then I can press the button, pull my hand away, and
everything’s perfect.

Matt Gushee

Hi Charles et al

You may have 'flairing" I think it is called where a sort of halo of
light causes a sort of mistyness in the centre of the image. Try back
lighting or side lighting the ring, in other words the object not
front lit. I use a tunnel with the light behind the piece bouncing off
the curved roof. I find this arrangement can give a degree of
solidity to the image. And with experience you can still get a sparkle
from your diamonds. See my website, section ‘Precious’.

David Cruickshank (Australia)

For macro photography, the ideal camera has manual focus lens,
preferably a macro lens, with a f32 or f22 aperture. You really want
to focus at a large aperture, about one third of the depth of the
subject item. You should get sufficient depth of focus when the
aperture closes.

Hello all,

Lots of posts on macro photography but nothing on the Poloroid 16
and 48 LED macro light rings. Has anyone used either or both and if
so are they as good as the mfgr. says they aree

Best to all.
Richard Langbert in sunny Hobe Sound, Fl.

Hi all.

Keep in mind when setting a focus that no matter how large or small
the area in an acceptable focus is, the point of sharpest focus will
be 1/3rd of the way in. So if you are trying to show the whole object
set your focus point so that 1/3rd of the object is in front of where
you’ve set your focus and 2/3rds is behind the point.

There are tables and a formula that will tell you what your
acceptable focus depth from front to back will be for any lens
millimeter and distance between camera and subject.