My book, “Jewelry Photography Made Easy” is about three years out of
date, which is eons in techno-time. However, here are some excerpts
from the update I’m working on that may be helpful to the group. Feel
free to contact me with questions, but be aware that I cannot give
you a full course in the art and craft of studio photography in a
nutshell, any more than you couold teach bench skills in ten minutes.
I’ll continue to post excerpts as time allows and work
progresses…it’s a low priority for me right now.
It’s All About the Lighting
When the subject of jewelry photography comes up, the most frequent
question is always the same: “What’s the best camera?”
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.
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 geta 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
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:
The camera must have the ability to focus close enough so that the
image in the viewfinder screen is at least one-half the height of
the viewing screen. 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.
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. This is a necessity, as AUTO anything will
just get in the way of good imagery.
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 images. RAW capture is becoming a common
feature, look for it. It’s not necessary, but will save time and
produce a better result.
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.
More to come…