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Photo formats

I need some sage advice from those who are experienced with
professional photography - and photographers.

I have spoken with 3 (so far) professional photographers in the Los
Angeles area. One works exclusively in digital format but takes
meticulous care with his studio preparation, one shoots colour
negative - on a plain white background - which he then converts to
digital via a CD and manipulates the image in the computer, and the
third shoots colour slides - but just acquired a digital camera 2
weeks ago -! I’m really getting confused, since cost is a critical
factor, not only for the initial photography, but for the
manipulation of the images for different uses.

The fees vary widely, to say the least. Digital pictures were quoted
per image, but offer the magical versatility of background
manipulation, colour correction, etc… The slide photographer charges
by the hour plus a set fee per role of film, and insists that the
best image is still via slide.

I want to get the best - looking shots possible, of course, but I
also need multiple-choice flexibility. I’ve been dragged into the
21st Century kicking and screaming, basically, and barely know how to
use the Photoshop that came with my iMac. Therefore, I am dazzled by
the technological possibilities which have been presented to me, but
just as confused as to the best way to go.

I will need pictures for print as well as website (to be
constructed). Less of a possiblity is the use of “jury” slides, but I
can’t rule that out either.What do printers of postcards and media
prefer these days: images on a CD, colour slides, or colour
negatives? Overall economics are a serious issue here. If it makes
more sense to pay the (considerably) higher fees for the digital work
to have images formated for multiple use, then that’s what I’ll do.
I’m not sure about paying several hundred $$'s for 6 images, when I
could have several roles of slides shot for less - but which would
still need processing for print, etc. anyway.

I am not set up to take proper photos in house - yet. I have a Sony
Mavica 10X with which I’ve been taking fairly basic shots, although
the prints (Epson Stylus 750) are “pixelated” and not nearly as clear
as I would like.

I’m probably going to spring for a Cloud Dome soon, which, for a
start, will greatly improve my background and lighting issues, at

Meanwhile - too much not enough knowledge - and I know
there are wiser heads out there! Anyone willing to offer some

Thank you all and bless you, Dr. Aspler -

Margery-- I look forward to seeing the responses you get, myself.
My small input is this: I work with a photographer (Larry Sanders, in
Milwaukee, . Also, ) who does
slides for me. I spend several 100’s of $ for six images–because he
charges, as you said, by the hour, etc, and he fools and adjusts and
adds little highlights with mirrors, and so on, until the shot is
just right. He also offers digital, and other services (digital
proofs in real time before shooting, for example). The point is, as I
like to say, you may not get what you pay for, but you sure as heck
don’t get what you don’t pay for. For me, the best image is what to
look for. Personally, I’m not convinced that manipulation is a
substitute for good photography. I know I hate and distrust images
that look enhanced. My work is very difficult to photograph, because
of the materials I use. But even on the “easy” stuff, a little extra
care and extra flair make all the difference. My advise-- go with
the best image.


After years of research, fiddling around on my own, I decided to use
a professional photographer (besides, I stink at photography). It was
the best move I ever made. You need to get a photographer that
specializes in photographing jewelry, and will give you a copyright
release. This is a shameless plug for Amy O’Connell, but I was so
very pleased with the quality of her photos. Usual disclaimer
here–just a satisfied customer. She’s reasonable, knows what she’s
doing, and can give you both slides and digital format of the same
shots for a small additional fee. You will then have the option of
any format a printer prefers. You can find Amy’s website at and you can see what she did
with my pictures at I didn’t
know what type of shots I wanted more, so I asked her to use her own
judgement. So I have a variety, but have found I prefer the drop shadow
effect the best.

I know a little bit about media and photos, having done my time at
several trade mags, so I offer this in response to your question…

If you ask them, most trade magazines will tell you they prefer
slides for one simple reason: it cuts down on the number of unusable
digital images they receive. However, digital images are fine, as
long as they are of sufficient size and sufficient resolution to be
usable to the magazine. Most magazines are digital all the way to the
printer these days, so a good digital image will actually save a
step. An inadequate digital image causes mucho headaches, though,
which is why many designers prefer slides: they know what they’re
getting, and that it’ll be usable. There’s no danger of last minute
frantic calls to the submitter, who may or may not know what you’re
talking about.

So if you opt to go digital, you must be sure to give 'em what they
want, which is usually a minimum 300 dpi resolution in a 5x7 size in
a TIF format … and if in doubt, go larger and higher res. That’s a
BIG file, so you may want to invest in a CD burner, if your iMac
didn’t come equipped. Blank CDs are cheap these days though: about a
buck apiece. You should be able to fit several images on each CD.
(And learn Photoshop, so if there is a question or a problem, you can
respond quickly and with confidence.)

To make life easy for the editor, send your CD with a printed
version of the image for quick reference. Don’t use itty bitty
thumbnails, either – you can’t tell what the photo is of that way.
3x5 or 4x6 is probably adequate. Photo paper will give you the best
results for this printed image, but it isn’t necessary. The printed
image is NOT usable to the magazine for reproduction purposes, but it
lets the editor see your pix immediately, without having to start
Photoshop, etc. It also makes it easier for the editor and the
designer to look at your photos while they’re discussing article
layout. Anything that makes the editor’s job easier moves you one
step closer to publication. :slight_smile:

Please be sure to label the CD with your name, and write the
filename of the image on the bottom or back of the printed photo. Try
for a unique name… perhaps adding your initials at the beginning of
the file name.(You’d be amazed how many image files I get labled
simply “necklace 1” “necklace 2” It makes it tough to find the right
photo later, especially if I have submissions from several sources.)
This just makes it easy for the editor and designer to find the image
they want to use on your CD.

Slides are still acceptable everywhere, since most magazines have
in-house digitizing capability. There’s no fussing with file formats
and resolutions. The slides are a bit more expensive to dupe, but
you’ll save the time spent on burning CDs and printing photos, which
will allow you to save on color ink cartridges and photo paper. And
if you want jury slides, they’ll be right there ready to go. … If
you go digitial, ask at your local photo lab about how
easy/hard/expensive it will be to convert a digital image to a slide
at a later date.

You can also digitize slides with a film scanner (not a flatbed, but
a scanner designed for scanning negatives, slides, etc.) These are a
couple hundred bucks, and you can also use them to digitize any past
slides, as well. These digitize at very high resolutions, and should
easily produce an image of magazine quality.

Note: you will not get magazine quality prints with an inexpensive
digital camera. The resolution on most $100 cameras is something like
72 dpi, not anywhere near the quality you’re looking for. (Although
they are just fine for websites and other on-screen presentations.)
You’re probably looking at cameras in the $500 and up range for this

BTW, five years ago I would have absolutely agreed with your slide
photographer that film was the only way to go. Now… maybe yes,
maybe no. Depends on the equipment. The really high end professional
digital equipment is amazing. I’m still not sure it competes with
medium format film, but for slides, it’s darn close, if not already

One last point in choosing a photographer: Make sure he/she is
experienced photographing jewelry. No matter what the medium, a bad
photo is still a bad photo, and jewelry photography is one of the
most challenging areas of photography there is. I have seen more bad
photos than I can count: poorly lit, reflecting the camera, and/or
with poor depth of field. (Meaning that the front of the piece is in
focus, but the back is out of focus. With jewelry, you really want to
see the whole thing. If I understand correctly, with my somewhat
sketchy grasp of photographic principles, the problem is caused by
using a low F-stop, like F2 or whatever. You want an F-stop of F22 or
something, which is, of course, a small aperture and requires more
light and/or a slower shutter speed. You can see why I leave this to
the professionals!)

You can fix many faults digitally, but I think it’s easier, and
cleaner, to get a good photo to begin with. And that’s still an art.
Ask to see the photographer’s portfolio, and if he hasn’t done
jewelry photography before, pass him by. If your work includes
make sure he’s familiar with the special challenges
associated with lighting gems. You’re paying too much to provide an
education. If he wants to get into jewelry photography, negotiate a
sweetheart price, and understand that there will be a learning curve,
no matter how experienced the photographer is. A good jewelry
photographer can make even a boring piece sing. An inexperienced one
can make even an exciting piece boring.

Also, be sure to discuss copyright issues up front. You may hold the
copyright on the jewelry, but the photographer will hold the
copyright on the photo. Will the photographer sign over copyright to
you? If not, is he going to expect additional payment every time the
image is published? Having been burnt in the past, most magazines
will send you a copyright release form before they publish anything,
asking you to state that you hold copyright and that you give
permission for publication. If you don’t hold copyright, you’ll have
to have the photographer sign it… which is not the time you want to
be negotiating fair payment for the use. Discuss this up front, and
get it in writing. Don’t expect that the magazines will pay the fee:
they might, but they might also just use someone else’s (free)
photos. Be sure to include the photographer’s credit in the caption
info you send with the photos.

Well, that’s my two cents worth. If you have any other questions I
can answer, don’t hesitate to ask!


    I need some advice - cost is a critical factor, not only for
the initial photography, but for the manipulation of the images for
different uses. 

All the digital images of John Paul Miller’s work in the May issue
of eNAMEL Online Newsletter were copied to CD from 35mm colour
slides. I didn’t use Kodak or any of the majors for reasons of price

  • AUS $ 20 per blank CD + about AUS $ 2.80 per slide i.e. about AUS
    $ 300 per 100 slides copied to CD.

Michael’s Camera & Video Store in Melbourne, Australia did the job
for AUS $ 1 per blank CD + about AUS $ 0.91 per slide i.e. about AUS
$ 92 per 100 slides copied to CD. Turnaround time was two days!

You can make your own judgement about the quality of the digital
images. Have a look at the detail in e.g.

If anyone wants contact details for Michaels Video & Camera Store
contact me offline - “all the usual disclaimers go here”

Al Heywood

Some input on jewelry photography. I used to pay thousands of
dollars per month in a digital studio on photography. Since I have
purchased a jewelry light box. I found one online at:
(Doug) Then we purchased the Olympus E 20 (look online for best
price) with a close-up set for macro shots. Now we save $20K per year
in photography! The secret to photography is lighting and this light
box works awesome and takes up little room. Hope this helps.


Hi Margery,

 I have spoken with 3 (so far) professional photographers in the
Los Angeles area. One works exclusively in digital format but takes
meticulous care with his studio preparation, one shoots colour
negative - on a plain white background -  which he then converts to
digital via a CD and manipulates the image in the computer, and the
third shoots colour slides 
Margery, I've been in the fringes for the photo lab and digital

printing industry for years, and am often using these services. I had
studio photos shot of my furniture at, and shot my own
photos of jewelry at If any of your questions
aren’t answered here, please feel free to email me. If you want the
name of the photographer who shot my table design, her name is Wendi
Marafino (310) 301-0537. I paid about $200 per shot. !!! Yikes! Her
and her studio partner, Peter Figen, shoot jewelry as well, and they
are in the Marina, on Culver Blvd.

About photo formats, if you get slides, you can have them scanned

and transferred easily to Photo CD for about 3 bucks each shot. Call
"Miller Imaging" in the LA area. (that’s where I am) If you are going
to be using these images for print purposes, at sizes of 8.5x11 or
so, then you would do best to shoot on film first, and then scan
these resulting images. - Now, there is a possibility that the all
digital photographer you mentioned has one of the more expensive
digital cameras, that run upwards of $5000 which usually provide
enough resolution for page size prints, in which case it would be OK
to go straight to digital. If you want slides from digital files,
that can be done for about $6 each at Colortek Labs in Culver City:
310-202-1984. You can also talk to their digital department about
Canon Laser Prints, and poster prints. I used to do a lot of work
with them.

Concerning the photographers themselves, let me say that the KEY to

a good photo isn’t always the camera, but the skill with which the
lighting and the shot has been set up. This is why one photographer
wants to charge you $75.00 a shot, while another says he or she will
shoot a whole roll for $75.00! So, be careful of the amateur who
offers you a great deal, it usually isn’t. Perhaps for most people it
would be OK, but in the jewelry game, the photos are what sell the
product - Sometimes more so than the product itself, if the photo is
set up so evocatively that the “fantasy” of the piece outweighs the
reality. And with jewelry, the metallic reflections and such are so

When printing, print houses these days are all accepting files on a

CD, if they are not, I would flat-out refuse to use them. Usually,
all your shots should be taken into Photoshop and retouched to remove
any dust and hairs etc, converted to CMYK and color corrected on a
system calibrated to the machines at the printer you choose to use.
So everyone’s using digital now, and again, don’t use any print house
that says you don’t have to be digital. Sometimes printing companies
can be high pressure, and will tell you anything. Don’t let em, and
if they try, then again, don’t use em.

A great place for postcards is "Modern Postcard" I am sure a lot of

folks on the list use them, I know they have a website, it’s probably I have sued them a number of times. It’s a
process to get set up and printing, but fairly easy, and mechanized,
and then the prices are great. You can mail them a CD.

About your Mavica, there are people who really like those cameras,

and I am not one of them. I prefer a Nikon digital. I have a coolpix
900. For your website and small postcards, the Mavica should be fine.
When you are getting into Brochures, then it wont be enough. An
8.5x11 image at 300 dpi (print standard) requires 32 megs of pixel
and your camera only provides a few megs of info, maybe
3 or 4 megs. This would be fine for a 4" image size but that’s about
it. But if you are going to shoot your own photos, you don’t have to
spring for a cloud dome just yet, you can use paper to set up a
reflecting chamber, and shine lights through holes in it, or I’ve
heard lots of great suggestions on this forum, from cutting open
gallon Milk jugs to large ice-cream tubs. I myself have a light box
on top of a cardboard box lined with white paper, and a seamless
piece inside running from the floor to the ceiling of the box. I open
the side of the box, and stick my camera in. Check out the site for “tips from the jeweler’s bench”, Mr.
Charles Lewton-Brain has written a very informative page about
jewelry photography.

Whew! I hope that was fairly clear and concise, and please feel free
to email me if you like.

Good luck! '
Andrew Horn
The Master’s Jewel

Suzanne, that was a great reply to the question. Thank you for
sharing that I definitely agree with your suggestion to:

“Make sure he/she is experienced photographing jewelry… jewelry
photography is one of the most challenging areas of photography
there is.”

My wife used to be a professional photographer, and did a cover shot
for a friend years ago. It was a very complicated layout of about 40
items of jewelry.

It took an hour and a half and several polaroid test shots to get the
lighting ‘just right.’ When she was about to do her “tear down,” I
suggested that she move the camera back several feet and take a photo
of the setup.

That way, when her client asked “HOW MUCH !?!?! for one photo?!” She
could show him the setup required to explain her fee.

David Barzilay, Lord of the Rings

Dear Andrew, Susanne, and everyone who responded to my question,

Before I even have a chance to really study your replies, I want to
thank you for taking the time to answer so thoughtfully and
thoroughly! I’m amazed at the includng resources, that
you have all been so willing to share. You have given me a lot to
consider, but now I’ll know the right questions to ask…and to not
let myself be pressured - or too dazzled by fancy footwork.

Thank you so much!

Margery -

I’ve seen images from this setup. Larry Paul, the caster I work with
in Philadelphia, bought one of them, and the results he’s getting
from it are just amazing. The lighting is perfect, and very easy to
control. If you have lots of pieces to photograph, this would
definitely be a viable option.

Janet Kofoed

Another recently released solution you might want to check out is a
product called the Cloud dome, which I recently saw demonstrated at
the SNAG convention. Rio Sells it, or you can go to their web site at It’s much simpler than the complex and costly
video grade boths previously described in this thread, costing in the
range of 200 dollars. It’s simply a neutral color hemisphere of
translucent plastic, with a hole in the top and a bracket next to the
hole used to mount your camera (probably digital?) which then shoots
through the hole. External lights of your choosing, including
daylight, are diffused by the dome, so the items underneath are lit
by nice diffuse ambient light, which nevertheless allows you some
control over things like modest highlights and lighting direction.
Same principal as the cludged together light tents often used, but
this one is sturdy, easily set up and taken down or stored, etc. It
serves as both light tent and tripod all in one unit. Might be
worth your attention. I’ve got one coming (bought it at the SNAG
auction) and after I’ve played with it a bit, if anyone’s interested,
I can share the results here.

Peter Rowe

Peter, One can create their own “Cloud Dome” system for a lot less. I
got a white Lucite dome from a local plastic fabricator for $10. It
works as well as the $200 version. I would be happy to send you some
sample photos. Joel

Joel Schwalb

Hi Peter - Hey, great to have you back on Orchid . . . and yes, I,
for one, would be very interested to see your photography results
with the Cloud Dome. The fact that it is easy to take down and set
up for storage is a major plus! Also, that we can add directional
light sources will be helpful, too. Will go check out the website
now. Thanks, Cynthia

Joel, I am wondering if you would share sample photos of the “Cloud
Dome” with everyone on Orchid. I for one would appreciate seeing it
to judge if it would suite my photo needs. The price is certainly
right. Thank you in advance.

Nancy Logan

           Peter, One can create their own "Cloud Dome" system for
a lot less.  I got a white Lucite dome from a local plastic
fabricator for $10. It works as well as the $200 version. I would
be happy to send you some sample photos. 

yeah, I know. A fair number of folks have done somewhat similar
things with just a translucent white plastic waste basket from Kmart.
But I got mine for a good deal less than 200, at the SNAG auction,
which is a benefit for SNAG. Plus the lady demonstrating it at the
Rio Booth was very nice and friendly (I’m a pushover). And what’s
your time worth, running around buying parts, rigging up camera
brackets or the like… Sure, buying the cloud dome is letting them
make some substantial profit. I don’t mind that. It’s a neat
product, and works well at what it does, and the product does also
come with more than just the single dome. You also get extension
sleeves which raise it up, for greater versatility… That would
cost you at least another ten bucks done your way. (grin). If I were
to make my own, it might take me the better part of a day or two
running around locating and getting the plastic, rigging up a camera
bracket (eliminating the tripod is way cool, for convenience sake,
though if you’re using a heavier 35mm SLR, you might have to remove
the bracket and still use a tripod. Not sure, but I’d expect so)
And of course, if you’re using slide film, rather than a digital
camera, you need to be sure the plastic you get is really a nuetral
color. A lot of white plastics aren’t quite neutral, and the tint
can show in critical slides. All in all, since I either needed such
a setup, or needed to take the time to build a proper light tent (my
last one died when the floodlights started to char/brown the
"bedsheet" curtains I’d used to make the tent, and in reaching to
move them farther away, I accintally knocked over the camera tripod,
which didn’t hurt the camera, but sent the tent structure flying…
woulda made a funny video if I’d had it on tape…)

Don’t mind me. I’m trying to defend the thing both because I liked
it, but also because I now don’t want to feel bad about having bought
the thing at that auction… (grin) And it’s a simple direct
solution to a need. done deal.


Joel, I am wondering if you would share sample photos of the “Cloud
Dome” with everyone on Orchid. I for one would appreciate seeing it
to judge if it would suite my photo needs. The price is certainly
right. Thank you in advance.

Nancy Logan


     Don't mind me.  I'm trying to defend the thing both because I
liked it, but also because I now don't want to feel bad about
having bought the thing at that auction... (grin)  And it's a
simple direct solution to a need.  done deal. 

I don’t see a problem paying someone for such a useful and well-made
device, not least because it would be a pain for me to do all the
work myself, as you point out – it’s also occurred to me that being
in a business where my most valuable commodity is the knowledge and
skill I bring to my work, that I shouldn’t blink at paying someone
else for their intellectual and physical expertise, either. The
thing is a great idea, well executed.

I’m thinking about changing cameras, and when I wrote to the Cloud
Dome folks and mentioned it, the response indicated that it would be
easy and and at very little additional expense to me, to upgrade to
another dome with a larger aperture and a more adaptable bracket.