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Photographing gems

    I know some of the problems associated with photographing gems,
and think I have the lighting figured out. But what camera/lens. 
Digital still or digital video?  Minimum resolution? 

Dave, I use the same set up as in Charles Lewtin Brains book “Small
Scale Photography” for stones and a digital camera (I use a Mavica
FD-88, although there are others as good or better). The lighting is 3
photo flood bulbs, one 500wt over head and 2 250watt on stands on
either side of the tripod. I usually shoot at the lowest resolution on
my camera (640x480). you probably won’t want images much bigger then
that on your site anyway. These are all done that way: There’s also a book that looks
good called "Photographing Minerals, Fossils and Lapidary materials"
by Jeffrey Scovil. I have it but I haven’t read it yet, although it
looks promising and others have recommended it.

Amy O’Connell
Amy O’Connell Jewelry

Hi all I am a devoted viewer of the OPB Computer Chronicles. This
week they showed a digital camera that was also a microscope with from
10 x to 200 x that also did video. It is a cylinder camera which can
be hand-held or placed in a stand for the traditional use position as
a microscope. The demonstration of it was noting less than fantastic!
It easily hooks to the computer where the image is seen on the

As I watched it, I guessed at the price for such performance, thinking
a mile a minute about pictures of jewelry and stones, small sketches,
and my grandson with whom I share the world of bugs and good stuff.
I figured the price to be about $800., given the cost of what I have
seen in the regular market place. Nope. just $99 It is made by
Mattel, but it is far more than a toy. That opinion was shared by the
show host who said it was well made and could see duty in a science

Thought you would like to know about it.


This little device sounds fascinating to me, too. Where can we
see/find it? And what is OPB Computer Chronicles for ignorant ones
like me? Gary Strickland

Hello Jeannie, I’m a third worlder and don’t recognize “OPB Computer
Chronicles.” Is that a TV show, magazine, etc. Is there any sort of
demo on the web? Please, how, where can I get one? US$99 is worth the
risk . . . I think?;>)

Hello Amy,

I went to your site and had a look. Nice photos. Nice site. One
thing that would be different with my material is trying to show
brilliance/internal luster. I think most of your gemstones were
opaque or translucent. Have you tried photographing any ruby,
sapphire or spinel? (my specialty) I’m wondering if that creates
another set of problems. I have borrowed some pics that show a gem
beautifully <>. I doubt that I can ever duplicate
their quality, but something close would be nice.

I’m also considering a small digital video camera that can also
connect to the eyepiece of a microscope. It’s total resolution is
about 270,000 pixels. I have no need (I think) for large pics. This
seem to follow your experience with your digital still (640 x 480).

I will pick up the books on my next trip back to the US.

Thanks for the help and regards from Thailand, Dave Webster

Hi Dave,

I’ve done some shots of jewelry that have brilliant stones, ruby etc.
I use a set up that is similar to the one Amy is using. I find that
using mirrors to redirect light into the faceted stones can really
make them ‘pop’. Use little small hand held, shaving type of mirrors.
The trick is not to add shine to the metals around the stones, but if
you’re just shooting stones there shouldn’t be a problem with
reflection. There are some faceted rings shot with the mirror effect
you could look at heRe: look in the rings
section. Best of luck. Diane

Hello Dave,

You rise two different questions:

  1. when photopraphying a gem, their is a problem with the deepth of
    field: you cannot have an acute focusing on both the top of the table
    and the bottom of the cutlet, so the gem often seems transluscent
    even if perfectly flawless; the advantage of a digital camera is that
    it seems to have a bigger deepth of field than an argentic one with
    bellows. The reason are the following:
  • the pixels are bigger than the argentic coating;

  • the lens has a very short focus. In fact, it is thanks to its poor
    quality that the digital camera seems better !

  1. You cannot connect a digital camera directly on a microscope: you
    need to remove the lens of the camera and adjust its CCD in the
    focusing plan (“plan focal” in french). I have done that with a low
    cost webcamera, but I did not try with a USD 300 camera ! And with a
    digital camera you cannot check the focusing, because you need to
    snap the photo first and then transfer it to the computer. If you are
    wealthy enough, you can buy the new NIKON D1, all digital.

I shoulb be glad to hear from you as soon as you experiment further.


PS I am also intersted in any kind of as long as the prices are

Regarding the jewelry photography - I have been reading all the
submissions with interest, but having been silent up 'til now and I’m
getting antsy so I have to put my two cents in.

As a grad student in fine arts I did a lot of photo work, both
student and freelance. Part of my training was in jewelry
photography, and this is, for what it’s worth and in short summary
form, what I learned:

  1. Use a macro or telephoto lens, and avoid reflections - how do you
    do that? See #2 2. Set up your work to be photographed on either a
    contrasting or neutral matte (not shiny) surface. Velvet works well,
    or something called velvet paper - like velour paper. Also, seamless
    photo paper works well. 3. SURROUND the object(s) with your surface.
    You must now TENT your work to be photographed - see #4 4. Your work
    is now set upon and surrounded with non-reflective surfaces. You
    need to set up supports around the work (non reflective, and can be
    wrapped) so that you can DRAPE or TENT a white sheet completely
    around your work. Cut a small hole in the sheet (I know, this is
    starting to sound ritualistic, but keep reading) where the lens of
    the camera will fit through from the point at which you will be
    photographing your works. You may cut several holes for different
    p.o.v.s and “flap” them to keep out light while they’re not in use.
    All LIGHTING for your set-up will be OUTSIDE the tent/sheet, and will
    impart a soft glow to the works being photographed without any
    unwanted reflection. Usually four to six lights does it, tungsten is
    nice, but any type of light will do provided it’s set up well. Note:
    a good alternative to a matte surface would be a frosted light box on
    which the work is set up draped with a light sheet or two layers of
    velum paper. Imparts a lovely glow from beneath. This is an ambitious
    albeit very professional way of photographing jewelry, or any
    reflective objects. A short read of any good book on lighting for
    photography will also yield some good results, it’s not rocket
    science, just an hour or two investment of reading. --Quik