Photographing jewelry camera suggestions

I need to buy a camera to photograph my work and need suggestions on
which one to buy

I am in need of a camera to photograph my work for sale online. I
work primarily in silver, faceted stones, and cabochons. I do have a
light diffusing cube and tripod and I have little to no experience
with using a camera. Would greatly appreciate any suggestions and
help on a camera to purchase.

I need to buy a camera to photograph my work and need suggestions
on which one to buy 

I have had terrific luck with point and shoot cameras, the Canon
Power Shot, whatever the newest model is, and the Sony Cyber Shot.
The Canon has a terrific macro, which is why I got it. The Cyber
Shot is my small, every day carry camera.

My husband is my photographer and he has a “real” camera, a DSLR,
but if you’re not interested in that, the point and shoots are
really terrific these days.


You need to make sure you have good macro capability, ability to set
your iso and white balance to different settings. upper end point and
shoots are good but with a dslr you get more functionality and the
ability to shoot tethered to your computer into a program like
adobe’s lightroom and it saves alot of time in the process being able
to see the photos on the computer as you are taking them. i also find
that processing the photos in lightroom is faster than in photoshop.
and a grey card is invaluable. look at the hobby level dslr’s, nikon
supposedly is better than canon for initial color tones.


I have a Nikon D200 DSLR and am very happy with quality of photos.
Camera ismuch smarter than I am, but easy to use just the basics if
that’s all you want. Was delighted to learn the D200 works w/ both
DSLR and pre-DSLR Nikon lenses. (The older pre-DSLR lenses tend to
be much cheaper now that so many have gone DSLR. Most DSLR cameras
only use DSLR lenses.) Lighting is super important, as I’m sure many
have said. Good luck, it’s an art form all its own. And if you do
decide to hire a pro for the jury shots, save yourself some
frustration and hire a jewelry photographer. Explaining macro to a
professional photographer (landscape, portrait or other) is a wasted

Sam Kaffine
Sterling Bliss, llc

If you don’t have an 18% Grey card for metering your jewelry shots,
stick you hand into the area, meter it (if you are caucasian) and
use that for the exposure setting. A grey card emulates a portrait
/face exposure. Cameras are still calibrated to that.

Have fun!

What is the range of a fixed mm for a macro lens that is optimum, I
have a Nikon D 40 dslr.

What is the range of a fixed mm for a macro lens that is optimum,
I have a Nikon D 40 dslr. 

I have both the 60mm and 105mm micro-nikkor lenses. They both come
in to play, but the 60mm is what I would chose if I had just one.
With the size of the sensor in my D90, it is equivalent to about 90mm.
Macro lenses are designed and optimized for their purpose, best at
small apertures for maximum depth of field and close focus.

Asking what FIXED mm for a macro I hope is not what you mean. fixed
means one point only.

What I think you mean is what is the depth of field for a macro

Depth of field is simply put the portion of a picture/image that is
in good focus. The sharp clear portion we strive for. This for any
lens is dictated by the rule of thirds. The rule of thirds is again
simple. It is breaking the focal distance that a certain lens will
capture into thirds.

If the focal distance is 1 inch, the first third of an inch will be
out of focus. The middle third of an inch will be in focus, and the
last third of an inch will be out of focus. Now comes the part of how
do you know what the depth of field will be for a given lens.

Telephoto will give you the greatest/longest depth of field. In
essence it will have a focus to infinity if all variables are done
correctly. While a macro lens will have the shortest DOF. There are
macro lenses that will have as little as a half inch DOF. So your in
focus portuion will be a millimeter or 2.

How do you manipulate the depth of field? Again that depends on your
lens. The best DOF comes from stepping down the arpeture. Which
means closing up the lens. You can see this for yourself by making
your hand into a circle with your fingers. With one eye shut,
concentrate on a fixed point in front of you. as you close that
circle up, you will see the fixed point you are looking at becomes
more in focus. The same thing happens with camera lenses. On your
camera lens look at the rings. The one that clicks positions as you
turn it will be the one that controls the DOF. It will even have
distances marked on it (at least the old ones did). It is the ring
that will open and close the lens, or apeture settings. Thus it is
call the apeture ring. It is different from the free moving ring
that focuses the lens.

Now when you step down as it is called the lens you have the next
problem of light. The smaller the opening the greater the need for
more light. So you will set the timing of your camera for more to
compensate for the smaller opening. That is usually done with a
setting ring on the camera body itself. Each camera is different, but
it will be on the camera not the lens. If you have a camera that
meters inside itself. like popping up a small overlay of information
on the screen, or eye piece area, it will tell you what the DOF
setting needs for a time setting to allow enough light to come into
the camera. You might find out that the DOF that is best for you,
needs more light than your setting on your camera will allow. This is
where a good hand held light meter is best. It will allow you to know
just how much time is needed so you can over ride the max time
setting on your camera. (yes this is for a manual use not
computerized use of your camera). Why do I go on about time settings
that are not part of the lens? They work together. It is like flux
works with solder to alow the solder to flow when we heat it.

When you find out the best time setting which for most macro usage
will be in seconds, not part of a second. You will also need a good

Tripods steady the image capture. You hand holding the camera will
allow for minute shaking/vibration. No matter how hard we try to hold
our selves complete still, we will by nature of our heart beating,
have some vibration occur. Macro exstrapolates this vibration
greatly. This effects DOF.

With an extremely small DOF field it cn mean the difference of a
sharp focus shot, and a completely out of focus shot. Invest in a
tripod. Also along with this when working in macro is a good cable
release. Now what the hell is a cable release? It is a small cable
with a plunger end, that screws into one of the button of your camera
that you click to take the picture. Why do you need it? Because as
you click the camera, you again can cause vibration that will knock
you focus out of alignment. The cable with it’s plunger you push,
allows you to click the camera without the vibration. They are not
that expensive, and will save you massive headaches. Or if you are
good at jerry rigging things, you can build a mount that will hold
your camera completely steady. Hand holding is as they say, a crap
shot. So many variables come into play that it is best to just like
the pro’s get a good tripod (they don’t have to be expensive just
steady) and a cable release.

Now comes another variable. When you have what is called a shallow
or short DOF is where do you focus. and how do you focus. This is
where a hand held light meter really comes in handy. You want to look
at the picture you are going to take. So using the focusing ring,
enlarge the area you want to take a picture of. Study what would be
the leading edge of where you want to be in focus. As an example, a
ring. Say it has a prong setting. That first prong jutting out will
be the leading edge of your focus plain. Figure how much of tht DOF
will be the middle third.

This is going to tell you how much you will want your arpeture
setting to be. Now comes the puzzling part. Is that shallow DOF what
you want. It might turn out that stepping up the lens arpeture is
what you nwill want.

Having the smallest mm macro might not be what you really want. it
might be that you want 2 inches of in focus portion of the DOF. In
jewelry we have pieces that might when they are set up be more than
an inch wide area to be focused on. Study more about DOF field of
macro lenses for your camera. Find the lense that will have the DOF
field that works best for you.

Something that most don’t remember is what is the minimum distance
you can hold your camera to take the picture you want. For your given
lens, it should be on the arpeture ring. It will the shortest
distance printed on the ring. It might for a telephoto be 10 feet.
That means you would set up your camera and be at least 10 feet from
the subject of the picture.

For a macro it might be as little as inches. Do not get closer than
the smallest distance on your arpeture ring. No matter what you do if
it is exceeded, the picture will be out of focus. This is usually
what happens when you have a auto focus camera, and don’t realize the
distance does factor in.

Back to the prong setting image. Once you have studied the picture to
be taken and know the third you want, you need the time setting.
Since it is going to be a small area, look at the brightest point in
the scene. Look around you for a smiliar object that is larger but
illuminated the same way. For telephoto it usually is the sky. So
you would meter on the sky, closing out the rest of the secene so
that your meter will take in JUST the light area you want. That is
what will be put into the variables that you will set your camera
for. If nothing is around you, try the closest thing that appears
similar. After a while this will become second nature to you. It will
be easy to look at a given image and know what it will need for the
settings. Until that time you need to play with the settings using
these variables. Then there are the times you want more of the non
illuminated portion to be the focus. You will meter on the medium
lighted source. (this is what the camera itself would do when set on
auto. It is called center weighting. That is when a grey card is
helpful, but that will just confuse you totally.

Good lighting as you have now figured is important. It can screw up
or make possible that perfect shot. You want to eliminate all hot
spots, or bright spots on your piece. When you have a hot spot, it
will cause the rest of the picture to darken up and not show what you
want to be shown.

balance light will give you al the scene to be in focus, and shown
so it wont be blacked out or washed out. You need to look at the
piece you are photographing. What are the lightest and darkest spots
before you add light. When you set up your piece, whre does the light
land? Does that light source give you harsh points of light on the
object. If it does you need to eliminate those hot spots. Thus
softening your light source. You will need difusers on your main
light. This can be as easy as a piece of white gauze fabric (its
cheap) over the light source. Not on as bare bulb, but fixed so it is
very near, but not touching the bulb. Yes you can use a standard
light bulb for this in sa normal lamp stand. But this just gets the
front of the piece. You want the sides also illuminated. This takes
some lights from various positons, so many lamps with gauze in

These lamsp can be the cheap $10 versions from WalMart. In fact they
usually have those half bullet shaped metal housing around the bulb.
Now you have all but the back of the piece lighted. For the
background, and this is just as important as the foreground, use
bounce light. When metering you will find that black can be brighter
than white. Pick the background you want. now take a piece of
cardboard maybe (but not exact) 16x20 inches. cover it with the shiny
side of aluminum foil outward.

Below the table, glass, stand what ever you have your jewelry piece
set up on, place the aluminum cardboard sheet. You will need an extra
lamp. You will point the lamp at the cardboard. you can move this
cardboard so it will bounce the light off the background. This will
light it up, This bonce light will also give you a very soft glow
bounced back at your piece to give it just a nice non shadow effect.
If you do not have a solid surface your piece is set up on, you might
want the bottom to be unlighted. But then again if you are
photographing a piece where you want to show off the ability for the
stone or enamel to glow with light, it will help to have a very
difuse (thicker gauze) lamp below as well.

This probably gave you more questions then answers. It is years of
classes, and workshops. I’ve known and worked with the greats in
photography, but trying to encapsulate all of it in a short post is
it’s own problem. Best words of wisdom, is to learn your lens, and
play with your camera to know what it is capable of. Ask more
questions, and this pea brained old lady will try to help.

Aggie, suffering from a bout of typing diarrhea

Asking what FIXED mm for a macro I hope is not what you mean.
fixed means one point only. 

I was told to get a 150mm macro lens by a professional fashion
photographer. They are very expensive.

Most for sale used are 70-300mm, 35-105mm.
Who has had success with what? I have a Nikon D 40 DSLR.

Richard Hart G.G.
Denver, Co.

Hi Richard,

Yeah, a fashion guy I can see using a 150, but not a jeweler. Couple
of reasons:

Fashion guy=big budget. Which means a full frame sensor. Meaning that
his camera uses a 150 as a 150, instead of multiplying it by 1.6
like the APS sensored DSLR’s do. (So in that case, a 150 turns into a
240mm lens.) It’s still long but, but if you’ve got the studio space
to deal with it, yeah. (Probably for shooting midrange closeups of
jewelry on a model, not detail shots of the jewelry.)

(at a bet, I’d figure that he either forgot, or it didn’t occur to
him that you’d be using a DSLR with a smaller sensor.)

If you drop $3K on a camera body, you get the big sensors. If you’re
down with the rest of us peasants, you get the smaller sensor, and
deal with the zoom factor.

I’ve got a Canon 60D, (with the smaller sensor), and a pair of
macros. A Canon 55mm and a Tamron 90. With the zoom factor, that
works out to 88mm & 144mm. Personally, I’m very impressed with the
Tamron 90. I’ve had two of them in different mounts, and both have
been razor sharp. Slightly sharper than the Canon 55, believe it or
not. So if you want to get something that works out to roughly what
your fashion guy is getting with his 150, get the Tamron 90. The
drawback to the 90 is that for most closeup detail shots of jewelry,
I’m taking the shot from 3-5 feet away. Of course the advantage there
is increased depth of field relative to the 55mm macro.

But it does make the setup bigger, and limit the angles you can
shoot from. Straight down is not an option with that lens. I’d be
a foot through the ceiling.

You absolutely will get a a very serious tripod if you try this.
The little mall store tripods are not nearly stable enough for this
sort of work. You’re looking at Bogen/Manfrotto, and a cable release
once you start playing the big macro game. My tripod is an older
version of the Manfrotto 055XPROB. (It was Bogen when I got mine,
but that’s roughly the same tripod)

You’ll need to get a head with it, I normally use the basic quick
release ball head. Manfrotto doesn’t seem to be making the one I
have any more, but just a basic ball head with a quick release plate
is all you really need. Ball heads work better than XY heads for
jewelry sort of work. (Be wary of the pistol grip heads. I have one
of the early ones (a Bogen even) and it stinks. They’ve been
re-designed since, but I’m still none-too-keen on them.)

As far as ‘fixed’ goes, yeah, fixed MM, not fixed focus. All the
‘real’ macros are non-zoom lenses. Some of the modern zooms have
decent short range capacity, but none of them are as good as lenses
that are designed for that from the start. If I’m feeling lazy, and
don’t want to fuss with the big macro, I shoot some of the KC
web-catalog shots with a Canon 17-135 zoom. It’s not bad, but I do
have to use photoshop to fix the barrel distortion, chromatic
aberration, and vignetting. Don’t have to fuss with any of that with
the real macros.

(Well, a little chromatic and vignetting on the Canon 55, but
nothing worth mentioning on the Tamron.) I wouldn’t use that lens
for anything more serious than web catalog work though.

If you’re curious, I’d check out
They have some very, very carefully done lens and camera reviews.



I am shooting with a 60mm Macro, the lense is by Tamron on a Nikon
D90. Probably a better quality lense than the same 60mm by Nikon, or
so said the salesman.

I have been happy with it.

Susan Ronan
Coronado, CA

A macro lens is one of three ways to shot closeup or macro. The value
of a macro lens is that it allows us to get closer to the object
being photographed. That is especially important when shooting small
things; otherwise the object being shot is going to only occupy a
small area of the image, which makes for a poor photograph. They are
not cheap, but tend to have great optics. They are also usually fixed
focal length. I shoot Nikon and own both a 105mm and a 200mm, but
they also make a 60mm as well. The focal length determines how close
to the object the camera needs to be. I can fill the frame with
something using either, but using the 200mm the camera will be
further away from the object than it will be if I use the 105mm. With
a 60mm I would have to be a great deal closer to achieve the same
level of magnification.

It is also possible to use an extension tube with an SLR, which moves
the lens farther from the camera body thus allowing us to focus
closer and that way to fill the frame more fully. An extension tube
has to be specific to the camera system you are using, since it
actually mounts to the camera and then the lens mounts to it. They
are much less expensive than a macro lens, and you can add several if
need be. You do lose light, so will need a longer exposure time than
without one. If you are using a zoom lens you will have to re-focus
when you change the angle of view using extension tubes.

The third way is to use a diopter. A diopter is a glass element like
a filter, that, like a filter, screws onto the end of the lens. It
works like putting reading glasses on your camera, again allowing
you to get closer to the object you are trying to shoot and thus
filling the frame more. A diopter will work with any lens as long as
the filter size is the right size, and for that matter if you have a
larger diopter you can use a step down ring to make it work on a
different lens that has a smaller filter size. Again, even a good
diopter is not nearly as expensive as a macro lens. You do not lose
light with a diopter. If you are using a zoom lens you will not have
to re-focus when you change the angle of view using diopters.

(FYI: You can actually also accomplish this a fourth way, but that
involves reversing a lens and is not a good choice for this kind of

All of these options do require an SLR or DSLR camera, though there
may be some point and shoots that will allow filters and thus a
diopter might be an option, I don’t know. I shoot with DSLRs.
Alternatively, if you have a camera that takes a large capture (many
megapixels) you may be able to crop your image and still have
adequate image quality. If you are only going to post in online,
where a monitor can only display 72 dpi anyway, you can crop a great
deal and make your object a larger part of the frame that way and
not have to fool with shooting closeup at all. Just be sure to set
the camera to make the largest capture it can. RAW format is best,
but if you can only shoot jpeg, make it the highest quality/largest
you can.

BTW, the closer the camera is to the object, the shallower the depth
of field. Depth of field is the area in front of and behind the
actual focal plane that is in acceptable focus. In normal
photography, the DOF is about half in front and half behind the
focal plane, but in macro photography that becomes more like one
third in front and two thirds behind. What controls depth of field
is the aperture, or f-stop. The larger the number (f16, or f22 for
example) the smaller the aperture and the greater the DOF, while the
smaller the number (f 2.8 or f4.0 for example) the larger the
aperture and the shallower the DOF. Image quality tends to be best
with all lenses at around f8 to f11, but DOF is usually a more
primary consideration/concern with macro. The great thing about
digital is you can check and see if you think that enough of the
object is in acceptable focus or not and then shoot again.
Especially with jewelry, which does not tend to run off.

Also BTW, using a tripod to hold the camera steady is imperative if
you want a well-made closeup or macro photograph.

-John House

Since we all want to save money, here is a quick trick to help out
with the cost of a tripod. The bottom of the center pole that
actually holds the camera, and ratchets up and down, can be hacked
as they say. If the bottom of that pole doesn’t have a little hook,
you can drill across the pole sand jerry rig a hook so it hangs down
from the bottom of that pole. Then attach some sort of a bag on the
hook that can hold weights. All but the flimsiest of tripods can b
made very stable doing this. It helped us our many a time when we had
to hike any distance, and didn’t want to carry heavy tripods. I have
an ancient Slik tripod (over 40 years old) that while expensive when
I bought it new, was not as stable as I wanted for medium format
cameras. A net back and rocks found on site saved me many times.
Just toss th rocks when done and you were fine. For the studio, use
what evr you have to fill a bag. Beans and gravel are cheaper than an
expensive tripod.

As for getting the cheaper lenses, and spending the money on the
body of the camera, it was the other way around with non digital
cameras. You want the best optics to gt the best image. But these new
fangled digigizmos make my head swim. You can get by with close up
rings and the filter method even combining them, but you will find
that the images from good glass or lenses as us old ludits say, will
give you images you want. Some things you can cheap out on, others
bite the bullet and get what will make you happy and last.

I have really appreciated the fine suggestions for photographing
jewelry here. In particular, I think it was Brian who gave a rather
complete guide to jewelry photography. You certainly could use this
sturdy tripod method and come out with prize winning photos.

That said, there are other ways. Digital cameras make trial shots
and bracketing a breeze, so one could go at this by using a hand held
camera and electronic flash off camera using a flexible pigtail type
cord. A light tent is easily made from any kind of large paper cone
or similar. Cheap but effective. If you need a fill light (second
light source) it can be set up on whatever support that seems
convenient, even a stack of books, and triggered with a small slave

As long as your light sources from flash are much more intense than
the ambient light, you should not get any blur, since the flash takes
less than a thousandth of a second. You can guess at the proper
exposure using the old guild number system, possibly correcting for
magnification with a formula, or you can just take multiple shots
until you arrive at the proper exposure and delete the rest. I think
it is also possible, when using tents, to introduce a little sparkle
(specular reflection) by cutting a small hole in the tent somewhere
and getting some of the light from one flash too bypass the tent.
You’ll just need to look carefully at the reflections in the jewelry
to get the effect that you want. One day long ago when I was bored
and in a particularly contrary mood, I spent hours arranging some
antique silverware on a table to photograph it with no tent and a
view camera. Just had to arrange the inevitable reflections to be

I realize I’m leaving a lot of stuff out for brevity and some new to
photography will not be able to visualize these setup ideas. You can
email me off list for more info if interested. I’d post more if there
was any interest. Not saying this is the best way for all, but I have
been able to take quick photos of jewelry that were quite acceptable
with flash(s) and without tripod.

This is directed to those who have limited experience with
photography and how it works. I’m not a PhD, but I do have camera
experience and learning from 1970.

Photography is a skill, just as is jewelry construction. An
understanding of “depth of field” to capture the beauty of what one
has created, as well as lighting the subject, takes some trial and
error. Digital cameras provide the ability to view pictures on
computers and possibly learn how to change the f-stop to control the
depth of field (focusrange) of the image if one has those controls
available. Digital photography, especially with "point and shoot"
cameras predetermines many of these aspects and uses fixed ratios.
Many on this forum already know this, but some don’t have the
experience of working with 35mm cameras and different lenses that
provide a “depth of field” control to picture an image beforepushing
a button.

Capturing an image of any subject, and making that image the center
of attention, requires a bit of technical trail and error before
learning the capabilities of any camera system. If I were limited to
a digital camera that could not change lenses, I would experiment
withthe different settings and a ruler to learn how changing the
pre-set controls on the camera impacted the focus range (how much of
the image remained sharp, or well defined, at different distances
from the lens). Close-focus, or micro focus, results in a small
depth of field and the background will quickly blur and lose detail.
The size of an object and it’s depth (how thick it is) will
determine the ideal camera setting (f-stop and shutterspeed) to
create the ideal picture. The more expensive cameras, with
interchangeable lenses, f-stop and shutter speed control, as well as
light metering, can be controlled and set to compose an image before
it is created. With a set of experiments, any digital camera can
provide its limits and capabilities. One has to experiment with
their camera and define its capabilities.

When in doubt, ask more detailed questions and talk with people who
have moreexperience with photography. Many photographers are eager
to share their understanding and learning.