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What kind of digital camera are you using?

Love to get some responses on what digital cameras that you are
using for your jewelry photographs now.

Ok. guess I need to tell you. I need HELP!! I mean I get the need
for proper lighting… BUT…Trying to decipher camera specs is nothing
short of a crazy disaster for me.

Last time I saw my family was at least three weeks ago. or. the day
before I started this craziness! Kind of like to reunite with them.
at least by Thanksgiving for Pete’s sake! Thank you, thank you and
thank you again!

Anita Van Slyke-Swank

How you use the equipment is much more important than which
particular camera you use, especially these days, when even
inexpensive point and shoot cameras are good enough to give excellent
results when in the right hands.

Elliot Nesterman

Hi Anita,

I wrote a short guide on this subject years ago. A small book,
really. While there are certain requirements of the camera, it really
IS about the lighting setup. It is NOT necessary to buy a big
multi-light light box or a diffusion tent. Most of thgem do not work
all that well anyway, because they are rather inflexible. There are
better solutions, depending on the quality and size of image you
require. What might work for the web might not work for print
advertising, for example.

The small point-and-shoot cameras do NOT have the same quality
sensors as their larger cousins in the DSLR family, but the right
one might suffice, again, depending on your final requirements.

Basically, you’ll want a camera that has the following, and most do
these days:

The ability to be used in full MANUAL mode (You set the aperture and
shutter speed). No AUTO features are ever used in serious macro

The ability to record images in RAW format…this ends forever all
concerns about “white balance” and getting the colors right easily.

The ability to focus close without getting so physically close to
the subject that proper lighting cannot be applied. This means that
if you can fill 50% or more of the viewfinder with a focused image
and still have the camera six inches or more from the subject, you
are good. If you need to be closer, you’ll have problems and not oly
with a huge reflection of the camera in your jewelry. Best soluton
is an SLR like one of the Canon Rebels with a good macro in the
90-105 mm range. Sigma and Tamron make good ones that cost less than
Canon or Nikon, and are equivalent image quality to them. If you
prefer Nikon or someone else, fine, just make sure you use an SLR
with a reduced size sensor NOT a full-size sensor.

There are sound technical reasons for this, especially if you enjoy
good depth of field.

If your camera has a PC Synch outlet or a hotshoe for flash, you are
ahead of the game. Why? Good subject for another discussion, but the
short answer is if your image need to compete with pro-quality
images, you’d better cut to the chase and get the job done. Flash is
ultimately cheapest light source, it’s dependable, it’s a constant
color,there are tons of ways to control and modify it, it obviates
the need for a big tripod, and it’s POWERFUL, meaning you can use
small f stops to increase apparent depth of field.I wouldn’t own a
camera without that capability unless it was one for fun shots you
can stick in your pocket. But I have a cell phone for that!

You WILL need a good post-processing software like Photoshop
Elements or the free software GIMP, and you’ll need to learn how to
use it. Not optional. Post-processing is an integral and necessary
part of the digital imaging process. And it’s easy. I teach students
to crop to desired size and resolution, strip out the unwanted
background, adjust tonal values and color and apply final sharpening
all in 90 seconds or so. If you’d like to see some sample images
made my way in less than 2 minutes, send me an e-mail wayne_emery
(AT) I’d love to post some here along with lighting setup
illustrations, but I’m not sure how or if that’s allowed.

Wayne Emery
The Gemcutter


How can I share files and pictures with the list?

Or… send the files to the attention of and
we will upload them for you…


Great question–I’d like to read about everyone’s cameras as well.

My camera is a Canon Powershot SX130. I think it cost around $200.

I use it on the macro focus setting (the flower symbol) and on the
aperture priority setting (AV,) and then I change the aperture,
depending on the depth of field I’m going for. I use the lowest
aperture (F3.4) to get a smaller focus area, which lets me focus on a
certain part of a piece and the rest blurs slightly. If I want the
whole image to be in focus, I use the highest aperture (F8.0.)

To tell you the truth, I’m not entirely happy with the camera, but I
get usable images. I’d love to have a DSLR camera, but since I can’t
afford one of those, I’d settle for a point-and-shoot that has a
broader aperture range than this one has.

If you want to see my results, here are my Etsy page and website:


We are using a Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS5. This is hands down the best
camera we have ever owned. This camera was not an expensive camera
when new, less than $200 now. The clarity of the photos is incredible
and the macro zoom is very good. You are welcome to visit my website
to see photos taken with the camera. We still have a few up taken
with the old camera. You can really tell the difference.

Tom and Donna

You should spend some time checking out the Canon G-12. Many of it’s
feature are customizable and you can also use it fully automatic. I
have had many requests for “what kind of camera took that?”


I’m probably one of the worst photographers in the world when it
comes to jewelry photography, and I’ve managed to get some coherent
photos using the following equipment:

Nikon D50, kit lensTripodLightbox consisting of a cardboard box with
sides cut out and white plastic garbage bag pieces taped onGooseneck
lamps for the homemade lightboxLightpad (completely optional)Adobe
Photoshop Elements Also, there’s a learning curve (in my case, a
pretty steep one that I’m still climbing. Reluctantly). But do some
searches on YouTube videos that actually show people using your
particular model of camera to photograph jewelry and putting it on
the appropriate settings. You don’t have to have a gift or talent
for photography to get decent photos. Think of it in terms of
learning a skill as opposed to trying to awaken a talent that may or
may not exist, and the switch in mindset might help with deciphering
the whole camera specs issue.

Or not. It has for me, but your mileage may vary.

  • Lara

Hi Tom and Donna;

I’ve got the same camera, the Panasonic Lumix and I think its great.
It has Zeiss glass optics whereas a lot of economy cameras are using
acrylics. I think it was under $300 when I got it. I’m still not
very good with it, but I know it will do what I need. Hey, anybody
seen the new wireless SD chips? Sends photos directly to your
wireless router so you don’t have to plug in the camera or pull the
SD chip. Wal Mart has them for $40. Haven’t got one yet, it’s pretty
much a gadget you don’t really need, but I love gadgets.

David L. Huffman

I use a Dinocam. It really gets extreme close ups for displaying
stones or other details not seen by the eye. It also shoots a bit of

Steve Cowan
Arista Designs LLC

I use a Dinocam too and a light box that I picked up for $10
complete with lamps and bulbs. Works great.

This website has quite good tutorials, tips and product reviews for
digital photography.

Keep in mind that jewelry photography is a specialty, even within
the area of product photography. Interesting things can happen when
photographing highly reflective surfaces.

If you look at bright polished jewelry in catalogs or ads you’ll
always see the reflection of the camera’s lens. You’ll often see the
reflection of the lights. And you’ll occasionally see reflected
other parts of the studio.

Also, photos of diamonds almost always require retouching. There are
nearly invariably facets which reflect all their light away from the
camera and so photograph as black spots in the stone. In a piece set
en pave you can even get some stones in which the table photographs
black, making it look as though there is a hole in the piece.

Jewelry photographers are specialists.

Elliot Nesterman

Dear David, I am using that very camera, the Panasonic Lumix, in a
class I am teaching in Digital Photography at a local Community
Center. I can’t recommend it highly enough for macro photography. In
that mode it will focus down to 5 cm (~2"). For a non-SLR is it
remarkable. I brought in my seashell collection for my students to
photograph. They were as excited as little kids!And yes, it works
great for jewelry. It can be purchased here (NYC) for around $150.

Gary Strickland, GJG

Steve Meltzer, who writes the Craft/Photography column in Crafts
Report magazine, recently touted the Panasonic Lumix FZ47 (less than
$300) camera as a superb choice for artists, wrote a whole column
about it. I considered it, but then ordered the new Nikon D3200
DSLR. More expensive for sure, but much more versatile- with 24
megapixels! I can’t wait for it to get here!


Hi Anita - I know what you mean about the time involved for
photography. Initially, I thought I would buy a good digital camera,
learn to use it for macro (extreme close-ups) of my jewelry, and do
my own shots. Now I realize how intricate an art photography is,
that it is a full-time hobby or job, taking time away from making
jewelry. If you want to check out my website, most of those photos
were taken with a Panasonic DMC-TZ3, a point-and-shoot camera that
has worked really well for me. I have since purchased a Nikon D-200
with macro lens, have taken a few shots but spend wayyyyy more time
trying to learn the damn thing, and have taken a macro workshop with
a follow-up tutorial from a local photographer whose work I respect.
I have also decided to pay for 2-3 jury shots a year, to get the best
and most professional edge to compete for the better shows. I have a
mini-studio set up, with light box and lights (after much
experimentation) which I honestly avoid at all costs (reference my
previous post about lapis rough - no pics yet!) because I know what
the shots should look like, and can’t figure out how to get them
reliably, and I’d rather spend the time making jewelry. I also have
a subscription to Adobe Lightroom (recommended by my mentor), which
is much more user-friendly and intuitive than Photoshop, IMHO.

My suggestion to you is, first identify your photo needs. Is it
product photos for an Etsy site, your website, to send to your
friends or for your Facebook account? Some of these needs can be met
with a point-and-shoot, like the Panasonic I mentioned. Higher res
photos, for juried shows or inclusion in catalogs or print ads, will
need a better camera, a DSLR. (I bought the used Nikon because it
got good reviews online and on Consumer Reports, and it’s a digital
camera that can use digital or pre-digital lenses.) When you ask
for advice from shutter-bug friends, salesmen or online, be sure to
mention you’re interested in macro photography - it’s a whole
different thing from landscape, portrait or sports photography.
Invest in a recent digital macro photography How-To book, a class
at your local community college or arts alliance, and read the
manual that comes with the camera - a lot! AND, add up the potential
cost of the camera, lighting, instruction, and worth of your time,
and compare it to the money you’d pay a pro - it may not be worth
your time, if you do limited production runs. If everything is
one-of and offered online, it would not be worth it to pay a pro for
every item, unless it’s VERY high end items, in which case I would
think you would need the presentation edge. Again, my opinion.

If you have any questions about anything I’ve mentioned, feel free
to email me offline, or call me - the research can be daunting, and
I’m happy to share what I’ve gathered, even though it was 3 years
ago (point-and-shoots have improved, no doubt, and may offer the
best of both worlds to you).


Sam Kaffine

I have a Nikon D3100 with standard 18-55 lense, tripod, softbox,
bunch of lights, and trying to adapt a macro extension tube. I just
bought a cheapy one from Chine, but it doesn’t have electric
contacts, any suggestion for it ?

From always sunny Brasil,
Vlad Radu Poenaru

I’m using a Panasonic Lumix FZ-35 (no longer produced). You can see
some results here: This page
show’s more images:

This camera has a phenomenal macro lens that will allow you to
actually touch the piece you’re photographing! Here’s it’s review:

Jeff Herman

About 8 years ago I got a Canon Powershot G5, which was reviewed on
Steves digicam web site. He highly re commended it for its excellent
Macro capability and the fact that it had virtually no purple
fringing. I then invested in the cloud dome set-up, and some daylight
balanced flourescent light bulbs. I have been doing all my own
photography, and have been delighted that on the basis of my digital
pictures I was accepted into a number of juried shows. As I do not
use photoshop, or any editing programs I have not had to deal with
the rather steep learning curve some of them require.

I leave the cloud dome set up on a small table, and a s soon as I
complete several pieces of jewelry, I photograph them and send them
into my computer so that I always have a nice record of what I have
done, as w ell as pictures to send to juries.


I use a Nikon D3100 with the stock DX AFS-18-55mm VR lens:

And a jewelry light-box kit from Table Top Studio:

I am very happy with this set up. I know you can get good pics with a
less expensive camera and light-box but I looked at this as an
investment and I wanted to make my photo process as easy and
consistent as possible. The only upgrade I will make is a macro lens
when I can afford it.

You can see examples of my photos here:

David Farris

I too have a Panasonic Lumix DMZ-ZS5 and must say the macro and auto
white balance is better in a pinch than any slr with the right
lenses. I also have a Canon 7d and the one I grab to get great fast
close-ups is the Lumix.

Ron Kreml

I’ve been photographing my jewelry since 1975. This past year I
upgraded my primary camera from a Nikon D70 to a D90. I use two
micro nikkor lenses, 60mm and 105mm. I have a pair of Novatron flash
heads in 16x12 inch soft boxes for my primary lighting. I found that
traditional tripods were hard to position properly, I now use a
Benbo, which allows me to get the camera positioned over the items
that I am shooting.

Rick Hamilton