Taking photos of gems and jewellery used to be excruciatingly hard without the use of a dslr. Digital cameras used to have a tough time focusing on the many facets of a gem stone, and the light that reflects from the gems used to wreak havoc with the focus.
6 years ago, I started taking photos with my trustee Nikon d5100 and my Tamron 18-200mm lens. I later on upgraded to a d610 full frame camera and a Tamron 90mm macro. I also use a cheap led ring flash which I got from ebay, which surprisingly after 3 years is still going strong.
As with all types of photography, gems and jewellery photography requires you to follow some of the principle rules, to get the highest quality image.
1. Shoot RAW format.
Shooting RAW is one of the number one rules you need to follow, if you want to create high quality images. RAW helps you edit and retrieve most of the details (highlights and shadows) you may lose shooting in JPEG format. This is handy in Jewellery images which can be edited in post- production to get a professional feel.
Shooting RAW also means that the images are not automatically enhanced, which is vital to represent accurate color of a gem stone. The only editing I do on the images on our website is white balancing and cleaning up the background.
2. Use a small aperture for gem photography.
With gem photography, especially whilst using a macro lens, minimizing lens blur is necessary. The gems and inclusion also need to be as visible as possible for online clients to make an informative decision. To do so, you need to shoot with a small aperture, which means you need to increase the F stop number (f 20 etc.).
Jewellery photography may look better with lens blur, therefore it is not necessary to have a high F, but when you are using a lens like a 90mm, even with higher F figures, you will see some adequate lens blur or depth of field effects.
3. Use slower shutter speeds and a tripod.
To combat the lack of light hitting the sensor by having a high F stop, slower shutter speeds are necessary. Keeping the ISO at a lower figure (not more than 400 ISO) makes sure the images and it’s shadows are not noisy (grainy). Using a slower shutter speed means that you need to eliminate camera shake during the photo is being taken. To do so, make sure to use a tripod. Also, eliminate camera shake during the button being pressed, by using a remote trigger, or the timer function in your camera.
4. Use appropriate lighting
Lighting is one of the most important factors in getting an excellent shot. I use this ring flash which is around $20 AUD on ebay. The flash doubles as a video light, has 10 light intensity settings and can be automatically triggered. The multiple LEDs manage to light up most facets of the gems.
Sometimes, artificial light does a very bad job in taking images. Padparadshas almost always lose their orange hues and turn pink, and rubies show more purple under the white artificial light. The best way to take photos of these gems is under day light, with no flash.
5. Use manual focus or auto-focus points.
Using manual focus is the fastest way to take gem photos. Most auto focusing systems have trouble focusing gems. One of the best ways to get around this is to use auto-focus points manually. The centre auto-focus point can be used to accurately focus on the face of the gem. Look at online tutorials on how to use this function on your dslr.
6. Keep it simple for gem photography and use props for jewellery photography.
I used to use a mirror to take photos of the gems, but some of my clients mentioned that it is a bit distracting. This is simply subjective, but having the gems on a white background and keeping it simple satisfies even the harshest critiques.
On the other hand, jewellery photos need to be more eye catching and colourful and is a great way to engage your social media followers. Using soft or contrasting backgrounds all work, as long as it complements the piece. Using natural props such as flowers seem to be very popular on the images showcased on Instagram.
7. Be creative and resourceful
Having creative images will definitely help market your business on social media platforms. Jewellery photos gives you the opportunity to be creative. This week I had some spare time at the office and decided to use my old d90 on some of our jewellery pieces. I went and plucked some leaves and flowers from the yard and sprinkled some water.