Sunday, July 11, 2010

What I've learned about macro and jewelry photography.

I’m always trying to make my jewelry photos better for showing on the internet. Not being a professional photographer, this has been a struggle and a frustrating learning experience. Most of my jewelry is glass, which is shiny and hard to photograph. I recently purchased a couple of books on digital photography, but found there was not a lot of information about point and shoot cameras. Well, really, how could someone write 600 pages about that. If you have a SLR camera you might need it tho. Also, out of 600 pages in the one book, there was less than one page about macro photography. Here’s what I’ve learned, mostly by experimentation. (My camera is about 3 years old, a Canon Powershot SD800, with 7.1 mp and 3.8 X optical zoom.)
1. Read the camera manual. As you read it, experiment with all the different settings. Mine has more capability than I thought. In manual mode I can adjust the white balance, chose the type of light I’m using, etc.
2. Turn off the digital zoom and only use the optical zoom. This was the best tip that I got out of the books I bought. The digital zoom degrades the picture quality. My photos really improved when I did this. This would apply to any photos, but especially to macro. (Which means I would like to have a new camera with more optical zoom. I see they are now available with up to 20 X and more. )

3. A high ISO (800-1200, etc.) means the camera shutter is faster. This is good for motion shots, but may create 'noise' in the photo. I was once told in a photo class that the National Geographic photographers always shoot at ISO 200. Of course they are using high end cameras. Anyway it seems that 200 ISO or below works best.
4. Always use a tripod of some sort. I got an inexpensive table top one at Target for under $10. If I want to shoot from a higher angle, I turn a plastic box over and rest it on the bottom. I also have a longer tripod, but it seems to get in my way when I’m trying to arrange items.
5. Shooting next to a window for natural light did not work for me. Our windows are ‘low E’. So check your windows if you are having trouble getting the right color cast to your pics. A low-e coating works like an invisible mirror to reflect selected portions of the light spectrum back out. (Bob Vila tells about them here: )
6. Since it is 110 degrees here I do not shoot photos outside. I use light bulbs that are ‘daylight’ or have over 5000 Kelvin rating. The higher the number the closer to daylight. I use 3 lights, one on each side and one on top.
7. A light tent has turned out to be the best bet for me to keep the harsh glare of the light bulbs off of the shiny jewelry. I made a couple of them with a box. I cut the sides and top out and covered the holes with tissue paper. This helped but I was still getting a grey cast through the tissue. I just purchased one at BHphotovideo, which is working better. It has thin fabric all the way around.
8. Take photos at the highest Resolution possible. Mine is ‘L’, which is 3072 x 2304. I use Paint Shop Pro or Photoshop Elements to crop and resize. They seem to come out of my camera at 180 dpi. After cropping, I then resize by changing the dpi to 72. This automatically changes the size to about 500 to 600 mp, which is the ideal size in my opinion. I dislike making them too large because a pendant that is 2” across is not going to look good at 6” in a photo.

9. Make as few adjustments on your photos as possible. Every time you change something the quality goes down. The best tip I’ve seen that works for me is here: This is instructions for changing the contrast and brightness by using the graph sliders which is under ‘levels’. This seems to do very little damage to the quality of the photo.

10. Be sure that your background is not too busy. After all you want your item to show up and really pop.

Here is a photo taken several months ago:

And a more recent one:

I hope this info is helpful.

No comments:

Post a Comment