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 Post subject: photographing gemstones for the internet
PostPosted: Wed Dec 01, 2010 12:44 pm 
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I have a couple of gemstones i would like to sell on the internet.I am trying to photograph them with a small automatic digital camera (olympus mju 770) on macro setting with appalling results!I don't want to spend lots of money on a new SLR camera and multiple lighting set ups.Would buying a tripod and an inexpensive light tent give me acceptable results?I have also seen for sale USB digital microscopes for around £30.00. would these be suitable for photographing gemstones.I understand the importance of correct lighting but i am a bit of a technophobe when it comes to all things digital.Any advice gratefully received.


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 Post subject: Re: photographing gemstones for the internet
PostPosted: Wed Dec 01, 2010 3:28 pm 
crystalvoyager wrote:
I have a couple of gemstones i would like to sell on the internet.I am trying to photograph them with a small automatic digital camera (olympus mju 770) on macro setting with appalling results!I don't want to spend lots of money on a new SLR camera and multiple lighting set ups.Would buying a tripod and an inexpensive light tent give me acceptable results?I have also seen for sale USB digital microscopes for around £30.00. would these be suitable for photographing gemstones.I understand the importance of correct lighting but i am a bit of a technophobe when it comes to all things digital.Any advice gratefully received.


Hi there,

You don't say what your two stones might sell for, nor whether you view this as a 'one-off' effort or whether you might be wanting to do more of the same. These points do make a difference to any good advice. Right now, I'd suggest the following to you:

1. Post here one of the 'appalling' photos take with your present camera for some constructive and simple advice on how to improve the shot(s).

2. Buy a not-too-big guide to macro photography, read and then decide whether or not it's worth it to you to spend just a little money and perhaps rather more than a little time practicing to get good results.

3. For macro work, a 'table-top' tripod with a tilting head is not absolutely essential - but you will probably lose much time, heart and even temper if you don't have one. Cost, from under ten pounds.

4. In addition to a 'close-up' option, your camera needs either a self-timer shutter release option or else a remote control shutter release (electronic or mechanical). Without the availability of at least one of these vibration-free types of shutter release, you will be battling uphill again. The cheaper your tripod, the more essential this becomes.

A fair alternative, if this is to be strictly a one-off effort for you and the value of the stones makes expert photography really worthwhile, is to approach a local expert in macro-work and pay him to take the pics for you. If your effort is strictly a one-off, this alternative will save you time and money in the end.

In no circumstance would I suggest that you buy a digital microscope (nor even a 'digital eyepiece' camera) for thirty quid and hope to get good photos. The advice here is, simply, 'Don't!'.

Let's have a look at the results you are presently getting for more specific advice.


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 Post subject: Re: photographing gemstones for the internet
PostPosted: Thu Dec 02, 2010 2:55 pm 
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i am having problems transferring the photo to this webpage.It is giving me the following message:-
The image must be at least 0 pixels wide, 0 pixels high and at most 500 pixels wide and 500 pixels high. The submitted image is 640 pixels wide and 480 pixels high.
What do i need to do.


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 Post subject: Re: photographing gemstones for the internet
PostPosted: Thu Dec 02, 2010 3:25 pm 
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you need to resize it, you have 640X480 and the maximum allowed is 500X500 so the width is too big....
ciao
alberto

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 Post subject: Re: photographing gemstones for the internet
PostPosted: Thu Dec 02, 2010 6:50 pm 
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Phew,got it in the end.What do you think?It doesn't show much and the background it was taken on was actually white paper.I guess i need a fluorescent bulb in the table lamp for starters.By the way its a 2.4ct tourmaline.It looks like i need to be closer.I fixed the camera with a big lump of Blu Tack and used the self timer which i think helped.


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 Post subject: Re: photographing gemstones for the internet
PostPosted: Thu Dec 02, 2010 8:25 pm 
Well, I've been know to do a helluva sight worse :lol:

The basic problem you have is that you need more light and, ideally, to use two light sources. By moving these about you will have a lot of control over the effects created. Personally, I'd stick with incandescent light sources, your camera seems to compensate for it well enough and incandescent light always gives a slighty warmer and more welcoming effect. I think.

Your main light source seems to be above the stone. You could start by placing that second light needs to in front, pouring light into the stone through its table. You may find it helpful to keep that light close to the lens/stone axis and to turn the stone's table rather more towards the lens. As you play with the positions you should quickly see what works and what doesn't. Stretching a white handkerchief (or similar) between a lamp and the subject softens shadows if you need to do so.

Does your camera allow you manual control over your exposures? If it does, set the camera's EV to +1 and even try the effect at +2. You want that background to lighten and to see more colour coming out of that stone.

If your camera allows it *and* still gives you sufficient depth of field (range in sharp focus), try to get the lens a little closer to the stone. However this is *not* essential (sharp focus is). I don't know the megapixel count of your camera but it should be well in excess of what you need for good reproduction over the net and on a PC screen. Assuming that you have not cropped the shot you posted already, without reducing the lens/stone distance, you should easily be able to get x3 oreven more enlargement of the stone with no loss of definition that is usable for your purpose.

If you do not already have it, you will definitely benefit by using some photo-editing software. You can do a net search for one of the freeware/shareware packages and see how you go. At the least - and with very little manual-reading - this will let you crop and re-size your shots. With a bit more trial and error, it will also let you adjust brightness, contrast, colour balance and otherwise re-touch an image. This is in no way cheating (unless you remove/hide flaws in something you are trying to sell over the net!). Rather it simply replaces the darkroom processes that always were such an important part of expert creation of good images from emulsion film negatives.

I hope there is enough here for you to improve on the 'punch' of your image without having to spend any money, just a little time. Truly, your posted attempt is promising; you clearly have some feel for what you want to do. You just need to play with a few simple tricks to lift the result to become something really appealing and suited to your purpose. There are more simple tricks you can exploit, but you have enough here for the moment. Come back with another shot utilising such of those here as you have found useful and you may get a couple more :wink:


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 Post subject: Re: photographing gemstones for the internet
PostPosted: Fri Dec 03, 2010 1:58 pm 
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Location: Sweden
There are many mebers around here with a lot more skill than myself regarding shooting images of gemstones but I'll try to give you a couple of advice.

Regarding the light almost any sufficiently strong light can be used but make sure the light reaching the stone is diffused. A non diffused light will probably give to sharp and intense reflections.

If the light has much red in it images tend to become yellow. To get rid of this problem use the cameras white balance settings to compensate. If you use a white paper as background the white balance is right when the paper looks white in the image.

Hope this helps a bit. If you want to have more info, just use the search function and you will find lots of good information from some of the extremely talented photographersspending time on this forum.

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 Post subject: Re: photographing gemstones for the internet
PostPosted: Fri Dec 03, 2010 2:09 pm 
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Thanks very much for your advice and encouragement.I will play around with it a bit more and post another shot later.I am finding i'm having more fun doing this than i thought,my computer skills aren't great.It's just another learning curve so i shall persevere.Thanks again for your help


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 Post subject: Re: photographing gemstones for the internet
PostPosted: Fri Dec 03, 2010 2:24 pm 
crystalvoyager wrote:
Thanks very much for your advice and encouragement.I will play around with it a bit more and post another shot later.I am finding i'm having more fun doing this than i thought,my computer skills aren't great.It's just another learning curve so i shall persevere.Thanks again for your help


De nada. Conny is over-modest. Order a GO 2011 calendar and see just how good his shots are :D Consistent work of that quality has nothing to do with luck and much to do with talent backed by experience and attention to detail. IMO, he's the generally the best of those that show their stuff in this forum (in the 'inclusions' class anyway).


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 Post subject: Re: photographing gemstones for the internet
PostPosted: Fri Dec 03, 2010 10:36 pm 
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One easy technique for adjusting the white balance is to use "Levels" within Adobe Photoshop or Elements (and it's probably available in other photo editing software as well). Open your picture, then open the Levels window. You should see three little eyedropper shapes - click on the one on the right (which corresponds to white), then click on a spot in your photo that should be pure white (usually a specular reflection). That should bring it pretty close, although it's not as good as a proper white balance control on your camera. I tried it with your picture and cropped it (just two steps).

Image

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 Post subject: Re: photographing gemstones for the internet
PostPosted: Sat Dec 04, 2010 8:02 am 
Finewater Gems wrote:
One easy technique for adjusting the white balance is to use "Levels" within Adobe Photoshop or Elements (and it's probably available in other photo editing software as well). Open your picture, then open the Levels window. You should see three little eyedropper shapes - click on the one on the right (which corresponds to white), then click on a spot in your photo that should be pure white (usually a specular reflection). That should bring it pretty close, although it's not as good as a proper white balance control on your camera. I tried it with your picture and cropped it (just two steps).


Very good! =D> Look Mum, and no camera! :D Be nice too to double that image size again, for more punch, don't you think? Of course, you or I can't do that, starting from the reduced pixel count image posted in GO but the OP chould be able to do so, working from the original file. Even with the sharpness falling apart, when your copy is blown up x2 one starts to see some nice detail in the faceting - and no signs of abrasion or other damage.....
All we then will need is some more light coming out of that stone and with some lighter green highlights to bring it to life.

It will be interesting to see how CrystalVoyager gets on using a second lamp and different positionings. From what we've seen already, it looks like one nice stone. Just needs a little help to look its best, that's all. I think she'll be wearing a nice party frock before we're all through :D


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 Post subject: Re: photographing gemstones for the internet
PostPosted: Sat Dec 04, 2010 11:40 am 
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Ok heres my latest effort of the same stone.I have a white balance on my camera which i have increased but no manual exposure settings.I have also increased the resolution to its max of 3072 by 2304 which has allowed me to zoom in a bit without the image looking pixellated.I have used two table lamps one behind the stone and one to the side and i have diffused the light with a sheet of paper.I have some Olympus software with my camera which has allowed me to play around with the colour and tone etc,i think its pretty good but i don't really know what i'm doing with it,just trial and error at the moment.This stone is actually eye clean,but as you can see its covered in dust even after a clean with the stone cloth,maybe i need to try brushing it with a small paintbrush.Anyway what do you think?


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 Post subject: Re: photographing gemstones for the internet
PostPosted: Sat Dec 04, 2010 12:57 pm 
Well done! I'd be tempted to buy off that image, wouldn't you?

Last points:

1. The 'dust' you speak of. First, you need to be certain that it *is* dust and not surface damage to the stone. Looking at your last image, you certainly have at least one hair on the stone but of the other marks I'd guess that some are damage to the stone's surface. As you say, set up the shot again and gently brush the surface to remove detritus before you release the shutter. With practice, you can edit the image in software and remove most/all of these invisibly. However, for selling purposes, that would amount to mis-representation - so don't. That said, for all other purposes, it'd be a good thing to do.
2. You have a good make of camera and I'm sure that the editing software they provided you with will hold you for quite a while. I'm still using the Photoshop v.5.0 (Limited Edition) that was bundled with the Nikon camera I bought 12 years ago :D
3. One more lighting trick for you to play with when you find a moment and if you are finding that picturing a particular stone needs more help that your present lighting setup is giving.
- If the stone is transparent/ translucent, make yourself a light-box and use it as a stage. E.g. get a sturdy cardboard box at least of A4 width and length. Its depth needs to be enough to hold firmly and in a vertical position, a mini-Maglite torch supported with a big lump of Blu-tac, plasticine etc.
- Make a neat and small hole in the lid of the box, near the centre of the lid and fix the Maglite inside the box so that its beam will pass through the hole in the lid. If the box is not a clean matt white, take a sheet of matt white A4 paper and make a correspondingly placed hole in it and use this paper as a stage cover/backdrop.
- Place your external flood lights as you have found works for you. put stage and cover into place and rest the stone so that the pavilion facet on which it rests is immediately over the hole. Est voila! Your stone comes to life. Watch the size of that hole ... Start with no more than a large pin-hole. It's usually important that there is no light spillage to the sides the facet through which the light passes. If the effect is too powerful or looks weird, you can reduce it by placing one or more layers of white cloth over the head of the Maglight inside of the box.

Anyway, good luck with the sale!


Last edited by Kerensky on Sun Jan 02, 2011 9:52 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: photographing gemstones for the internet
PostPosted: Mon Dec 06, 2010 3:53 pm 
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Thanks for your advice everyone.A few more tweeks and i should be there


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