How do I use a Macro Lens for Jewelry Photography?

by BlackNinja101   Last Updated May 02, 2017 09:18 AM

I've been looking to upgrade the camera I use at my job. Thinking of getting the Sony a6000. We list things on ebay to sell, and quite frankly I just don't like the lightbox, nor the camera we currently have.

We're using a Nikon D3100, and I forgot the name of the Macro Lens.

Basically, I want to have my own personal camera, that's better than the D3100, but one I can use at the job as well for when we photograph our jewelry.

I do mainly macro photography in the lightbox, and I'm working on my own setup with better lighting and other things to improve our photos. I just ordered an external flash for the D3100 so I can over expose the background to get a nice white one with the pics when I finish my own setup as well, but I digress lol.

I need suggestions for what I should look for in a good macro lens to use when I photograph jewelry. I mainly work with rings, but I also do pictures of pendants/charms, necklaces, bracelets, watches, and other related items too.

Right now I'm considering the SEL30M35. But I haven't bought anything yet (Including the new camera)

To get a better idea of the type of photos that I'm producing with the Nikon, you can check these out: (I don't have the stats for the Aperture, Shutter Speed, ISO, etc)

Ring 1 Ring 2 Ring 3 Ring 4

You can see that when you're 100% zoomed in, things aren't that detailed. Don't get me wrong I've had some nice shots. But that ugly grey background usually says otherwise. I use different backdrops in the cases when the background looks too ugly. I take all my pics handheld, Manual Mode, the focusing is Auto Manual (focuses when I hold the shutter release halfway) and when I'm at the lightbox the rings are only about 5 - 8 inches away, unless I bring them closer to get detailed diamond shots. (Which, I might add, aren't too good.)

I want to get some photos as close to these as possible: enter image description here enter image description here enter image description here enter image description here enter image description here

I'm still an amateur, and I'm still learning, but I really want to take better photos. I'd love for them to be sharp and really detailed on most parts of the subject. That and seeing the photos on an LCD screen with the a6000 before actually snapping them to have a look would save me a lot of time.

Merging some of the macro shots to get everything in focus (I think its called focus stacking), and to use focus peaking on the new camera would probably help me a lot more as well. That and a lot better lighting than the lightbox gives off.

Heck, maybe these photos are actually good and I'm just too picky lol, idk.

Anyway, what do you guys think? Would the SEL30M35 macro lens be a good lens for my needs with the jewelry photography I'm trying to do? I understand some lenses aren't compatible with the auto focus or something like that on the a6000 (maybe the E-mount?). How can I be sure they're compatible? Or if I need an adapter, can you suggest one as well?

Answers 3

My Answer maybe a little off topic as I am not recommending a Macro Lens.

The challenges and issues you are encountering, are not as a result of the camera equipment you mention, but more to do with the two points listed below which will help in improving your Jewellery Macro shots.

1.Aperture size.

Due to the close proximity of the Lens and subject, in order to ensure maximum depth of field and sharpness, many photographers tend to use the smallest Aperture possible. However, this is not always the best option.

The smaller the aperture, the greater the diffraction. in other words, light dispersion is greater as the aperture gets smaller and this dispersion is more noticeable when photographing extremely small objects such as Jewellery. Photographing larger areas, this diffraction is not as noticeable due to the smaller aperture often improving on sharpness by reducing lens aberrations.

A good experiment is to take a test shot with f/8 and then again with f/16 and you will notice that due to the increased diffraction, the jewellery with the f/16 has already become mushy. The light rays travelling through the aperture, have moved out of phase and started to interfere with each other and therefore, reduced the edge definition of the stones.

To get all round sharpness while using a larger aperture such as f/8, you will need to learn the image focus stacking techniques. Why would a photographer do focus stacking?

2. Lighting

A two or three light (continuos or strobe) with a light box is a fairly common lighting setup that is used for Jewellery and one that is also a fairly successful one.

When doing multiple jewellery shots, I tend to use a shiny white bathroom tile as the background. Sometimes, I place the object straight on the tile and sometimes, hang it a few inches in front of it.

I find this provides just the right amount of reflected light, plus it also provides a near perfect white background. Any grey is easily adjusted with an increase in exposure compensation.

The other most important aspect of ensuring that the image has a 3D effect is to introduce Back Flags; tiny little black cards that reflect back into the jewellery and provide the contour required for that catalogue look.

Abdul Quraishi
Abdul Quraishi
November 15, 2015 11:47 AM

You need to improve your Macro shooting technique before you consider a new camera and lens. Unless you learn the basics of Macro, your new camera and lens will give the same disappointing results that you have now.

1) You need to shoot with a tripod. 2) You need to focus manually. 3) You need more light and better control of your light. 4) You need to stop down to a smaller aperture (bigger number) like f/11 or f/16 in order to get better depth of field. Focus stacking is great but not really required for the kind of photos you want.

Mike Sowsun
Mike Sowsun
November 15, 2015 14:51 PM

A potential problem with Sony cameras like the Sony a6000 are the ARW-type raw files. They are compressed in a slightly lossy way that will negatively affect extremely high contrast features in an image. Such features may well be important to get right in jewelry photography. E.g. suppose that right in between a bright area and a less bright area there exist features at some intermediary brightness level along the narrow boundary that are important to display correctly. What then happens with ARW compression is that these features can vanish completely due to posterization.

It's then not a matter of over or underexposure that you can easily deal with using HDR stacking methods, as both the bright and the dark area can still be exposed correctly. To deal with the problem you need to change the lighting so that the high contrast band is changed into a lower contrast band and then use that image to calculate the correct brightness profile that you should have gotten in the original image.

Count Iblis
Count Iblis
November 15, 2015 19:43 PM

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