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Shooting jewelry items

edited February 2015 Posted in » Nikon D3200 Forum
It's great to find you as I am NOT a photographer! Please, any tips on shooting my jewelry with my D3200 would be appreciated.

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  • edited February 2015
    Design a cheat card on shooting jewelry items please!
  • edited February 2015
    This subject has come up a few times before. Although I do not have any particular expertise in jewelry, many of the basic precepts of macro photography will apply. Many of the same rules would apply as those involving food and other products, except that you may want to isolate your product more, keep more of it in sharp focus, and will be fighting reflected light more.

    You might look down into the older posts and see what has been discussed before. I cannot now remember whether some of the jewelry shooters have posted back with results.

    To begin with, the D3200 kit lens is pretty decent at close work, and though not a true "macro" in range it gets close enough for most jewelry. You will probably need to put it on a tripod, turn off VR, and may have to focus manually. Live view focusing will help. The kit lens is not happy to focus manually, but it can be done. Its focus "throw" is very short, and you must be very delicate. AF might work better if you can aim it right. Keep to single point AF. At its best, the D3200 lens will provide as much sharpness as the sensor can handle, so if your object is in its focal range and you can get good focus, you may need no other. The main thing you will gain with a true macro lens, other than very close range and reduced distortion, is improved manual focusing precision. Keep trying. If you're manually focusing, use the magnified live view and keep your movements very very small.

    Depth of field at close distances is very shallow. Shoot as close to 90 degrees as aesthetic considerations allow. Smaller apertures will help, but above about f/11 you will begin to lose some clarity to diffraction and the overall image will soften. You will have to decide for yourself how much overall softness you can accept in return for deeper depth of field. If you can keep aperture around f/8-11 you will have the best compromise between DOF and diffraction.

    Depth of field is greater behind the focus point than in front of it. A general (very general) rule of thumb is to try to focus about 1/3 into your field. In other words, error a little on the close side.

    Lighting will be your biggest challenge. Many product photographers invest heavily in lights and color-free platforms for this. A browse on the net may help to see what is out there. In general, though, you want lots of light and probably multiple sources to cut down on shadow, but the light must be fairly soft unless you are seeking reflection. On camera flash will put out plenty of light, but cast terrible shadows and harsh reflections. At close distances the lens may itself cast a shadow.

    You can shoot in dim light too if you have a tripod, but digital noise will be less if you can keep your ISO low; it's best if your image is bright. A bright image darkened will be quieter than a dark image brightened.

    Experiment with different zoom lengths. Depth of field depends on three factors: aperture, focal length and distance. Those last two can pretty much cancel each other out, but you may find a sweet spot. You will also find that the apparent perspective changes. This makes little difference if you shoot an object from a straight-on 90 degrees, but a great deal of difference as you lower the angle. Wide angles will exaggerate perspective making near objects much larger. Telephoto will compress perspective, making all objects appear closer to the same size. Normal (35 mm) perspective will look most natural. Again, depending on what compromises work best, consider increasing distance (for better depth of field) and then cropping the image back down to an apparent shorter distance. If you have enough pixels to spare, cropping will give you the appearance of a longer lens without the DOF penalty.

    Getting colors natural will be another challenge, depending on the light. You will gain a great deal by shooting in RAW mode, which will allow you to use programs like View NX2 or Capture NX-D (both free from Nikon) to fine tune white balance and camera control (color set).

    This is all assuming you want to maximize depth of field. If you want your object to fade into blur at the extreme edges, open up your lens and lengthen your focal length.

    If you want absolutely maximum depth of field, you could of course go truly crazy and get a tilting lens. Nikon makes three different lengths of shift/tilt macro lenses. They're manual focus, heavy and clumsy to use, and far from point and shoot, but the tilt can increase depth of field dramatically. They're beautifully made, so sharp they'll make your eyes bleed, and shockingly expensive.
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