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Macro Lens for Jewelry Photography.

Jacob Kim , Nov 23, 2009; 05:53 p.m.

Hi everyone.
Currently have: Canon EOS Rebel Xsi with EFS 18-55 mm lens.
I need to take rhinestone jewelry picture as shown in the picture but I am not very satisfied with the clarity of the jewelry.
I need to clearly see each stones of the jewelry.
Following were the settings:
Shutter speed: 1/64 sec
Aperture: F/5.7
ISO: 400
I am thinking of buying a macro lens hoping that I could get a better picture but wanted get some opinions on this before I make my $$$$ purchase.
I read from other posts that 100 mm f/2.8 Macro lens was a good lens to take jewelry pictures. Is there any other lens that would do the job for less $$$?
Thank you!


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Matt Laur , Nov 23, 2009; 06:14 p.m.

How was your shot lit? Were you on a tripod? That's going to make more of a difference than the lens, once you're stopped down pretty well - especially if you're shooting larger pieces like that, and not small things like individual rings. Try to get closer to f/8 or f/11, and use a rock-solid tripod.

Ben Goren , Nov 23, 2009; 06:44 p.m.


What Matt wrote. You filled the frame (actually, you cut the base off the stand, which is a bit distracting), so you don’t need to get any closer.

As always, “It’s all about the light.” And it’s the light that’ll make or break this shot. I’ve never shot jewelry, so I won’t offer any suggestions other than to do something other than what you did.



Dan M , Nov 23, 2009; 06:58 p.m.

I agree with Matt and Ben. Beyond their suggestions, a macro lens will ONLY help if you need to get much closer than you are in this shot--closer than your current lens will focus.

Ron Kunzelman , Nov 23, 2009; 07:51 p.m.

Bright lighting of rhinestones would seem essential. Too bad the stand is light grey; can you get one in a contrasting color? Last thought, if you want to include the stand in the photo, you might want to use portrait orientation, by rotating either the camera or the subject 90 degrees.

Matt Laur , Nov 23, 2009; 08:16 p.m.

I'm not so sure that stand is light grey. If the camera's meter is allowed to guess how to expose the scene in question, it would always default to treating that entire white area as 18% grey. That's why you always go with a manual exposure when shooting a scene like this. The camera can't read your mind, and doesn't know if it's seeing white, charcoal, light greay, or anywhere inbetween. You have to tell it how to shoot the scene. As shown, it's certainly underexposed.

Jamie Robertson , Nov 23, 2009; 08:41 p.m.

Taking photos of that piece of jewellery against a white background is asking for trouble in my opinion. I'm not saying it's impossible, it just makes it so much harder to get the light right so that the background is bright white and the stones and silver aren't burnt out. I agree with the others on here that you don't need a macro lens. You need to get the lighting right. If possible, try a bolder background such as a deep crimson velour which will set the piece off beautifully and give you far less trouble balancing the exposure.

Like others have said, a macro will merely help you get closer, that's all. If you plan on photographing small items like rings and earrings then a macro would be useful but for jewellery like your example you don't need a macro lens.

Ted Tahquechi , Nov 23, 2009; 11:06 p.m.

I agree with all the comments here, but I would add a couple things. (My wife makes Jewelry and I take pictures for her and I have to say I have never had more trouble with any subject than jewelry; practice and experimentaion is the key.)
1. Try a contrasting stand, you might like the results more.
2. If your going hand held try a tripod.
3. Manual setting for the win.
4. What kind of lighting setup are you using? I often use a cube to soften the incoming light, this helps a lot. Practice with your lights and see what works the best with your setup.
Hope this helps!
Ted Tahquechi

JDM von Weinberg , Nov 23, 2009; 11:20 p.m.

Yes, as the others say, this (your example) is not an area for a true "macro" lens, but simply a place where you need close focusing . This is the sort of application where the so-called "macro" function of lenses like the EF-S 17-85mm, the EF 24-105, or other zoom "macro" will work quite well. A real macro would be useful for things like earrings, perhaps. The main advantage of a real macro would be the lack of distortion (barrel or pincushion) and greater sharpness. Of course, they are primes, so you have only the one focal length to work with. I should not think that the distortion problem would be very noticeable in jewelry, however. It is, of course, relatively easy to fix in post-processing, in any case.
Sharpness can be improved by using a tripod, if you didn't. Your little kit lens can do this fine, but of course, there are more "advanced" lenses and you could spend anywhere from a couple of hundred to a couple of thousand dollars improving the lens, but it may not be necessary.

As for the color of the background in this case, here's a quick and dirty reworking of the tonal levels just as an example, of how different it can look depending on what is done after the image is captured. (If you put in a caption as well as sizing the image to a max of 700 pixels, it will display in-line)

You image massaged a little in Adobe Camera Raw

Jamie Robertson , Nov 24, 2009; 01:53 a.m.

JDM, if that's massaging a photo, remind me never to ask you to massage my back. I would end up needing surgery ;-)

A slightly more subtle approach in Photoshop would give the following result without blowing the highlights to hell:

2 minutes in PS

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