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Photography of gems or glass

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#1 dbvanhorn



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Posted 04 January 2017 - 02:02 AM

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Can anyone point me to quality articles/books on photographing glass and gems?

I know it's difficult, and I have some additional complications to deal with, but for now I'm just looking to get the "simple" part right.A lot of what I'm working with is Swarovski crystal, which has very bright and sharp facets, unlike the imitations which I can tell apart at arms length. 


I have an Alpha 58 with the kit lens, the 55-200 zoom, and a Tamron 90mm macro.

I've used all three with varying results.I feel like I'm missing something, but I'm not sure what it is.That special something..


I'm using four 75W Daylight LED lamps for general illumination.

I shoot at ISO 100 in manual.Exposure is under control.

I use a black velvet background behind the subject, which works pretty well except for the white cat.Lint rollers at hand.

I've tried various dodges for softening the light, but as yet I haven't tried anything to hide me or the camera from the front side of the subject.


Focus is good, I use the focus assistant and the focus zoom, with an external 7" monitor.


I've calibrated my monitor with a Colormunki Smile.


Something's still missing, they always look kind of "dead".If I knew what it was, I could probably fix it.

#2 KMG


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Posted 04 January 2017 - 12:11 PM

The definitive guide in my opinion is: Light Science & Magic: An Introduction to Photographic Lighting

https://www.amazon.c...ience and magic


Check out the Flickr group for examples from readers using the techniques in the book https://www.flickr.c...97717@N00/pool/

#3 dbvanhorn



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Posted 04 January 2017 - 01:46 PM

My copy arrives tomorrow.Maybe that will uncover what's missing.

#4 addicted2light


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Posted 07 January 2017 - 08:58 AM

From what I've seen, for this kind of highly reflective surfaces the only "easy" solution is a light tent (plus several flash lights, obviously).


Stick just the nose of your lens through the aperture of the tent, nothing more; and even then you might have to 'shop some reflection of the lens out of one of the reflective surfaces.




“You cannot depend on your eyes if your imagination is out of focus” Mark Twain


#5 dbvanhorn



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Posted 07 January 2017 - 05:38 PM

My copy of Light, Science and Magic is here, and I'm really impressed with the book.A fair bit of it is reminding me of things I learned in raytracing but had forgotten to apply to photography.


So I have a follow up question:With a Tamron 90mm macro lens, what is my field of view on an A58?

I'm sure there's a way to calculate this for various distances, but I don't yet know that.

#6 Dollanganger


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Posted 11 January 2017 - 05:37 PM

All your settings sound fine. It may come down to post editing. Usually I'd boost the color saturation for such photos.


Have you experimented with HDR? Try out some different levels and see what the results are.

#7 Username


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Posted 14 January 2017 - 02:33 AM


With a Tamron 90mm macro lens,

what is my field of view on an A58?



Most macro lenses have the repro

ratios marked on the lens exterior.  

A58 sensor size is approximately  

16x24mm. Frinstintz FoV is 16x24

at 1:1, 32x48 at 1:2 etc.  


Hopefully the book will be useful 

but the whole ball of wax is simple 

to state, tho less simple to execute: 


You are NOT shooting the subject  

as a diffuse reflective object, as you 

would be with a gross specimen or 

a postage stamp. Since you are not  

shooting the object, then WHAT are 

you shooting ? 


You are shooting the environment 

nearby to the object, and you are 

shooting that as seen thru the object 

or seen by reflection in the surface 

of the object.  


The above is 95% true. About 5% of 

the image shows details of the actual

object, and those details are mainly 

just the specularly highlighted edges

of the facets of the glass or gem. 


There no way here to describe all the 

tricks of the trade ... thaz in your new 

book [hopefully]. But keep foremost 

in your mind at all times the basic idea 

that you don't shoot the object ! You 

shoot the environment using the object 

as a prism or mirror [or both] that will 

deliver you a modified view of the local 



So it should be plain that your main job 

is building an environment. A light tent 

which works well for polished metals is 

not really great for prisms and mirrors. 

White flats with gaps between them and 

with the occasional well-placed colored 

shape[s] added onto them will create a 

great environment. In case it's not too 

obvious here, please note that since the 

environment is the subject, you mostly 

light the environment, not the glassware 

or gem stones. 


Your most important hardware challenge 

is about how to support and position the 

panels that build the environment, and 

also aiming the lights to hit only where 

you need them. IOW, a bunch of stands 

and booms [home made is cool] is waaay 

more important than all the crap you can  

buy from Sony, Zeiss, et al :-) 

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