Macro Photography for Jewelry and 3D Art – Part 3: Post Production Manipulation and Salvation

So you have your camera and a decent lens, you set up the shot with good lighting, and you think you have it. You download the pictures to your computer and start going through them. UGH! It happens to all of us. The focus is good, but the color is not quite right or the piece is slightly overexposed. So do you start over, or do you use a little software magic?

Evaluate the picture. Is the focus good? Did you get the things that you need in the picture? Would it be easy to reshoot the pictures or would it be a major process? Are you on a deadline?

If the quality of the photo is good, except for a little bit of “off” color, or slight over exposure, I would go for the software. Now there are some truly amazing software packages out there, and some of them have serious price tags and require a considerable amount of training and skill. But there is another option- free online software packages. My personal favorite is

This package allows you to adjust exposure, shadows, highlights, color temperature, and more. If you want to make posters you can even add words to your picture. And of course you can crop your pictures.

rosary 1

This is the raw picture as it came from the camera. You upload it to picmonkey, hit the auto adjust button, crop the picture, and this is what you get.

rosary 3

Much better, but then use the sliders in the exposure area to adjust the highlights and exposure and the results are this.

rosary 4

Not bad for just a couple of buttons! My preference of course would be to get it right in the first place, but sometimes that just doesn’t happen that way. On a couple of occasions I had to finish putting something up on my website in the evening because I was leaving for an event in the morning. No time for retakes, especially not using natural light, but “software to the rescue” and the project was done in time.

Sometimes, you need some special effects – a collage for a facebook cover photo or a picture with blurred edges for a specific ad or poster. Software will do that for you, too. When I first learned to use a 35mm camera over 30 years ago, we did the blurred edges on a picture with a lens filter. The other option that we had was to use filters during the developing process. Neither of these techniques was as versatile as using a simple software program. Picmonkey allows you to decide how wide the blurry area will be and how opaque it will be. Your blurry area can be black, white, or colored. That blurriness will often allow you to effectively eliminate an unwanted item in your picture without over-cropping the picture.


Take this picture for example; it was taken to illustrate a “how to” article. If we crop it and use the software blurring filters this is what we can accomplish. It focuses the viewer’s attention on the item that you want them to see.

cropped and shaded bead

I hope that this blog gives you some ideas about how to salvage your less than perfect photos and turn them into stunning, illustrative images. Websites, blogs, and even books and brochures can benefit greatly from well thought out and presented photographs.

Macro Photography for Jewelry and 3D Art: Part 2- Understanding the Basics – Light


Lighting can make or break a photograph. Jewelry, or sculpture with a shiny finish, is particularly difficult to photograph because of its reflective surfaces and colors. Specular lighting (direct bright lights or flash) creates hard shadows. The stones in a jewelry setting will look OK, but the metal will wash out. The correct type of light source is a diffuse source. The interplay of shadow and shape creates texture, therefore the details must be preserved or the texture is lost.

The color of the light is also a consideration. For instance old fashioned fluorescent lights often give a yellow colored light. If you purchase lights be certain to understand what sort of light they will put out. I have had success with both daylight and pure white bulbs. Halogen lights are often color corrected. A lens filter can sometimes be used to correct for the type of light, but every piece of glass between the object and the digital recording sensors or film results in a degradation of image quality, so the use of filters should be kept to a minimum. Post-production color adjustment is another option, but I try to minimize my use of this technique. For professionals the best source of light has traditionally been a set of focusable Tungsten based lights. Most good quality digital cameras will have the option to change between types of light sources with the push of a button. In cameras using film you must change the type of film or add a lens filter. My personal preference is natural indirect light.

There are some really amazing lighting products on the market. They are often made of fabrics that are extremely heat resistant and the correct color so that the color of the piece being photographed will not be altered. Remember reflected light will be the color of what it is bouncing off. An assortment of dome tents and domes can be used to diffuse the light. If you choose a dome or dome tent without a bottom the item can be staged and then the dome can be lowered over it. The lights are placed on the outside of the tent or dome. The camera lens can be put into the dome through an opening for taking the photographs and some systems even have an additional opening so that an additional light can be used for accents.

Anyone that looks at my jewelry photos will see that I often use different color backgrounds. This is a personal preference and one that some people will not agree with. I do not do high-end glamor jewelry photography. The majority of my work is art jewelry or pieces of historical reproduction jewelry and dress accessories. The current trend that Etsy and some other sites have for washed out gray backgrounds does NOT suit a lot of the work that I do. If you are supplying pictures to an art show or publication you need to be aware of what type of photography they prefer. Do they want to see your necklace or sculpture in a natural setting, on or with a model, or on a totally neutral background.

I have had a couple of questions in the past year about shooting jewelry against a black background. Metal will reflect the color of whatever it is sitting on, so shooting it on black allows it to really pop. In addition, Photoshop and other programs allow you to remove the black background if you need to for a show requirement. With the background gone it gives you the opportunity to place your photo on a variety of backgrounds to see what the artistic effect would be.

I should mention that the picture of the flower hat pin at the beginning of this blog was taken with a cheapy camera at an art show. The big trick? The photo was taken inside a white tent, so the light was very even and allowed all the details of the flower to show clearly.

Next – Part 3: Post Production Manipulation and Salvation

Macro Photography for Jewelry and 3D Art – Part 1: Understanding the Basics – Lenses and Cameras


I deal with jewelry photography on almost a daily basis. Websites, Art Show applications, and advertising all require good photographs.

The most critical element in photography is the quality of the lens. Bad glass means a bad image. Photography is “writing with light”, and the lens is what does the writing. The type of photography that we need for close-ups of jewelry and small sculpture is called Macro photography. Many good lenses have a Macro setting, but these usually produce a picture of the item that is 1:4, that is ¼ of the actual size of the item. The ideal situation, which usually requires a specialized Macro lens, is 1:1. This allows the item to be blown up larger and retain more detail because more detail was recorded in the beginning of the process.

One of the most important points to remember is that a digital zoom is just cropping the image – it is not adding more information to the photo. An optical zoom actually adds more information to the image and provides the best image quality.

What about using my point and shoot camera that only has a built-in lens?

Well, cameras are divided into two types, based on their method of focusing: Single Lens Reflex Cameras (SLRs), and range finder cameras. SLRs focus directly through the actual lens of the camera, while range finder cameras focus through a small rangefinder. Either type of camera may be used for Macro photography, but it is much more difficult to accurately control the focus with a rangefinder. It is important to remember that the part of the picture that is in focus is shallower with Macro photography than with regular photography. This means that parts of a piece are going to be out of focus to some greater or lesser extent. The photo must therefore be focused in such a way that the most important parts of the piece are in focus. If you are working with a digital rangefinder camera you can check the focus of the photo on the screen or dump the photo to the computer to double-check the focus.

I have done many successful jewelry and nature photos with a cheapy point and shoot camera, but it is simply easier to be able to accurately adjust the focus to emphasize the portion of the object that you want emphasized.The picture of my Nikon at the top of the article was taken with my cheapy camera. It took a couple of tries to get a picture this good, and I do NOT consider it to be great, but I only have one good camera, so…

The type of film that was being used in your camera used to be a serious issue. It still is if you are using a very high end SLR or Medium Format Camera, but for most of us, our cameras are now digital. In the old days, when we were using film, the ability of the film to record detail was determined by what was called the “grain size”. The actual physical size of the clusters of molecules on the film set the limitations of how much information the film could record.

You may wonder how “fancy” a digital camera has to be in order to do good jewelry photographs. A 5 mega pixel camera is fine for up to an 8”x10” print or web work. You only need a camera with 5-8 mega pixels if you are doing pictures 11×17 and larger. Check the instructions that come with your camera. Even a lot of “point and shoot” cameras now have the ability to take different quality photos. The more information that your camera records, the more detail you will have in your photo.

Next time – Part 2 – How to illuminate your jewelry for the best pictures