taking pictures of pearl jewellery

Yes, I understand now, Lisa. My outdoor shots of Melbourne are always bathed in a diffused surreal yellow glow. The light in Singapore (1 degree north of the Equator) seems harsher but there's a certain stark clarity to it though.

Amanda, you must get splendid little "Honey, I'm home" gifts. The brother is useless for any pearl or gem shopping in foreign cities. What a waste. Believe me I've tried and all I got were nuggety potato pearls when I educated him him in baroque.
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Oh so good to see that so many of you are fighting with the same problem! I am using a Canon PowerShot G10 camera with a 28-140mm wide zoom 14.7 mega pixel (Adeline I am also lost when it get' too technical :)) Using macro (little flower) and indirect light I took a few pictures.

First one: facing north, blank white paper underneath and white cardboard, daylight from the left (cloudy day), lights were on inside the studio. Macro setting, zooming out from full zoom.

Second picture: same as first.

Third picture: Facing east,daylight from behind) studio floor in the darkest corner I could find. Not using flash! pearls are on white paper

Last picture: Everything the same as third picture, just blocking out more light coming from behind with a sheet of paper.
I live in Darwin and the light is pretty harsh here. If I photograph outside the pearls have too much shine and you can't see the colour, inside with a window either side and I get a grey cast over the photos. I tried different places around my home and found the front porch, with attached carport, cuts the glare and brings out the colour. Things vary between wet season and dry season (angle of the sun) and density of cloud cover or no cloud at all. I took one batch outside up the back yard, very heavy cloud cover.. the photos were lovely but I had to be ready to grab everything and run when it started to rain. Sad thing about big dark grey clouds... they're usually about to pour.
I used to have a Fuji s9600, but I wore it out. Then I bought a Fuji HS20 about 6 months ago which I dropped and broke last week. SIGH. The hs20 photos were a bit paler than the 9600, but I need EASY... EXR mode. My head starts spinning when I try to learn how to do it all manually. I've ordered a Fuji XS-1 which has a bigger sensor, so we'll see how that goes and I vow to not leave it plugged into the computer (if you do and forget, pick up the camera and start to walk off with it, it flies out if your hand and smashes). I'm using a white damask supper cloth as a backdrop.
Wow, NZNP, I'm blown away by the pics from the dark corner of your studio! Also when I enlarged your white pearls I saw a nice bit of iridescent color popping out. Is that actually there? I feel I have to explain I only have a cellphone, not a computer for a while now.

Ummmm, I guess you're using NZ light? I only remark about it because so many of the Pearl-Guide posters jet all over the map, and I don't want to make assumptions. You could have more than one studio... Anyway I was impressed with your photo of smeagol, and for someone who wasn't happy with them, your pearl pics are workin'!

It's going to be real interesting finding out how important/ not important the northern exposure element will be, because it seems like you got better results from the eastern. How do you feel about the results, which pics are truest to life?

This is amazing, guys!

Cathy, you and Lucas- impressive!
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Ok, you guys are going to laugh, but digital cameras are amazing. On my old camera (nikkormat) I had to use screw on filters to adjust for light sources, and change big heavy lenses to get close-ups, and all that gear is heavy.
Lisa, not laughing, not one bit :) Remember the photojournalist-pilot brother swears the journos carry both the digital SLRs and the minimalist point-and-shoots.

When he gets back, will ask him for this year's update on the latest compact digital camera the pros are recommending for small-er budgets and light-er hands.

Belinda, love the various 'experimental' shots you've taken so far. Pics 2 and 3 speak to me as a consumer.

Keep it going, guys.
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Hi Adeline! Your contributions have been a real treat and important. I'm thinking for instance of your pictures at home and in Austria, aside from your creativity, and how new cameras accommodate ambient light. Maybe we'll find that northern exposure is important in non-tropical regions, but not important in tropical regions. Good stuff, I think; I'm learning a lot.

Now, it's interesting that NZNP's background appears gray instead of white; this must be where establishing color standards matters. White vs gray.

Amanda, can you tell us about the white vs gray? No pressure (just WOW us), only if you have time. Or the early posters can chime in, if you feel like it?

I have a Casio exilim ex-12 (which I have yet to print out the guide for, thank you for the link Alex) but I'll hate to part w the Nikkormat however obsolete, just feeling insecure.

Blaire's is a Nikon; I don't know how much she has to fiddle with it to get such great results, but she's got it down!

Hi Cathybear, I'm glad you chimed in, your photos would bankrupt me if I had a credit card, they're so luscious.

Well, I'm just so delighted with the contributions I had to say it. You all are great! There are many more folks to get a thanks out to, and some old posts to cover and showcase (? Right term?)
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A light box - under Show Us Your Pearls, Photo Tips by JMarcus...
Amanda, could you talk to us about the 'Gray Standard' and 'White Standard'? No pressure, just I haven't found the old post about them yet.

Or, if the first poster-gentleman could re-post or direct us to the first post?

Also, I noticed that this thread is on Other Stuff, which isn't available to casual readers. Does anyone think that's a problem? Ok, guess not. People have to join up to post pics, correct? so then Other Stuff will be available to them, thus instructions will be accessible.
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Effisk gives instructions for saving pics in a way to avoid Red Xs in--

Natural pearls->KIMA(tridacna) pearls->post 42

Instructions when saving a picture - make sure they're in RBG (that's Red Blue Green)
Main menu , Image > mode > RBG
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Hey Lisa,

Thanks for your nice comment about my abilities in taking pictures :)The last picture is actually the one that comes closest to what the pearls look like in real. And I must say that taking pictures on a cloudy day are showing the best results! I don't work with any other light source at the moment..(ummm that could be something to maybe play with as well with for better results) I also find that pearls like abalone are looking better on dark or black backgrounds.
You deserved the compliments. I appreciate all you can contribute!
I used to have an Canon Ixus 60 which I absolutely loved, and which was great for macro shots of flowers in the garden

But then deceided to upgrade to a Panasonic TZ7 'cause I wanted more zoom (big mistake). But I never got on with it, so it just ended up in a drawer (which I think is what happens with cameras if they don't work for you). So finally, I sold that (at a significant loss) and asked Blaire to help me look at some others

I have a new toy now (hence my bombarding everyone with pearl picis !). It's a Canon S100, which I am still finding my way around. It's a compact with minimal zoom, but has the full range of manual options, in addition to the standard auto mode, so allows the optiion of comparing one set of settings against an other (if you have the patience for that)

Trouble with pearls, is that they literally throw the light back at the camera..... so it's really hard to freeze-frame that on-going process.....

Still learning :eek:
This thread is really what I was looking for.
First my tips for Paris light, because, as it was said previously, light is not the same in different points so we have to make adaptations.
We have no light enought to make photos on cloudy days, so I take photos in shadow areas in sunny days. I noticed that the best colors and glow of pearls is got when shot in the shadow.
This leads to 2 problems :
1- there is still a shadow of the pearls on the photo, even shot at noon,
2 - unfortunatly the photos get a grey background .
Then, when trying to lighten the background (and stopping the correction at the moment when the photo is faithfull to what we see), the background still gets a light grey color.
And when putting the photos close to each other on a wall (on an e-shop, for exemple), the grey shades of backgrounds are slightly different ...

So I am really interested in learning about 'Grey Standard' and 'White Standard'?

Considering that problem, I tried a light imaging white box.
Ahrr, that was even worse (or I am a very bad user) :
1- the lights of the white box, even close to daylight -as they say- does not catch the glow and volume and delicate texture of pearls.
2 - instead of having a light spot on the pearls, there is a dark spot on pearls due to the opened door to put the camera in.

The positive point is that there is no shadows and that photos look completely clean around the objects shot.

Besides, I recently noticed that some shops upload photos with a grey background.

Here are my questions ; as a customer :
- do yo pay attention to a greyish background ?
- what's your opinon on over-photoshoped white photos?
- what do you expect from a professionnal seller as photos when it is question of buying ?
Some photos att. to illustrate.
Any other advice welcome.
THANKS a lot.


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in fact, for me, photos on Pearl Paradise are absolutly perfect...
white is white, black is black, pearls are perfectly neat all over the strand, there are no shadows, and background is clean,
what else ?
What matters most to me in a photo is color. Depth is an equivalent or close second. Gray backgrounds are fine, although white is the ultimate for making the pearls look like they're out having a party.

Or so I thought, until I compared your photos Anna. With your bracelets, the top photo with the slightly gray background is the better of the two. If I were looking at the pearls with the bright white background, I'd request another picture of them. That version makes me feel unsure of what the pearls would actually look like.

The earrings are tougher. I couldn't decide which version was the better.
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Thanks Lisa
That was usefull.
Top left is daylight, bottom left is white box.
Top right is white box, bottom right daylight.
Daylight brings a greyish background, white box changes pearls texture and appearance and reflects a black trapeze on the pearl surface ...
No to mention the white pearls which glow is very difficult to capture...
At the moment , I focus on "real" color and texture.
My aim is having, as you say : "pearls look like they're out having a party."
Thanks again, now I know where to go.
All other comments welcome.
Very interesting post, Anna. I'm torn between liking the pics where the colour is really amped up e.g. bottom left versus the truest colour that the eye can see in normal circumstances. If I can be greedy and if I'm paying more than 3 figures for the item, I'd probably hope to get pictures under both lighting conditions, that is, the prettiest face and angle and the regular one. Hope that helps and has not confused.