How to Photograph Gemstones Using a Smartphone
Published on: November 18, 2018
Last updated: September 3, 2020
Over the few years, Picup Media has focused on smartphone jewelry photography. However, over the past few months, we’ve had an increasing number of questions and requests for gemstones. That’s why we’ve decided to start writing a series of how-to-guide for gemstone photography. The first how-to-guide in gemstones series will be on how to photograph gemstones using a smartphone.
Gemstone photography, similar to jewelry photography is very tricky. Many gemstones exhibit special properties such as iridescence in opals and pleochroism in tanzanites when interacting with light. Therefore it very difficult to accurately capture these special properties without the proper equipment. Unfortunately for many gemstone traders, they do not have access to the proper equipment which can only found at gemological laboratories.
Therefore, a more practical photography solution is required for gemstone traders. Not many gemstone traders are aware that they can take studio-quality images and videos using their smartphone with 100% color accuracy.
In this guide on how to photograph gemstones using a smartphone, we’ll teach you the tips and tricks in presenting your gemstones in the best possible light. Read through and follow the guide to find out how!
Choosing a background
Fundamentally, gemstone photography should not be different from any other product photography. The same concepts of product photography still apply. What that means is that the background chosen should not be distracting. We highly recommend only shooting on a white background as a primary photo for two reasons. Firstly, white backgrounds eliminate distractions, putting the full focus of the observer to the subject matter. This is extremely important when you are selling your gemstones online where 88% of online shoppers are influenced by the product images.
Secondly, a white background will not distort the color of gemstones. Using other colored backgrounds will lead to light being reflected into the gemstone which absorbs the color of the background. The last thing you want is a dispute after a transaction has been made about the color of a gemstone not matching the images supplied, due to the absorption of colors from a poor background choice.
To shoot against a white background, you can use a white piece of paper or a white vinyl backdrop. You just need to be aware of the shadows produced when shooting on a white background as they could be distracting to the viewer. This part will be covered in the lighting section below.
Lighting the most important aspect of gemstone photography as it will dictate the quality of your images and hence your ability to sell. The key to successful lighting is to use a consistent source of lighting. We recommend using diffused pure white lights sourced from LEDs and not fluorescent tubes for your lighting setup. LEDs produce very narrow wavelengths of light which can be controlled, compared to fluorescent tubes, where they produce very wide range wavelengths.
As a result, LEDs can produce very accurate colors to present your gemstones, while with fluorescent tubes, you’ll notice flickering and inconsistency. LEDs are generally more expensive, but relatively still affordable. Not to mention, LEDs have longer lifespans, which definitely adds up in the long run.
The next part is to diffuse your lighting. Diffusing your lighting eliminates harsh shadows and reflections in your gemstones. This can be achieved by placing diffusion paper or frosted plastic over your light source. In a DIY setup, you can use translucent white paper such as baking paper to diffuse your lights. The tricky part is that you will need to attach the diffusers yourself using clamps or tape. Otherwise, some lamps already come with in-built diffusers.
You can also use reflectors to reflect soft light into your gemstones to accentuate the facets so that they appear more professionally cut.
Another alternative is to use a light tent or a lightbox. A light tent is designed to create a soft lighting environment. The advantage is that light tents are relatively inexpensive and easy to set up; however, you will need to set up your own lights, and position them correctly which can be time-consuming.
A lightbox on the hand is designed specifically to create consistent lighting conditions for product photography. Lightboxes take the guesswork out of photography. Although there are many lightboxes out in the market at varying price points, very few will actually work with gemstones.
A lightbox made specifically for gemstones and jewelry is GemLightbox. GemLightbox is the perfect blend of LEDs and materials to create the perfect lighting condition for gemstones and jewelry. The lights are configured so that there is 100% color accuracy every single time you capture an image or video.
To use the GemLightbox for photographing gemstones, simply place your gemstone or gemstones on top of the photography table inside of GemLightbox. Remember to handle your gemstones with gloves or tweezer to avoid oil and dirt. Dirty gemstones will appear less desirable and may be considered as flaws. Once positioned correctly (usually from the front angle), place the front reflector on, position the phone using the supplied phone stand, and capture.
Make sure the HDR camera setting is turned off when you photograph your gemstones otherwise you will not capture against a white background.
If the gemstone is too small, we recommend using an attachable macro lens. Watch the video to see how easy it is to photograph gemstones using the GemLightbox
Your smartphone camera works just like any other camera. What that means is that your camera will capture the light passing through its lens at the moment the capture button is pressed. If there is any camera shake at the moment of capture, your images will be blurry. It’s important that your images remain sharp and crisp so that the facets in your gemstones are clearly defined and any inclusions are visible. Blurry images of your gemstones do not encourage positive buying behavior as customers will believe that the gemstones are of poor cut or that you are trying to hide from them the inclusions.
A simple triple or phone stand can be used as stabilizers for smartphone gemstone photography. They can be easily purchased from Amazon or eBay for rather cheaply. We recommend using a compact, adjustable phone stand that can be taken with you wherever you go.
And there you have it! How to photograph gemstones using a smartphone made easy. The next how-to guide in this gemstone photography series will be on how to capture 360-degree gemstone videos. Stay tuned!