How to take pictures of opal
It’s not so easy but here are some suggestions.
You can get some pretty good results just using your smart phone camera if you balance it between two piles of books with the subject in the middle and fluorescent light coming in from the side. you may need to take some of the blue out of the picture if you are familiar with graphics editing. (Dont use incandescent light because it has too much yellow in it for jewelry)
If you want to get a bit more professional, as repeated below, you will need a SLR camera which has macro facility. That means that the camera can be set to take close up images of things. There are a lot of different cameras that offer this option and if you own one already, by all means experiment with the one you already have before spending money.
I used the Fuji S7000 for a few years and from all accounts, the Fuji lenses in this camera, though not SLR, are very good for close up work. I paid around $700 for it but I believe you could get the same camera now for half the price. I then went to a Panasonic lumix DMC-LZ5 which cost around $500.
This camera did a good job but to get the best results its necessary to go for a single-lens reflex camera (SLR) with a specialized macro lens. You dont have to spend a lot of money on the body of the camera as long as the lens is good quality. 60 mm is a good size. anything above this will take you too far away from your work. Most of the big named modern digital cameras will do the job.
Whether you are just taking a shot of the opal stone itself or photographing opal earrings, opal pendants, opal rings and the like, each item holds its own challenge in getting the lighting and the clarity just right. Then there are rough opals, specimen opal, and special collector opals. The thickness of the opal stone. The distance that the opal stone is from the background. The background that the opal is sitting on.
All these factors have to be taken into consideration if we are to complete an opal image that will stand up to the best in quality. Your choice of background color is important. Opal makes it’s own color statement and does not require more colors to make it stand out. My opinion is that adding more color to the background of a shot really takes away from the stone itself.
So then, opal or opals if you are photographing a bunch at once need to be on either a white or black background. Here are some camera setting suggestions to help you with your efforts at opal photography .
Camera Settings for Opal
Do some in-depth research into the book you got with your camera if you still have it. If you don’t, just type the model number into Google and in most cases you will find the guide online. Pay particular attention to how the camera controls the amount of light on the subject. One big mistake a lot of opal photographers make is to give the job too much light and this has the effect of blasting away the color from the stone.
So keep the light under control. Choice of tripod is also important. You need a small one but make sure it’s capable of handling the weight of your camera because some of the more professional cameras have a pretty heavy lens and this can make the camera tilt over. Some have made up their own holding devices but you have to be good at inventing things to achieve this. Camera shops have some nice little tripods nowadays that have flexible legs.
One idea for a flexible tripod is available in Australia from Cameras Direct
Unset stones and Jewelry Shutter speeds
Rings are another challenge. Keep in mind that there is a difference between photographing an opal stone, or piece of rough opal and a ring which stands up away from the base. An opal stone lying flat is pretty straight forward but a ring is a real challenge. How do you get the thing to stand up by itself anyway without putting it in some sort of holder which looks takky?
The idea is to buy some Plasticine or some sort of tack that will hold the ring at its base. Or you can try taking the shot of the opal ring on someone’s finger as illustrated below. Then you have to pay attention to the ‘f’-stop settings on your camera so that you can get a good depth of field. Check your book again for advice on the control of shutter speeds and lenses and experiment with those.
For greater depth of field you have to increase the f-stop as far as your camera is able. This will keep the ring in focus from the top to the bottom of the band. If you are just focusing on the stone at the top, the main thing is to keep that in focus which means the f-stop does not have to be large. The larger the f-stop the easier it is to get bad focus because the lens is open for a longer period and any shaking at all will ruin the focus.
A couple of shots of a black opal taken on the finger and separately using ‘blue tack’ or whatever its called in your country. (Just ask your office supplies for the goo that holds paper onto a wall)
With opal, dark stones look better on a white background. White, pale, and crystal opal looks better on a black background so use an old piece of black velvet or a sheet of black paper. To help the lens with this dramatic contrast you can put a few pieces of white paper near the subject far enough away so that its easy to edit them out later.
Once the pics have been taken you will need to clean them up and crop the image to size. This has to be done in a graphics program such as Photoshop or perhaps the windows based programs that come free with your windows kit.
If you are not familiar with cropping or reducing the size of a picture, just send us your email address in the live chat bottom right of this page or leave it in the blog at the bottom. You can also contact us here We will respond and you can attach just ONE raw picture and we will clean it up for you. The main thing that you need to do is make sure its got the right amount of light (not too much or too little) and that its in focus.
If you follow even some of these suggestions and experiment, your results at opal photography will be well rewarded.