Guide to 360 Diamond Photography
For those selling diamonds in the online space, 360 Diamond Photography and Videos are a great way to enhance visual communication. Traditionally the use of a grading report and a still image of the stone was customary to supplement an online diamond listing. But with the emergence of new imaging technologies sellers can provide potential buyers with an enhanced viewing experience – one that will help to secure confidence.
Major Diamond Trading Portals, including IDEX, RapNet and Polygon all support the ability for sellers to upload 360 Diamond Photography and Videos. This has become the norm on these platforms and those who chose not to provide interactive 360 diamond images are likely losing sales as a result.
This article will pose as a guide to 360 Diamond Photography and discuss important variables and features when shooting diamond and gemstone photography.
360 Diamond Photography Tutorial Video
Introduction to 360 Diamond Photography
Diamond Photography can be challenging, this holds especially true when creating a series of images over a 360 rotation (to create 360 Diamond Photography) as many more variables are introduced when the diamonds starts rotating. The key considerations we will look at when discussing 360 Diamond Photography are:
- Camera Settings
- Shooting 360 Diamond Photography
- Camera Angle
Choosing the Right Camera:
While this is an important consideration, its not as critical as selecting the right lens. Based on customer feedback, we often hear customers spend thousands of dollars on cameras, purchasing the latest and greatest full frame camera from Canon, Nikon or Sony however still run into the same image quality issues. While these higher end cameras have great optics, based on our tests, there is virtually no difference in image quality between these high end $3,000 cameras vs. sub $1,000 cameras. If you already own a DSLR or Mirrorless camera, you are likely set. If you don’t own a professional grade camera, we would suggest you consider something like a Canon Rebel T7, Canon Rebel SL3 or something in their entry level mirrorless range like the Canon EOS M50 camera. If only shooting diamonds, there is no need to purchase the camera with the lens included in the kit (typically 18-55mm lens with Canon DSLR and Canon EF-M 15-45mm with Canon Mirrorless unless you plan to use the camera for other types of photography (more info on lens suggestion below).
Now, an important consideration when choosing a camera will be the Megapixels – the higher the megapixels available on the camera, the higher resolution the image output. This holds especially important when shooting macro photography (more specifically diamond photography) as there will likely be a lot of cropping down on the diamond in post-production image editing after shooting. A good rule of thumb for 360 diamond photography is a camera with ~24 megapixels. At this range, users should be able to move camera back from subject to create a sharp image (not requiring any focus stacking) at greater than 1000 x 1000 pixels.
360 Diamond Photography: What Lens?
The lens is a critical piece of the puzzle for shooting 360 Diamond Photography. As diamonds are small, users will want to consider a Macro Lens. For those unfamiliar, a Macro lens is designed specifically for shooting small subjects (ex. diamonds and gemstones) and is optimized to focus on subjects that are extremely close to the camera.
When considering a Macro Lens, first consider (if you already own a camera) your camera brand and what lenses are compatible with your camera. You will often see a few different options. For example, Canon cameras has a variety of Macro lenses available that include:
- Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM: (this is the L series version (denoted by L in the title. This is a higher end version of the next lens listed and includes Image Stabilization (denoted by IS in the title)
- Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM: The non L version of Canon 100mm Macro Lens
- Canon EF-S 60mm f/2.8 Macro USM: Similar to the lens above however a 60mm focal range instead of 100mm
- Canon EF-S 35mm f/2.8 IS Macro USM: Similar to the lens above however a 60mm focal length (rather than 100mm).
There is also many 3rd party manufacturers who make Macro Lens for Canon cameras. For example, the manufacturer Tamron makes a great Macro lens option for Canon cameras: Tamron SP 90mm f/2.8 Di VC USD Macro
As you can imagine, it can get quite confusing for those with little knowledge of photography. And this article would be 20 pages long if we decided to dive into Macro lens options for every camera manufacture.
A couple key points and takeaways here when considering what lens to purchase for 360 Diamond Photography:
- Image Stabilization is NOT Required: You will notice Macro lenses with image stabilization are quite a bit more expensive. Considering when shooting 360 Diamond Photography, you will be using a tripod, there is no need to get a macro lens with image stabilization (or if you have already invested in a lens with image stabilization, you will want to disable this functionality when shooting on a tripod)
- The Focal Length: Macro lenses are available in many different focal lengths as their usage varies (ex. think if shooting insects outside where you cant get too close to the subject). The higher the focal length number (ex. 100mm vs 60mm), the further back you can be from your subject. In a controlled shooting environment you will ave the ability to get your camera close up to the subject, so the focal length should not be an important consideration either.
The bottom line is to find a good macro lens that can product sharp images. And based the camera you are shooting with, you can easily find great info using a Google search as to what lens might be best. Google search query: ‘Best Macro lens for <BRAND> camera’ – enter your camera brand in the <BRAND> field.
An important, yet often overlooked investment, is a good quality solid tripod. We have seen many times users shooting diamonds/macro photography when using a poor quality tripod and vibrations or camera shake occurring during shooting. We suggest a sturdy aluminum tripod that has a 360 degree ball head. Brands to consider on the high end include Manfrotto, Oben and Vanguard. There is also some lower cost hiqh quality options on Amazon (see here).
To make camera positioning easier, tripods heads can include some additional functionality beyond the trhe traditional ball head. The first option would be a tripod head with easy adjustment levers. These can help users more easily achieve correct shooting angles. An example of this option would be the Manfrotto MHXPRO-3W head. Taking things to the next level, Geared Tripod Heads allow for simple micro movements on different axis. See here for additional info. If considering a Geared Tripod head, take a look at Manfrotto MHXPRO-3WG.
Lighting has got to be the 2nd most important consideration for 360 Diamond Photography after lens. The first rule of thumb regarding lighting, considering Diamonds are very reflective and quality can be diminished when external lighting contaminates the diamond, is to photograph your diamonds using an enclosed environment. This can be in the form of a light box or something similar. It is important to completely enclose the shooting area – including the front of the lighting studio where the camera shoots through (simply cut out small hole or area for camera to see through).
Diamonds will reflect a non-textured white and/or grey material best, so it is suggested this be the color on the inside walls of the lighting studio. Another option here would be to use fill cards – that are dark cards on either side of the stone – these can be used to help add some additional contrast when shooting the diamond in 360.
The type of lighting also is a critical component. We have tested with various photography lights and find daylight balanced LED lights are the best option – and if an option, High CRI LED bulbs (these will ensure for color accuracy). We also find a combination of diffused LED lights (ex. think of a white sheet of paper covering an LED strip to soften the light) and a single non-diffused LED light (shining down at ~45-degree angle on the diamond) provides a good balance of soft and harsh lighting. The harsh lighting (non-diffused LED) provided used in moderation, will help to create additional sharpness on the facets of the stone.
It goes without saying, in no matter what type of photography, you need to optimize camera settings for the lighting environment. We always suggest to shoot at whatever camera settings will maximize color accuracy – and this holds true in 360 Diamond Photography. Users will want to shoot with their camera in ‘Manual’ mode – which will give full control over all camera settings and also ensure for the exposure staying consistent from shot to shot. When using manual mode, users will have control over: Aperture, Shutter Speed, White Balance and ISO. These are explained, along with suggestions, as follows:
- ISO – this feature is available on cameras for those who shoot handheld in low light situations. The only thing you will need to know here is, use the lowest ISO value possible (this is typically a value of 100).
- White Balance – It is important to have your cameras white balance matching your lighting environment. In order to do so, we suggest setting a custom white balance. This is done directly on your camera – here is a video tutorial showing how to set the custom white balance on a Canon camera.
- Aperture: This will be a very important consideration. Without diving too deep into depth of field and lens diffraction, the Aperture will be responsible for depth of field. That is the amount of the diamond that will be in focus from front to back. The higher the Aperture value, the deeper the depth of field. However, this is a double edge sword as you will lose clarity (sharpness) at higher aperture values (see video explainer here). Your lens will have a sweet spot – that is an aperture value that will be optimal for sharpness. This value for the Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM we use is 13. So an aperture value at or about 13 should be good.
- Shutter Speed: This will be your variable and will largely be dependent on your lighting. Play with these values until you achieve an optimal shutter peed that displays accurate color. Considering we will suggest to use a stop motion photography turntable (turn, stop, snap), a slow shutter speed will be ok.
When shooting 360 Diamond Photography, you will want to use set and fix a focal point for the entire 360 image set. You can do this fairly easily by switching your camera lens into manual focus mode.
Other important considerations:
- Mirror Slap: In DSLR cameras you may experience Mirror Slap – that is a vibration from the camera when the mirror flips up so light can hit the camera sensor. This can cause a blurry image. If your camera has Live View, enable Live View when shooting as this can help eliminate Mirror Slap (or Mirror Lock up Mode). Shutter Shock is similar to Mirror Slap however only apparent in Mirrorless cameras. This is caused by the Shutter opening and causing vibrations. A good quality tripod can help eliminate this and/or trying different shutter speed values.
- Lens Creep: When shooting with a camera at a downward angle, lenses may slip – that is slowly protrude out. This can cause an issue when shooting diamonds as a camera is often pointed down at ~43-degree angle. Using a Lens Creep Band can prevent this.
Shooting 360 Diamond Photography:
In order to create hearts and arrows effect (like we see in this 360 Diamond Photography example), users need to shoot at a 43-degree angle downward on the stone
360 Diamond Photography Turntable:
There are many 360 Photography Turntable options for shooting diamonds and gemstones. These range from standard lazy susans that require manual positioning to each angle to motorized, continuous spin turntables, to computer controlled 360 product photography turntables that automate the 360 diamond photography workflow in a turn, stop, snap fashion.
When considering what type of photography turntable is best for you, key considerations include:
For 360 Diamond Photography, we often suggest shooting between 72 and 140 frames/360 rotation. This will give a professional smooth rotation that will wow your customers. Creating this many frames using a motorized turntable will be next to impossible. So we suggest to look for either a manual lazy susan (can be easily made for ~$30 or can be purchased with pre-etched guide markers (like this 9” Manual Product Photography Turntable from Iconasys). The other option, that will significantly streamline the 360 Diamond Photography process, is to go with a stop motion turntable that can operate in a turn, stop, snap workflow. If going the route of a stop motion turntable, consider an option that will automatically trigger the camera at each turntable stop.
Another important consideration is going to be the size of the turntable. A larger platform will make it more challenging to center diamonds in the center of the turntable. We suggest going with a turntable with a platform diameter of 4” or smaller.
If looking for a fast and automated option for 360 Diamond Photography, consider the Iconasys 360 Jewelry Photography Turntable.
Software/Editing 360 Diamond Image Sets:
One of the most important things a user can do, is compose their image as best as possible to avoid spending hours editing images. Now saying that, and pending how you shot your images, you may be required to do some post production image editing. Edits required might include cropping (eliminating excess frame), levels/curves adjustments, sharpness adjustment and even some contrast and saturation adjustments. Chances are you already have an image editing software, if so, this likely will have the features needed. When editing a 360 image set, it is important to ensure all edits made to one image – are exactly applied to the entire set of image. If not, this will create a weird visual effect after composing the images into the 360 product view.
If looking for a great option for batch image editing (one click, apply to all), take a look at Shutter Stream 360 Captureless Software.
If looking for a complete turnkey 360 Diamond Photography Software, that includes automated image capture, editing, processing and output, take a look at Shutter Stream 360 Product Photography Software.
Composing the 360 Diamond Image Set into a Web-ready 360 View
Now that your images have been captured and edited, the last step will be to compose these into a 360 view. There is a few 360 software options available and as far as what option is best for your needs, you will need to consider where you will be displaying these 360 Views. For example, if using IDEX, RapNet or Polygon, you will want to find an option that will not only create the 360 view for you, but also host it. Another example, if you decide you want to also use these 360 views in your social media channels, then you’ll want to consider a software that can also output MP4 and 360 Animated GIF format. The most complete 360 image composition software is the Iconasys 360 Product View Creator (also the most affordable option too).
Iconasys also offers tools for creating 360 Diamond Videos, please see this overview video below for additional info on How to Create 360 Diamond Videos:
Guide to 360 Diamond Photography – Conclusion:
This Guide to 360 Diamond Photography provides an overview of all things to consider when shooting diamonds images. Although it can be a daunting and challenging task, companies like Iconasys offer pre-built 360 Diamond Photography Solutions that completely automate the 360 diamond imaging, editing and processing steps to allow web-ready 360 diamond photography in just minutes. Our product range includes 360 Product Photography Turntables, software and lighting and are designed for users of any skill level – from novice to professional. Learn more about Iconasys at: https://www.iconasys.com/