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When I first started shooting marbles I knew it would be mostly a lighting and color issue. This turned  out to be more true than I realized. If I finally got enough light there was either a color change due to the lights or I would burn out the  lighter colors. What I did on the cheap....I hit the hardware store and  went to the lighting section and started trying bulbs two at a time.  These are color corrected for natural light. Run about 6$ each. I tried a couple different brands before I found one that worked well. They work  differently color wise between brands. I don't remember the brand I used but different ones will likely  work better for different cameras. 

Now about the camera....truly,  you will have an easier time using a small point & shoot. Mine was  about 100$ and only about 12mp if that. The thing here is that a  point&shoot use a much deeper Depth of field than a full size camera with a macro lens. So what does that mean? It means that with a full  size camera and macro lens you will likely be shooting at an aperature  of F16 and still the DOF area of sharpness will be only a 1/4 inch deep  and F16 lets very little light into your camera compared to the average  point & shoot when they use F64 or there about and make up for the  light loss in the camera. 
 I am not saying you can't  shoot with a full size camera, it is just a lot more work to get enough  light and everything in focus. I place my marble on either a mid  grey piece of cloth or a semi old black T shirt. This will help with  getting to the correct color. I use two bulbs if shooting indoors and  those bulbs are placed in cheap aluminum shields with a clamp on style  holder. Cheap hardware lights but they reflect the light well. I get  the lights placed within a foot of the marble on each side just in front of the marble, and adjust distance as needed. when trying the lights make sure you get the highest power you can.  These natural light corrected don't use watts but they usually say equal to _watts. You want equal to 100w.  Natural light  is measured in Kelvins. Cameras are set with Kelvins...the hot or cold  of the light. Normal daylight is somewhere in the 5000K range some  cameras are set at 5000k and some a little higher for natural daylight. The lights I suggested looking at are also measured in Kelvins. Look for  something in the 5000K to 5800K and depending on how the images look  adjust accordingly if needed. 5000K is slightly warmer {more yellow}  than 5800K which is cooler white/blue.   Remember....if you chose to shoot with regular light bulbs, your colors will be off. Likely to the yellow side. Your camera settings for different light may help but you will continue to struggle. You will get better color using flash, however you will face other issues. 
Use of a tripod can help greatly. If you have a point & shoot....you can still use one. In fact it will be cheaper for you than for us with heavy cameras. All you need is a small desk top tripod. If you are using a DSLR get yourself a remote shutter release to use with your tripod, as you may struggle with enough light. I find it takes to large of a bump in ISO to make it worth trying to shoot handheld with the large lenses and light conditions inside. I use my big 400mm inside at about 1/8 second w ISO 100 and it works nicely. With a remote and tripod of course.  
After the shot is taken and loaded on the computer  it may or may not be perfect. If I have done all my minor adjustments  and have got the best I could in camera and it is just a little  off.....then I take it into my adjustment program. I now use Lightroom  4. In this or a program like it you can adjust things like contrast,  sharpness or temperature, or even each individual color. I rarely need  to do much if anything but if it does not look as it does in hand I try  and get as close as I can.
Now lately.....because I am lazy  and don't feel like using two cameras daily....I have been  using my full size camera. The totally blacked out backgrounds in some of my images were  with the point & Shoot then cut out the marble and placed them on a black background in a computer program. No need to go this far for ID purposes.. The latest images were done on a used semi black T shirt set on the ground outside or on my table inside. I have not yet bought the Macro lens  that I want and have been using my fullsize camera and a 400mm lens.  This lens will not focus on anything closer than 5.5 feet away. It is my wildlife lens. I shoot the marbles standing 6ft away and then crop the  little guy from the center of the image. I can do it this way because of great glass 400mm zoom and 24 mp. They are acceptable for now, until I  am set up the way I want down the road.     So....cheap camera, two color correct lights in  aluminum housings on medium gray to washed out black. Camera on auto  color balance {also try daylight} setting with the color corrected  lights. And play with the light distance until it works for you. It will be different for different marbles. Light.....dark....or a mix. If you find you are having trouble focusing.....either you need more light or if you have the adjustment on your camera, you may need to use spot focus. With Point & Shoots. you may have a macro setting and this will change your focusing ability.
The marble. Some have seams. A straight or curved line where it appears the colors meet. I like to photograph each of those two seams {some have one, some have none} first. I shoot them in a vertical position. These seams are something we use to help with IDs. I then like to turn the marble so that I am shooting the side between the seams and then again to the opposite side. Some marbles are uninteresting on the sides between the seams. Many times the top or bottom of the marble may be preferable. Top and bottom being at the end where the seam points. To show all four angles in one image I find Picasa very easy and free online. It does a fast and simple collage after I have cropped the marble. I try and leave a little room for the marble in the crop. If you crop to tight onto edges of the marble it is actually more difficult to view.. This is also a great way to keep a good record of marbles that you have had ID'd being you can name the collage and always return to see what characteristics it had on four separate sides all at once, when trying to ID others you may have.

I have tried to keep this easy to follow for everyone. You could get deeper into the subject for sure. My hope was only to get you started. If you have questions or would like to get a little deeper into options......my email is jeepermanpaul@gmail.com  I also have a website for my photography other than marbles should you like to browse what I do.  PHeupel-Photography

Good luck and more importantly...have fun!

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Replies to This Discussion

Thought I might add a couple examples. =} The red/purple being a Champion Furnace marble and the Second An Alley agate with Gold Aventurine or what some may call lutz.

Very nice indeed Paul! Those marbles are lovely and so is the photography!

I had trouble following along with everything above, but I think you are right on about the cheaper camera's working 10x better!

My old Kodak easyshare was the best camera ever, all my pics were perfect! Then it broke, Son #1 gets me expensive mega pixel thing and UGH! horrible. I gave it back to him, and went and got a cheap one - much better!

I didn't know about these natural light bulbs - that is very good info, I will give those a try. I'm already using the clamp on garage lights - LOL

I seldom if ever get good marbles to photograph/sell, but I do sell ton's of jewelry, and I think the same applies to that category! Thanks again for the great info!

Vicky, thank you and you are welcome. I am glad you found some of this helpful. Sorry some of it was a trick to fallow. Fell free to ask if you end up with questions. The lights will surely help with the color. Regular lighting can fool cameras even when you use the correct settings. I think these tips will absolutely help with jewelry.

Vicki, using Paul's tips I've gotten really great results! The natural light bulbs are fantastic.


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