Monday, 25 July 2011

Photographing pottery & ceramics when you dont know how.

Hi, my name is Tanya Bechara & I'm a potter & ceramic artist in Sydney, Australia.

Welcome to my very first blog. I've been dragged kicking & screaming into the 21st century so please bear with me while I find my feet in this world of technology.

My inspiration to start this blog comes from the many wonderful artists I've met on Twitter recently who kindly share their experiences, ideas, trials & triumphs & so I will endeavour to do the same & hopefully find something worth contributing to the world of Blog.

Over the past few days I decided to try to find another way of taking photos of my pottery. 
Previously, I have been using an old projector screen as a backdrop & using natural light (not a good thing on a bright sunny day). Usually the glare obliterated a lot of details & washed out the colours & the reflections showed lovely details of either my head, my backyard & even the neighbours house <insert sarcastic tone here>! Not features I want to show off on the glossy surfaces of my work I can assure you. And of course using a flash is a waste of time as we all know.
So I followed some links to other blogs that had been suggested recently & though there were some helpful tips, I found most of it hard to follow as I know very little about cameras & all those settings! The only settings I understand on my digital camera are the "mountains" for long shots & the "flowers" for close ups and how to turn the flash on and off. That's it. So I knew I was in trouble when I read an entire blog & by the end of it still didnt understand what to do. My next step was to 'google' of course (I'm always saying "Thank God for Google"). It lead to YouTube (as most google searches do) & there were a couple of easy, basic set ups, using whatever is on hand. this youtube link I found the most instructive & easiest to understand. I find it easier to learn how to do things by seeing it done & putting it to practice rather than reading instructions (or as i commonly call them "destructions"). 
 So here are some photos of my set up.
Using an old projector screen hanging from a stand at my kitchen table then draped over the table, I then used a heat lamp (brightest light i could find at home), 2 broomsticks formed a frame for me to hang some muslin fabric (to defuse light) in front of heatlamp/spotlight (but not too close so as to cause a fire, also turned off the lamp while not actually taking photos so as to reduce heat). I used 2 large pieces of white foam & foil wrapped around some cardboard as light reflectors and placed these at adjustable positions on the opposite side to the lamp.
Now since I dont own a tripod I used a small foot stool with non-skid dots on top & on base which helped me hold the camera as still as possible & at the right height.
I still had some blurry photos,  I didnt follow every step exactly & had to be a bit imaginative with the equipment to duplicate the set up seen in the Youtube video to get close to the desired effect.
Here are some photos of my results, first with a flash only, then next with a spot light only then with the defused light and reflecting surfaces on opposite side.
"flash only"                                                                           "spot light only"

                                               "defused light with foam & foil reflectors"
Also, here are some other photos taken with a black background (the back of my projector screen) with and without defused light. The difference in the shadows amazed me.

I havent mastered it yet but I did get better than my usual results so am pleased to be headed in the right direction.
Many thanks for taking the time to visit & read my blog & if you have any tips or comments, they are welcome & appreciated :-)  
P.S. Please feel free to visit my Facebook page


  1. Very nice Tanya! The results are beautiful! What a huge difference diffusing the light makes! Great tips to keep in mind as I take photos of my work today! Thank you for the helpful ideas! So happy to see your new blog! Congratulations!

  2. Tanya! Your photos are fantastic! I love your description and sense of humor! The best part is you show how to take great images with everyday household items, instead of spending an arm and a leg. Great first post!

  3. Tanya, this is such a helpful post! And seeing the difference in the results is really great - what a huge difference! Your new photos look lovely. I'm definitely going to try this setup for myself.

  4. I didn't realize that the 'mountains' were for far away shots! :) ha-ha! I love the honesty and practicality offered here - it is amazing what a difference it can make to use just a few props found around the house. So many beautiful product photos are actually overexposed. Your work is especially tricky to photograph because of the exquisite detail that will disappear if there is too much light. It is great to see the difference first hand. Your work is extraordinary and beautiful! I hope you will share more here soon! :)

  5. Great results, Tanya. I might try the tip of the foil covered cardboard, I'm not sure what the projector does though; I use my camera. I have taken a few photos outside in north facing light and gotten some good photos without glare.

    1. Hi Linda, many thanks for your comments, i can't remember if i replied to you in twitter when you posted this, if not, sorry for late reply...just a note to let you know i only use the white projector screen (for the backdrop)not the projector itself :-)

  6. I need that method for my Facebook Profile Pic :P

    1. Brett,Just saw your comment now, I know of a great photo of you in a phone booth that would be a great profile photo ;-P

  7. You ended up with great photos Tanya. Well done. I too set about rephotographing everything over the last Christmas holidays. I didn't finish..... I did it because I was told it was better to have white backgrounds (it probably is) but then after I finished (stopped temporarily) I was told it was better to have textured, interesting backgrounds (like I had before).

    I too visited a lot of blogs, youtube and googled and ended up making a cardboard box which I lined with white paper - a lightbox. The most important thing is to have tripod - which I don't. It is so hard balancing the camera on chairs which are balanced on something else! Also have two lamps - one on each side.

    And congratulations on a great beginning for your blog:)

    I have been searching my bookmarks but can't find the links. I will post them when/if I do!

    There is also a trick I learned using Photoshop to clean up the white backgrounds if you are interested. Maybe I should blog these instructions...

    1. Please do blog about it and/or let me know what the links are many thanks for your comments! :-)

  8. Good job, and thanks for a completely readable explanation of how you did the set up. Defusing the light is the trick. Thanks also for following my blog. I'm looking forward to your future posts.

  9. Thank you Lori for your comments :-)