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How to Photograph Ceramics

written by: Larry M. Lynch•edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 8/27/2009

There is a virtual treasure trove of opportunities awaiting the macro and craft photographer. In this article we’ll examine tips and techniques on how to photograph ceramics to best capture the beauty, delicacy and intricacy of fine porcelains.

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    How to Photograph Ceramics

    The Children 016 There are a myriad of possibilities available to make money selling ceramics and porcelain photography and for photography of porcelain painted pictures and pottery in general. Antiques dealers, porcelain specialty shops, craft shows, pottery supply houses and the individual artists themselves are all potential clients for the astute digital photographer who knows how to photograph ceramics.

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    Types of Ceramics Photographs

    Doris 0040404 There are a number of distinctive types of photography which are useful in this genre. Some noteworthy ones to consider are:

    · Macro close-ups of details used for distinction, illustrating techniques and identification of porcelains and ceramics

    · Works-in-progress or finished porcelain project photos of a ceramics or porcelain piece being created by an artist or craftsman

    · Documentation pictures of marks on pottery or porcelain for registration, identification and authentication

    · Photography of the porcelain artist or craftsman to verify the authenticity of a contemporary piece of porcelain’s origin

    · Views of porcelains or pottery for insurance or registration purposes

    · Photographs of porcelains for display or advertised for sale

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    Ceramic Photography Equipment and Setup Needed

    For a successful range of ceramics photographs a bit of advance preparation will be useful. Ceramics come in a range of shapes and sizes so macro imaging equipment along with a still life lighting and photography setup will usually yield the best results. A light box suitable for small to medium-sized ceramics can be home made or purchased. Background cloths or seamless papers in white, black and a variety of blending or contrasting colors should be readily available. Directions for building your own portable photographic light box are available in the article, “How to Make a Light Box for Free".

    Portable lighting is also useful for illuminating ceramics from a series of angles and vantage points within a light box or in an open setting. Both on-camera and slave flash units which can be setup in positions around the ceramic or pottery piece can also be used for foreground, side lighting and background illumination.

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    Composition and Photo Shooting Tips

    To hold, position and stabilize the ceramic piece in position for shooting, you could use rolled up terry-cloth washcloths or hand towels. Small padded cushions or even throw pillows can be used as a base for ceramics to stand, rest or be propped up on when taking photographs. Care must be taken to prevent any possible damage to the fragile ceramics during shooting sessions.

    The photographer or studio assistant should also wear white cotton gloves and use extreme care when handling ceramics during a photo shooting session.

    Fill the frame with the ceramic or pottery. Stable conditions will allow for shooting tightly-focused images at small apertures or f11, f22 or smaller, for maximum depth-of-field. A correspondingly slow shutter speed, typically from 1/60th to 1/30th or 1/15th second will ensure proper exposure. You should use a small tripod or other camera stabilizing device to eliminate any possibility of camera shake. This can likewise allow for positioning the camera in a variety of angles and compositions. The ISO settings can also be increased from 100 up to as much as 800 for increased array pixel sensitivity during still life exposures.

    When shooting hand-held digital images or porcelains and pottery while being worked on, use natural lighting near a door or window with the camera flash as fill lighting for balance if required.

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    Make Money Selling Photographs of Ceramics and Porcelains

    November 2002 008 There can be an impressive list of potential clients and markets for selling your work when you know how to photograph ceramics. Some of these include:

    -the potter or ceramics artist themselves

    -craft and hobby magazines

    -crafts stores and hobby shops


    -insurance companies

    -law offices

    -owners of porcelains and ceramics

    -stock photo agencies and websites

    -pottery, porcelain and ceramics websites

    -photography magazines

    -advertising agencies

    .. and a list of other possibilities that could continue to go on.

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    Building a Ceramics and Porcelains Photography Collection

    Doris 001 painting tile Start building your ceramics and porcelains photography collection with a couple of ceramics pieces which you may have at home like lamps, vases and statuettes or knick-knacks. Get or build a light box to practice your ceramics photography. Experiment and post your best image results in your photographic portfolio. Use these to show prospective clients. Don’t forget to post these with stock photography agencies and websites too. You can make pottery or porcelain digital images an additional income stream when you know how to photograph ceramics.