Photographing Your Own Work (continued)

Setting up your work

After you have decided where you want to do the photography, set up your backdrop on a table and up against a wall, so that it curves gently from vertical to horizontal. You will place your ceramic or other work on the bottom third of the backdrop -- usually the area where it is noticeably fading into white. Group multiples in such a way that the edges of the backdrop are not visible in the camera lens. If this is unavoidable, you need a bigger backdrop. Platters can be propped up against something, as long as it's not visible in the lens. Avoid using things like bricks for this purpose, as they will scratch and permanently damage the surface of your expensive backdrop!

Setting up camera and lighting

It is preferable to mount your camera onto a tripod. This need not be expensive at all, as long as you have a cable release or even an auto release (usually for self-portraits). Pushing the button on a camera mounted on a flimsy tripod may result in blurred pictures or shifted framing. The distance from the work will depend on the camera lens, the size of the work and the size restraints of the backdrop.

If you are using high wattage bulbs, place some tracing paper or something similar in front of them (you will have to rig something up -- beware of heat!) to avoid strong shadows. Place them to the front left and front right of the work. If you have sunlight filtering into the room, try to have this behind you (but not casting a visible shadow onto your picture frame!). If the lighting conditions permit, you can also place some sheets of large white cardboard to the left and right of the work (outside the visible area through the lens), which will reflect more light creating a soft fill-in light.

Taking the photos

Make sure you have plenty of time. Hurrying things up won't yield good results. Make sure you have framed the scene well. Avoid getting the edge of the backdrop into the frame of the picture. If you can't avoid it, get a larger backdrop. If you have particularly large work to photograph, you may need to consider using a large sheet of white fabric. Make sure the lighting is correct. Is the sun just obscured by some clouds? Do you see any strong shadows? Is the work, and is the tripod straight? Is your dog about to bump the tripod and knock everything over?

Bracket your shots, at least until you know how your setup works. That means to take one shot underexposed by one or a half of one f-stop (provided you lens has half f-stops!), the next at the correct light meter reading, and another at one or a half of one f-stop overexposed. This will show you which settings will work best with the same setup in the future.

What's wrong with these photos? (click to find out)

Previous Page> Basic Requirements

Part One of this Feature More Articles