Ceramike - Background Information

How I Photograph Pots

Mike Dodd floor vase Ray Finch plate Lisa Hammond jug

Homemade stand
Colorama graduated background
Photographing a pot
Mick Casson jug


I thought that I would share with you the technique that I use for photographing pots for the website.

The equipment that I use is:

  • Lumix DMC-FZ20 digital camera
  • Benbo Trekker tripod
  • Philips Photoflood No. 1 bulb in homemade holder
  • Colorama graduated background sheet
  • Homemade stand
  • Kitchen table

The camera and tripod I've had for many years but the photoflood bulb and graduated background were purchased specifically for photographing pots. I made the stand myself our of a few lengths of 2" x 1" pine, its not pretty but it does the job. The legs fold back under for easy storage in the garage.

The Colorama graduated background is a thick vinyl sheet with a matte non-glare surface graduated from black at the top to white at the bottom. It is 1m wide and 1.6m long. I attach it to the stand with 3 large crocodile clips so it hangs vertically and the excess rests on the table where the pots are placed.

I set my camera to use its lowest ISO setting (80), put it in aperture priory mode (A) and switch its flash unit off. The camera then goes onto the tripod ready for use. I use the camera's self timer feature to ensure no movement.

For lighting I use a Philips Photoflood No. 1 bulb. I've attached a light fitting to a piece of wood and a length of cable. When I'm taking a photograph I switch on the light and simply hold the light apparatus in my hand and try various angles until I get what I feel is the best effect. Very Heath Robinson I know and I really should improve on this but there always seems to be something else to do instead.

When photographing indoors with lights the main problem is reflections of the light sources in the glaze. Some pots are more of a challenge than others in this respect, I find tall dark shiny ones to be the most difficult. Also with the light I use there are always shadows.

When I've taken the photographs I use Paintshop Pro to check their quality and create the smaller image that I will use on the website. Occasionally I use Paintshop's image adjustment facilities but the camera usually gets things right.

I hope thats been of interest to some of you, I must thank David Binch of Oakwood Ceramics for introducing me to this method and convincing me to take my camera off its automatic settings.

If you wondering about the wall hanging behind the stand, it is a quilt made by my wife Diana. Inspiration came from a visit to the ancient monastery on the island of Skellig Michael an UNESCO World Heritage Site off the west coast of Ireland.