How to Photograph Your Pottery? — Spinning Pots

Given that the ceramics are all shiny and beautiful, they could be just as tricky to photograph. Without the right light and photography setup, you might end up with blurry photographs or pictures that are way too shiny. When photographing pottery items, it is important to create a seamless and unaltered background that has a beautiful gradient.

When photographing shiny and cylindrical objects, the key is to use just one spectral light for the best pictures. Keep in mind that the spectral highlights must be kept in the front & off-center to ensure that the object’s sides are darker and create a proper spectrum for the object.

On the other hand, if you happen to create brighter sides & darker center, it would create an opposite effect while failing to make the ceramic look cylindrical as they are meant to be.

Tips to Remember when using light for pottery photography

  • If photographing a pottery item for publication, make sure you leave some space all around the focused object. This ensures that your publication editor has a rather flexible layout for any changes required.
  • Make sure your images are top-lit as opposed to side-lit. If you also want side lighting, ensure that the lighting is kept further away instead of being too close.
  • Unless your pieces are meant to be their triptych or diptych version, make sure you frame each of the shots on their own.
  • Further, you can experiment with the focal length. With ceramic photography, a longer focal length is better than a shorter one.
  • Every time you photograph your ceramic item, it is important to focus on the entirety of the piece’s depth. Deliberate use of the selective and shallow DOF is very rare.

Further, you need to ensure that the background is simple. Keep away any patterned bedspreads or wrinkled tablecloths. Ensure the backdrop used is simple and the best color to try with brightly colored fabrics to make use of neutral gray.

In case you plan to stick with natural lighting, the key is to go with outdoor light on a well-lit cloudy day. Avoid any bright sunlight falling on the ceramic as they tend to create shiny surfaces and deep shadows that could be way too distracting.

Alternatively, you can also film your artwork in a well-lit garage with color-balanced bulbs of the fluorescent kind. You can either make use of gray-colored fabric or a properly graded backdrop. Make sure the flash of your camera is turned off as it can create strong shadows.

You can also try experimenting with different angles or elevations to get the best photograph of your pottery object. If you plan to show the volume of the ceramic, you can raise the photography angle a bit to allow the viewers to see within the pot.

Factors to Keep in Mind When Using Light for Pottery Photography

As mentioned earlier, capturing pottery or ceramics with your camera can be a puzzling task, and it is important that you avoid chaos or bad photography. Here are some factors that are important for you to remember.

1-Select a Seamless Background:

You need to make sure that the background has little to no texture. This is to ensure that it doesn’t appear that your pottery is kept against a fabric backdrop. However, you might also want to refrain from selecting a background that is way too smooth as it can reflect a lot of the photography light, creating a pretty shiny surface.

If you require a large backdrop, make sure you use a bigger roll with the uncut background paper. Having long rolls for background ensures that you do not have to join the cut-up pieces that might create a distorted look in the backdrop.

Make sure the background is created from a durable and long-lasting sweep that clamps solidly on your work table without curving on the edge or middle.

2-Positioning the Ceramic:

Place your ceramic in a position that ensures minimal shadow creation while keeping the reflection to a minimum.

3-Set up the camera and tripod in the right position:

Having a tripod also helps eliminate shaking issues that come along when you hold the camera using your hands. Apart from this, a slowed-down shutter speed ensures that you get access to a greater field depth for photography. This is particularly important when you plan on working with close-up pictures of the product. With the use of the viewfinder, make sure you adjust the object or the camera’s position to get your desired composition.

Make sure you take up multiple test shots of the ceramic before you finalize the right position for your camera to get a publish-worthy photograph.

4-Refrain from using shabby lighting:

5-Soften the Shadows and Highlights:

When positioned with the use of soft light, the shadows tend to lose their visibly harsh edges & become minimally visible. Further, this helps create rather subtle highlights with smoother gradations involving color and tone between the light and dark areas.

If you still fail to get a soft enough shadow after moving the light closer, you can introduce a diffuser in the midst of the light & the subject. This diffuser is created from a translucent material that can be bought commercially or even created from fabric or tracing paper. This will help dramatically soften all the shadows and light.

If you want to purchase such a diffuser of the highest quality, an ideal choice is the Neewer Light Reflector with a collapsible design. Available in a pack of 5, this diffuser is perfect for indoor and outdoor lighting setup.

6-Gradient Backdrop:

This gray backdrop with gradient lighting also helps define proper space to allow your item space to sit on. To do this, you need to use a cardboard piece and place it above while blocking some of the light that has been reflecting on the background.

You can also change the gradient pattern by moving the cardboard all around while fixing a place that introduces the best gradient. Further, you can change the gradation sharpness by shifting the distance between the card and the light. The closer your cardboard is to the source light, the better is its gradual fade.

7-Understand the Camera Settings:

To set up your customized white balance, you need to locate the very same option in the camera’s menu while using gray cards to adjust the same. Apart from this, you also have to set the camera exposure with the use of the automatic or manual mode. It is suggested that you make use of the manual mode for perfection.

Using a light meter reading, you can achieve perfection for your pottery lighting. Apart from this, you must also carefully adjust your camera’s focus with the use of the manual option while confirming the same with the help of the LCD screen. Ensure that you can see the minute details of your pottery while keeping it all in focus.

Finally, take up the test image & zoom in a while, making sure everything has been properly focused.

8-Snap it Up:

9-Post-Production: Sharpness and Levels

The very first adjustment that needs to be done is for the levels. For this, you need to locate the application’s adjustment panel & select the icon labeled “Levels.” Doing this helps adjust the picture’s tones to make it look closer to the real item.

Adjusting the levels will show the histogram with 3 different slider options under it. You can start by adjusting these sliders to highlight different sections of your image. You can move the slider left or right depending on your needs to adhere to the graph represented by the histogram. This will help brighten different sections of your pottery image.

The left-end slider, when moved to the right, will darken any part with shadows. A third slider can be found under the histogram’s center, which can be used to adjust the general brightness of your image. In case the image is too dark or too light, you can try and adjust the same using its center slider moved slightly to the right or left.

Next, you need to sharpen your image with the use of Adobe’s Smart Sharpen option. Zoom in the image to a 100 percent ratio. In the app’s filter menu, you can find a “Sharpen” option. Further, a Smart Sharpen feature in its sub-menu can be used to sharpen specific sections.

If you notice that the contrast in the edges is becoming far more prominent, you need to stop right away. You can set your tool radius at the 1.5-pixel option that helps enhance the details further. The goal is to make your image look pleasing and clear while removing any harshness, especially when you know that the pottery items are very shiny under bright light.


Originally published at on May 11, 2021.

Cat fanatic and Arts and Craft Lover. With Pottery being my favorite hobby. And a dangerous combo when you add in a couple of chaotic cats. :)