How to: photograph your teaware. A beginner's guide.


Discussion on virtually any teaware related item.

How to: photograph your teaware. A beginner's guide.

Postby Geekgirl » Jul 2nd, '09, 16:11

I found this article from DPS today. It's an easy how-to aimed at people imaging products for sites like ebay and etsy. I know I've gotten questions regarding shooting teaware on this board, as (I suspect) have others. This might be a helpful guide for those who feel like teaware stills are beyond their capability. There are also some good tips in the comment, including my favorite: USE A TRIPOD!

DPS article: How to...

I thought this might be a good "tips" thread, and later I will try to flesh it out with some images and specs. Maybe I'll do some shots using my point and shoot too, with settings included, for the sake of completeness.

Note that the article tutorial is not aimed at art shots, but rather at product shots, which are meant to show the items clearly and to their best (realistic) advantage.

There are several people on forum who do (or have done) commercial photography and product shots, maybe they would be inclined to post images or information about their stills set-ups? lightboxes? tips? (shyrabbit, bonjiri, tead, sal... I'm looking at you. :) Any others I'm missing?)

Please note: for how-to post your photos on Teachat, please see this thread: viewtopic.php?f=65&t=12549&start=0
Last edited by Geekgirl on Mar 13th, '10, 14:14, edited 2 times in total.
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Postby shyrabbit » Jul 2nd, '09, 16:56

GeekgirlUnveiled,

Good idea, I will contribute when I can.

Thanks for starting this thread,
Michael
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Postby Chip » Jul 2nd, '09, 16:59

Stickied.

Thanks Geek! I think I am a lost cause, but hopefully this will help those who are not. :wink:
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Postby Seeker » Jul 2nd, '09, 18:58

Thanks GG, I'm excited to learn. :D
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Postby shyrabbit » Jul 2nd, '09, 20:57

OK, I'll start.

I teach a digital photo class for artist to expose (pun intended) them to the basics of shooting their work (2d/3d) for archival and submission purposes. Aside from depth of field (DOF), the most misunderstood concept is the importance of white balance and the color temperature of the light source being used to light the subject. If the camera is not set for the proper light source, the real colors of the subject will be "off". This can be a big problem when presenting works for sale online.

Just to start the conversation....Michael
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photographs of your favorite teapots

Postby bonjiri » Jul 2nd, '09, 21:39

shyrabbit wrote:OK, I'll start.

I teach a digital photo class for artist to expose (pun intended) them to the basics of shooting their work (2d/3d) for archival and submission purposes. Aside from depth of field (DOF), the most misunderstood concept is the importance of white balance and the color temperature of the light source being used to light the subject. If the camera is not set for the proper light source, the real colors of the subject will be "off". This can be a big problem when presenting works for sale online.

Just to start the conversation....Michael


hey, GG thanks for starting this thread. cool . fun !

agreed michael.

even if u are using flash, in my case i shoot w/ strobe, i carefully set the camera to manual white balance, expose and 'set' the white balance on the scene.

it depends on your look you desire too.

these are first steps.

megapixels isnt' that important.

actually, my work outside of ceramics is as a photographer.

shiny tenmoku and shiny glazes in general give off a lot of unwanted reflections. one trick we do is polarizing the light source. this involves large polarizing filters that fit over the lights.

another is too use a circular polarizer on your lens. don't forget about your filter factor.

one other important factor is using a flat field corrected lens. what does this mean ? most fixed macro lenses like nikon 55 micro, canon 50 macros are somewhat flat field meaning, the lens doesn't distort. in addition, you also have the ability to make close up images. if for example you a photographing a square plate you don't want the plate to end up distorted square, slightly round. personally i use a nikon 50 macro on a canon 10D, 6 megapixel camera. the manual focusing slows me down and makes me think more. the 50 on a 1.6 crop camera is about 80mm . the longer the focal length, 80 versus 50mm in this case, the less you need to worry about distortion.

what about reflectors and other light modifiers ?

light tents ?


humbly, c
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Postby Geekgirl » Jul 2nd, '09, 23:51

For camera newbies, or the point and shoot crowd, we can break it down further.

Both of the above guys have mentioned white balance. This is a function that tells your camera to apply tones to the image so that it looks right under different light spectrums. For instance, fluorescent lights make everything look kind of blue or green, and incandescent lighting tends to make things look yellow. You will see this color cast most obviously on a white or neutral grey portion of the image. (Examples later.)

So... if you are shooting with an automatic camera, what do you do? First, take the camera off "auto" mode and into P for "program" mode. Program mode means you get to pick which processing subroutine your camera is using. IOW, it will still do everything automatically, unless you choose a different option in your menu.

Now that you have it on program, you can go to menu and choose which type of lighting you are shooting under. On Canon point and shoots you get there by pressing "set", then up or down until you are on the lighting menu, then left or right to choose "auto (AWB)" "daylight" "cloudy" "tungsten" "fluorescent" etc.

Now with examples!

A daylight image shot with the daylight setting:
Image

the cloudy setting:
Image

the tungsten setting:
Image


This one is simulated, it's what happens if you are shooting a tungsten (incandescent lighting) image set to daylight:
Image

You can see that just choosing the correct WB (white balance) setting can make a huge difference.

cory mentions doing custom white balance, which is done by taking a picture of a white or neutral grey card as the first image in the series. This is important if you are doing commercial work, or if you're really picky, but in most cases the camera settings do the trick, close enough.
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Postby shyrabbit » Jul 3rd, '09, 13:10

Geek,

Thanks for taking the time to post such a clear example of the effects of different WB settings.

Maybe the next thing to talk about might be depth of field (DOF) and aperture settings (f-stop) and their correlation to exposure times.

Thanks again for your efforts on this subject,
Michael
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Postby Geekgirl » Jul 3rd, '09, 13:32

Will do that soon, but I think a few more foundation applications are needed, IMO. Next up is Lighting (natural and otherwise) for the Point and Shoot crowd, and When to Use a Tripod. :)

This is a good exercise for me too, because I rarely use a point and shoot camera anymore. But you can take really good shots with one, if you get the camera off "auto" and use some of its extra features.

Down the road a bit, I hope to bring in some tips about using that fancy new SLR, as well as some links to good tutorials for more advanced techniques. Ultimately though, for the advanced stuff, I recommend looking to a photo forum.

Cory mentions "flat field." This is actually a very important tip that can help with your images on a point and shoot camera. Basically, it means that you will have a little distortion (like a funhouse mirror, but less,) if you shoot all the way zoomed in (digital zoom portion on many cameras), or all the way zoomed out. So if you want the least amount of distortion, use the zoom at about 2X-3x magnification (it will display on your screen.)
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Postby Geekgirl » Jul 4th, '09, 02:34

I'm back! :D Okay, lighting your photos is arguably THE single most important thing you can pay attention to when trying to make a good picture.

By far, the quickest, easiest way to ensure you have adequate lighting is to go outside on a sunny day, and put your subject in the shade. Why shade? If more light is better light, shouldn't you (and your subject) be in the sun? You be the judge, these are unedited photos, taken with a Canon sx100 point and shoot, only resized to forum post size.

Sun

Image

Shade

Image

I wish I had thought to take these pictures in the middle of the day to even better show the difference. Bright, full sun washes out colors and creates abundant glare. Since most point and shoot cameras do not have available filters, you can't simply "put sunglasses on" your camera. If you have an SLR you can compensate a bit by using a polarizing filter or some other darkening filter, but shade is still better for reducing glare and maintaining colors.

If you must shoot in full sun, try to do it late in the day, when the sunlight is hitting things at a deeper angle. There's all kinds of tech talk for why the light is nicer in the late evening, but the short version is that it's simply not as harsh. The "sun" picture above, was taken in the early evening, and is not too bad, although not as good as the "shade" image. Tomorrow I will edit this with a full, mid-day sun image to show the difference.

EDIT: Full mid-day sun example. You can see how harsh the shadows are, the colors are wrong (especially the reds,) and there is serious glare.

Image

The next image was taken indoors under regular household lighting. The WB (white balance) was set to "tungsten," which corrects the color cast from the incandescent lighting.

Image

You can see it's pretty good for color, but still not quite as nice as the "shade" version. It's really kind of boring.

In this next shot, I set the WB to "daylight" just to show what a difference in color adjusting the WB makes.

Image

YUCK! That's going to need a lot of help in Photoshop!

Note that I have not used flash for even the indoor shots. Why not? Well, see for yourself.

Image

Here, you can see that the flash has created glare on the glass, harsh tones and hard lines. The colors are flattened and washed out, and the color cast, though not terribly wrong, still just does not look right. Plus the flash bounces off every little mineral deposit on the glass teapot. Not pleasing at all! ptooey!

Now here's where it gets tricky. Look again at the first indoor picture. See how speckly it is? That's called "noise," and we don't like it. It happens when you need to use high ISO. That's what I'm going to write about next. Stay tuned.
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Thanks for starting this post!

Postby fmoreira272 » Jul 14th, '09, 19:48

I got a nikon D60 last christmas but havent used that much. Still learning the basics of photography.
I want to get some macro lenses. any recommendations? also should i get some sort of light tent or other artificial light setup since my place doesnt get any natural light at all(garden level condo)
And thanks for everyone contributing to this post, the explanations really helped!
:D
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Re: Thanks for starting this post!

Postby tingjunkie » Jul 14th, '09, 20:58

fmoreira272 wrote:I want to get some macro lenses. any recommendations?


Luckily (or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it) I know a lot more about photography than I do about tea. :lol:

I have a Nikon D80- very similar to the D60. Amazing cameras! I shoot mostly landscape and portraits, but have done some still life as well. Dedicated macro lenses are quite expensive, and I would not recommend one unless you really want to throw yourself into macro photography as a serious hobby. Instead, you could get a zoom which has a macro function/mode. I own this lens, which has an excellent macro mode, but also has a great zoom range for other uses. (Edit: I forgot that this lens WILL NOT autofocus on the D60. You could still manually focus the lens, but that severly limits the lenses functionality for you. Still, there may be other zooms out there which will have a macro mode and will serve double duty for you. Or, another option would be an older manual focus zoom lens with a macro mode like this. It will not autofocus OR be able to take a light reading with the D60, but for $69, who cares? Just adjust exposure by looking at the LCD on the back!)

Or, a less expensive option than a new zoom would be to get this lens. It's a fixed 35mm lens which is not technically a macro lens, but it focuses so closely (10" away from the object) that you can really get in close and get a lot of detail. It would work wonderfully for all types of teaware. I own this lens too, and I absolutely LOVE it! Fast aperture, tack sharp, and great vivid colors. If you currently own a zoom lens only, it's always nice to have a fast prime like this one to compliment it. It's much sharper than any zoom under $1700, and it allows in far more light for low-light situations.

The least expensive way to go would be to get a "close up" screw-on lens filter to put over an existing lens that you already own. Something like this. They come in different magnification levels, but just make sure to get the right size to screw in to the threads on the front of your current lens. It won't give you true "professional" results, but are you going to use it for fine prints, or posting photos of your teaware here? :wink:

Don't bother with a light tent. Go outside and find a shady spot, or if you want the comfort of the indoors, just buy a very bright, daylight-balanced light bulb, and diffuse the light with a lampshade, sheer white curtain, or even a translucent plastic shower curtain!

By the way, what lenses do you currently own? That will greatly affect how "wise" each of these options would be for you.
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Postby Salsero » Jul 14th, '09, 23:01

For most problem light situations --- pretty much any indoor shot as well as outdoor shade -- I have taken to using the camera's custom white balance feature. Check your camera's manual, but setting it usually involves photographing something white (like a sheet of paper) and then using menu functions to tell the camera: "that is what white looks like in this light, adapt to it." The other colors fall into place. Getting the color close to right in the camera can save enormous time in post processing.

Course, some situations involve multiple colors of light ... e.g., shade in the foreground, sunlight in the back ground or light reflected from a large colored object in the shot ... so sometimes you may have to chose your battleground.
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Re: Thanks for starting this post!

Postby fmoreira272 » Jul 15th, '09, 00:12

tingjunkie wrote:
fmoreira272 wrote:I want to get some macro lenses. any recommendations?


Luckily (or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it) I know a lot more about photography than I do about tea. :lol:



I know very little about both! :D
Right now i have the 18-55mm lens that came with the camera and a tamron 18-200mm. the latter i rarely use since i cannot get used to lack of autofocus.
besides teaware i started taking a lot of pictures of small crafts my mom sells to put in a website. but so far i cannot get enough detail with the lens i have. One thing that im also looking for is to get good closeups of the dry/wet leaves from the variety of teas i've been drinking.
im almost broke after buying so much tea/teaware but i might get a bonus at work. any recommendations for a autofocus that will work on the D60 (up to $500)? should i get the close-up filters first to experience with it or save the money towards the lenses?
I also had gotten a $20 tripod that ended up in the trash after few months. i have heard a lot about manfrotto and was considering getting one of their cheaper options:
http://www.amazon.com/Manfrotto-Modo-Ph ... 741&sr=8-3
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Postby tingjunkie » Jul 15th, '09, 03:25

fmoreira, the only problem with the D60 (and D40) is that the number of lenses which autofocus and meter with them is kind of limited. That 18-55mm you have may be cheap, but it's a real gem of a lens, and I've seen it perform quite well for macro type shots. I'm surprised you aren't getting good close-up shots with it. Perhaps your shutter speeds are too long for hand-held shots, and there is some motion blur? Try taking a close-up shot of something in bright daylight just to see if the lens is capable of getting the detail you are looking for.

If not, I would recommend buying one of the close-up filters. They work pretty darn well, and it's only a very small investment. Ultimately, you have to figure out how much macro shooting you will be doing in the future and decide if a dedicated macro lens is worth the price. Camera gear is like teaware- if you are planning on getting serious about it in the future, better get the good stuff now! But as I said, those filters are cheap, so... ah, you know. :lol:

As for a tripod, will it be for home/car use, or do you want to travel around with it on hikes and such? Big and heavy tripods with fewer expandable leg sections are good because they are very rugged, very stable, and less expensive. Tripods can get silly expensive when they become light enough to do a long hike with, and they become less stable the lighter they get. If you are not a hiker... buy used, buy heavy, and then buy a good ball-head for it- they are sooooo much easier to work with. Your other option, if you are only using the tripod for macro and close-up work, would be to get a nice solid table-top tripod. Very stable (as long as it's on a very stable table!) and much less expensive. Just keep in mind, ANY tripod becomes useless unless you use a self-timer (or better yet, Nikon's cheap little remote control) to fire the shutter.

If you want to get excellent quality macro shots to show fine details, a good solid tripod will be your best friend. The best advice I could give you would be not to skimp on quality in this area. You want the tripod to be rock solid so there is no vibration to kill the sharpness of the shot. Honestly, you would probably get better results with a cheap close-up filter and a solid tripod and head combo than you would with a cheap tripod and a $500 macro lens.

Good luck!
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