How To Photograph Ceramics With iPhone: Step-by-Step Guide

How To Photograph Ceramics With iPhone: Step-by-Step Guide

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Collection of colorful Portuguese ceramic pottery, local craft products from Portugal.
Ceramics are one of the most interesting forms of art and photography subjects.

It may sound so shallow but the world today gives so much focus on what the eyes can see. Well, this makes sense if you are a photographer or you are an online seller wherein buyers can’t see your actual product, thus, you have to provide them with the best possible photograph. 

Similar to staging which can increase the value of your house, using high-quality, professional-looking photos when you are trying to market or capture the attention of the mass is a must and is a big help in achieving whatever your goal is. Selling online or capturing the attention of other people to look into your work is very hard nowadays given how tight the competition is. That is why at all times, you should make sure that your work will stand out. 

Ceramics can either be one of the easiest or hardest subjects when it comes to photography. The degree of difficulty all lies on you, the photographer. Actually, the process of taking marketable pictures of ceramics is very easy. It is way easier than you have imagined. All that you will ever need is a secondary source of light (ex. clip-on selfie ring), a softbox, and your iPhone. Yes, your iPhone is a great tool to take amazing ceramics shots. Why not? Your iPhone’s camera is more powerful than you think. Wondering how you’ll take that one great ceramic shot? 

In this tutorial, we will demonstrate to you how to photograph ceramics that look like it came out straight from a magazine alongside with how you will come out with a seamless background with a gradient to make your work eye-catching.

Things Needed:

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Step 1: Create a Seamless Background

Empty top of natural stone table and grey wall background.
Taking ceramic images does not require a fancy set up.

Every photoshoot session starts with setting up a background. When it comes to ceramics, you don’t actually need a grand background as it will only overpower the ceramic. Simply, a setup with a table which is leaned against a wall with a piece of gray paper that will serve as your background is alright. In as much as possible, the gray paper that you should be using should have little texture at all in order not to appear like a piece of fabric in the images but not too smooth that the paper already reflects light. 

Tip: If you are photographing a larger ceramic which means that you need a larger background, know that seamless paper comes in various sizes, ranging from 36 inches to around 10 feet which you can get from photo supply stores.

The next step is for you to set up a sweep in order for the background to look smooth and continuous. To make a sweep, simply form an arc using the seamless paper which should be flat on the table and vertical at the back edge of the table. Secure the top edge of the paper onto the wall and the lower edge onto the table using masking tape. 

Step 2: Position the Ceramic on the Background

Four designer ceramic bowls in different colors stacked together.
Positioning the ceramics right is very crucial in the overall process of taking ceramic images.

Once you are done with the background, position the ceramic on the sweep that you have made. Doing so will help you figure out the strategic place where you can set up your camera, light source, and tripod. Your ceramic should be placed in the center of the background where the sweep nearly begins.

Step 3: Position Your Camera with a Tripod

Octopus Tripod with iphone selfie
A good tripod will help you keeps things steady.

Investing in a high-quality tripod is definitely worth it when you are working with product photos. A flexible tripod will help you keep your camera steady and focused and will prevent the need to re-position the camera every now and then. Furthermore, it eliminates camera shakes which allow you to use a slower shutter speed which will give your final output a greater depth of field. A greater depth of field is very helpful when trying to capture close-up images. 

Adjust both the position of the ceramic and your iPhone until your desired composition is achieved. If possible, make sure that the opening of the ceramic product you are trying to capture is shown. To check if your camera is located strategically, take some shots and zoom it in to find out if the most important or intricate details about the ceramic products are shown or not. 

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Step 4: Set Up Your Lights

Studio lights on white background
Setting up the light right will bring out the best things about your subject.

More often than not, a single light is all you need when photographing ceramics. Usually, the light source should come from above so set up your light stand and angle the light straight down so that the light comes directly above your subject.

Doing so will create a nice shadow of the ceramic, especially if it’s a white ceramic vase, and will not make the ceramic as if it is floating as well. Visually speaking, the shadow gives the ceramic a sense of weight which in return, gives the potential buyer a feel about the product.

TIP: If you want something more than a clip-on light, get an adjustable and portable LED light for photography.

Table could not be displayed.

Step 5: Soften the Highlights and Shadow

Four designer ceramic bowls in different colors stacked together.
Softening the highlights and shadows will give you a more defined output.

To adjust the softness, all you have to do is to lower or bring the light higher. Keep in mind that the closer the light is to the ceramic, the softer and larger the light will be. Soft light eliminates the harsh edges of the shadow creating more subtle highlights. It also creates a smoother gradation of tone and color from darker to lighter areas. 

If the light is already too close to the ceramic but the shadow is still harsh, adding a diffuser in between the light and the subject might be of great help. A diffuser is a translucent material that you can make out of tracing paper or fabric or you can just buy if you do not have the time to make one. The diffuser is used to soften the light and the shadow. You can get these collapsible light reflectors if you don’t want the hassle of making your own.

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Step 6: Make a Gradient in the Background

Collection of empty colorful (pastel) decorative ceramic bowls.
A seamless background will make the ceramic look more grounded.

As you take several shots to check out if everything is going well, you might have noticed that the ceramic looks like it is floating in a grey space. No worries! You can fix this by creating a gradient on the background that is gray from the bottom and turns black as it makes it’s way up. Creating a gradient will help you determine a space for the ceramic to sit in. You can do this by lighting your grey background from above and blocking some light from reaching the background using a piece of opaque material. 

Start by placing your opaque material in between the background and the light. Adjust the way the gradient fades by moving the opaque material. If you want to adjust the sharpness of the gradation, you can do this by changing the distance between the light and the opaque material. A more gradual fade is achieved by bringing the light source closer.

Step 7: Adjusting Your iPhone’s Camera Settings

Professional Photo And Video Camera Premium Mobile App With Advanced Settings UI Concept Mock Up On Realistic Frameless Smartphone Screen Isolated on White Background.
The iPhone camera is a very powerful tool when taking ceramic images.

White Balance. It is very important that the colors are balanced accurately. Understanding how the white balance works on your iPhone will help you capture the best possible ceramic image. When the white balance is right, unsightly color casts are eliminated and your final product will come out with more accurate colors. White balance counterbalances color casts by cooling down or warming up the colors of your photos. 

Your iPhone camera has this so-called Auto white balance (AWB) option which automatically senses the color temperature of the light and neutralizes it afterward. If the AWB doesn’t work, the only choice left is to manually set up the white balance of your iPhone. There are a lot of apps that you can download in order to adjust the white balance of your iPhone’s camera.

Exposure. Having the right amount of exposure will help you achieve your desired output. To adjust the exposure of your iPhone’s camera app, follow these simple steps:

  • Frame up your subject in the Camera app. 
  • Tap the part of the frame that needs to be clearly visible. 
  • Once you have tapped the area, a yellow box will appear which indicates that your iPhone’s camera is focused on that spot. This means that the brightness has been set to match. 
  • Choosing a light spot will make the dark darker while choosing a dark spot will make the bright brighter. 
  • Once you have achieved your desired level of exposure and you want to lock the focus on that spot, long-press the spot. This will make the yellow box grow bigger. The screen will blink twice before a yellow AE/AF LOCK (Auto Exposure/Auto Focus) will appear. To unlock, simply tap anywhere else on the screen. 
  • If you want some more adjustments on the exposure, tap the sun icon next to the yellow box to bring out the exposure adjustment slider. 
  • Swipe the slider either up or down until your desired amount of exposure is achieved. 

Focus. Focusing your iPhone’s camera on your subject is very easy. You just have to tap on the screen where the subject is then the camera will already focus on it. Focusing the camera on your subject which is the ceramic will help you capture even the smallest of details which will make your output stand out. 

Step 8: Capture the Image

Mobile phone iphone 8 is shooting a video using gimbal zhiyun smooth 4 background is bokeh in the morning Video filming concept
Take as many images as you want to choose from.

Once you have done the necessary adjustments in your iPhone’s camera setting, then it’s high time to photograph the ceramics. Take as many photos as you want from different angles. You can even photograph the ceramic all-day long if that is what you want. 

Tip: If the ceramic you are trying to capture is reflective, spray it with a light mist of glycerine to make it look matte then diffuse the light with a lightbox or with a photography tent. You should also include an 18% gray card in each picture then edit it on Photoshop afterward. If there are still issues, a circular polarizer is a great help, and lastly, learn to play with the shallow depth of field. 

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Step 9: Post Production

The process of taking ceramic photographs does not end once the shoot is over. There are still a few things that you can do to improve your output. For example, you can do some adjustments to Adobe Photoshop to make your output more compelling. The point here is, keep everything balanced. Do not over-edit your images that will appear unreal. In as much as possible, keep things at a normal level only. 

How To Edit Photos of your Ceramics

Adobe Photoshop, software logo on the official website of Adobe.
Adobe Photoshop helps you enhance your images.

1. Adjusting Levels

The first thing that you will do when editing your ceramic images in Adobe Photoshop is to adjust your levels which you can find under image>adjustments>level. Start from the right side to adjust the level of brightness by moving the slider until you are satisfied with the result. Then adjust on the left side to change the level of darkness. Finally, adjust the overall brightness of the image using the slider which you can find at the center of the histogram.

2. Sharpen Your Image

Sharpening your images will give you a clean and crisp image that will surely look more pleasing to the eyes most especially to your potential buyers. To sharpen your image, 100% zoom the image and then head to filter>sharpen>smart sharpen which will open the menu. Adjust the overall sharpness of your image until the surface texture is enhanced. Typically, it goes around 130% or higher depending on the photo’s quality. 

3. Do the Other Adjustments

Some other adjustment that you can do with your ceramic images is its radius which further enhances the details and reduces noise to make the image look cleaner. You can also remove the lens blur, motion blur, and gaussian blur if you want or if there are dirt or scratches on your background, you can remove it using the spot healing tool. But never ever use the spot healing tool to remove any blemish on the ceramic product as the customer might end up feeling deceived as what he ordered is a flawless one and got a flawed item delivered to him. 

Conclusion

Photography is almost boundless. There is and will always be a way to learn something new. Taking pictures of ceramics is one of the most interesting and challenging photography subjects. It’s either you break or make it. That is why it is very important that you equip yourself with the right knowledge and skill before jumping right in. Remember, each ceramic piece is unique which requires a unique way of capturing it too. Are you ready to take the challenge?


Photo Video Lounge is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. Amazon and the Amazon logo are trademarks of Amazon.com, Inc.

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