After trying a lot of different approaches, I am now getting close to the results I want when photographing teapots. I figured it would be worthwhile to share my system in the hopes that it’s helpful to someone else, and with the idea I might get some suggestions from others.
First, the goals:
- A clean image that shows detail of the piece.
- An image that’s reasonably accurate in color reproduction.
- An image that gives a little drama to the piece, rather than a cold, clinical look.
The Lighting Equipment:
I’ve tried several approaches. The one that I find best (so far) is not the cheapest approach. It involves about $300 in lighting equipment, not including the cost of any photographic gear.
I started with a kit from Table Top Studios. It included a 30″ light tent and a two-light set. I bought a graduated backdrop from another photographic supply house, which I needed to trim to size — Table Top Studios now sells a custom sized backdrop which seems to be ideal. One other word of praise for Table Top — I was facing a deadline, when one of the bulbs burned out. They were extremely helpful and overnighted me a free replacement, so I was able to make the deadline. That made me a loyal customer from here on out.
I set up the tent on a card table in the overstuffed Meier Quagg Library. I installed the nylon sweep, and used clothespins to fasten the graduated backdrop to it. Because the light tent has a lip, I raised the front portion of the sweep using the two-volume Oxford English Dictionary. The 1982 version is perfectly sized; you might want to use something else of the same general shape and size.
Before placing a teapot upon this stage, I metered off of an 18% gray card, oriented vertically. Then, I tried it with a teapot. I did a lot of experimentation, bracketing, spot-metering, etc, and, to my simultaneous delight and dismay, found that for both digital and film, Nikon’s Matrix Metering was spot on for the best exposure. To get the best images, I stopped down to f/11, which necessitated a fairly long exposure time (on the order of a quarter second), which, of course, makes a tripod all the more necessary.