Pottery Photograph Help

I have been asked to photograph a piece of pottery that was made by a famous pottery artist.

My problem is the piece is black with black etchings that I need to bring out in my photo. Since I know I will be utilizing Topaz Detail and other filters I thought I would seek help here.

  1. Should I use a light box to photograph it?
  2. Should I use a flash?
  3. Would flat lighting work better.
  4. Any suggestions to bring out the detail of the black on black etchings?

Thanks for any help anyone could render.


I assume you will be using a digital camera which means that you will have the opportunity of trying different settings. If the pottery is shiny then the reflections from it may not be good so reflectors may be useful rather than direct lighting. A soft colour may be a better back drop rather than white - that may set up further reflections which may not be the best for the piece. I would advise you to shoot in Raw - that way software will be able to enhance much of the actual detail of the work. If you have no Raw converter most software allows a trial period of 30 days so you could utilise your free trial. Not knowing any more about the place, setting, size of piece leaves a bit of a vacuum in offering help.

Yes, I’m using a Sony A-6000. I only shoot in Raw. Good idea about the reflectors. I’m going to try some “Ghetto” lighting using some halogen worklights, I will try using some side lighting with my flash to accentuate the detail and I will use the reflectors. Hopefully Topaz Detail will help out with the rest.

Good Luck with it - hope it turns out well. If you have Topaz Clarity I think it may be a better choice than Detail. In my opinion it has a little more control over highlights and shadows.

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Many books, guides, and videos have been published on product photography, there are many “experts” on the subject, and one can go crazy trying to sort through all the information. The following general guidelines are personal opinions based on some experiments I conducted in 2015 while helping a friend shoot some product photography for his wife’s business. I am most certainly not an expert in the subject matter.

Although I’ve shot with constant lighting (tungsten, fluorescent, and LED) and both studio strobes and speed-lights the easiest results (again, my personal opinion) can be achieved with placing the product in a light tent fitted with an white infinity sweep, using whatever lighting you have available, set your white balance for the type of lighting (preferably measured with the camera), set your exposure with a[ flash] meter or meter the light reflected from an 18% gray card, use a polarizer if there [are] any reflective surfaces on the product, and use the smallest f-stop on your lens (maximun depth-of-field at shooting distance).

The following photo was made while I was testing different lighting and shooting setups.

It was exported from a RAW image shot on a Nikon D300 with a 50mm (effective 75mm) lens, which was fitted with a circular-polarizer, set at f/8 and shot at 1/60th of second (both manual settings), using two 300 watt-second studio strobes (metered at f/11 for the left and f/14 for the right). All reading were made with an [Sekonic flash] meter, and no adjustments have been made to the image. (I would be more than happy to discuss the full physical setup in a private message.)

[corrections made]

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