As a maker, and once graphic designer, I really understand the importance of imagery. In fact I believe that a single image can portray much more than words in most instances. I try hard to take good photographs of my work, but although I know exactly what I want, I often struggle to succeed with the end result. Part of it is down to knowledge, and part down to not having quite the right tools. For example my iPad will take good day-to-day working shots in the studio, but as soon as I want a shot of a single piece of work the lens distorts it badly. When I throw a pot the shape is so important to me, particularly the slight taper that many of my pieces have. This often gets completely lost, and although there are ways to compensate it never looks quite the same.

I have an old digital SLR camera, which takes a decent photograph, and I’ve recently bought a tripod and shutter release to help with shooting in lower light levels, as we have at this time of year. I prefer to shoot using natural light, but I’m realising that I may have to bite the bullet and buy some lights.

CUPthecloudpottery2016  KEEPGREYthecloudpottery2016  YUNOMIthecloudpottery2016
All images by Shannon Tofts Photography

A couple of weekends ago I went to the Scottish Potters Association annual weekend workshops. I could only manage to go for a single day this year, but one thing I did take advantage of was having some professional shots taken of my work. This is not something I can afford every day, but they are needed for upcoming show applications. It was interesting to see how Shannon Tofts worked and I’m really pleased with the results. In particular the clarity of the shots and how he succeeded in capturing the reflection of my coloured footings – things I have not managed to date. I asked lots of questions and as a result realise that I need to buy a better lens. I’m struggling to decide whether I should get a standard prime lens i.e. 50mm, which tends to take images similar to what you see with the naked eye; or a macro (which Shannon used), which could be better for close ups and often have excellent sharpness.

I’d welcome any advice you might have.

PS I find myself increasingly recommending this great book… Photograph Your Own Art and Craft by the late Sussie Ahlberg, published by Bloomsbury. It’s full of practical advice and it has helped me enormously.


12 thoughts on “Image

  1. I have no advice at all, as I take shots of my work with my little point and shoot, mostly just for my own records, so the quality is not so necessary. But I know how hard it is to photo a 3d item vs a painting or collage. Very difficult because as you said, the camera distorts shapes and that is so often what makes a piece.

    I do love these shots. They make your work look ethereal and that yellow glow! Wow! Just beautiful work, and I’m glad you have these photos so I can see it at its best (next to actually seeing it).

  2. Oh I absolutely know what you mean and the prof pics make your work look gorgeous . I’ve been toying with getting a prime lens and it’s difficult to know exactly what’s best. Ideally both I guess, but then v expensive. I await with interest others’ comments. Sorry can’t help at all.

    • He certainly is! A group of us are thinking of clubbing together to get him to do a tour of the north east. I’d love some good ‘doing’ shots of me in the studio. The ones he took of you guys are brilliant. How’s the wee Pippin? xxx

    • Hi there! These photos were taken by Shannon Tofts, using a Nikon or a Hassleblad ( I can’t remember which) and a macro lens. I use a significantly cheaper Canon 760D and a 50mm 1.8 fixed lens for most of my shots which works pretty well, but I can’t get the same level of detail and clarity that Shannon does.

      • That’s interesting. It seems Shannon’s pic was taken with a Hassleblad which of course is very high quality, but by the time the image has been reduced to web bowser size, much of the pixel information has been removed.

        You could check your settings…

        Your Canon with the 50mm prime lens will also be amazing quality, note that because of the sensor size on the Cannon a 50mm lens is equivalent of an 80mm lens (ie. magnification of x1.6 – slight telephoto) – but that shouldn’t matter at all.

        – suggest use an aperture of something like f-14, that should give you good depth of field and sharper images.

        – shutter speed will be correspondingly longer so obv need to use a tripod.

        – ISO set to a low number like 100

        – Auto ISO is turned OFF because that would mess up all your good work with the aperture and shutter


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