Benjamin Comber on thu 25 sep 97
We are trying to find out what minimal lighting and filtering
equipment we would need to photograph glossy decorative tile
surrounds, e.g., tub surrounds or kitchen tile scenes. We have a
Nikon N2000 35 mm. camera and flash attachment, and a couple of
tripods. Don't have much money! Tough to get pictures not ruined by
reflections, and to get true colors (particularly background white).
Thanks -- BC
Sandra Dwiggins on fri 26 sep 97
Don't use the flash. What you need is lots of indirect, diffused light that
is consistent. So, try some stable clamp-ons with diffusers, i.e.
translucent umbrellas, etc. There are also diffusers that look like a movie
screen and go up the same way. You bounce light off of them and onto
your subject. You can rent this equipment from a photo or video
equipment supplier--if you have access to one. You don't have to buy it
unless you are going to use it on a regular basis. Try a "mild" wide
angle lens for a complete view of the surround----28mm or 35mm. Set
up your tripod and camera and make sure that your depth of field is big
enough to get all the surround in the frame--the amount of light will help
there. Use indoor-rated color film. Remember what you see is what
you get, so make sure the parts of the surround that you want to show
get the right amount of diffused light--you can intensify the light on any
area by directing more reflected light toward it.
Before you start with all of this, call a pro and see how much it would
cost before you try it.
Sandy in Maryland
Paul Lewing on fri 26 sep 97
Boy, do I sympathize. I've spent hundreds of dollars and hundreds of
rolls of film trying to photograph tile installations, but I can
finally do it well enough to take my own shots, at least of small
jobs. I just finished a 7' x 15' mural of tropical fish that will go
in a three-wall walk-in shower wit glass block walls, and I know this
one's beyond my capacity. Luckily, I just found a great architectural
photographer who's willing to trade.
First of all, you need to bite the bullet and spend maybe $300 beyond
what you already know you need, namely a good SLR camera and a tripod.
As you know, glare is your main problem, and your typical kitchen
backsplash shot has cabinets above and to the sides of the tile, so
you can't use flash and you can't shoot lights directly from the
camera to the subject. So you need at least two spotlights, 250 watt
or so, on light stands, with reflective umbrellas. This is the big
expense, but they allow you to bounce the light in from the sides,
from a height just under the cabinets.
Then you need a hand-held light meter. This will tell you whether all
parts of the piece are illuminated equally, or at least within one
f-stop. For fill-in, you will need one, or better two more lights,
maybe on stands, maybe just clamp-on. A big piece of foam-core makes
a handy and cheap reflector for these, if they need it, and also is
handy to block out reflections from windows and in mirrors. Also on
the subject of light meters, don't trust your in-camera spot meter and
take your readings off a photo-grey card, not off the tile.
Use tungsten lights, and block out all daylight. Leave the room
lights on if they aren't glaring where you don't want them. Remember
that a litle glare in the right place helps to show what tile really
looks like. You just have to control where it is and how intense.
A minor investment that will make a huge difference is a level that
fits in the hot-shoe of your camera. This will keep your straight-on
pictures from coming out crooked. Make sure the camera is level
side-to side, and then level it pointing toward the tile. When you
have the camera level, move it up or down on the tripod to focus on
the center of the tile. This will keep your pictures from making the
tile piece look trapezoidal instead of square.
This is especially important when you're using a wide-angle lens,
which is something else you will need for large tile pieces in small
bathrooms. Two of the best investments I've made are a zoom lens, so
I have some flexibility as to where to put the camera, and a second
camera body of the same brand. I keep color in one and B&W in the
Get a cable release so you don't shake the camera when you release the
shutter, and bracket your exposures. Even after all these years, I
figure I'm doing well to shoot 3 jobs on a 24- exposure roll, and I
will throw at least 8 of those away.
When I go out to shoot a job, I take extension cords (the closest
outlets are often in the picture) duct tape to keep cords out of the
way, a comb and an extra shirt (I get sweaty with all the hot lights)
if I want to be in the pictures, and maybe some props- soap dish, tea
kettle, flowers, etc. No telling what you'll find there, especially
in a new house.
And as I reread this, I'd say better budget $500, but one day with a
pro would eat that up. Look for cameras and lenses used. Good luck.
Paul Lewing, Seattle
To see one of the photos I took, see
John H. Rodgers on mon 29 sep 97
-- [ From: John H. Rodgers * EMC.Ver #2.5.02 ] --
Sounds like you have the basic setup to get going on your photographs.
The thing you will need to get to control glare and reflection is a set of
softlight or diffuser screens. You may even want to build a soft-light box.
I have made these from bed sheets, foamcore, and other translucent materials
.. I have had glare problems when photographing ceramic work with high gloss
glazes and precious metal castings such as sterling or gold which have a
highly polished surface. The reflectivity of the surfaces requires strong
diffusion of the light. A combination of properly controlled diffused light
with properly positioned spotlighting can result in some spectacular
The Alaska Man
-------- REPLY, Original message follows --------
Date: Thursday, 25-Sep-97 06:57 AM
From: Benjamin Comber \ Internet: (email@example.com)
To: CLAYART LIST \ Internet: (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Subject: Seeking tips on photographing decorative tile scenes
We are trying to find out what minimal lighting and filtering equipment we
would need to photograph glossy decorative tile surrounds, e.g., tub
surrounds or kitchen tile scenes. We have a Nikon N2000 35 mm. camera and
flash attachment, and a couple of tripods. Don't have much money! Tough to
get pictures not ruined by reflections, and to get true colors (particularly
background white). Thanks -- BC
-------- REPLY, End of original message --------
Russel Fouts on mon 29 sep 97
>> Use tungsten lights <<
Good advice. Can I add that if you're using tungsten light use tungsten
film or get a tungsten (blue) filter. Tungsten tends to give a yellow cast
to your film (you won't notice it with your eyes) and the filter or the
film "balances" this.
>> and block out all daylight. Leave the room lights on if they aren't
glaring where you don't want them. Remember that a litle glare in the
right place helps to show what tile really looks like. You just have to
control where it is and how intense. <<
Leave the room lights on IF they incandescant. If they're flourescent,
turn'em off or you could get a green cast. Incandescant lights are tungsten
>> Get a cable release so you don't shake the camera when you release the
They're cheap so there's no reason not to have one but if you don't, can't
find it or have forgotten it, just use the timer built into your camera.
The tiles aren't going anywhere so you have lots of time.
>> and bracket your exposures. Even after all these years, I figure I'm
doing well to shoot 3 jobs on a 24- exposure roll, and I will throw at
least 8 of those away. <<
WOW and I thought I wasted a lot of film! I bracket two stops above the
meter reading and 2 stops below (that makes 5 shots of each picture!) and
can shoot 7 pots in a roll of 36. I feel much better now!
Russel (Steve Meltzer taught me everything I know, the rest I figured out
on my own)
"Mes Potes et Mes Pots"
+32 2 223 02 75
Partly sunny with the light and colors of Northern Renaisance paintings.
Paul Lewing on tue 30 sep 97
All good pointers that I should have made clearer in my post. But it
was plenty long enough as it was.
Paul Lewing, Seattle, who actually used to play recquetball with Steve
Phil Davenport on fri 3 oct 97
If you plan on using a flash for the situation you described, use it in
the bounce position. If the flash is used to directly illuminate the
subject you will get reflections every time. By using a bounce flash the
light will be diffused and the amount of reflections will be decreased.
You don't say what type of film you are using but if you are using a
color, negative film the photo lab can correct the color shift if you will
ask. If your negatives don't match the labs "standard negative" then the
colors can shift as well as print density (light&dark). Don't assume
that if the prints appear too light or too dark or too yellow or whatever
that you did something wrong. The photo lab has more control over that
than you think.
On Thu, 25 Sep 1997, Benjamin Comber wrote:
> ----------------------------Original message----------------------------
> We are trying to find out what minimal lighting and filtering
> equipment we would need to photograph glossy decorative tile
> surrounds, e.g., tub surrounds or kitchen tile scenes. We have a
> Nikon N2000 35 mm. camera and flash attachment, and a couple of
> tripods. Don't have much money! Tough to get pictures not ruined by
> reflections, and to get true colors (particularly background white).
> Thanks -- BC
> Benjamin Comber