Photographing a teacup collection: The Cover Shot

In last week’s blog we learned how to plan to create a catalog of teacups (or anything for that matter). This week, I’m going to walk through the creation of the cover photograph for the booklet this catalog will be presented in.

Test shot #1 - cups on wooden shelves
Test shot #1 – cups on wooden shelves

I originally conceived of the cover shot with all of the cups lined up on shelves.  So after washing and drying all of the cups and saucers and matching them back up, I arranged a good selection on the shelves of a built-in cupboard my dad made back in the 1950s. I thought it had the right style for the image. But when I took the test shot, it just looked too bland for me.

The test did give me some good ideas, however. Because the space where the cabinet is installed is a little congested, I had to use my wide angle lens. This showed me I could show the inside of the cups with designs on their insides, in the same shot as cups that are more interesting on their outsides. It also showed me that a dark, contrasting material would best show the fine detail of the light cups. I was a tad worried that the black cup and saucer wouldn’t show up, but as it turned out, the gold edging pops it out nicely.

Teacup test #2 - on black shelves
Teacup test #2 – on black shelves

I then built a shelf system which would hide under the black velvet I use as a backdrop in many of my photographs. It’s an okay picture, but I wasn’t in love with it.

Teacup test #3 - on shelves from side
Teacup test #3 – on shelves from side

I then tried shooting it from the side. That was much better.  Instead I put the cups on the backdrop, flat on my workbench, raised the camera to a good height and I loved the way the rose in the first cup jumps out at you.

However, I didn’t like the way the cups look like they’re riding a bus. Nor did I like the limit of eight cups out of 18. There was too much black space, and I didn’t have enough black material to hide the bench and the studio space.

Test shot 4 - on narrow bench
Test shot 4 – on narrow bench

Moving onto concept number 4, I put all of the cups onto the backdrop on my bench.  I did’t have quite enough space, so I put a piece of cardboard under the backdrop to hold a the blue cup in space. Scarey!

I liked this shot much more, but it was still not quite right. I realized the bench was too narrow to properly take the shot, so I took everything upstairs to the billiard room (don’t be impressed, it’s just a room with a billiard table in it) and laid it out there.

Final shot
Final shot

I got a nice, comfortable 17 cups and saucers in the shot, kept a nice amount of black space, and showed the interesting bits of all of them.

So that’s the front cover done. Only five test concepts (probably about 30 test shots in reality).   Took the better part of a week. That’s creativity for you.

Teacup collection back cover - silver teapot reflecting teacup and cookies
Teacup collection back cover

Moving onto the back cover. Okay, I was getting a bit stressed since this was taking so long. So I went through my collection of existing shots and selected one I shot for the invitation to a tea party I put on for my Mom.  Yay! Done!

I like this picture for the reflection of the cookies and the cup in the silver tea pot. It has nice colour with the flowers and the strawberries. It looks more friendly than the front cover shot, but the front cover shot says “Collection” much better. So the front is say “Look, I’ve got a collection” and the rear is saying “Look what I can do with my collection.”

Last week I discussed planning the teacup catalog. This week was about the cover photographs. Next week, I’ll be talking about how to photograph the collection for the catalog, which will wrap up this series.

This blog is published every Monday at 9:00 am, Eastern Standard Time. If you have comments, questions, or can think of a better approach, feel free to leave a comment. I’ll try to get back to you with a pithy answer.

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