Photographing Jasperware and Other Things - part 1

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This may not be immediately obvious, but we are experts at photography and printing.  We intend to advise on how to get the best from your own photography, and we want to keep it as simple as possible.  This is not aimed at professional photographers, nor at the upmarket dealers - their photography is already of a very high standard.  But what we have noticed is that in the reasonably priced part of the market (which is all we are able to buy) the quality of photography is quite variable.  We have also noticed that often the better the photography, the more bids there are, and the higher prices are reached.

We have to say at the outset that we know little of Wedgwood Jasperware, except that we have become strangely fascinated. Our fascination may lead you, dear reader, in some strange directions. That's what we do. Our business is fine art printing (you may want to see what we do in our eBay shop - AGKC Penthouse Gallery) - and we want to make it clear that we have no commercial interest in Jasperware, we are just small time collectors.

You see, even from a snapshot you should be able to get some fine detail - and this is taken from the first picture above.  It's not that we're picky, just that there is extra beauty to be found through photography.

There is such a huge pleasure in even the simplest pieces - and where else can you purchase such beauty for ninety-nine pence. Don't answer that, for we are told - "A commercial graffito on the underside of a red-figure pelike in Oxford and attributed by Beazley to the Achilles painter' can be read as 'four items for 3.5 obols' - 26 pence each."

As we have said, we are fine art printers by trade - we put pigments on to paper. That's why we tend to see Jasperware as a print (as, of course, did Josiah Wedgwood himself). The only difference is that in this case clay of one colour is put onto clay of another colour.  Well, there's another difference. Where else could you buy a print of this quality for a few pence? Not from us, I'm afraid!

Anyway, talking of photography means that we must remember that the development of Jasperware required the invention of photography. Not that it entirely worked out. One could make images, but they were not stable in light - and without purpose in the dark. But, without Tom Wedgwood, there may have been no photography. And no television. Maybe Athenian vases would have been sufficient!

Ok, let's get down to it.  To make things easy you need a digital camera with autofocus and a built in flash unit.  These days that's almost anything from £25 upwards on eBay!  You will also need software to do simple image manipulation.  You can use Microsoft Paint for a few things, but something better should come free with the camera.  It's most important that you can crop the picture - and helpful if you can sharpen it and change it to monochrome.

Then all you need to do is to set up a plain background as shown here:

Just something like a length of plain wallpaper with a gentle curve.  Then photograph it, with flash, from the front - remembering to get as close as you can to fill the camera frame.  You should end up with something like this:

For our own use we keep this process as simple as possible. We haven't worried about getting rid of shadows, for instance, though we do like to keep the background as plain and even as possible. We adjust the image colour to match the object as nearly as we can - and let the background do whatever it wants.

Here is another example:

Remember, it's the plain paper background with the gentle curve that does the trick.  And using flash is not a problem with Jasperware.  The matt finish avoids the usual nasty reflections - and using flash means that the camera can be hand held and the image will be quite sharp.

The next thing, which is quite important to the buyers of Wedgwood, is to turn the piece over and photograph the base. To show the impressions of the bottom of the piece we prefer to desaturate the image entirely (that is to make it monochrome or black and white), and then adjust the brightness and contrast until the markings are properly visible.

That should have dealt with photography of the "object".  With Jasperware, though, the "subjects" can be equally important for the collector...

...and we will deal with that in the second part of this guide.


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