This article was originally posted on Photofocus.com

A few months back I took a pottery class here in Portland, and on the last day I brought in my camera to photograph some of the other students’ work. I didn’t want to go too elaborate with the setup, so I opted to make use of the beautiful diffused window-light coming into the classroom.

I purchased a graduated backdrop from Amazon to use for my pottery, the Varitone Graduated Vinyl Background #09 (31″x43″), and decided that this would be the perfect time to test it out I placed it at a slight angle to the window to push the shadow at a slight angle behind the subject, but still allowing the light to come at the subject from the side (and not directly in front). I also used some Gaffer tape to keep the background in place, and set a folded piece of white foam board to the left of the subject to fill in some of the shadows.

Here are a few behind-the-scenes shots of my setup (click to view larger):

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My camera and background gear is as follows:

  • Canon 5D Mark III
  • Canon 100mm f/2.8L Macro lens
  • Canon cable release
  • Really Right Stuff TVC 24L Tripod
  • Really Right Stuff BH-40 Ballhead
  • Varitone Graduated Vinyl Background #09 (31″x43″)
  • White foam board (cut in half, then taped back together with white Gaffer tape)

Overall, this setup took less than 10 minutes (maybe even less than 5) to prepare before I was ready to start shooting. If I could change one thing, I would have remembered to bring my large diffusion panel to soften the light from the right side of the mug, which would decrease the shadows to the left.