Porcelain Tile Photography
Awhile back one of my photographer friends e-mailed me about an opportunity to photograph porcelain tiles. They had talked to the potential client and thought the shoot was more in my wheelhouse so they gave the client a referral to me. I called up the client and we hit it off on the phone. The project brief was to photograph 1,000 porcelain tiles for the clients e-commerce website. The client needed each tile delivered on a solid white background as well as on a transparency. As soon as the client got the tiles delivered we jumped on the project.
About The Tiles
Each tile that I photographed was unique. They are hand painted by artisans. Each tile has its own personality and features that make it unique. In total there ended up being a little over 1,000 tiles. Some pieces like bull nose tile were photographed at multiple angles to show off their shape. The vast majority of these tiles are super vibrant.
How To Photograph Porcelain Tile
So this opportunity proved to be a really valuable one. I had photographed a few porcelain tiles in the past, but did not have a ton of experience. I set up a simple workstation for this job. I had two photography bays. One bay for products like quarter rounds where we would shoot into the product at a 45 degree angle and a second bay to photograph the tiles from directly overhead. Each bay was equipped with a tripod, a level, 1 beauty dish with a polarizing gel, and a Paul C Buff Einstein light. Each tile was photographed from exactly the same height, and angle so that we would have consistent results and minimize time in post production. We ensured that each tile was positioned exactly the same with a small marker on the product photography table. There is a fine line to walk between making the product look to mate and it having to much reflection. That is where the lighting and the polarizing gel come into play.
Retouching the photos is also key. Often times the photos will come into the computer looking a little too flat and not letting the vibrant colors shine though. I created a process to help us keep accurate color and also to give them some extra vibrance. Many of these tiles are hand painted so they have flaws and imperfections in them which is natural and exactly why you buy this type of tile. In retouching you have to find the line between perfecting the tile and giving it a hand painted look and feel.
The Final Product
Wrapping It Up
Photographing 1,000 of anything is a monumental task. The way to do it is in steps and stages. Come up with a method and a process for doing things and make it repeatable. This was such a fun shoot because each tile is so different and unique. Getting each tile to show its individual charms and story was the fun part.
Nick Bumgardner is a product photographer based out of Nashville, TN. If you have a large project like the one featured above get in touch.