As a photographer, nothing makes me happier than a cloudy day.
Clouds are the world’s most effective, least expensive and least predictable diffusers. They mute shadows, mellow colors and reduce contrast. Why am I telling this to a bunch of woodworkers? Well, as a magazine editor I received hundreds of “print my article” submissions that featured a beautiful highboy in a grassy setting with full sun.
I know what these guys were thinking. Taking the photo outdoors allowed them to use a fast shutter speed and small aperture without a tripod. It also made the furniture look unnatural, like a wookie in a thong. All the details of their piece are hidden in shadow (actually a good thing with thonged wookie pics). All the corners are blown out in high relief.
If you take photos of your work, buy a tripod. Period. Buy a good one (look for used Italian ones on Craigslist). Get a shutter release cable for your camera. Use a medium aperture (like f8) and let the shutter go as slow as it wants. Some photos I take require a three-second shutter speed.
And, if you are going to shoot outside, make sure your project belongs outside (birdhouse, planter, punji stick trap for opossums) and wait for a cloudy day – or shoot at first light in the morning or at last light in the evening so the light is more diffuse.
Today I took some photos of my Roorkhee chairs before sending them out to their new homes. The photos in the morning were with full sun and were a disaster – I was trying to find some dappled shade. After dinner I went out under some full cloud cover and tried again.
— Christopher Schwarz