How to photograph loose leaf tea

Hello fellow tea lovers! I am looking for some photography tips! What is the best way you find when taking photos of tea leaves? I am looking to revamp the teas on my website and want to take all my own photo’s, what is your favorite or best tip for a GREAT photo?! http://www.specialteabrew.com

38 Replies

Here’s how I got great photos for my teas when I was running the business. I found someone who was a photographer and I offered them a trade: tea for photos. I gave them a generous supply of my tea, they photographed it, and then they kept the supply I gave them. It worked out well for both of us!

If you want to take the photos yourself, I would recommend building yourself a light box.

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I definately want to take the photos myself, a light box is a perfect solution. I consider myself a decent photographer as it is one of my greatest passions, yet when I try and take photos of tea leaves I seem to come up short. Thanks LiberTEAS, ps why did you stop running your tea biz, and do you plan or ever want to start up another?

SimplyJenW said

I have a cheap light box made with foam core board and good lighting. Also, I imagine it would be good to put the tea on white paper. Also, use the macro setting on your camera if you have one. A tripod is probably a good idea, too.

Good Idea SimplyJenW :) thanks so much

SimplyJenW said

With digital, you can take lots of pics…use the best ones, and then crop, correct the exposure and color in a good photo editor. ( I am pretty fond of picnik for photo editing which is free online and part of flickr web photo hosting.)

@SpecialTea Brew: Basically, I realized that I’m an artist and not a business person. I am loving the writing of tea reviews. I feel I am much better at writing about tea than I am doing taxes and inventory and paperwork.

I don’t want to say “never” but it is not my plan to start another tea business, at least, not the way I was. I have an idea that was given to me by someone that I plan on exploring, but it isn’t really a tea business… we shall see how that develops though.

OH… and PS: I am drinking your Tropical Mist Sencha at the moment. :)

Tropical Mist Sencha is one of my favorites i think, so mild and well slightly sweet almost. :)

That is funny I am also super artistic, or at least I like to believe I am, but in the business world I almost feel like I am better at the taxes, inventory and paperwork part of it (online tea wise) than I am marketing and getting out there in the public eye… I need a business partner!!! I need to find someone that compliments me, but is personality wise opposite me. Someone with a more outgoing, smoosher (in a good way) type of personality… Any takers?

@SpecialTea Brew…all the pictures on my site, I did myself and NO I am not a photographer or know the first thing..a friend of a friend is a photographer and he offered to show me how to do it in one afternoon….

I bought a tripod and a Cannon digital SLR from Sears for @ 500. Like the others said, daylight is best, I did not use a light box for the teas, as it added an overcast. The pictures were placed on white copier paper (less grainy background) and done in front of a window or somewhere close by.

The camera was hooked up to my laptop and I shot the pictures from the actual computer (via remote shoot), making adjustments/changes as I went along. This lessed the “fixing” of the photos after.

A light box was used with “teaware”, only to deflect the shadows. I found that it was best to use a LARGE piece of white paper (banner paper/cardstock)

Hope this helps.

Thanks Praise Tea :) that does help, so many suggestions on here I LOVE IT!

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52teas said

I’m reading these tips with great interest. I STINK at taking photos of our teas. I think thats part of why our labels have fruits and pies (and grinning monkeys) on them.

SimplyJenW said

But I love your fruits, pies, and grinning monkeys! ;)

Uniquity said

I appreciate the original effort of fruits, pies and grinning monkey! Pictures of the actual tea might be more helpful however to prospective buyers. Like me! : )

Fairyfli said

I too love your fruits pies and grinning monkeys they are so distinct and fun!

52teas said

Yeah. I can swipe pictures off the Internet like nobody else.

Did I just say that out loud?

CaraTobe said

Nooo! Don’t say that! As a professional photographer that’s so sad to hear! :( Find a photographer in your area and I’m sure they’re willing to help!

52teas said

Actually, I do look for Creative Commons licensed pictures. It is amazing what you can find if you know where to look.

CaraTobe said

Oh good! :) Thanks for doing that!

52Teas, your grinning monkeys are the best :) , I think with picture taking of teas from what I have experimented with anyways practice makes perfect. Once we find our tea picture “spot” keep it :)

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CaraTobe said

I’d love to help out! I’m a photographer and also a photographer’s assistant (the photographer I’m working with specializes in food :)

For a pack shot sort of thing – I definitely suggest a white background. It’s clean and simple and perfect for getting the job done with no hassle. I suggest using daylight as your main light source. It doesn’t need to be sunny, either! Cloudy days are better, even. The light is more diffused and isn’t so harsh on the subject! Set your table up near a window or glass door. Then play with a mirror to reflect light onto the leaves. This gives the leaves more contrast and makes the individual leaves stand out more!

http://www.flickr.com/photos/pasteques/5254606088/in/set-72157625272761287/
This is a photo I took of St. Petersburg tea by Kusmi in my apartment in the fall. I photographed the tea cup and saucer on a black cloth on a table near a glass door and used a mirror to light the leaves and inside of the cup. Less can be more :)

Also – going to shamelessly promote myself here – if you’re willing to ship your tea to Paris, I’d love to do a photo/tea trade! I’d love to work with tea more :D

wow this is great help. Ship to Paris, wow I would love to ship myself to paris! Thank you so much for the tips, cant wait to try them out~!

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CaraTobe said

Also, if you don’t want to shoot directly down on your subject, just get one longer piece of white paper and hang it up like a smaller version of this:
http://dailypayne.com.s60471.gridserver.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/day-139-lighting-setup.jpg
Remember, the sharper the curve the more shadow you’ll get.

Or, try this:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/jliba/3841360484/

hope this helps!

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52teas said

Those are some GREAT tips.

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As CaraTobe, the lighting makes all of the difference in the world. I too would suggest a light table (make sure the light is even!) or a flash head placed below a piece of translucent plexi-glass.
You will them want to set up a light above the tea and balance the exposure between the bottom and top light. You want to make sure your bottom plexi remains white.
A few other tips, put your camera in manual exposure so you don’t get a variation of exposures between your shots. You want your look to remain consistent from frame to frame. Same with your white balance, try to set it to the light. I would advise you against using artificial light (as much as I love available light in my day to day work) for the above reason, it may not remain consistent through the shoot.
If your camera allows, shoot in RAW for the added advantage of having more control over your post-processing.
My biggest tip is to strive to get the shot in camera. Do not rely on post processing!
I am also willing to do a bit of a trade if you want to ship some stuff up to Montreal!
My own shameless plug: you can see my work at http://www.timsnowphotography.com or http://www.newwindphoto.com
I also have an instructional photo workshop site at http://www.newwindworkshops.com
Have a great day!
Tim

Thank you Tim :) Your work is amazing, and Montreal wow I have not been there in what seems like a million years! Thank you for the tips, cant wait to see what works best in the SEATTLE haze of rain (though it is amazingly sunny out today)

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CaraTobe said

Totally agree with getting the shot in camera. Sometimes it can be a pain to try to edit something you could have easily eliminated while setting up the picture!

But do remember – “less is more”. Sometimes all you need is one light source and a white reflector or mirror to get a good photo! :)

Also one thing that helps me to organize myself during shoots is to think one step at a time. First, set up your shot. What angle fits your subject best? Then check depth of field and focus. How much do you want in focus? What part of the image do you want to bring the most attention to? Then start with the lighting and again, go one step at a time. If you want to lighten a shadow, try a white piece of paper or foam board to use as a reflector.

Anyway, yeah. I’ll stop myself before I continue to babble on about photography! I hope I’ve helped at least a little bit!

Phtotography is one of my most favorite hobbies to be honest, but I mostly work out doors and with nature like trees, rocks etc… Photography as a career would be amzing so I cant tell you to stop babbling :) thanks again for the tips

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Chi of Tea said

good camera with macro setting, white paper and morning sunlight help a lot. Try to get as close to the tea as possible without casting shadows, I stack the leaves in a heaping pile and try to get a side angle shot.

However, a really easy way to get a decent shot is to have a good amount spread out and just come strait down on it. If lighting is really bad, then use photoshop to brighten and contrast the photo to correct the bad light, just be careful not to change the color levels beyond what the tea looks like. As long as the photo gives the tea an accurate representation in color and texture, adjusting contrast and brightness help a lot if your lighting is not up to expectations.

Simple seems better :) thanks Chi of Tea

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I love a good DIY project. I think you need to find great natural light, a white table cloth, and the tea. Then start shooting til you lose the light. It really could be that simple. It might take some time experimenting with angles and light but it is worth it for a great photo.

Love it :)

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