Many tablecloths are made of plastic, vinyl, or just fabric, and those are all fine choices, however many people, especially in Canada and the UK love to use oilcloth tablecloths and there is a good reason for it. An oilcloth table cloth is actually a vinyl front layer with a cotton or polyester mesh backing.
Using an oilcloth tablecloth has a number of benefits. First of all, because the top surface is made of vinyl they are very smooth and that means that any stuck on food or grease is very easy to clean off. Oilcloths are very convenient because they are very stain resistant and waterproof too. That means that no mess is going to get on the beautiful table underneath.
This type of table cloth also has a very long lifespan, not to mention that there are many different oilcloth tablecloth designs to choose from including various patterns, landscapes, and even custom pictures too.
We aren’t here to just talk about oilcloth tablecloths though. We are here to talk about photographing them and the challenges that trying to take pictures of them pose. After all photographing a shiny textile isn’t all that easy so here are some tips that you can follow to make your oilcloth photos turn out great.
Getting the Texture – Lighting
One thing to keep in mind is the kind of lighting that you are going to use when taking the photo of the oilcloth tablecloth. If your tablecloth has no real texture to it then it is recommended that you use a direct and head on lighting because there is no texture to be emphasized and the colors will stand out more. On the other hand if the tablecloth has a specific texture that you would like to show off then you should use side lighting. When light comes at a textured surface from the side it creates highlights and shadows that work wonders for showing off cool textures. Simply keep in mind what kind of oilcloth tablecloth you have and based on that you can make your lighting choice.
Don’t use Flash
One of the key things to remember when photographing an oilcloth is that they are shiny which means that using a flash is not ideal. It is better to use a continuous source of light rather than a flash. The flash from your camera may produce a blinding effect and can distort the image in terms of its color balance and contrast. You don’t want parts of your photo looking like a white flash of light because the oilcloth reflected the flash and overloaded the camera with light. It’s better to just be in a bright environment.
Your Camera Settings
A big thing to remember is that shiny objects like these oilcloth tablecloths, when using a continuous light source, require a fairly long exposure time and that means that steadiness is important. Your hands are only so steady therefore it is recommended that you use a tripod in order to get a clear picture without blur. You should also get as much of the oilcloth as possible into the photo which means that you want to use an aperture of either f/8, f/11, or f/16. You also want to set the ISO to between 100 and 400 to get the best results. Knowing exactly which setting to use will take a little bit of practice and it does depend on the light source you are using as well as how reflective the piece that you are shooting is, not to mention the quality of the camera that you have.