When I was studying ceramics we did a photography subject which was geared specifically at teaching us to photograph our ceramic work. This was slightly before the "digital revolution", and I'm quite pleased to have had that grounding in basic technique with an SLR camera (single lens reflex).
Back then slide transparencies were the benchmark for entering work in competitions, and I am quite thankful that era has nearly disappeared, because the film was pretty expensive especially when you consider the need for "bracketing". For those not familiar with this term, it means take the same shot with three concurrent exposures, just to be sure you get the perfect image.
Photographing ceramic pieces is not as straight forward as you might expect, because you often have to cope with shiny areas due to the glaze or ways of highlighting translucency. I found out the expensive way that the training we had in our ceramics course made me better equipped for the task than some professional photographers (but that's another story...) and I know that I'm not the only ceramic artist to fork out lots of hard earned dollars for images that simply were not usable.
Still, I was frustrated that even with digital technology, my photos just weren't quite making the grade. At college, we had this great box thing with a lovely white curved perspex surface which you could position your work in and then snap away. I've often thought longingly of that "box" (I'm sure it had a proper name, but I can't remember it). It seemed to assure a great result.
Then I stumbled on this great post over on Strobist. Basically it explains how to use either natural or artificial light and make your own "box" (ah, he calls it a light tent!). I'm not going to repeat everything he says here, you can just follow the link, but I am going to post a photo of mine in action (below).
I didn't clear up my studio at all, because I wanted to show you how simple it is to use, once contructed. I just plonked it on my table after sweeping the rubbish aside slightly. All you have to do is choose a spot near the sun (that window faces west) or even better is to carry the box outside and place it in the sun. Below you can see the lovely even soft light that the tissue paper creates.
And I have to say that books are about 100x easier to photograph than ceramics, but even they turn out much better with Strobist's Light Tent. Thank-you Strobist!