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Photographing Old Jugs

Updated on September 6, 2013
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Jugs, the containers, have evolved very little since they were first created to transport and store liquids, food goods and other items. Other than the materials form which they are made nothing much has been added or altered.

Because of the many varieties of colors and materials used in their making as well as the many artistic styles used in their decoration this, although it may seem like a simple photographic theme, does offer some good subjects to conduct a photographic study of the shapes, purposes, decorations and materials.

"A jug is a type of container used to hold liquid. It has an opening, often narrow, from which to pour or drink, and nearly always has a handle. One could imagine a jug being made from nearly any watertight material, but most jugs throughout history have been made from clay, glass, or plastic. Some Native American and other tribes created liquid holding vessels by making woven baskets lined with an asphaltum sealer. The slang term jug can also be used describe the breast of a woman, short for milk jug.[1]

In American English usage, a jug is a large container with a narrow mouth and handle for liquids. In British English, and generally in English speaking countries outside North America, usage, a jug is any container with a handle and a mouth and spout for liquid - American "pitchers" are more likely to be called jugs elsewhere." wikipedia

Many samples can be found at country barns and antique stores, some are also on museums, but photographing these is difficult unless prior permission is obtained. Ancient samples were sometimes decorated with battle scenes, or scenes from daily life. Photographing them would be quite a feat because they are very few in existence and mostly in museums. However, in places such as Greece, Italy and on many others tourist centers, reproductions are very common. If you come upon very well made reproduction, made from bronze do record their images as these are rare. Some very exquisite reproductions sometimes feature simulated patina common to copper and other metals.

Concentrate on isolating the jug against a plain background, preferably black. Light the subjects with filtered light and pay attention to reflections. It would also be appropriate to photograph the jugs next to whatever material it was meant to hold; such as olives, grain, flour or grapes for making wine, apples for making cider and so on. If possible besides recording their images next to their intended contents, see if you can locate the raw materials such as clay and include it in the shot.

Another variation is to not only include contents, and raw materials but to add an item that can be tied to the jug's origin, such as an small American flag to denote that a particular sample originated or was made in the good old USA. or a pirate sword with a old pirate style jug.

There are some styles that are inherently typical of a country or region, such as the ornate silver jugs and character jugs from England. There are even some old traditional jugs such as the puzzle jugs which were very popular in taverns of their day. These usually had several openings and the trick was to drink the wine or liquor from it without spilling any of it.

A good set of images can make for an attractive study and for a calendar set. Jugs have an appeal all of their won and they are often found as decorations in bars, taverns and homes. A good presentation format that looks quite attractive is similar to that of a thumbnail.

Your samples should be of old styles, ancient amphorae even if they are reproductions, classical, whimsical, curious and odd. The idea is to record their different tones, shades, styles, shapes and decorative artwork and sizes.

To add charm to the shot, it is often a good idea to use them in still life's alongside other interesting earthenware or rustic materials. These are better recorded in diffused light with backgrounds of similar tonalities.

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This project can be accomplished with very little effort other than the actual tracking of samples. The main point with this project is to present as many samples and variety as it is possible, since most jugs have a common shape and design.

Some patience will pay off especially if you are planning a trip to a tourist destination known for the availability of jugs or amphorae as most Mediterranean and some European countries are.

Capture images that are appealing to you from an artistic point of view, don't just photograph jugs for the sake of photographing them. Do so when the subject is out of the ordinary or it's in a particular pleasing setting or has something about it that calls your attention to it like an unusual perspective. Since these are simple subjects, being creative is paramount.


© 2011 Luis E Gonzalez


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    • randomcreative profile image

      Rose Clearfield 6 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

      One of my undergrad majors was classics so I've spent a lot of time studying old amphoras and whatnot. A lot of them are dark and thus I'm sure a little difficult to photograph.

    • LuisEGonzalez profile image

      Luis E Gonzalez 6 years ago from Miami, Florida

      penlady: Thank you

    • penlady profile image

      penlady 6 years ago from Sacramento, CA

      Some very educational information on jugs. Knowledge is always good and you have provided us with more knowledge on a seldom discussed topic.

    • justom profile image

      justom 6 years ago from 41042

      Haaa! Me too!!

    • LuisEGonzalez profile image

      Luis E Gonzalez 6 years ago from Miami, Florida

      Justom: Years ago one of my regular gigs was to photograph "jugs" for a museum study....I almost didn't want to charge them for it....God how I miss those days!!!

    • justom profile image

      justom 6 years ago from 41042

      Luis, I got in trouble years ago for photographing "jugs" :-) Good hub but it did kind of make me laugh. Peace!! Tom

    • LuisEGonzalez profile image

      Luis E Gonzalez 6 years ago from Miami, Florida

      Cardisa, FloraBreeRobinson: Thank you both for your nice comments. There is something about earthenware and older things that holds an aesthetic appeal for most

    • FloraBreenRobison profile image

      FloraBreenRobison 6 years ago

      We saw some fabulous specimens when we were in Greece. Mom has been commissioned to paint scenes on milk jugs before. And she owns an original artwork my an artist she knows who not only made the jug but painted it as well.

    • Cardisa profile image

      Carolee Samuda 6 years ago from Jamaica

      You know I like very old earthenware. I actually prefer the original kind of utensils like clay pots and bowls to synthetic materials. I prefer wooden stuff to plastic, I also like ceramic. The jugs in the display are beautiful and rustic looking items like that look so good in photos

    • LuisEGonzalez profile image

      Luis E Gonzalez 6 years ago from Miami, Florida

      Thank you Steve Lensman. I approached it as in how to photograph them. There is a lot of information regarding their history thought, but that would fall outside of my realm of expertise.

    • Steve Lensman profile image

      Steve Lensman 6 years ago from London, England

      Another fascinating hub Luis, though I must confess I was expecting something different from this topic title. :)

      Voted Up.

    • LuisEGonzalez profile image

      Luis E Gonzalez 6 years ago from Miami, Florida

      Thank you everyone: Even a simple subject can be made into a photo project, just by looking at things a little differently.

    • profile image

      Lynn S. Murphy 6 years ago

      I agree with RTand just a bit of creatity makes for some great eye candy! UP!

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 6 years ago from the short journey

      Neat hub with great principles to apply to other photographic subjects. Thanks!

    • Mandeep Randhawa profile image

      Mandeep Randhawa 6 years ago from India

      Interesting Hub..well informative Thanks for sharing..Have a nice day..