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Photographing the New and the Old

CC BY-SA 2.0

CC BY-SA 2.0

"An antique (Latin: antiquus; "old", "ancient") is an old collectable item. It is collected or desirable because of its age, beauty, rarity, condition, utility, personal emotional connection, and/or other unique features. It is an object that represents a previous era or time period in human society.

It is common practice to define "antique" as applying to objects at least 100 years old.

Antiques are usually objects that show some degree of craftsmanship—or a certain attention to design" Wikipedia

Sometimes when we look at something new perhaps a piece used for some sort of sports or perhaps recreational in nature, even kid's toys, we tend to focus on how shiny it may look, how well done or notice even how expensive it may be or how technologically advanced it has become.

What we tend to forget is that almost everything had earlier beginnings and here is where we can turn to that past and bring it together with the present in a photography / scavenger hunt / fun project.

I like to take photographs of old antique items that were often used in sporting events or diversions like ice skating and doing so often gives me a sense of appreciation for times when things took longer to make and were really made to last, unlike many modern stuff.

This particular photographic project is really not difficult and it won't cost you much if anything except the time to research and go from location to location unless you are fortunate enough to find one place that has both present and past, which by the way is highly unlikely.

CC BY-ND 2.0

CC BY-ND 2.0

So where should you start? The first things is to make a list of things that you want to focus on, although doing this randomly can work it is best to have some ideas in mind and be specific.

But the best place to look would probably be in an antique store, call first and ask if its OK to take pictures. Yes you can go and use the pretense of taking pictures for a client but why lie? Besides you may get away with it once but unlike twice.

Many antique stores near where I live have a wide selection of antique sporting good, recreational goods and others and the owners really do not mind if I take pictures of their wares although I always provide them with copies of my work and they often use them as wall decorations, which gives me an added bonus in the way of free publicity.

CC BY-SA 3.0

CC BY-SA 3.0

Once you have located your particular items try to photograph them at angels that clearly show their age and used conditions.

Also avoid taking a picture that show the article next to a brand new one or displayed in a brand new well lit glass display case.

These distract form the theme and takes away from the nostalgia that the pictures themselves can evoke. Crop judiciously to focus the attention solely on the subject and not much else.

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Also pay attention to the lighting. It should not be too bright or too dark. A photography snoot works quite well since it aims a narrow beam of light on a specific spot.

Consider using black and white or even sepia film since by their very nature subjects photographed using these mediums look "old".

CC BY 2.0

CC BY 2.0

Your gear should include a tripod and a mechanical shutter release to minimize camera shake and a macro capable zoom lens that will allow you to take close ups but at a comfortable distance away, remember "you broke it, you bought it".

Good to have is a ring light which is nothing more than a flash unit in the shape of a circle that attaches to the lens and is excellent for macros and close ups.

Do pay attention to reflections since many subjects especially those made from any sort of metal will be highly reflective.

I rarely recommend using the automatic mode for any photography since I believe that you will grow in the art the more you keep control of what you do but for this project it may be the best alternative.

However to be sure take at least two shots; one on auto and one on manual or better yet take several shots at various speeds, angles and perspectives.

Also keep in mind that since the main point of attention is the subject and not much more, you should use a large aperture in order to trow any details behind the subject out of focus and this also helps showing any distracting elements.

CC BY-ND 2.0

CC BY-ND 2.0

These images can be submitted to antique collectible publications and to industry specific ones so long as they show new perspectives of things that have been photographed many times before.

Aim to be as technically flawless as possible and try to capture images of rare items whenever you can. In other words try to give old subjects matter a new spin and make these images your own.

Photographers who distinguish themselves and gain a reputation as the best in their field are usually those that can present a subject in a new "light". Aim to do the same.

© 2014 Luis E Gonzalez

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