8 Tips for Taking Better Photos of Your Antiques

This post is contributed by our friends at Thingealogy: an app that helps you Preserve and Share Family History. Visit Thingealogy.com to learn more about this estate planning and family heirloom organizing app.

Whether your aim is to sell a few of your antiques or whether you’re documenting meaningful objects you’ve collected over the years, taking high-quality photos of antiques can be challenging. Colors often don’t come through accurately, textured surfaces are difficult to discern, and distracting reflections appear where they shouldn’t.

But you don’t need to be a professional photographer to take great photos of your antiques. These eight tips will help you improve your photos. 

General Photography Tips for Antiques

1. Lighting is Everything

A high-quality photo starts with good lighting. Natural lighting is best and will deliver the most accurate color representation. A bright room with windows on two walls is ideal. Set up your antique item and your camera near windows that cast diffused light on the side and front of the item. If you don’t have a room with windows allowing light in at multiple angles, you can place a large white board on the shadow side of your object to brighten it up.

If the light is too harsh, wait for a cloudy day or hang a transparent window sheer to help diffuse it. Avoid incandescent light from lamps, since this light will cause a yellowish tint in your photo.

2. Eliminate Distractions

When you’re focused on the item you’re photographing, it’s easy to overlook distracting objects that are visible in the photo frame. Look for furniture, wall art, and other objects that will distract from the antique. Consider creating a white background by pushing a table against a wall and then taping white butcher paper (or other large piece of white paper) to the wall, allowing it to drape over the table, before placing your item. 

3. Prevent Distortion

If your camera isn’t directly in front of the item you’re photographing, distortion can happen at the edges of the photo. To prevent this problem, ensure you’re far enough away from the item that you don’t get a fisheye effect. And position yourself directly in front of the item — not off-center. 

4. Ensure Your Focus Point is on the Object

Many cameras give you the ability to choose your focus point. Be sure that you choose a point on the object — not off to the side, above, or below. Also, if your camera isn’t on auto settings, you’ll want to double-check that your aperture isn’t so low that you have difficulty getting  a sharp focus on the object.

5. Invest in a High-Quality Lens

A high-quality camera lens will help your images look professional. Additionally, if you are creating close-up shots to show texture or details like signatures or painted details, you’ll want to purchase a macro lens that will capture these details without blur. Don’t forget to rotate the item to get photos at a variety of angles. 

Item-Specific Tips for Photographing Antiques

6. Photographing Silver

Silver is tricky to photograph due to its reflective surface. It’s especially important to photograph silver on a white surface and background for this reason. You may need to create a “box” of white boards around the object in order to eliminate reflection. 

7. Photographing Jewelry

A macro lens is essential for getting quality photos of jewelry. With a macro lens, you can show the exquisite detail that makes antique jewelry special. Additionally, you’ll want to be sure you have soft lighting to avoid reflection on metals.

8. Photographing Ceramics

Ceramics are, perhaps, the most difficult to photograph accurately due to glossy glazes and curved edges. You’ll need to experiment with different intensities of lighting. And your white “box” will be most helpful when photographing ceramics. Ultimately, you may need to do some editing work in Photoshop afterwards to perfect the photos.

Whether you’re photographing your antiques for commercial purposes or to share with your family and friends, you’ll appreciate having high-quality photographs. And with these eight tips, you should be able to dramatically improve your images.

See our infographic that summarizes these antique photography tips, and keep it for reference!


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