In this series of post, I’ll show you just how hard photographing trophies can be if you don’t have a clue what to do. Thankfully, somewhere along my journey, I had a wonderful friend come to my house for a tutoring session in photography. In return, I fed him and gave him a potential solution for one of his challenges. Let’s get started with the story.
As many of you have, I have a few trophies of the activities I’ve participated in. The trophies can range from a few inches tall to several feet. Once the trophies exceed the size of your lightbox, it becomes time to try a different approach for photographing the family heirlooms. You’ll need a location in which to take pictures of these objects that has a clutter-free background and good lighting. According to many photography blogs, one of the easiest ways to do this is to use a seamless backdrop and set up a few lights.
There are so many ways you can create a seamless backdrop. I enlisted the aid of my engineering husband for this project. He came up with a system that would allow me to have any size backdrop I want. I just change the configuration of several pieces of PVC pipe and I can have a medium sized backdrop, or I can extend it full length and have a 90” backdrop. I purchased 5 yards of 90” white muslin and I’m not ready to learn how to take pictures of objects that don’t fit inside my lightbox.
Unfortunately, for the first object of choice, I chose my color guard trophy.
exposure 1/60, aperture f/3.2, focal length: 6mm, ISO 800,
vivid color setting, spot focus, custom white balance
Now, at first glance, that’s a fairly decent picture. However, the shadows are odd, the angle of my camera to the trophy seems odd, and there is a lot of glare. Now, I’ll admit that many amateur photographers would take this picture and be happy. I’m not satisfied with this. I want something better.
I tried a few more pictures.
Shifted the light position
Another light position
Changed my settings
exposure 1/100, aperture f/4, focal length: 6mm, ISO 800, vivid color setting, spot focus, custom white balance, macro setting, used flash with + 2/3
Flash does not work!
exposure 1/200, aperture f/4, focal length: 7.3 mm, ISO 800, vivid color setting, center weight average focus, custom white balance, macro setting
Tried flash again.
exposure 1/60, aperture f/3.5, focal length: 6 mm, ISO 800, vivid color setting, spot focus, custom white balance, macro setting, flash
Color adjustment with flash
exposure 1/60, aperture f/4, focal length: 6 mm, ISO 800, vivid color setting, spot focus, Tungsten color balance, used flash with + 2/3
Re-positioned the lights
exposure 1/60, aperture f/3.2, focal length: 6 mm, ISO 800, vivid color setting, spot focus, Tungsten color balance, used flash with + 2/3
I was frustrated. I just couldn’t take the kind of picture I wanted of the trophy. I was ‘playing’ but not getting any better than the first picture. Plus, the seamless backdrop wasn’t looking it’s best.
I decided to search the internet and I learned that trophies are tough. They have highly reflective areas which can, among other problems, capture the background (you in a red shirt) or it bounces light back.
I also decided that covering a chair with my backdrop wasn’t going to work. I thought elevating the trophy off the ground and using the backdrop as the cover would make the object easier to work with. Nope. My backdrop was no longer seamless. So, I would be trying a different approach to improve that quality.
My first attempts with a seamless backdrop were not what I had hoped. I’m still very much an amateur and it’s time to consult a mentor.
Devon Noel Lee is passionate about capturing and preserving family stories so no one alive today has to be researched, or forgotten, tomorrow. She has authored 6 how-to books, a memoir, two published family history biographies, and over 60 family scrapbooks. She's an enthusiastic speaker who energizes, encourages, and educates at the same time.