Treasure Chest Thursday: Photographing Plaques

Reflective surfaces on your artifacts are a p-a-i-n to photograph. If you have been out photographing tombstones, you know exactly what I mean. Having yourself reflecting back out of a tombstone isn’t exactly what we’re going for. The same goes for any plaque or artifact that you have.

Last year, my friend helped me photograph a trophy from when I was in color guard. He taught me the concept of ‘just play’. For the most part, I do play around but I’m still trying to understand a common starting point with regards to photographing objects. That way I have some direction to go from rather than starting at random and going in the wrong direction for too long.

My starting point tends to be the same now for my artifacts. For small objects, I set up my lightbox near a window when the natural light is soft. I do not use a flash. I place my camera on a tripod and shoot in the AV setting. I drop my ISO setting to 100 and turn on the macro focus setting. From there, I often play between the center weight average metering and the spot metering. For me, the spot metering blows out the white background most of the time. I often like this effect. But for other objects, it doesn’t work. And sometimes when the photo looks great on the camera LCD monitor, I have to make adjustments on my computer later.

Here’s what I’ve come up with.

Photographing heritage memorabilia
Etched Wood Film Plaque
f /3.5, exp 0.6, ISO 80, Center Weight Average metering

Disregarding the angle of this photo, I love the detail of the wood. There is no reflection in the black film covering. And you can not only see the etched detail but the scratches this plaque incurred through the moves I’ve made. Thankfully I learned one more trick… adjusting levels using Photoshop Elements or PaintShop Pro.

Pageant Award Plaque after adjusting the levels in PaintShop Pro

With a little sliding of the level meters, I think this photo really pops. I might still play with the photograph in Photoshop Elements, but perhaps not. I think this will look nice on a scrapbook page or family history book section about my participation in pageants and the year I won Miss Palestine.

Devon Noel Lee

Devon Noel Lee

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.

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