In September 2014 Paul Fitzsimmons, the owner of Marhamchurch Antiques, discovered my services after entering a Google search for “commercial photographer Exeter”.
Having clicked on a number of photographers, he saw my product photography for Lana Home and decided to give me a call. Paul was looking for an Exeter antique photographer and wondered if I’d be able to help.
One of the perks of working as a commercial photographer is that you get to work with such a diverse range of clients. In this article I’ll be sharing how Paul and I have worked together in order to create a new portfolio of antique photographs for his business.
Exeter Antique Photography: The Brief
In our first conversation Paul explained that his previous dedicated photographer was no longer available to photograph his work. The antiques date from the medieval period through to the early 18th Century, and he wanted to increase the quality of his images to demonstrate the authenticity and quality of his early oak antique furniture.
Paul’s home is a medieval house that dates back to around 1400. He has been restoring the property back to its original state. The first brief was to rephotograph his current stock of antiques against the backdrop of his home. We agreed that this would be the best way to breathe new life into his products and achieve the kind of antique photography that Paul needed.
This first set of photos has very much had the desired effect, helping Paul to sell more of his current stock and older stock from his website. Without this important update to his antique photography he suggested that he wouldn’t have made these sales.
Paul’s customers are private collectors, other antique dealers and curators of museums and galleries; it’s therefore very important to have high quality antique photography that demonstrates the quality of his products.
Ongoing Antique Photography Projects
Since Christmas I have continued to work regularly with Paul, typically shooting new images every 3 weeks. We have been photographing new acquisitions and recently restored projects for uploading to his website and emailing to his mailing list.
Over many discussions with Paul we have changed and adapted the images that we’re capturing in order to best suit the products. Antique photography, like most disciplines, requires ongoing collaboration between the photographer and the client to ensure that the images we’re capturing are the very best that they can possibly be.
You’ll notice that we have photographed the antiques in a number of different locations and styles. These include white and black backgrounds and capturing images of the furniture in its original, contemporary location.
It’s also interesting how E-Commerce is changing antique photography. We’re not interested in a grainy photo that simply confirms the existence of a product; the goal is to show the product at its very best and give the customer an idea of how it would look in a natural environment.
My Antique Photography Setup
The variety of products that I’ve been photographing for Paul really is tremendous. This has typically involved working within small, tight spaces. In other words, antique photography involving large items of furniture is a very different discipline from working in a studio!
Paul and I spent a lot of our time working on lighting, with different amounts and types of light required for different products. I achieved this by using portable photographic lighting with softboxes and reflectors that help to soften the light and make each product stand out from the background. You should be able to see this in the images above and below.
I typically use 4-6 lights at a time in order to create the appearance of daylight in dark rooms within an old house. This was challenging but absolutely necessary. The contrast between seeing a piece of antique furniture in a 400 year old home and seeing it on a website cannot be understated! Each lighting setup needs to show the product in the most helpful way possible, whether it’s a candle stock or 16th Century wardrobe.
I use a Canon 5D Mark II with the Bowens Ikelite portable lighting unit, along with a few Canon speedlights. I tether the 5D to my laptop, allowing the client to see the images we’re capturing in full screen. This helps us to make immediate decisions on lighting compositions and style. I am then guided by the client’s ideas and can craft the lighting and composition of the images accordingly.
In a typical day’s shoot we normally end up with 10-15 images depending on the complexity of the work we’re doing. When working with Paul I post process all images on-site, providing him with both website-ready and high resolution images upon completion.
Working with Paul has been a very rewarding and challenging experience, but we’re really pleased with the kinds of image that we’re able to produce. It’s been a real pleasure working in such an authentic environment in order to create images that bring the products to life. This blend of product photography, antique photography and E-Commerce photography has been a lot of fun and made a huge different to my client’s business.
If you’d like to commission me for your Exeter antique photography project or would like to speak to an antique photographer then please don’t hesitate to contact me for more information.