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How to photograph silver and silver hallmarks

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Jonathan Franks
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Joined: 12 Sep 2006
Posts: 191
Location: London

Posted: 19/09/2006 
Post subject: How to photograph silver and silver hallmarks
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Photographing silverware and silver hallmarks is difficult even for professional photographers. The guide below is intended to help you get photographs which are 'good enough' for use on this forum. If you want your photos to be works of art, either hire a professional or seek help on a dedicated photography forum.

Photographing Silverware

  1. Get rid of the flash! Turn off auto-flash on your camera.
  2. Support the camera. Without the flash, your camera will need a longer exposure. As such you will need to set up the camera on a tripod (or standing on a solid piece of furniture). If your camera has a remote control, you can use that to take the picture, otherwise you should use the camera's self-timer feature. This is important because if you hold the camera by hand with the long exposure, the chances are you will shake and the image will be blurred.
  3. Set up a good environment. Silver is reflective (durrr) and as such, if you take a photo in a room full of stuff, we're gonna see your silver and your stuff. Try to find a room with white or lightly colored walls, free from decoration. Position the camera, silver item and light (standard household lights are fine) so that when you look into the camera you can see the item without any glare.
  4. Experiment with rotating the item so that reflections of yourself and the room are minimised whilst still avoiding any glare.
  5. Because of the reflective nature of silver, sometimes your camera will have difficulty focusing. In this case you may need to use your camera's manual focus. Refer to your camera's documentation to find out what focusing options you have.
  6. Take the picture!

Photographing Hallmarks

When photographing hallmarks, follow the instructions above but additionally make sure you set the camera to 'Macro Mode'. Please refer to your camera's documentation for how to do this.

If your camera doesn't have macro mode, or if you find that you just can't get a picture where you can clearly see the hallmarks you have a couple of other options.

In some cases, you might be able to scan the hallmarks directly on a flat bed scanner. If you do so, we recommend that you put a piece of clear acetate on the scanner before you place the item down, to protect the scanner's glass. If the item is large and you can't close the scanner, you can lay some material over the back of the piece.

Finally, there is another method to try, involving using sellotape and a candle! Full instructions can be found here.
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