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How to Create Nostalgia with Antique Photographs

Updated on March 16, 2015

Nostalgia can be shown through photos in various ways and nostalgic images always seem to captivate their audiences.

Perhaps is the longing for the "good old times" or because they bring back memories or simply because antiques represent a time when things were made to stand the test of time and attention to detail was an art.

The antique market is a multi-million dollar industry and appears to be gaining in strength. There is even a popular TV show called the Antique Roadshow, where appraisers visit cities and towns and freely appraise antiques brought in by the public.

A Normal Rockwell painting was recently discovered in one of these shows worth about half a million dollars and anything antique has always been and remains a popular theme.

Through visits to your local antique stores and an idea of what it is that you want to accomplish, many antiques dealers will grant you access and permission to photograph their stores and merchandise.

This can be profitable for you and profitable for them. You will be capturing images of hard to find items and the dealers will be receiving free publicity and should also be given a copy of some of your images on which they are present or the store name is visible, so do take some images with the owners and store in mind. This will help guarantee that you are invited back.

The objective in photographing nostalgia through antiques is done with the intent of creating photos that show details, construction, and patterns of specific pieces of specific times and long gone eras. These should be done in close ups , macros, and medium shots. Long shots are not suitable since you lose detail.

Seek groupings of items, photograph them together and photograph special pieces which catch your eye as individuals. Avoid photographing everything standing up, sometimes the best compositional images are achieved by getting at eye level.

Consider using a warming filter for effect and tungsten balanced film or an appropriate filter, since most antique shops use tungsten lights due to its "warming" effect on tonality. With permission and lots of care, arrange special one of a kind items and take several shots in close, and medium formats.

Also good to do is to arrange items by family; lamps, dolls, toys, skeleton keys, crystal items, door handles, chinaware, silverware. Don't forget oddities or items that one cannot readily identify.

Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0
Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0 | Source
CC0 1.0 Universal (CC0 1.0)  Dedikasi Domain Publik (Public Domain)
CC0 1.0 Universal (CC0 1.0) Dedikasi Domain Publik (Public Domain) | Source

You will be photographing still life, as antiques fall within this genre. Using the appropriate light is crucial. Light your subjects at a 45 degree angle or a little higher and use filtered light in order to avoid harsh lightning and unruly shadows. Since many of the locations where this photography project will take place are in constraining spaces, use of a flash unit is a must although you should use a unit which allows for it to be set up remotely; away from the camera. A tripod for your camera and for your flash unit should be available too. Use a remote shutter release to avoid camera shake in order to minimize the possibility of blurring.

Use judicious framing to avoid overwhelming the scene with too many distracting details. Do not attempt to clean any items as many are worth more with any original patina or discoloration that builds up as a by product of time and the elements. If possible, try to photograph items against a same era backdrop, which often compliments the scene.

Arrange any items if you need to for a better perspective but remember to put them back as you found them. They are usually set up in a particular way by the shop owners to maximize effect. Be aware if mixing groups with various degrees of reflectivity; metals and china, silverware. Here the use of filtered light is a real advantage. Taking notes about the subjects of your photography is helpful if you want to add information about their history and proceedings. The shop owners can be invaluable with this.

Many of these images can be sold to greeting card companies and to antique dealers, auction houses, antique publications, antique brokers, general photography and memorabilia collectors as well as antique catalog producers.

Pay special attention to variations in workmanship if photographing valuable pieces or more than one of the same to show the quality and state of preservation of each piece, these can often prove to be invaluable assistance in gauging the value of rare items. Your shots must 100% technically sound if they are to be used by many of these dealers and companies, therefore take multiple shots and don't rush.

© 2011 Luis E Gonzalez


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    • tamaghna profile image

      tamaghna 5 years ago from Kolkata, India

      u r too gud ..

    • LuisEGonzalez profile image

      Luis E Gonzalez 6 years ago from Miami, Florida

      Justom: They do, but it's becoming harder to find since digital came around.

      marellen: thank you

    • profile image

      marellen 6 years ago

      What a great idea. Would be a fun project. Thanks for sharing.

    • justom profile image

      justom 6 years ago from 41042

      You're a good teacher Luis. Do they still sell tungsten film? I used to use that (high speed) shooting concerts and pushed it 2 stops. They frown on taking cameras to shows now. I just purchased 3 photos by James Ball, a black photographer who had a studio in Cincinnati in the late 1800's. I did a hub about him. He shot mostly portraits but I really admired him. Great info, as always! Peace!! Tom

    • mareezy13 profile image

      mareezy13 6 years ago from Chicago, IL

      Love the pics you included. I love photographing old barns and farm equipment. The more dilapidated it is, the better the pic turns out. Interesting hub.

    • profile image

      Lynn S. Murphy 6 years ago

      I love "junking" . I don't go very often because I spend more than take pix. lol!!! Up and awesome.

    • Ralph Deeds profile image

      Ralph Deeds 6 years ago from Birmingham, Michigan

      Great idea. Interesting pictures. Tnx.