Tin Cans and Bottle Caps
Tin cans and bottle caps is one of the many photographic projects that can be done inside a studio or home, especially on a cold or rainy day. And the best thing is that you do not need anything out of the ordinary to at least do part of it.
The most difficult or rather fun aspect of the project is that you can really have fun while gathering your subjects and as the tittle says they are colorful tins and interesting bottle caps. The bottle caps can be of soda bottles or beer bottles so long as they are not bent.
The best samples come from twist off beverages. Your local watering hole can often be the best source for bottle caps. Just be polite when asking, offer them a reason for your request, less they think you are losing your mind, and offer them some copies.
They may just as well end up becoming your customers. I once went to one of my favorite establishments and kindly asked the bartender if they had bottle caps. I was surprised when with a smile I was told that she would be right back. I was more surprised when she produced a drink, oddly enough called a bottle cap. I gladly enjoyed my new found drink and afterwards explained with more details this time that I was after bottle caps to use in a photo project. Upon which she gave me a broad smile and returned with a bag full of such lovely samples which in turn lead me to consume way too many other "bottle caps". Needless to say there was no photographing that particular day.
The idea is to gather various samples of tin cans, especially those that are used to hold candies and chocolates or if you can, several of the many hand made ones that many antique stores still carry. Alongside the tin cans you should also arrange various different bottle caps, even put some on top of the tin and record its image.
Tins and caps because they are made made from metal tend to be reflective, so care has to be exercised not to allow reflections. This can easily be accomplished by using a diffusing material on top of the light source which should be positioned at around a 45 degree angle. Alternatively you can also photographed your subjects independently of each other in close up mode to allow for the details and lettering, drawings ,figures etc to be visible to your audience.
There are several uses for these images; they can be used as posters by commercial establishments that sell the products such as by local bars or lounges, pool halls,, they can be used by photography stock houses for the same purpose. Some can even be featured in fine art galleries with the tins being the most geared towards this. You have to remember how widely popular the Cocoa Cola tins were in soda lounges and dinners back in the day and how popular they are still today, some are even hot commodities in the antique collectors circles.
The samples should be photographed against a dark to black background and on top of a dark to black support. This lets the audience concentrate and admire the subject or subjects in their entirety without any other visual interruption.
A variation is to photograph the subjects against a back drop that lens itself such as a dinner, bar, or alongside food dishes, on candy shops and where valentines products are sold and so on. Be careful to use a wide aperture when doing this since you should make any other background appear as a blur or out of focus, otherwise the subjects will be lost amongst the other many distracting visual elements.
Candy or chocolate tins which were usually the better decorated and more interstate of tin cans that were made can also be photographed alongside a red rose, other candies strewn around it.
For most of these shots, beside using a diffused light source, a close up mode, it is also worth experimenting with a narrow light source such as the one produced by a photographic snoot. However, only do this if photographing a single subject or subjects that are closely grouped and against black backgrounds. Also use non glossy backdrops such as felt or cardboard.
You should try to use local or national brands of caps but you should also attempt to collect several from various other countries. A good place for sources would be a local drinking establishments that features beers or sodas from around the globe.
As far as sources for tins, the best source is always going to be your local antique establishments.
Try to avoid using modern ones that are very common. However some manufactures often launch new replicas of their early years, in which case then it is worth obtaining.
Do not stick to just round tins or just square tins. Aim for a wide representation of styles and shapes to give your presentation even more of an interesting appeal.
- History of Tin Cans and Can Openers
British merchant Peter Durand made a impact on food preservation with his 1810 invention of the tin can.
© 2012 Luis E Gonzalez