Object photography at the BCLM


The Black Country Living Museum has a huge collection of objects stored in the basement of the Rolfe Street building, the majority of which are rarely seen, both because of a lack of display space and because many need to be kept safe from potential damage. I’ve been photographing some of these for some years now, for the last 3 years I’ve typically been doing this once a week (I also do some photography and video of events at the BCLM) in the studio we have set up at the BCLM. I suppose this type of photography is very similar to what is usually referred to as ‘product photography.

I have to admit that although it is interesting work, not all the objects I am asked to photograph are all that interesting to me, but yesterday certainly was rewarding, as I got a chance to photograph some Corfield cameras and other photographic equipment from the 1950’s and 1960’s.

Lighting and positioning of the objects in the limited space available are challenging, and a camera with an articulated rear screen and live view is really almost essential. Tethered shooting, connected to a computer, would be useful, but unfortunately has been a problem as tethering support for the cameras I use has been non-existent or very limited – the increasing availability of WiFi in cameras is helping though. For yesterday’s session I used the Sony A77 (more usually I use a Panasonic GH3), but I was dismayed to find a couple of marks in the same place on each shot. Dust on the sensor? Well, the mark seemed too large to be that, and at first I feared it might be oil or something similar on the sensor, but happily it turned out to be only dust on the semi-transparent mirror used in these cameras. This is the second time I’ve had the problem with this camera, and the presence of this mirror must make these Sony cameras more vulnerable to dirt than most others, as the mirror provides 2 extra surfaces on which dust can accumulate, and unlike the automatic sensor cleaning systems (which shake the sensor) there is no way for the camera itself to do anything to clean the mirror.


About Mike Hessey

I'm a BOF (Boring Old Fellow) and MOS (Miserable Old Soul) whose main interests are photography, cycling, walking and computers. Regrettably recent problems with my legs, back and heart have reduced the cycling and walking.
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