Vintage Silver Photography – Thoughts on Photoshop and Trust

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Silver photography - blue sky

A blue sky day, when the sun is just past its high point for the day is my silver hour for photographs. The light is indirect and perfect in my studio.

Update:  See a related post on my evolving style of silver in photography.

I’m fixated on the weather lately and no, it’s not because I’m English. All of the images you see on Silver Magpies are taken by me, and I rely on the weather. A few people have been kind enough to express an interest in Silver Magpies silver photography and it seemed a good opportunity to also state a few policies I have and to let you know a bit about what goes into those images…and what does not!

Vintage Silver Photography

A photo is worth a 1000 words, and when you are buying silver online it is the best way for you to determine if you like the piece or not. Internet transactions, wonderful though they are, have the downside of not being able to actually see, touch, hold a piece in person.

As far as I’m concerned my photographs are central to my reputation and relationship with you. Purchasing antiques online depends on trust.

You, the client, must trust that I, the merchant, am accurately representing my pieces.  Thus my photographs appear as they do because of a number of deliberate choice I have made in order to attractively yet accurately represent my pieces.

No photoshop allowed!

First and foremost none of the images of silver you see on Silver Magpies have been digitally retouched or altered in any way.

Silver photography - reflection

Hi! Can you see me? See how “re-touching” the photo to remove my reflection is a slippery slope?

Yes, this is one of the reasons I occasionally show up in a reflection.  As far as I’m concerned editing myself out of a photo is the beginning of a slippery slope which I have no intention of stepping foot on. Little re-touches can all too easily become major alterations!

Cropping

The only piece of editing I ever do is crop an image. Cropping cuts away some of the photo.  I do this for three reasons:

  1. To focus on a specific detail. For example is often crop a piece to show a closeup of gadroon edging.
  2. Or to simply zoom in on the piece to reduce the amount of background visible.
  3. The square shape I choose is distinctive and works well on my shop as well as a lot of different online platforms…Facebook, Twitter, etc.

Lighting

Photographs are all about capturing light.  Sometimes it seems that silver is all about reflecting it. Silver photography then is a delicate balance between correctly lighting pieces to show them accurately while minimizing glare and reflection.

After a lot (!) of experimenting I am sticking with natural light.  I have a nice sunny spot in my front hall that doubles as my photo studio, it gets lots of bright, indirect light.  Artificial light, including flashes, lamps, etc create glare and additional reflections on the silver.  As I’ve ruled out photoshop “re-touching” I do my best to minimize other reflections in the photos.

The Background

Presenting pieces against a white background is very fashionable at the moment.  While it works for many items, I do not feel it presents silver in the best light (haha). I’ve chosen to photograph my pieces on a piece of dupioni silk. I can crumple and arrange it to create depth and interest in the photo.

silver photography - distinctive

Yes, you bought the piece and are free to re-sell it. But, you did not buy the right to use my photo…especially without credit. Seriously, do you think I won’t recognize it? Why do you think I have such a distinctive look to my photos?

It also makes my photos visually distinctive…a useful feature for a couple of reasons:

  1. It gives a signature look to a Silver Magpies photo.
  2. That signature look helps me track down photo thieves.  Yes, people buy my pieces then turn around and try to re-sell them on the auction-site-that-must-not-be-named using my photos!! I take the theft of my images very seriously. It also says a lot about my prices as well.

Slightly off-topic here…but people selling on-the-place-I-will-not-name are not naive, they know the value of a given piece.  So please, if it seems a bargain too good to be true, that’s because it most likely is! Read The Fabulous Fork for a more detailed explanation and know I spend a great deal of time informing unhappy people who have found a “bargain” that they have not bought sterling but silver-plate from someone who does not take returns. Sorry, back to the subject.

Size and Perspective

I know when I buy something online, even if the dimensions are clearly stated, I’m often surprised when it arrives. Even if you know the size, seeing a massive close-up photo can skew your expectations. That why I have a photo of the piece next to my business card. Business cards sizes are fairly standard. I’m just attempting to give you an overall sense of the item.

Different angles

Every piece has 5 photos per listing. Again, this is to give you a clear idea of the overall size, shape, condition of the piece and to highlight certain details such as decoration or silver marks.

Cleaned up

As you will remember from the Silver Tarnish post, a multitude of problems can hide under even a light layer of tarnish. And as tarnish and patina are two different things, I do not try to insult your intelligence by leaving items tarnished and saying that they are left this way “because some people like the patina”.

I can tell you from personal experience, that I’ve been burned buying tarnished pieces. Often at auctions and estate sales, even though I can see the item in real life, tarnish has hidden a terrible scratch or some pitting. I purchase these pieces as a calculated risk. You shouldn’t have to.

A relationship based on trust

I am honored by the trust that so many customers and clients have put in me. Every online transaction is an exercise in trust. Your trust in me is of the utmost importance. Not just for business reasons, but also my own personal ethical standards.

My photos while posed on a pretty background and cropped to the right size, are otherwise free of any kind of manipulation. A photo ends up on my site by its merits at the moment the shutter clicks, not because I made a mediocre photo better via the amazing technology available to all of us via photoshop.

PS

What happens if you get your piece home and despite all my efforts with descriptions and photos, it just doesn’t look right? It’s no problem. A photo might be worth a 1000 words, but nothing can compensate for seeing it in real life.

Just let me know within 3 days of getting it that you want to return it. No explanation necessary. I ask for the notice of its return, so I can be on the lookout for it and make sure you get your refund in a timely manner.

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4 thoughts on “Vintage Silver Photography – Thoughts on Photoshop and Trust

  1. Jackie BernardiNo Gravatar

    Nan,

    What a thoughtful, and considered piece you’ve written here. It is obvious that you care very much for your customer’s experience of the sales process–right down to the type of silk you use, and why.

    Shopping online always carries some misgivings, and I assume that as the value of an item increases, so does the consumer’s apprehensions. I think your integrity speaks for itself, and should be modeled by other internet retailers and consultants.

    Jackie Bernardi

    1. SilverMagpiesNo Gravatar Post author

      Jackie –

      Thank you for such a thoughtful and public endorsement. It means the world to me when a customer is kind enough to take a moment write such a wonderful comment. I *love* what I do and I want everyone else who comes to Silver Magpies to feel that enthusiasm and to know that my reputation is everything.

      Thanks again,
      Nan

  2. uniqueniqueNo Gravatar

    I love your articles and yes I refuse to photoshop my glass either so often bits of me are to be found in the reflections but at least it is as true to life as my shoddy photography can make it. I love your pictures because they aren’t photoshop and they show your gorgeous silver pieces exactly the way they appear.

    1. SilverMagpiesNo Gravatar Post author

      Thank you so much. You know how much “fun” it can be to take good photos of highly reflective curved surfaces :~)

      While no photo ever really captures what the eye sees with 100% accuracy ( just as computer monitors also distort the colors of even the most accurate of photos) it’s very important to me that everyone who comes to Silver Magpies knows that deliberate thought and planning has gone into each photo to ensure it is as realistic and unvarnished as possible. *blushing…and stepping off soapbox now*

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