Studio Work

Saturday, June 10, 2017

My primary focus as a photographer has always been landscape.  That is what I am most comfortable with, and what I enjoy the most.  Since I've picked the camera up once again several years ago, that is what I have done almost exclusively with the exception of some action photos of my wife during some runs.  Once upon a time though, I did a good bit of studio work.  I found that to be a great diversion when the weather wasn't cooperating with me, and it allowed me to experiment with other sides of photography.  For some reason, I have not really gone back to that in quite some time.

A friend of mine at work changed that about a week ago when he contacted me about doing something special for an officer that was going to be leaving the department at the end of the month.  You see, since she had not made it to a retirement point, she was not going to be able to have a badge presentation done.  Her Sergeant wanted her to have her badge for the years of service that she had given the city, and figured that the next best thing would be a picture of her actual badge.

Well, since he is a friend, and also a client of mine, he reached out to me to see if I could help him out.  Hmmm, take a picture of a badge and frame it.  Sounds easy enough, but there is so much more to it than that.  I was going to have to work out the lighting and the execution of the picture.  I didn't want it to be an average picture at all.  I was hesitant to say I would do it, but knew that I had some experience with this type of picture from my studio work from years past.  I agreed to the project and I had a badge of her's by the end of the day.

It took me a solid week to figure out how I wanted to shoot it.  I was looking at different backgrounds that I could use.  I thought about plain ones, but that was boring, and didn't quite fit with my vision.  I thought about using an American Flag in the background similar to a pencil drawing I have of my badge...but that was going to be too busy with the colors.  I was stumped.  At least until Sierra suggested using a thin blue line behind the badge.  Hmmm, that could work!!  I started putting ideas together to make that happen, but didn't really like any of them.  Then Toni showed me a picture of a tie online.  It was black with blue stripes spaced evenly.  All of a sudden, it all came together.  That was what I was going to use!

At least I thought everything was all figured out.  That was until we went looking for fabric in that print.  You know what?  Black with blue lines is a very difficult thing to find.  We went to arts and crafts stores, fabric stores, and even a party store.  Nothing even remotely like what I was looking for showed up.  We went home and we started to look online for something that we could maybe find in a store.  That didn't work either.  We got desperate and started to search for ties again to find a store that might carry one.  It looked like JC Penny's would be the best bet, and that meant a trip to the mall.  Oh Joy!!!

That was a very long trip to the mall looking in all sorts of stores.  It would seem that the print that I was looking for was very hard to find.  I found a lot of blue on navy blue, but that wasn't what I was after.  I could find lots of black ties, with silver stripes, or gold...but not much blue.  There were a couple that might have been close, but just didn't have the right feel to the print, or were $50 or more..  After about a dozen stores in the mall, I went into Belk.  They had a bunch of ties, but it didn't seem like they had any that remotely fit the bill.  I was about to give up when I found a black tie, with a nice texture to it, and blue lines going diagonally.  The only nit, was the pinstripes that were added to separate the blue and the black.  I was tired, and this was going to have to do.  It was a $50 tie, marked down to $24.99.  That was the cheapest tie I had found.  When it rang up, it was further marked down to $13.00!!!  Now I won't feel bad about cutting the tie open to use as a background.

I positioned the camera directly above the badge, and fitted my 24-70mm lens.  It was the closest I had to a macro lens, and was my best shot at getting in close to the badge to fill the frame.  I also added a polarizer since I wanted to minimize glare on the metal surfaces, and help to saturate the background material.  Since I was using my office window and the sheer curtain to light the scene, I went ahead and added a lens hood to block the sun.  

As I suspected, the light was too heavy on the top of the badge, and needed to have a little fill light from the bottom.  Well, that was easy enough, I added a reflector on the bottom of the badge, and bounced the light back onto it.  To be honest, I use the term reflector loosely at best.  I used one of my paper box lids which was white to bounce the light.  That evened things out rather nicely.  I set up my exposure and shot the first frame.  It seemed to come out exactly as I wanted, but I shot an additional two frames with the reflector positioned slightly different each time.

As it turned out, my first shot was the one I went with.  It took a little bit of post processing to get it to turn out exactly as I had envisioned it, but even that only took about 20 minutes.  After some final tweaks, I was ready to print it out as an 8x10" print.  It came out just as I had imagined it, and I was quite proud of this one.  My first studio shot in about seven years had turned out very good.  In fact, I have been showing it off to other officers, and expect to see some orders for something similar for other badges in the future.  Hey, it might not be a mountain or an old truck, but I'm proud to put my name on this one!

The finished result was quite impressive.  I had originally wanted to do a mat and frame, but it seemed just too heavy to do it that way, so I stepped back and did a straight 8x10" frame in black.  We found one that had some silver details in the moldings that matched the highlights in the background.  It all looked like it was meant to be together.

Considering the amount of time I have been away from doing this type of photography, and the fact that I am not really set up for it anymore, I have been nothing but pleased at how it all turned out.  The hardest part of the whole process was sourcing the background.  At least I got a good deal on it, and I'm hoping to be able to use it again for other badge photographs.  I can see a lot of potential with this, and you can bet I'll be exploring other options for this product.  For this particular one, I was able to keep the final price at $59.00.  Considering the sentimental value here, I would say that is quite reasonable.

Edit 10-30-2017:

These are not just limited to my agency.  I am able to use any badge, as long as I can have possession of it for a couple of hours during the daylight preferably.  Here are a couple of my recent additions from the NYPD.

Edit 11-17-2017:

I am now able to offer these pictures for any Greensboro CSI as I have a file for the badge available now.  Since these are not specific with a badge number, I am ready to make a print and deliver your framed keepsake in very short order.  Of course, if you would prefer, I can shoot your personal badge with no problem.

Edit 12-02-2017

Added to the collection is the Greensboro Telecommunicator Badge for a Supervisor.  While these badges are no longer in use, there were quite a few supervisors over the years that had this badge.  Since there is no badge number associated with it, I can reprint this picture for any of our supervisors.

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