I’m designing a book for the Museum of American Finance on America’s first IPO. It will accompany an upcoming exhibit on the topic. The book will include some valuable historical financial documents, most of which are in the museum’s collection. A few are in Boston, and the owner was not able to release them, so through some connections I found a local photographer, Ken O’Donoghue, to shoot them for us. For the remainder, I took my camera and lighting equipment to the museum to photograph them on site. Their event space made a spacious and comfortable studio.
I took the photograph above with my iPhone to demonstrate the setup. It was pretty simple, with a tripod, camera, 24-105 mm lens, two speedlites and white shoot-through umbrellas. I photographed each document on a black velvet background to eliminate any show-through from the back side. I first used a gray card to set a custom white balance, then included it in each photo in case I needed to make further adjustments in post-processing. Once the item was silhouetted, the gray card no longer appeared.
The photos below are some samples of all the images I made. It was necessary to silhouette them so they would float on a paper background when designed into the book. This was easily accomplished in Photoshop, since each document was light enough in contrast to the black background to make a layer mask to serve as the silhouette.