A Short Course Book
Digital Desktop Studio Photography
The Complete Guide To Lighting and Photographing Small Objects with your Digital Camera

Getting Ready—Cleaning the Item

GooGone removes chewing gum, grease, tar stickers, labels, tape residue, oil, blood, lipstick and mascara, shoe polish, crayon, bumper stickers. Works on carpets, upholstery, clothing, wood, and cement.
Canned air is a widely used cleaning tool.
There are a variety of soft brushes available at art supply, office supply, and hardware stores.
Before photographing any item, you should clean it. There is nothing as distracting as dust, dirt, or fingerprints, especially when photographing close-up.

When cleaning, the first rule is to "do no harm". With many items, such as coins, furniture, and metal objects, overcleaning, even when well done, reduces values rather than increases them. With other objects, especially optical devices, you can actually damage the object. Whenever you use any cleaning product, be sure to read the instructions carefully, and then follow them. There are so many different kinds of items and surfaces to be cleaned, it's impossible to generalize. However, here are some things to keep in mind.

  • Extremely light cleaning. One of the safest things you can do is remove dust. You can use canned air to blow it off an item, or to get it out of small places. You can also use a soft brush or Q-tip to brush it off. Camel hair brushes from an art supply store are the softest, and come in a variety of widths, but they are also expensive. Drafting brushes are much larger and are ideal for larger surfaces.
  • Light cleaning. Lint free lens cloths are ideal for removing fingerprints, dust, and dirt from many surfaces. If the object is glass or ceramic, it's probably safe to use a glass cleaner. There are also specialized products available for cleaning keyboards, monitors, and other electronic devices. The sticky side of masking tape is good for removing lint and other small debris from fabric and other surfaces.
  • Medium cleaning. Using a rag dipped in warm water and wrung out so it's just damp, or using a product designed to remove tape adhesive, are mild forms of cleaning but can cause serious damage to certain surfaces.
  • Heavy cleaning. Using metal polish or any kind of abrasive can seriously affect an item.

    When cleaning, here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Test your cleaning procedure on a similar item that has no value, or on a small, hidden section of the one you are going to photograph.
  • When using any kind of wipe, don't go over a previously cleaned area with the same wipe, or reuse a wipe at any time. The dirt and grit picked up on the first pass can cause damage on a second pass.
  • When using canned air, be sure not to shake the can or hold it at an angle. This releases propellant that can cause damage.
  • Some Web sites to check out for cleaning supplies include Photographic Solutions, Kensington, and Falcon Safety Products.

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