The Art of Fountain Pen Photography

(Susan M. Pigott is a fountain pen collector, pen and paperholic, photographer, and professor. You can find more from Susan on her blog Scribalishess.)

My two main hobbies are fountain pen collecting and photography, so naturally I love to combine the two. Often, when I post photographs to Instagram or on Pen Addict, I am asked what tools I use to create my pictures. So here's my set up and how I use it.

I own two cameras with which I do all my photography: My Olympus OMD-EM1 and my iPhone 6s. For Pen Addict, I always use my Olympus with a 60mm Olympus macro lens and a Macro Arm Light. My macro lens has settings from 1:1 to infinity, so it is quite versatile.

I can shoot crisp 1:1 macros as well as full pen shots.

  Fountain Pen Taken with Olympus OMD-EM1 and 60 mm Macro Lens

Fountain Pen Taken with Olympus OMD-EM1 and 60 mm Macro Lens

For Instagram, Facebook, etc., I use my iPhone 6s, often with the Moment case and Moment 25mm, 10x macro lens.

In both instances, I take photos without flash (I find it to be too harsh). The only room in our house that has adequate sunlight is our Florida room, so it's my fountain pen photography studio. Unfortunately, it's also the bedroom for my four cats, which means a lot of dust and cat hair appear in my photographs.

I should probably invest in a good light box, but I prefer natural sunlight, and I find the solid background of a light box rather boring. Despite the overuse of a mosaic table I made for my husband long ago for Father's Day (it's falling apart), and despite all the cat hair I have to clone out of my photos, I like my Florida Room studio.

I try to be as creative as possible when I do pen photography. As I said, I'm not fond of bland backgrounds, even though sometimes you need a plain background to set off a pen. I prefer trying to find options that present a pen in a unique way. Here are some examples:

Almost anything can be a pen prop, from lemon slices, to kitty paws, to typewriter keys. There's no reason to limit oneself to black or white backgrounds.

Another key component of my fountain pen photography is macro shooting. There's just something special about getting a close up of an O3B nib or the scroll work on a nib or a detailed shot of a pen's texture or design.

  Danitrio Soft Stub, taken with Olympus OMD-EM1 and 60mm Macro Lens

Danitrio Soft Stub, taken with Olympus OMD-EM1 and 60mm Macro Lens

I use both my Olympus and my iPhone for macro photography. Here are some shots of nibs taken with my Olympus and my iPhone with the Moment macro lens (I didn't edit these photos in any way):

  Danitrio Macro Olympus

Danitrio Macro Olympus

  Danitrio Macro iPhone

Danitrio Macro iPhone

  Montblanc Macro Olympus

Montblanc Macro Olympus

  Montblanc Macro iPhone

Montblanc Macro iPhone

Obviously, the Olympus takes better shots overall, but it is an expensive camera with an expensive lens attached. The iPhone 6s holds its own, and I find the Moment lens to be extraordinarily good, maintaining crispness from edge to edge. If you can't afford a DSLR or Micro 4/3 camera and a macro lens, but you have an iPhone (or Galaxy or Nexus), I highly recommend Moment lenses. They are top quality lenses with extraordinary glass.

I opted to purchase the Moment Case because I didn't want to glue the lens attachment clip to my iPhone. The advantages of the Moment Case are that it is easy to install and remove, the lenses screw on securely, the case makes the iPhone easier to hold, and the case comes with a shutter button that works just like a DSLR shutter button– press halfway to focus and all the way to shoot.

Olloclip is another brand that sells excellent macro lenses. Photojojo also offers the Iris lens set, and there's even a super-inexpensive rubber band macro lens.

What makes pen photography most enjoyable for me is being creative with shots and getting close ups of the details. You may prefer taking your pens outside and shooting them with beautiful landscapes in the background (West Texas is flat, brown, and ugly, so I don't have that option). The main thing is to experiment with equipment, lighting, and settings. Your pens are the perfect models–no tantrums, no frowns, no flyaway hair (unless you have cats). With a little creativity, some equipment, and good light, you can show off your pens in style.

Posted on April 22, 2016 and filed under Fountain Pens, Photography.