Rotary Telephone Project

About a year ago an idea was born to photograph an old rotary telephone after seeing all the media hype about a new iPhone being released and the people waiting in long lines to get the latest and greatest phone.  The only thing with this idea is I did not have an old black rotary phone, so I put out an alert on Facebook to see if anyone had one that I could borrow.  Low and behold a member of our church, South Side Baptist Tabernacle, had one in their possession that they let me borrow.  Well, I held onto the phone for almost a year before I decided to do my project, granted the recent purchase of a new 50mm, f/1.8 lens sort of encouraged me as well because I just had to try it out.

It was a Saturday afternoon and I headed to our basement to set up my equipment to make the photograph that have been kicking around in my head for about a year.  I set up my mono-lights with shoot though umbrellas and hung up my white seamless paper to cover my table and give me a clean background.

The first photographs I made were just of the phone as you would have been used in the traditional sense.  I started making the photographs with a mono-light on each side, but quickly realized I did not like the look because it did not have any shadows, so I stopped using one of the lights and left the other to my right.


After a while, I started into making the photograph I envisioned over a year ago.  The photograph I wanted to make used the hand set of the rotary phone while placing it on top of an apple as if the apple were the body of the phone.

I liked the photograph I had made, but I wanted to add some sparkle to the background.  I had read an article recently on how to add some sparkle to the back ground with using some aluminum foil and a Speedlight.  I taped a bunch of aluminum foil to some cardboard and attached it to my reflector boom.  I then set up my Speedlight on a stand at about a 45 degree angle to the aluminum foil with a brown gel on the Speedlight to give the background some color.  The Speedlight was set at a low power setting so I did not blow out the background in the photograph.  I opened up my 50mm lens to f/1.8 to achieve a shallow depth of field, thus obtaining the sparkle from the light reflecting off the aluminum foil.  Note the 50mm, f/1.8 is known for its bokeh when using it wide open.  The resultant image is what you see below.

After making some photographs of just the hand set on top of an apple, I decided to take the case off the base of the phone to see what was inside the rotary phone.  Surprisingly, there are some pretty neat electrical and mechanical things inside a rotary phone (yes, I am an engineer and these things excite me).  So I decided to make some photographs of the inside workings of the phone.

At this point I had been photographing this old black rotary phone for a couple of hours already and was just about ready to stop and clean up when I had one last idea with using the apple.  This time, I placed the apple inside the case where the rotary portion would have been.

In conclusion my rotary phone project was fun to do because I finally got to make my photograph with the apple that I envisioned about a year ago.  Photographing the inside of the phone was also interesting.  I am now on the lookout for something else with mechanical workings to make a photograph of, but hopefully it won’t take another year for me to do it.  Thank you for taking the time to read this and I hope you enjoyed the photographs and the story behind how I made it.