A look inside our in-house photo studio

Posted by Rene Schweitzer
on Wednesday, January 29, 2020

I'm continuing my series of "sneak peeks" of the Kalmbach offices. If you've missed my other ones, please see:

The Milwaukee Racine & Troy layout

The David P. Morgan Memorial Library

The Kalmbach modeling workshop

Note: Click on any photo to enlarge.

The studio is sectioned into two halves. This is the front half.

A new use for a tool box--holding clamps and other items.

Kalmbach has one in-house photographer, Bill Zuback. Bill is a longtime Kalmbach employee who has tons of experience. All of CTT's product review shots, and many of the covers are shot in this studio. Bill will sometimes travel off site to take photos of layouts too.

A rainbow of paper backdrops fills one side of a wall.

More backdrops and tools.

For special photos, or for a feature story, Bill will work with the editor (and sometimes an Art Director) to get the photos the way we envision. I've been involved in many photo shoots, and while it can be a lot of fun, there are "behind-the-scenes" moments that are less fun. Consider that every item has to be unboxed, or dusted, assembled, positioned, and carried to and from the studio. Still, seeing the final photos always gives me a thrill. "I helped make these!"

I've worked at Kalmbach long enough that I remember the days of film, but these days everything is digital. Much of the "magic" is now done on computers after the photo is taken. Generally, it is CTT policy to not Photoshop any items (if an engine has a missing paint chip, we don't fix it), but there are times a photo may need the lighting adjusted or cropped another way.

Way in the back is a room full of props. You'll find everything from stones, rocks, vases, and even potting soil.

There are a number of dioramas used for model trains in the prop room.

A flashback to film days--a sink and developing area, and along the shelf are binders full of negatives.

Bill will send digital proofs of the photos for approval. If there are any changes, he'll make them and then place the photos in the proper folder on our server.

The back part of the studio is where most of the CTT photos are taken. There's an adjustable table with white backdrop and the lighting/camera.

We're using a Lionel trolley as a photo example. Bill will place it on the table and adjust the camera according to the type of shot we want (is it for a new product, a dynamic in-your-face photo, something else?)

Bill makes a camera adjustment before taking the photo.

After the image is taken, it appears on two computer screens for a preview. We can look at photo quality/sharpness and angle before deciding whether to save or re-shoot.
Check out the photos and captions to see more.

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