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Author Topic: "How I Photograph Knives" Q & A  (Read 9305 times)
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PhilL
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« on: February 01, 2007, 07:17:26 AM »

I would like to thank Jeremy, AKA busterbones for posting my tutorial on How I photograph Knives. If you've ever been dissatisfied with your photography skills, or you thought it was just too hard or too expensive to take good pics of your knives, I hope the article will let you see that it doesn't have to be.

Some may think my technique is too overly simplistic to take good photos, I promise you this exactly the setup I use to photograph knives, and it is simple. I hope you'll at least try it and post your results here. If you keep it simple I can help anyone become a better photographer.

I already have Part II of this tutorial written, How I Do Image Editing. The old computer adage GIGO (garbage in garbage out) does apply. The better the photo you start with the easier it is to improve. 99% of all photos out of the camera need improvement. I'd like to show you step by step how I handle my photos. These techniques will not only let you refine your new knife photos, but how to improve some of your old knife photos as well as family photographs. I would however like some feedback from you folks before I continue.

So, I'd like to know what you folks think, questions, comments and most importantly photos are welcome here.    

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mckenna
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« Reply #1 on: February 01, 2007, 08:14:26 AM »

Speaking for myself Phil, I need all the help I can get.  I look forward to your tutorials.
Greg
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Ed Fowler
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« Reply #2 on: February 01, 2007, 09:29:55 AM »

Beautiful PhilL. I never thought about tilting the table shure wish you would have taught me that about 40 years ago. You made a great photo and showed that anyone can do it.  Simple, the light.

Hey Greg please show show us your light box. It has a real high ticket name, and it is pretty techlologically advanced, but he did a wow job with it.
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mckenna
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« Reply #3 on: February 01, 2007, 08:00:15 PM »

Ed.  The light box I used to use is pretty much history. It was an upside down light grey plastic crate that I put a hole in for the camera to see thru. ( High ticket and techno-advanced caveman stuff ) Hey it worked great!  The problem was, you could only get certain sized knives in it and you had few options as far as angles to shoot from. And then there were the reflections you had to deal with too. The one I use now is a "Coop Special" except pretty large.  3 ft. by 4 ft. with lights hangin' all over it   It works well with small or large pieces like the Fowler-Szilaski hatchet that is in the Show and Tell forum.  That hatchet is about 2 ft. long and the light is pretty even in that shot.  I bet I don't have more than 30 bucks invested in it.  It's the photography I need to work on.
Greg
« Last Edit: February 01, 2007, 08:01:52 PM by mckenna » Logged
Harold Locke
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« Reply #4 on: February 01, 2007, 11:24:57 PM »

Phil,

Most excellent presentation. I pdf''d it. It's so KISS, (Keep It Simply Simple). When I am ready to shoot again I will implement your method.

Thank You Very Much.

HL
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Robert Washburn
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« Reply #5 on: February 02, 2007, 08:49:34 AM »

Where is the tutorial?   Robert
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Jose Reyes
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« Reply #6 on: February 02, 2007, 08:54:39 AM »

Hi all,

  Phil was kind enough to take pictures of some knives for me and he used all the techniques described in his tutorial. Here's the link and as you can see they came out great. Thanks again, Phil, I owe you one...or two...  Grin

http://knifetalkonline.com/smf/index.php?topic=86.0
« Last Edit: February 02, 2007, 04:16:50 PM by Jose Reyes » Logged

PhilL
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« Reply #7 on: February 02, 2007, 09:29:05 AM »

Robert, I can't find my article either, but I did email Jeremy to get it back up.

Jose, by my count you owe me three.
Folks. if you look at Jose's thread on this forum "Ed Shemp Knives" you will see the knives I just photographed for Jose. I used the setup just as described in the tutorial. Jose's knives were big, bigger than I'm used to photographing. I also had to look very closely to get as much detail in the Damascus patterns.

You're going to see illustrations I did using the photos. I can show the people that are interested how I do my composite illustrations, but first comes the photography. Next comes the image editing. I want to be very clear that whatever I can do you can do.
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Robert Washburn
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« Reply #8 on: February 02, 2007, 09:35:40 AM »

Thanks Phil,I`ve been making knives sinc 1963or4 and this new computer stuff and cameras have got me stumped.   Robert   Washburnknives.com
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PhilL
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« Reply #9 on: February 02, 2007, 09:58:22 AM »

I'm going to add the Article to this thread so it's all on one page, in the same thread.

HOW I PHOTOGRAPH KNIVES

I was going to call this How to Photograph Knives, but there are lots of ways to photograph knives, not just my way. The way I do it is so mind boggling simple that I know anyone can duplicate what I do.

Why this tutorial? It?s purely for selfish reasons, I?d prefer to look at good pics of knives rather than bad pics. I hate hearing that shooting photos of knives is hard, it?s not. Taking good photos of knives is easy. Taking great photos is an Art. I?m not going to try to turn you into Jim Weyer or Jim Cooper, in fact you may end up appreciating what they do more than you do now.  The goal is to show you how to take consistently good photos of your knives. That I can show you.

All I ask is that you try the way I?m suggesting. Keep it simple, don?t overcomplicate it. Shoot lots of pics, (with a digicam it?s free) show only your best. Try different angles on each knife. Little changes can make huge improvements. Don?t be afraid to show your work here, this is a learning thread. I can?t help you if I don?t see what you?re doing.

Please don?t ask me about props or different color backgrounds. If you can?t take a good photo of a knife on a clean white background then you simply can?t take a good photo of a knife. Everything else is fluff.

With that said, let?s get started.

First the things your going to need

#1 A Camera
#2 A window
#3 a table top, (mine is a 16? by 21? board)
#4 a couple of pieces of typing paper
#5 an image editing program
#6 a tripod is a huge plus

To be honest I could probably get by with just a camera and an image editing program, but you have to admit the list is pretty short.



The Setup


The window is our light source, it?s cheap, the color is easy to correct, it?s bright and it?s available to most of us.

I rest my table top on the edge of the window, I want to be as close as I can get. The other side of the table top is supported by a light stand, so I can control the angle of the table.

If you?ll notice in the first photo the rear leg of my tripod is extended, this allows me to get my camera more up and over the table top. Be careful how far you extend that back leg you don?t want your camera falling over.

A white piece of typing paper is my background. The subject knife gets placed flat on it. Since we?re all used to a rectangular format for photos, start by placing your knife on a diagonal to use as much of the rectangle as possible.

The camera on the tripod is at about a 45? angle (I would guess). Compose the knife on your cameras viewing screen. Stay within the focus range of your camera.

I?m using my camera?s Auto Focus and Auto Exposure....TURN OFF THE ON CAMERA FLASH! The resolution that I shoot at is called FINE on my camera, shoot at the highest resolution you can set your camera to. This will help later if we need to crop in on the final photo.



Here?s my first pic, it looks okay. It?s in focus, the color is okay, I could stop here. The blade is mirror polished but it looks flat and lifeless. Maybe I can do better.



By changing the angle just a bit I get some brighter reflection in the blade, it?s better, but I?ve got the bar of the window reflected in the bolster, maybe just another slight angle change.



That?s better, nice even lighting over the whole knife, no bad reflections or hot spots. But is it good enough?



By just adding a couple of pieces of folded typing paper used as a reflector, I can open the shadows a little and also get some nice reflections in the bolsters. You can see the reflector in the lower left corner of this photo, you can move it out of the frame before you shoot your final pic.




These photos are the way they came out of my camera. You?ll notice the white background isn?t white in the photos. The camera is adjusting so that the highlights on the knife are white, they?re much brighter than the white paper, but that?s okay. There is no way that I would normally show any picture right from the camera. Every photo can be improved using an Image Editing Program. That?s why it?s included on the Must Have List.

I use Adobe Photoshop CS as my image editing program and if you have it also, that?s great. If you don?t have it there are several easy to use image editing programs that are either inexpensive or free. I?d suggest looking at Adobe Elements or I?ve heard good things about the Freeware program called GIMP.

 http://www.gimp.org/

Find one that can handle the basics for you. the Basics would be allow you to crop, color correct, control contrast and help you sharpen the final photo.

That?s it, that?s how I photograph knives. I told you it was simple didn?t I?


« Last Edit: February 02, 2007, 10:02:55 AM by PhilL » Logged

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PhilL
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« Reply #10 on: February 02, 2007, 11:23:58 AM »

Here are three of the Ed Shemp knives that I photographed for Jose.



The biggest one is over 18", and the three of them together was bigger than my table top. I just put a piece of poster board down as the background, but everything else is exactly the same as in my tutorial.

What I do you can do.
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PhilL
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« Reply #11 on: April 25, 2007, 04:09:38 PM »

I'm bringing this thread back to the top because of the conversation in Chat last night.
If you make and sell knives online the better your photos the better your chances of selling your knives.
I think I can help some people take better photos, but you have to read the tutorial, grab a camera, grab a knife and find a window. Do as I do and your results should be similar. If you run into any problems I'm here to help.

I made a suggestion last night, once you're setup and taking pictures keep on snapping until you surprise yourself on how good you did. Don't stop until the Sun goes down or you say, "Wow!" Now you're there, there's nothing else that you need to learn. You just need to duplicate this setup any time you have more knives to photograph. The setup is always the same. Of course you can change the background color or material or add a few props if you must, but the setup once learned will last you a lifetime.

Now, there's nothing to it, but to do it. Let's see what you got. If you take any photos related to this tutorial please post them here.
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Ed Fowler
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« Reply #12 on: April 25, 2007, 09:19:45 PM »

Nice work PhilL, I sincerely wish I could have seen this before I started taking photos of knives. I went through a lot of long fights waiting for a cloudy day, haulling stuff outside and cleaning wind blown stuff of of the knives. I need to do some work with my setup and you have given me some good ideas.
Thanks Friend
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« Reply #13 on: June 07, 2008, 07:58:26 AM »

While thumbing through the online pages of PC World (a great site), I came across this photography tip.
                                                   ******************

Recently, a friend of mine was going whale watching on a small boat in Puget Sound and asked how to get the sharpest possible photos while confined to a small boat.

My usual advice--bring a tripod--didn't apply. Not only is a tripod difficult to manage on a boat, but it's just not the right tool for the job, since you have no idea where the whales might pop up. You'd always be moving the tripod or trying to swing the camera around when a giant fish popped out of the water. (Please, no e-mail: I know that whales are really mammals.)

So I suggested that my friend make one of the oldest do-it-yourself photo gadgets in the history of photography: a string tripod.

                                           Better Photography With String

String tripods are also sometimes known as string monopods, and if you think about it, a monopod is really a better description. Imagine connecting one end of a length of string to your camera, and the other end securely to the ground. When you pull the camera up and make the string taut, you've stabilized the camera. It's that easy!

Keep in mind that a real tripod will always give you better results. But string is cheap, fits in your pocket, and can increase the sharpness of your photos dramatically when you're holding the camera. In unusual situations--like on a boat, or in a museum that doesn't permit tripods--a string tripod can be a lifesaver. It's even great for nature walks, soccer practice, or anywhere else you don't want to be weighed down by a traditional tripod.
Make Your Own

To make a string tripod, you just need a length of string that you can affix to the bottom of your camera. Most string tripod enthusiasts tie the string to a 1/4-inch bolt or a quick-release tripod mount. The other end of the string is tied into a loop that you can slip around your foot.

You get bonus points for making your string tripod for free--check the toolbox in your garage for an old 1/4-inch bolt with an eyelet that you can tie the string through, for instance. If you have to, though, you can always get an inexpensive tripod quick-release plate from your local camera shop, like I did.
Shooting With the String Tripod

When you're ready to shoot, just slip your foot through the loop and screw the bolt into the tripod mount on the bottom of your camera. If the string is the right length, the camera will be at eye level while the string is taut. If it's too long, you can wrap it around your foot some more or just loop off some line with a knot. It's all pretty low tech, so do whatever works for you.

The string will cut down on translational vibration (the up-down) kind of motion, but allow you to rotate to the left or right. You can use this homemade gadget to take panning action shots at soccer practice, stand ready for breaching whales, or take pictures in a church or museum. Yes, it looks a little goofy, but the results are worth it--trust me.

                         http://www.pcworld.com/article/id,145582/article.html?tk=nl_dfxcol

                                                            ****************

Now, if they can just come up with a way to get rid of the shakes. (other than changing my life-style)


* string_tripod_demo-a.jpg (14.47 KB, 90x180 - viewed 271 times.)
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PhilL
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« Reply #14 on: June 07, 2008, 08:10:31 AM »

Interesting tip.

My suggestion when photographing knives is to use a three legged tripod, on solid ground whenever possible.

I have spent years living aboard a ship, where I was the ships photographer. Whenever I was less than steady I would either brace myself against a wall, upright or a rail. Use a faster shutter speed to help reduce movement, and like when firing a gun, hold your breath while pressing the shutter.



Nothing out of the ordinary here.
« Last Edit: June 07, 2008, 09:35:04 AM by PhilL » Logged

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So, figure out what price there is to pay, and Pay It.


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