Author Topic: Photographing Knives  (Read 10523 times)

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Offline Zeus

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Photographing Knives
« on: February 01, 2012, 09:21:46 PM »
So this thread will be a work in progress as I add to it over time. The goal is to show some techniques for taking pictures of knives to make them look as nice as they can. The best part is than even simple point and shoot cameras are capable of producing really great pictures. I am by no means a professional photographer. There are a lot more talented photographers out there than me. But I have learned a few tricks for taking decent knife pictures and I will share them with you as soon as I can get some time to go take a bunch of pictures.



For starters, as I said before, most modern digital pocket "point-and-shoot" cameras are capable of taking some great pictures so if you already have a camera you can try these tricks.

Here are a few cameras that are all capable of decent knife pictures. you don't need a fancy digital SLR camera with interchangeable lenses. the camera I used for these pictures is similar, a little Canon A495 Power Shot. It's not pictured (obviously) because I used it to take the picture! :D




1) Take pictures outdoors in the shade.


It takes a lot of lights to even come close to the power of daylight. Probably the #1 cause for bad pictures is the lighting. The less light you have, the more "grainy" and distorted the image will be. It will be harder for the camera to focus well. The camera will compensate for the low light by using the largest aperture it can, compressing the depth of field which means that the camera will only focus in a narrow plane. This causes some parts of your picture to be out of focus. Another way the camera compensates for low light is that it takes a longer exposure. This means the camera's shutter is open longer so that light reflected from the scene will have longer to impact the camera's sensor.  This can cause blurry pictures when you are holding the camera because the shutter is open long enough that your hands will shake or move before the shutter can close. This movement translates into blur in the finished image.

By using natural daylight in the shade, you can eliminate most of the problems resulting from insufficient lighting. Using shade or overcast days gives you a nice diffuse light that doesn't cause any bright flares or reflections on shiny steel. Indoor photo studios that can replicate these conditions cost money and take up space. Sunlight is free! :D  This one tip will do more to improve your pictures than any any other.

This picture was taken indoors with the blinds closed, using artificial light. You can see the shadow of my arms holding the camera, and the detail in the handle is lost in the dark.


This next picture is in the same location, using the camera's flash. Not much better. Camera flashes are for taking pictures of your friends in dark bars and nightclubs. :D There are some instances where a flash can be useful in taking pictures of knives as a way to supplement existing, adequate lighting. But in the image below, flash isn't helping anything.


This image was taken on the same background, outdoors on an overcast day. you can see the lighting is much more even. There are no shadows, and the colors are reproduced very well. More detail would be visible in the handle if the image were made on a slightly brighter day.




2) Have a nice background.

It's easy to get so focused on the subject you are photographing that you don't even notice that the background is at best plain and boring, and at worst cluttered with distracting objects that have nothing to do with your subject. When you frame your shot on the screen, look beyond the knife and see what else is going to be in the finished picture. Your kid's pink tricycle might take the cool factor of your new knife down a notch or two!

It's a good idea to set up a makeshift "studio" for your knife that reflects the type of use it will see. Is it going to be carried in your pocket? Then perhaps you should set up your studio indoors (gasp!) next to a big window with a lot of daylight coming in (whew!) and use a nice wooden tabletop, along with a wallet and some keys, perhaps a flashlight, cell phone, wristwatch or whatever else you typically carry in your pockets. You might add a valet box or something else to add to the "mood" of the picture.

If the knife is an outdoors knife, take the picture outdoors and place the knife among some objects and materials found where it will be used. For bushcraft knives, split some wood, make some fuzz sticks, perhaps carve a few trap triggers and then throw in some other items you typically encounter on a hike or outing. Maybe an antler shed, some turkey feathers, flint and steel kit, etc.

You want your background to tell a story about the type of use the knife will see. You want a lot of texture in the background, and you want it large enough to enable you to take shots from multiple angles. Limit stones and other hard surfaces as best you can so you do not damage the edge of the knife trying to photograph it!

Ok, so just by going from a plain manila folder as a background to a log, the image becomes way more interesting! It's still not a truly awesome picture by any stretch, but it's already light years ahead of the first indoor pictures. I've taken the picture at an angle. This reduces the "staged" look of a picture with the knife just laying flat. It looks more natural, like how you might see the knife as you walked up to the log if it was just placed there for a moment.



3) Focus


Almost every camera I ever used has a 2 stage shutter button. The first stage focuses the shot when you press lightly, then the second stage takes the picture. A lot of folks will just point the camera at the thing they want a picture of, then press the button all the way down. The camera then focuses on "whatever" and then takes the shot automatically.

What you want to do is put the focus bracket (usually a green bracket that looks like this [  ]) on the part of the image you want to be in focus and then lightly press the shutter button until the focus is achieved. Now you can move the camera while keeping the shutter button lightly pressed and then press it fully to take the shot.

Why would you want to do this?

Well say for instance you want to focus on the bolsters of a knife, or maybe the thumb stud on a folder. But the way you have the scene composed, the knife is in the top right part of the image and there are some other props and items in the middle of the shot. What you would do is put the focus bracket on the knife and lock in the focus, then recompose the image how you want it and fully press the button to take the shot. If you don't lock the focus on the part you want, the camera will just focus on the center of your picture, and might miss the knife entirely causing it to blur.

4) Macro Focus Mode

This is a focus mode most cameras have that allows you to focus on objects that are extremely close to the lens. To enable it, look for an icon that resembles a tulip flower. Since macro mode is most often used for close-up images of flowers, this is the universal icon for macro mode. If you want a really close picture of something and your camera just won't focus on it, try macro mode. chances are it will work like a charm!

I wanted to get the etched logo on this knife in focus. In order to get nice and close to the knife for this picture, I chose macro mode on the camera. This allowed me to focus on the writing for this very close shot. I have a fingerprint smudge on it though. That's something to look out for as well...




5) Depth of Field

This is photography jargon. What it describes is how much of the scene is in focus. If you see a picture where there are wildflowers in the foreground and mountains in the background with all of it in focus, that picture can be said to have plenty of depth of field. A close-up image of a flower that has a blurry background has a shallow depth of field. A picture of a distant mountain in focus with a blurry tree branch in the foreground also has a shallow depth of field.

Knowing how to manipulate depth of field will help you take better pictures. For example, lets say you want to take a picture of a knife stuck in a log on the seashore. You see that there is a tugboat in the distance and it's in your frame. You want a shallow depth of field to blur the ocean so that the boat is out of focus and only the knife is in focus. In that situation, you will want to get your camera as close to the knife as possible, and you want the camera to use as large an aperture as possible. Without going into complicated camera functions, the easiest way to get a shallow depth of field is to take pictures where the subject is close to the camera, and the lens is zoomed out as wide as possible.

The opposite situation is where you would want a long depth of field. Let's say you want to take a picture of a knife where the tip is pointed at the camera, and you are looking along the side of the knife from the tip to the pommel. You want the whole knife to be in focus. If you take the shot close up, you will only get the tip in focus with the rest of the knife blurred, or the guard in focus with the tip and pommel blurred, etc.

The way to get the whole knife in focus is to back away from the knife with your camera, and zoom in. The higher the magnification, the more the lens forces the camera to use a smaller aperture, and the deeper the field of focus. So by simply backing up, then zooming in so that your picture is the same size as if you were close, you can get the foreground and background in focus. The best thing to do in this situation is use the focus bracket to choose a spot halfway along the knife, lock your focus there, then recompose and take the shot to ensure the middle of the knife is the middle of the focus field. (Remember locking the focus?)

So here are a couple of examples of depth of field manipulation. In both pictures I attempted to focus on the thumb stud of the knife since it is about halfway down the knife. Autofocus likes something with texture to focus on. Often when you use it, it will not focus on a plain solid color object. after I locked in the focus I recomposed and took the shot. However since I was close to the knife and had the lens zoom backed out as wide as possible, some of my image was blurred and out of focus. Notice the tip of the knife, and the pommel? Blurry.


By taking a step back and zooming in until the frame was close to the previous picture, this is the result. Still not perfect, but much more of the knife is in focus now. This image has more depth of field. If I had a tripod instead of hand holding the camera, I could have chosen a smaller aperture and a longer exposure, and squeezed even more depth of field out of it and gotten the entire knife in sharp focus.





These are just a few tips and I may add some more later as I remember them.
« Last Edit: February 02, 2012, 05:23:07 PM by Zeus »

Offline Remo007

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Re: Photographing Knives
« Reply #1 on: February 02, 2012, 03:21:55 PM »
I'm going to experiment with my Kodak Easy Share now, using your tips, thank you for sharing!!! :)
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Offline Zeus

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Re: Photographing Knives
« Reply #2 on: February 02, 2012, 03:33:40 PM »
Great! If you get any pictures you like, feel free to start a picture thread in the general section. :)

Offline Red

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Re: Photographing Knives
« Reply #3 on: February 02, 2012, 03:37:33 PM »
cant wait to see them Esteban :D!!
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Offline Remo007

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Re: Photographing Knives
« Reply #4 on: February 02, 2012, 03:56:48 PM »
Well, we all know YOU can definitely take pictures, and you have Posted ALOT of them, and they of Excellent Quality! :)
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Offline Zeus

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Re: Photographing Knives
« Reply #5 on: February 02, 2012, 04:34:17 PM »
Indeed I have seen some great ones from Kratos. I just added a few simple shots to the op to illustrate what I'm describing.

Offline bushraider

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Re: Photographing Knives
« Reply #6 on: February 08, 2012, 04:21:21 PM »
good stuff thanx for the Info...

Offline trentu

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Re: Photographing Knives
« Reply #7 on: February 10, 2012, 04:46:49 AM »
That is some great info. I take horrible pictures. Could be because the old Kodak is junk. Might be getting me a new camera! Thanks for the tips.
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Offline PetrifiedWood

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Re: Photographing Knives
« Reply #8 on: February 10, 2012, 11:08:11 AM »
You're welcome! Give it a try and we'd love to see pics.

Offline Dadio

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Re: Photographing Knives
« Reply #9 on: February 26, 2012, 11:52:15 AM »
Thanks! Those are great tips, and I'll try to incorporate them into my photography in the future. Don't know why I didn't think to do most of that stuff outside. Like many brilliant things, it seems obvious when someone points it out!
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Offline beanbag

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« Reply #10 on: March 06, 2012, 07:02:13 PM »
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« Last Edit: August 06, 2012, 02:42:58 PM by beanbag »

Offline PetrifiedWood

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Re: Photographing Knives
« Reply #11 on: March 06, 2012, 07:25:26 PM »
Nice pictures beanbag! The lighting is nice and even, no hard shadows, and the details really pop. You should post these in the knife port thread too if you haven't already. :)

Offline beanbag

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Re: Photographing Knives
« Reply #12 on: March 06, 2012, 07:30:27 PM »
Nice pictures beanbag! The lighting is nice and even, no hard shadows, and the details really pop. You should post these in the knife port thread too if you haven't already. :)

Thanks I will.

Best advice ever:

1) Take pictures outdoors in the shade.

Offline PetrifiedWood

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Re: Photographing Knives
« Reply #13 on: March 06, 2012, 07:37:57 PM »
Yep, outdoors in the shade can even make cell phone pictures look halfway decent sometimes. :D

Offline easy_rider75

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Re: Photographing Knives
« Reply #14 on: March 06, 2012, 08:24:31 PM »
Good tips for sure. I know  I have the eye for a good picture it's my camera that actually lacks. I do  have a pretty good 35mm film camera the only downside for me now is the cost of  film and all plus I hate waiting for the results LOL I fall under the I want it now type.  Hoping any luck this summer  to get a better camera for myself that is the number one toy I want
?I'm not one of those complicated, mixed-up cats. I'm not looking for the secret to life.... I just go on from day to day, taking what comes.?~Frank Sinatra~

Offline beanbag

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Re: Photographing Knives
« Reply #15 on: March 06, 2012, 08:34:02 PM »
Good tips for sure. I know  I have the eye for a good picture it's my camera that actually lacks. I do  have a pretty good 35mm film camera the only downside for me now is the cost of  film and all plus I hate waiting for the results LOL I fall under the I want it now type.  Hoping any luck this summer  to get a better camera for myself that is the number one toy I want

I'm the same.  Looking to upgrade soon also.

Offline easy_rider75

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Re: Photographing Knives
« Reply #16 on: March 06, 2012, 08:54:14 PM »
Good tips for sure. I know  I have the eye for a good picture it's my camera that actually lacks. I do  have a pretty good 35mm film camera the only downside for me now is the cost of  film and all plus I hate waiting for the results LOL I fall under the I want it now type.  Hoping any luck this summer  to get a better camera for myself that is the number one toy I want

I'm the same.  Looking to upgrade soon also.

Kinda into  photograph a good bit been for a long time but got out of it due to lack of money lol. Used to dabble in dark room stuff to  I just hate  seeing the shot  of the century at times just not having the right gear for it LOL  one day soon though LOL
?I'm not one of those complicated, mixed-up cats. I'm not looking for the secret to life.... I just go on from day to day, taking what comes.?~Frank Sinatra~

Offline beanbag

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Re: Photographing Knives
« Reply #17 on: March 06, 2012, 08:57:12 PM »
Good tips for sure. I know  I have the eye for a good picture it's my camera that actually lacks. I do  have a pretty good 35mm film camera the only downside for me now is the cost of  film and all plus I hate waiting for the results LOL I fall under the I want it now type.  Hoping any luck this summer  to get a better camera for myself that is the number one toy I want

I'm the same.  Looking to upgrade soon also.

Kinda into  photograph a good bit been for a long time but got out of it due to lack of money lol. Used to dabble in dark room stuff to  I just hate  seeing the shot  of the century at times just not having the right gear for it LOL  one day soon though LOL

Yup.  My Lumix will me some good shots until I get a fancy cam.

Offline easy_rider75

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Re: Photographing Knives
« Reply #18 on: March 06, 2012, 09:48:07 PM »
Good tips for sure. I know  I have the eye for a good picture it's my camera that actually lacks. I do  have a pretty good 35mm film camera the only downside for me now is the cost of  film and all plus I hate waiting for the results LOL I fall under the I want it now type.  Hoping any luck this summer  to get a better camera for myself that is the number one toy I want

I'm the same.  Looking to upgrade soon also.

Kinda into  photograph a good bit been for a long time but got out of it due to lack of money lol. Used to dabble in dark room stuff to  I just hate  seeing the shot  of the century at times just not having the right gear for it LOL  one day soon though LOL

Yup.  My Lumix will me some good shots until I get a fancy cam.

Same thing I always say  my cheapo Kodak  gets me my photography  fix and I can show off my carvings with it :D
?I'm not one of those complicated, mixed-up cats. I'm not looking for the secret to life.... I just go on from day to day, taking what comes.?~Frank Sinatra~

Offline Beckyadams

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Re: Photographing Knives
« Reply #19 on: March 29, 2012, 03:45:07 PM »
Yikes!  These are some of the nicest knives I have ever seen.  That one looks like a rambo knock off.  Just picked up a small Swiss Army knife for a camping trip myself.

Offline C3 Knives

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Re: Photographing Knives
« Reply #20 on: April 06, 2012, 06:31:50 AM »
Good stuff.  Thanks for the post.  I want to build a light box at some point, so I can get the catalog looking consistancy.  Great suggestions.
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Offline warren bond

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Re: Photographing Knives
« Reply #21 on: May 14, 2012, 03:13:19 PM »
Great thread ,thanks for the info ill be trying some of your suggestions  :)

Offline PetrifiedWood

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Re: Photographing Knives
« Reply #22 on: May 14, 2012, 04:26:03 PM »
You guys already have a good eye for photogryphy. I've seen some of your knife pics and they look great!

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