Knife photography (experience, some tips, etc)

Knife-makers | | | |

Hey gang,

From time to time I have people ask me if I do my own photography. Yes, all of it. Then they ask "How do you get such nice pics?". This is a brief rundown with some tips and such that I posted on another forum, and thought there might be some interest here. So, here we go:

I do all of the photography of my knives myself. My current camera is a Canon Powershot A95. 5MP digital. Here are the basic guidelines for doing pics, in no particular order:

Lighting. Generally, if at all possible use natural lighting, the best you can obtain. That may mean taking your pics at a certain time of day, or on a certain day, etc. Cloudy is nice. I also hold up bright white sheets at different places around the subject (knife) to bounce light around and minimize shadows. Alternately, sometimes I place my hand, fingers spread, or cardboard over the subject, to scatter light. Or even something opaque and transparent, to diffuse it.

Background. Select a background as solid as you can, or uniform, at the least, something that does not distract from your subject.

Get as close as you can to your subject, fill the viewfinder with it. Digital cameras focus less well the more you zoom, even an optical zoom. Zoom as little as possible. Speaking of viewfinder, I don't use the optical at all, strictly the LCD.

Use a tripod AND the longest available timer on the camera. I have 3 tripods: one is a small tabletop, one a large pro model, and one that I made myself, years ago. Get it as perfectly framed in the viewfinder as you can, ready to go, then press the shutter release and get your hands away from it. That way, the camera will settle and be moving the least amount possible when the shutter snaps.

I try to avoid using the flash, generally even shut it off. I also use the Macro autofocus function. Speaking of which, I allow the camera to automatically select everything. It has manual controls for everything, but I pretty much go full auto.

That's basic tech stuff, the rest is judgment and experience. One thing, some of you may know, is that you have to take thousands of pics, to get good. I've been doing amateur photography since I was a child, using a little Instamatic. Been through a dozen cameras since. The beauty of digital is that you can snap pics, then upload them immediately, see if you nailed it, and if not, go right back and take more. No waiting for them to be developed, etc. Also, as many pics as I take (deleting probably 2/3 of them), I save thousands in film developing by using digital. Last thing is you need decent photo editor software and you need to be proficient with it.

So, that's it in a nutshell. Once you have the tech stuff down, then judgment plays a large role. I think about, when I'm photographing, what precisely it is that I'm trying to communicate. You know, a general overview, versus a specific detail, etc. When someone looks at my pics, what are they seeing? Is it what I'm trying to show? Etc.

I've been marketing over the internet for years, and one thing I learned early on was that good photos are mandatory. When you have a store or do a show, and someone can handle your knives, that's one thing, but when all they have is photos, they have to sell them FOR you. My goal is to have the photography be transparent, that is, when someone looks at my photos online, they only see the knife, and sort of absent-mindedly assume the photos were professionally done. It doesn't interfere with the subject.

Hope some of you find this to be of interest.

visitor's picture

Tabletop reflectors

These work great with metal subjects and highlights

Gary Bartholomew

Rich Waugh's picture

Cheap Photo Tent

After a long fruitless search for an affordable photographic tent, I finally found one that I can afford, at Harbor Freight of all places.

Harbor Freight Photo Tent

warren's picture


Thanks Rich I may have to pick one of those up just to play with. Heck I paid $10 each for a couple of plastic diffusers for my lights a while back.

www Metalrecipes -- heat and beat to the desired shape, repeat as necessary.