Basic Knife Photography, a Beginner’s Guide

By Terry Soloman

Taking a photograph of a knife sounds simple enough, until you try it. You quickly realize there is much more to capturing the essence of man’s oldest tool and prized possession. I will talk a bit about lighting; positioning; props; types of shots; and photo editing; as well as how to use a “Light Box.”

Whether using a smartphone camera, or an expensive Nikon or Cannon, lighting is all important when photographing your knife. Shadows, glare, or unwanted reflections on the blade, bolster or handle, can change the entire perception of your knife.  The key is “even” lighting.

You can achieve this with diffused light using a “light box.” I use a $30.00 Kshioe kit I bought on Ebay, that included the folding nylon light box, two LED lights, Camera/Cell phone Holder, and 5-background colors. The box really makes a difference in your photography and allows you to experiment with different backgrounds and props with ease.

If you don’t have or want a light box, using simple overhead lighting and lamps can also be successful. Again, the key is even light on all the areas of the knife being photographed. Try and diffuse the light with lampshades, or even a white bedsheet. Don’t be afraid to get in close, showing details of your knife.

Ask yourself, “What would I want to see?”, when deciding on positioning your knife for different shots. Be sure to show both sides of your knife, the blade well/spine, handle scales, and always check your lighting between shots.

Photo editing should be kept simple: Crop the photo to feature the knife or specific area you want to highlight. Adjust the color; clarity; and light level. Editing the photo is as important as the photo itself, so take your time and be artistic in your composition.

Looking forward to hearing YOUR knife photography tips and tricks! Cut it up - Terry

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 A macro (close up) lens is helpful for shooting small areas.  Ring Lights..flashes or lamps of this type...start at a reasonable price. Use them to do the manufactures writing on the tang and elsewhere.  A through the lens (TTL) and camera are worth the cost over time.  

Hi Terry - 

Good tips! 

One thing I do is I have black paper that I hold over the knife to create more interest in the blade reflection - keeps me from seeing light reflections on the blades and brings out detail. 

I also like to use a small zoom lens on my Nikon - and 18-55 I think, and then I like to stand back and zoom in to frame the picture - this brings out more detail in the picture (zoom compression) and also is, to me, more pleasing to the eye. 

Also - you don't always have to get the entire knife in a picture to make it interesting - 

For great depth of field, I use aperture priority and stop down, which means longer shutter speeds and necessitates a good tripod. 

I made a cheap "black reflective surface" out of a walmart photo frame and some black material under the glass. I can get that cool "reflection" effect using that setup and it was less than $5 to make. An example of a picture using that reflection and a blue bottle for the background - 

One other thing - wipe down your blade before taking pictures - I have often taken pictures and then when I get them on my laptop I see big fingerprints all over the blade and then have to take the pics all over. I also sometimes find dust and lint on the knife in pictures - just depends on how picky you are.....



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