Making a Commision - Part 15 - Photographing


Photographing is unfortunately not my strong suit. I do not have excellent equipment and if I did, I would not know how to use it. As with many other things, I am trying to get the most use out of what little I have.

The best case scenario is photographing outdoors, when there is slightly overcast and a lot of diffuse light. Which happens rarely. Thus I am mostly photographing in the same room that is normally reserved for leather working and – right now – drying fruit. The photographing itself does not take much time, most work usually is just to get the workplace into a state when I am able to do the photographing at all.

As far as equipment goes, I am using a grid mat, white paper roll, a tripod, Nikon COOLPIX P900 (probably the best equipment I have), and the room is fitted with LED lights with 4000K light. The lighting is the biggest problem, I could undoubtedly fix something better but it is one of those things that is always slightly less important than something else.

Firstly I take a picture of the knives on the mat with a grid, because it is the fastest and easiest way to document the most important measurements of the knives. This picture will be later included in the web shop too, because in my opinion, it communicates the size of the knife better than a number with a unit. And because the sole purpose of this picture is to document the size, I am not bothering about camera settings much. For the following pictures, however, I need to play with the settings some in order to get usable pictures.

After the knives on the mat, I take pictures of the whole set in the block. The white paper roll serves as a sufficiently contrasting background for setting the exposition. Usually, I must set it pretty high, almost to the max, because the lighting is weak.

To compensate somewhat for weak light, I am using the flash. However, flash, as it is, would create undesirable sharp shadows. Thus I have made a diffuser to soften the light a bit. Originally it was meant for macro photography of insects and flowers but it works for knives well too.

I am mostly using either "Portrait" or "Food" presets on the camera, depending on actual lighting conditions and also the color of photographed knives and their backgrounds. For outdoor knives I sometimes use other colors than white, and the kitchen knives I sometimes photograph with food, etc. Usually, I am doing my best to find such settings that minimize the need for post-processing in the PC later on.

The most difficult is to find the correct camera settings for the last photographing phase – the knives themselves. It is difficult because the camera cannot reliably include in one picture a very shiny and uniform area – the blade – and mat areas in a way that really looks natural. It is extremely easy to either overexpose the blades and have a perfect picture of the handles or to get a perfect picture of the blade and drak, murky picture of the handle. Whatever I do, with these pictures there is always a need for post-processing on PC, fine-tuning levels, contrasts, and sometimes even color balances in order to get the picture to look at least somewhat like the real thing looks and not as if it were viewed through thick glass on a misty evening. And these blades have a satin finish – blades with high or even mirror polish are much worse in this regard.

Once the pictures are on the PC there really remains only the last step – process the pictures, calculate prices, and put the products in the web shop. About that, next week.