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Old 01-31-2003, 02:44 PM
paul harm paul harm is offline
Join Date: Aug 2002
Location: attica, mi.
Posts: 799
lighting help

i know nothing about lighting for taking a proper picture. could some one give me some basic ideas. i saw "front lighting" and "back lighting"- any help- thanks- paul
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Old 02-03-2003, 08:26 PM
Schwert Schwert is offline
Steel Addict
Join Date: Nov 2002
Location: Seattle WA
Posts: 119

Lighting is everything in a photo. I can recommend a book or two that will absolutely help.

John Shaw's Nature Photography Field Guide
by John Shaw

John Shaw's Closeups in Nature
by John Shaw

The first is a very good technique book for nature photography that covers many aspects of lighting. The second is a bit outdated but still excellent for understanding closeups and lighting for them.

If you are specifically asking about knife photography by digital camera this is an area I am actively trying to understand. I have found that lighting a knife is very much more difficult than lighting most other things. The blade reflectivity is very difficult to see using flash photography and difficult to setup using natural light. Many of the folks here can guide you better than I.

Light can come upon a subject from either the front, back or sides. Each of these has advantages and disadvantages.

Front lighting means the light is coming at the subject from behind the camera. This results in shadows that fall behind the subject or no shadows at all. Ths minimizes the feeling of depth in the photo but everything is nicely lit and exposed.

Back lighting means the light is coming at the subject towards the camera. This means shadows fall towards the front of the subject. Light can enter the lens directly this way and cause lens flare (the little star or hexagonal shapes). Care needs to be taken to either minimize this flare or use it to your best advantage. This is probably the most difficult lighting setup but can be used to great advantage. Sometimes the light can actually go through the subject.

Side lighting means the light is coming at the subject from either the right or left side of the photo. This casts shadows beside the subject. This can result in photos with nicely defined depth. I am exploring sidelight as a way to successfully light a highly reflective blade and still see some of the detail of it. Grind lines cast small shadows on the blade making it far easier to see this detail.

Look at the images posted for Week 27 contest. Here is my evaluation of the light chosen for each of the 4 images.

KEITH--Notice the small shadows along the front edges of the knives. He is using high angle back with a little side light. The light seems to be coming from the top left corner. This keeps the blade on the center image from burning out the image. This seems to be a composite of 3 photos and he has carefully kept the light coming from the same direction for each image.

Guy Thomas--Notice almost no shadow lines anywhere. This is a classic overhead front light image. This looks like it was taken on an overcast day which serves to effectively soften the shadow lines. The blade is nicely lit by this giant soft box light of the sun coming through clouds.

Murrphy--This is a bit harder to evaluate the light but the shadow line is in front of the blade and again looks to be coming from the top left corner. The blade clearly shows the detail of the steel.

Schwert--I chose mostly sidelight from the left. My light is a 3 foot slide viewing table standing so the light comes from the left side near the top corner. Notice the shadow under the blade and the highlights on the blade and bolster. I found that I could not light this knife from the front as the blade is to reflective.

Hopefully some of this helps. The Shaw books are frequently available in local libraries and used book stores. Even though his books are tuned to nature photography the techniques are applicable to most photos.

Good luck
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Old 02-04-2003, 11:26 AM
paul harm paul harm is offline
Join Date: Aug 2002
Location: attica, mi.
Posts: 799
schwert, thank you for the reply. yes i was talking about lighting for knives- the type of lites and the method used [ boxes, curtains, etc. ] so the blade looks good. on my pictures i seem to get a blade that looks black sometimes. i'm using a" sony mavica", about 5 years old. think my big problem is light reflecting off the blade. don't know how to get enough light, buy not make the blade reflect it- are a couple of 200 watt bulbs used with some sort of cloth in front of it ? thanks for the help- paul
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Old 02-04-2003, 05:44 PM
Chuck Burrows's Avatar
Chuck Burrows Chuck Burrows is offline
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Join Date: Sep 2002
Location: Durango, Co
Posts: 3,671

Scroll down until you find the tutorial link is on how to make a light box for taking photos. Also do a search for light boxes and you'll find a lot of discussion and more plans.

You've got the general idea though having a "diffusion" cloth between the light and the object to be photographed.

Chuck Burrows
Hand Crafted Leather & Frontier Knives
dba Wild Rose Trading Co
Durango, CO

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The beautiful sheaths created for storing the knife elevate the knife one step higher. It celebrates the knife it houses.
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Old 02-05-2003, 09:28 AM
Terrill Hoffman's Avatar
Terrill Hoffman Terrill Hoffman is offline
Join Date: Jun 2002
Location: Charlotte, North Carolina
Posts: 639
Paul the link they gave you will be a good start. Just play a lot and you'll see the best method for yourself. I have always worked with one or two lights and a tent style setup. Now that is what works for me but a lot of the guys have found other lighting setup that work just as good.

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Old 02-07-2003, 11:25 PM
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SharpByCoop SharpByCoop is offline
Join Date: Jun 2002
Location: Northeast USA
Posts: 3,785
This link has most of the info you are looking for. Read it through, then come back with your comments again!

Lighting and Backgrounds


Jim Cooper - Capturing the Artistry and Significance of Handmade Knives

?? New website improvement for 2010 - Over 5000 images searchable by maker's name! ??
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Old 02-08-2003, 11:03 PM
paul harm paul harm is offline
Join Date: Aug 2002
Location: attica, mi.
Posts: 799
thanks for the replys- coop, that link answered about all my questions. now to get some stuff and try it out. paul
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