Amsterdam Meet 2015 photo screen test

For the upcoming Amsterdam Meet, where I try to take as many photos of the new Spyderco prototypes as I can, I’ve chosen to try a new set-up for my pictures. Here’s a screen-test of some knives using this new set-up. I like it a lot better than my previous ‘cobbled-together rig’, as it’s easier to transport and set-up. I’ve also found that I can remedy some of the flaws I noticed in my previous photo shoots. What do you think, do you like these pictures? Let me know in the comments. If the overall response is positive I’ll use it at the upcoming Amsterdam Meet. Thank you!

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In case it wasn’t clear already, I am not a professional photographer nor a real hobby photographer. Apart from photographing my kids and wife, and the odd scenery during a vacation trip, I have zero interest in the craft. This is why I use a simple mid-range point-and-shoot camera, and I’ve avoided investing in any type of professional grade equipment.

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However, I do enjoy taking photos of knives. I only sought out tips and tricks to create clear pictures of knives. I’ve always tried to present the knives as plain and real as possible. Although I enjoy the artistry and composition of such industry photographers as Ichiro Nagata, that’s definitely not something I aspire for myself.

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My previous set-up consisted of several cloths stapled to light wooden boards. In addition, I used a three cheap mountable desk lights and four panels of white cardboard to help reflect and diffuse the light. This did give good results. The knives were lit nicely and I was able to pack this rig up in a suitcase to travel to the meet.

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You might not notice it in my previous pictures, but there are a few flaws that have annoyed me. Trust me, once you’ve processed a 100 or so of these pictures, you tend to notice a few things. The cloth was great for providing a neutral background that didn’t cause reflections. However, in close-ups of many smaller knives or details, the cloth pattern would ‘enlarge’ and distract from the knife’s details. Also, the cloth surface is a notorious collector of distracting little hairs and particles. That’s the kind of stuff that can be really annoying in a macro photo. I always had to make sure the surface was clean, and Photoshop helps to erase any remaining offending artifacts. Another problem is that the ‘room’ I had to shoot the photos in, was relatively cramped. I could pull of a few ‘knife-in-hand’ photos, but not much. This was especially tough with bigger knives. Also, this rig was kind of cumbersome to travel with and set-up.

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After a little research I decided to purchase a big (60 x 60 x 60 cm) photo-tent. I’ve found that I need just two lights instead of three to create the proper lighting effect. It took a little research to adjust the camera settings to create proper clear backgrounds in the photos, somewhere between white and grey. I will tinker a bit more to see if I can get the backgrounds whiter, but even now I’m pretty happy with the results.

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With this set-up, it’s much easier to take a lot of photos and they need a lot less time in Photoshop to ‘clean up’. This rig is also way easier to travel with and there’s plenty of room for bigger knives and knife-in-hand photos. I’ve also noticed that with this design, I can even be a bit more artistic in the positioning of the knives.

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Do you like it? Let me know and I’ll use it for the upcoming Amsterdam Meet. Thank you!

PS A little tinkering with the contrast levels, seems to give a better effect in the contrast between the background color and the blade’s color. This is a work in progress, but I found this result interesting:

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5 Responses to Amsterdam Meet 2015 photo screen test

  1. Nick says:

    Those are great photos! I have always considered your photos to be excellent, and these are certainly as good or better than previous photos. The ability to take shots of the knives at different angles is an advantage.

    As you said, your intention is to show a ‘real-world’ view of the knife, and in that you have been very successful. I look forward to seeing the results from the Amsterdam meet, always an exciting time of the year. I appreciate your efforts.

  2. Jan says:

    I think you have found the formula. The pics look great. Enjoy the meet!
    Jan

  3. Hi Wouter…
    I am envious about you guys meeting up, and maybe I can be there in the next two years, as my daughter is moving to the UK…
    As for your photo set up?

    Yes, it is really clear, and details of the knives are fantastic!

    Only one suggestion, if I may?
    Use something rare and unique instead of the Spyderco Bead?
    That way, no one can copy your pics without permission… ☺

    There is nothing wrong with the Bead, BTW…

    Kind regards
    Stuart

    • Hi Stuart, thank you for your comments! The bead is actually there for a different purpose. I use that on purpose as it is a well known regularly available trinket, to demonstrate the relative size of the knives. I think it helps estimate the relative size of the knife. I must say that last year I had no troubles with commercial copying and use. Before that, some webshops just edited out the bug I used, so it wouldn’t be foolproof. They did change the pictures once I contacted them though.

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