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John Gnaegy





Joined: 21 Sep 2007

Posts: 43

PostPosted: Thu 28 May, 2009 11:54 am    Post subject: photographing swords         Reply with quote

Is there already a thread about tips for photographing swords and other steel objects? Seems like I saw one once but a search didn't turn up anything. Many of you have taken such excellent photos for this site, it'd be great to pass along tips for others.

Is it better to use a single point source of light or a diffuse light? Some photos show the reflection of a single bulb which adds a nice contrast between the light and dark reflections on the steel, but I'll bet some diffuse fill light helps too.

Obviously most photos in the reviews section are taken with good lenses and cameras, but even entry level cameras and phone cams benefit from an abundance of light. More light lets your camera choose a smaller iris which allows more depth of field, and more light lets your camera choose a faster shutter which means less movement blur. You'll be hard pressed to get as much light indoors even with all the lights on compared to the light you'll get outside around noon.

I think any tips, for novice or advanced users, would be a great help. I'd even like to see a brief description of the lighting environment and lens posted along with the description of the item whenever a picture is posted. Yes yes, it's nice and sharp and metallic, but what kind of light did you use? Happy

And Nathan, you're excused from posting tips until the server work's done. But after that...
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Nathan Robinson
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PostPosted: Thu 28 May, 2009 12:08 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

myArmoury.com General Photo Tips

Most of the photos in the review section, other than the ones I've taken, are done with consumer-level point-and-shoot cameras.

The keys are proper lighting, exposures, and focus.

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Adam Rose





Joined: 23 Aug 2003
Reading list: 17 books

Posts: 30

PostPosted: Thu 28 May, 2009 3:00 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I like diffuse light for this. I've had decent results in the past outside in overcast conditions, but I don't have access to a private outdoor space right now, so mostly I've been using an external flash mounted on camera but bounced off the ceiling or a wall.

If you're shooting on a white/light background you'll probably need to dial in some positive exposure compensation otherwise the background will be grey and the sword dark. This depends on how much background is in the shot though, it may take a little bit of practice to get it right. The reverse (negative compensation) would be needed for a dark background.

If you have room, back up and use a longer lens/zoom in. Shooting close up with a wide angle maximizes geometric distortion (this can make the sword look bent, or off in proportion etc)
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Gabriel Lebec
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Location: NY, NY
Joined: 02 Oct 2003
Reading list: 32 books

Posts: 419

PostPosted: Thu 28 May, 2009 5:05 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The above is good advice for general purposes and many sword types.

In certain specialized cases other approaches may be called for. For instance, to get the "documentary" photos of Japanese swords (absolute black background, white spine, dark ridge area, clear steel, metallurgical activity, no reflections, etc.) a good approach is a perfectly dark room, two modeling/"hot" point lights placed off at an angle, and a sheet of plexiglass suspended over black felt as a support. I've heard of similar setups for photographing tsuba, with grey or other backgrounds instead of black felt.

Just food for thought.

"The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of true art and true science." - Albert Einstein
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Gabriel Lebec
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Location: NY, NY
Joined: 02 Oct 2003
Reading list: 32 books

Posts: 419

PostPosted: Tue 09 Jun, 2009 5:48 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The technique I describe seems to work well enough for some western items, too (here with a grey backdrop). A piece of white posterboard can also act as a reflector and fill in the shadow areas, make the spine stand out, etc.


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Arms and Armour medieval knife

"The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of true art and true science." - Albert Einstein
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