"Favorable Lighting" used in Knife Pic Ads

Discussion in 'General Knife Discussion' started by coolhand68, Jan 9, 2020.

  1. coolhand68

    coolhand68 Gold Member Gold Member

    Mar 12, 2006
    Has anyone else come across this issue? I've purchased a couple of knives in recent months that look considerably different in hand than they did in the photos when advertised. Favorable angles and creative lighting making handle materials seem richer or darker than they truly are, or that don't show any of the minor imperfections. I've been noticing this trend mostly on traditional knives using bone or wood scales.
    Dadpool and Julian Williams like this.
  2. rileybassman1

    rileybassman1 Gold Member Gold Member

    Aug 12, 2012
    It's not just just lighting... it's photo editing. To be fair... most nice cameras shoot in "RAW" and require saturation and lighting bumps to look "normal" or "nice"... but there are plenty of photos out there that really look over processed to me. Nice pics, nice lighting, and modest edits are one thing... changing the overall look/feel of a knife is another. Pretty much every major knife site does this as well (edits - bump contrast/saturation/vibrancy, play with shadow/highlights/texture, studio lights etc). Once you get into photography a little bit, you can fairly easily see when/how people edit... again, I don't think it's always wrong - like real estate photography - it gets people looking - but must be done modestly enough that it's not false advertising.
    Ace Rimmer, HKGuns and Uncle Timbo like this.
  3. rileybassman1

    rileybassman1 Gold Member Gold Member

    Aug 12, 2012
    Just to add, I have also experienced the inverse... a knife or two that I almost didn't buy based off of poorly lit, poorly framed pics... only to get them in hand and see that they were nicer then I first thought.
    Don W, Stelth, t.willy and 2 others like this.
  4. Danke42


    Feb 10, 2015
    Digital images are not great for capturing detail inside detail unless you have a real nice camera.

    Also your settings on the device that you view the pictures can affect the image.

    If you post some vs. images of the sale ad compared to in hand maybe folks can give a better commentary.
  5. James Y

    James Y

    Feb 18, 1999
    It's pretty much the same as the burgers or pizzas shown on TV commercials. They make it so everything is shown in the best light, and is prepared in such a way as to look perfect. Whereas, oftentimes when you get the actual product in hand, it isn't nearly as "plump", large, or nice-looking.

    So it is with many of the knife ad photos. In some cases, the knife is made to look like state-of-the-art, high-security facility quality, when in fact the actual product often falls (far) short of the image presented. That's advertising.

  6. Hackenslash

    Hackenslash Platinum Member Platinum Member

    Jul 25, 2014
    At least with an ad picture of a knife, you know it’s a real knife. Not so much with pizzas and cheeseburgers!:p
    jux t, Chronovore and craytab like this.
  7. cbrstar

    cbrstar Gold Member Gold Member

    Sep 7, 2015
    I take all my pics with a Samsung 6, and I think I get some decent results so it's not the camera.

    There's tons of tricks from back when I used film. Such as If you take a pic on overcast days you get more deeper looking pics. Using white boxes etc or even a sheet of white paper to deflect light. Fill flash on a sunny day.

    Really though there's so many editing software that's easy to use. I use pixlr X. My problem is I make too many versions of one pic then have a hard time deciding which one is best.
    Chronovore likes this.
  8. T.L.E. Sharp

    T.L.E. Sharp Oatmeal Pecan is better than Chocolate-chip. Platinum Member

    Jun 30, 2016


    Edited Photo:


    That's not even a particularly invasive edit. Dialed up the saturation a bit, shadows, highlights, contrast... pretty standard fare.

    With considerable effort you could get there with lighting, but editing software makes it easier.
    Alsharif likes this.
  9. justjed


    Oct 23, 2010
    Not really sure where you're going with this. I mean, that is precisely WHY ad agencies and manufacturers HIRE photographers!
    Eli Chaps and HKGuns like this.
  10. coolhand68

    coolhand68 Gold Member Gold Member

    Mar 12, 2006
    Where I’m going? It’s pretty straight forward, no ambiguity in my thread unless you are just being deliberately obtuse.
  11. GIRLYmann


    Nov 7, 2005
    some japanese photographers have
    had a great influence on knife photography.
    check out naganori tsutsumi's work in
    "focus on blade" (1993).
    also ichiro nagata in the legendary
    magazine "sentou knife/combat knife " (2001)
    there have been vast improvements
    in photography since.
    but inmo, nothing beats seeing great works
    of "art" for the first time.
  12. justjed


    Oct 23, 2010
    I guess I don"t understand why it's an issue. I wouldn't hire a photographer to make my product not look good in a picture...
  13. HKGuns


    Jan 28, 2019
    Because crappy photos don’t sell knives.

    They cannot create something that isn’t there, unless they’re unscrupulous photoshopers which I’ve never seen.

    Nothing wrong with pumping up the contrast, saturation and black levels.

    This ROK was shot Raw with a pro camera and edited with pro software.

    It looks exactly as it does in person.

    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 9, 2020
    colin.p likes this.
  14. sharp_edge

    sharp_edge Gold Member Gold Member

    Jul 30, 2015
    When purchasing knives second-hand, don't just look at pictures of them. Read the description too. Pictures are mostly useful for verifying/confirming the issues that the seller describes, such as scratches, dings, and blade being off centered.
    4mer_FMF likes this.
  15. AKnife


    May 10, 2009
    Marketing/advertising 101.

    Unless you can see the knife in person you only have the photos to go by and it's obviously gonna look it's best in photos.

    Recently, I had this issue when looking at an OD green Microtech Socom Elite. I really liked the darker green from one dealer, but the identical listing at a different dealer showed a lighter green. All about lighting and editing. It's more of a hunter/ranger green than OD. Maybe Microtech changed the color slightly, but regardless I bought the one I liked based off the photo.

    The other dealer could of had the same exact knife, but it looked lighter probably due to better lighting and professional photography. The problem with pro photos is that day to day you and me will rarely be in a proper lit ready for a photo environment. Hence why our knives look off when compared to advertisement photos.

    Nature of the beast and it's the disadvantage of buying online.
  16. evilgreg

    evilgreg Why so serious? Gold Member

    Dec 25, 2012
    I don't know, there is deceptive editing out there but there are also some knives are tricky to photograph and look wildly different depending on the angles between the lighting source, the knife, and the viewer.

    This knife for example is really hard to photograph, the handle is titanium polished to an almost-mirror shine, and the damascus pattern looks very high contrast from some angles and much less so from others. If you were selling it, would you shoot it from the lighting angle that gives the damascus high contrast or low?


    Sometimes the materials provide their own challenges as well. Would you shoot a mother of pearl handled knife at just the right angle to show the colors, or from the angle that makes it just like a mottled yellowish white? This knife has some screwball "white" CF that looks really different depending on your angle and lighting, for example:

  17. 90grains

    90grains Basic Member Basic Member

    Sep 20, 2011
    Interesting discussion!

    Many years ago I had a commercial photography business towards the beginning of digital. A custom knife maker hired me to shoot images of six knives that were going to be printed in a book with his bio and in some magazine. I shot the knives using a 4' x 4' overhead light source to be able to eliminate hot spots, maximize saturation and render them as life like as possible. The trade off was a slight loss in apparent texture. I used a 4x5 camera with 120 back with slide film so it could be scanned. The images were scanned to digital, post processed in Photoshop and then taken back to film.

    Proper lighting is the magic regardless!

    It takes some serious skill to make that knife or widget look as appealing as possible! Product photography is a highly specialized art form.
  18. jstrange


    Mar 31, 2012
    I have also noticed a trend to angle a folding knife to make the handle to blade ratio look more favorable.
  19. Richard338

    Richard338 Gold Member Gold Member

    May 3, 2005
    As a hobby maker I found it quite a shock to try taking photos of knives I made. First it is very difficult for a non-expert to take good photos, which is why people call SharpbyCoop.
    Also, I was surprised at how many small flaws jump out at you in a well lit closeup. It forced me to take my fit and finish to a higher level. Even so it is natural to take many shots and pick the best. This is probably why some people also use video.
    HKGuns likes this.
  20. Motega

    Motega Gold Member Gold Member Basic Member

    Jun 20, 2006
    This is an easy one. Good lighting and favorable angles =OK Cropping, ok.
    ANYTHING else falls on a spectrum from slightly deceptive (jacking up saturation, color balance, despeckle, sharpness) to outright lies- I fell victim to an Ebay seller that manipulated colors and transparencies to make his anodizing look totally different.
    Quick to return my money, but I still think he's a crook. And he sells A LOT of the knives we like.
    WValtakis and coolhand68 like this.

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