Today I’m shooting photographs of the Buck '221 Creek Knife' & in this blog, I’ll run you through my general process for crafting a final image.
Ok. To set up my composition and to frame the product, I first consider what I would use the product for in the real world. In this case, it’d be survival or outdoors activities. I decide that it'd be best to focus on the theme fire-building, opting to reflect the process of creating fuel for a camp fire. To do this, I’d wear my thick, ‘blade-proof’ gloves, use the (very sharp) knife to carve kindling & a durable, refillable lighter to ignite it.
Now that I’ve established my theme, I choose my background, opting for loose bark as fits nicely in to aesthetic of my image & features a nice rich pallette to play with. I set up my composition, using only natural light as this is empathetic with the scenario in my head and the idea which I wish to convey.
The Knife takes centre position, set diagonally against the flat background. The Gloves and the lighter are then introduced, set diagonally at the opposite angle to aid the eye in finding the knife (leading lines). I’m shooting at 85mm, with an aperture of f11 to optimise my sharpness across the frame. My white balance is set to ‘cloudy’ as this is truest to the scene & I’ve got a shutter speed of 1/13th of a second. I don’t have any need to boot my ISO from 100, as I don't have any movement in my scene. I take the shot & then open the image in Adobe Lightroom.
Original RAW File. Unedited.
Editing Pt. 1 - Overall Image Balancing in Lightroom
Before I start to balance my image, I picture how I want the final image to look. I want a gritty, modern looking image that appeals to all audiences with earthy tones & clean detail. I also need to be mindful that the company may want to add text & logos. With this in mind, I select a crop that is aesthetically pleasing & frames the subject well.
I double check my white balance & colour tint, which are both fine. There are no obvious changes to the original colour of the Knife & I can move on to adding a touch of contrast to enhance the richness of the colour palette across the frame.
Balancing my light settings is a subtle process with this image, as everything is relatively well balanced. I reduce the highlights by about 25% & boost the shadows by 5% to draw out some detail before adding a 15% boost to the images clarity. This helps to define the overall structure. I then drop my vibrance & saturation by 5% & 15% respectively - now I’m starting to shape the overall colour of the shot with respect to my original concept.
Dialling in the hues of the colour palette, I then desaturate the yellows, reds & oranges this draws more attention to the blues of the knife, where I boost the luminosity of the blue in the handle. I have no use for split toning in this particular shot, so I move onto sharpening the image - this adds a wee bit of grit which will come in handy in part two of my process. The last action I perform is the addition of a very subtle vignette - further leading the eye towards the centre of the image and the logo on the knives blade.
At this point, I’m happy with how the image is shaping up. I’ve sorted the fundamental balance of the image & I’m now ready to implement part two of my processing - polishing (or ‘mastering’). To retain all detail & digital information I then open the image as a .TIFF copy in Photoshop via Lightroom.
Editing Pt. 2. Polishing The Final Image in Photoshop
The first step I take is to make a duplicate of the original layer, performing some additional (but subtle) noise reduction. I’m careful not to affect the overall sharpness of the image, as NR can be quite destructive. This layer is then merged with the original and I can start to creatively edit the image.
Generally, the next step for me is to add contrast layers, one for overall contrast & a second for more localised edits. I tease out the finer details by making subtle boosts to the mid-range contrast, which adds to the earthy feel of the shot. Next, I hone in on the knife, making sure that everything remains natural. By editing the product alone, I’m able to make it pop out of the image - making it the prime focus. I usually aim to have my opacity set between 10/50% on this layer. This means that it blends nicely into the frame.
I add a subtle layer of ‘Dehazing’ just to reduce any leftover light-distortion. This helps to define the image since I’m using natural light. At this point I notice a slight blue hue to the blade & opt to reduce this locally by adding a colour cast mask - this reduces the blue tint & makes the metal look more grey which is closest to the original colour. At this point I’m pretty much done. I tighten my crop - being mindful of the gaps in the corners, burn my shadows slightly to add a bit of richness & add a final vignette - using the eraser at an opacity of 50% to sculpt my corner shadows.
The final step in the process is to add the fade which gives the image a cinematic feel, concurrent with modern processing. To do this, I create a curves mask & pull up the blacks (or crush them) in a heavy handed fashion. I dial this in across the image by reducing the opacity to 10% & export the image as a full-resolution JPEG file & a watermarked half-resolution JPEG for sharing purposes.
Final Image. Processed JPEG.