Photographing Razors

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Some of you, especially those restoring their blades, want to document their kit or the process of its restoration. Razors, however, are rather difficult to photograph well. We have collected a few tips on photographing razors, because "shiny stuff stinks to photo"[1]

Background[edit | edit source]

The thing that makes razors so difficult is that the blades are shiny. Shiny stuff stinks to photo. If you have the time and means to build a light tent like the one in this article, it will greatly help.The bottom line is take a ton of photos and vary how you have the razor positioned.

Basic tips[edit | edit source]

  • Lower f-stops will give you a shallow depth of field. If you are shooting the whole razor and it is perpendicular to the lens, a low f-stop is fine (f1-f2.7). If the blade is not perpendicular (think: shooting the end to show the grind) a low f-stop will result in some parts of the razor being in focus and some parts out of focus.
  • ISO setting should be as low as it can be to prevent digital noise. Sometimes, you can't shoot lower than 1600. It happens, but in your case, add more light.
  • Backing up and Zooming into the subject is very effective in helping to produce a good shot with a point and shoot camera. Try using the optical zoom only, as digital zoom will degrade the picture. Macro settings are only useful if you are shooting close. Most macro settings will not allow you to frame an entire razor and have it in focus. If you are shooting a part of the razor (just the tang or the stamping) Macro will be your friend. Ultimately, though, there is no magic f-stop, ISO, shutter speed setting combination. The required settings largely depend on what you are trying to accomplish. No matter what, you will do better if you have a:
  • Tripod. If you don't have one, unscrew the shade from a lamp and use the lamp, a lot of times they have the same size threads on the harp. Alternatively, you can use a bolt that will fit (1/4" usually but you'll have to figure out what thread pitch) and a cord tied to it that you can then stand on. Pulling against the cord creates stabilizing tension. The more cords and directions of the cords, the more stability. Use atleast two, one for each foot. Bottom line is: you can always find a way to stabilize your camera.[2]
  • If your camera allows it, learn about setting the white balance. You will need a set of white balance cards to do this.[3]

Rotating the object away from the camera[edit | edit source]

Angling the object away from the camera in two directions

An alternative to a tripod with a light box in the back ground is a mid sized paper back novel to get the camera off the ground and then use the timer feature. Frame with trial and error, then set the timer.

Angle the razor into the light and play around with it. Eventually you will find the right angle that lights up the length of the blade.

  1. The first is at an angle to the horizontal, around 70°
  2. Rotate the away from the camera lense. If the blade is parallel to the length of the camera turn it at at about 30°-50° away from the camera. You will see the mirror shadow start to disappear in the LCD view finder as the blade gets turned further and further. There is a bit of a balancing act between getting the blade clear, the stamping clear and enough of the blade in focus to show whats what.

The three pictures below show the difference between a nice mirror finish and a rough old one that needs work. The mirror finish is near perfect and won't show many (if at all) defects. While the other two show what a mirror shadow looks like. The light gets trapped by the concave grind and doesn't make it out to the camera well enough.

Finally, the picture can be washed out. No sense in putting a picture of that. Play around and see what happens, but I think a light box with overhead light, a little side light and angles are the trick.

See also[edit | edit source]

Acknowledgements[edit | edit source]

Thanks to sicboater and 0o.Mark.o0 for their contributions in Photographing Razors!

References[edit | edit source]