PRS Archtop II

Next up, a PRS Archtop II. Paul Reed Smith makes some of the most beautiful and elegant electric guitars available.  And the Archtop II is especially gorgeous even among their other lofty models.  The standout features are the thick hollow body which makes the guitar very resonant, and the exquisitely carved top and back.

I've never played a PRS that wasn't excellent in feel, and this one is not an exception. The neck is moderately thick and the action is about just right for me - low, but not so much that it interferes with bending.  The guitar is very light, but still well balanced without being neck-heavy. I think part of that is the fact that it has a full-size top horn, which first struck me as odd looking on a thick hollow body guitar, but I suspect it provides better balance on a strap. 

This guitar has had a couple of modifications made including blingy rosewood knobs with abalone inlays and rosewood pickup bezels. But the most interesting mod in my opinion is a set of 53/10 pickups.  These pickups strike me as being low in output, sweet, and exceptionally warm, turning this instrument into a really great jazz guitar. For rock, I think I like just a little more more sparkle and punch, but it would have been absolutely perfect when I was playing swing and jump-blues.

My friend who owns this beauty wanted to ensure that I got a shot of the f-hole from the side and for good reason:  While it's not bound, it is perfectly shaped and finished showing off PRS' attention to detail and demonstrating how the flame figuring runs all the way through the maple top.  My friend says it looks like a piece of caramel candy.  He's absolutely right.

One of the features I've always loved in PRS guitars is the sculpted bottom horn, which facilitates access to the high frets but also just has a lovely shape. It was pure luck (no planning or foresight on my part), but the guitar gave a cool-looking thumbtack-shaped reflection of my softbox that I think is kind of cool looking.

A couple of photo notes.  These were all taken in my buddy's music room, which is a converted garage.  The natural lighting was rather dim, but my guitar photos tend to be all artificially lit anyway.  For this guitar, it was my usual speedlight though a 24" softbox with a white reflector on the opposite side for fill.  The black backdrop is a couple 3'x3' black felt cloths

I've developed a pretty routine post-processing workflow for these guitar shots now.  I do basic exposure, contrast, and RAW sharpening in Adobe Camera Raw.  Then I import into Photoshop and usually do some tonal adjustment on the background to either darken or lighten it, depending on what the background is.  I then use the Tonal Contrast filter in Nik Color Effects Pro on just the guitar to bring out the texture and finish.  This is the key step because it will make flame maple, metallic finishes, and pearlescent finishes really pop.  Then I do the most time-consuming part:  Using Photoshop's spot healing brush to remove specks of dust.  No matter how much I clean the guitar or blow it out with compressed air, there's always a lot of dust when I zoom in to 100%.  It's a tedious job and the only part I really dislike about doing these guitar photos.  But it's gotta be done because the other processing I do makes the dust pop as well.  The contrast enhancements and sharpening will make the dust very obvious and distracting, especially if I later decide to do a large print (which is likely for some of these).  After the dust is cleaned up, for some photos I will then use the Dark Border/Light Center filter in Color Effects Pro to add a vignette.  And lastly I do some final output sharpening before conversion to JPG.  I don't do any sort of color enhancement.  These guitars simply don't need it.  I think in a future post, I'll walk through the entire process and show before/after shots.