Photographing guns


September 5, 2007, 10:43 AM
I see a lot of first class gun photos on this site. I have never been able to take a decent gun photo. Can anyone point me to some howto's on photgraphing guns? Or give the inept some tips?


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Father Knows Best
September 5, 2007, 10:44 AM
Good topic. I've always wondered the same thing. If we get some good tips here, we should make this thread a "sticky".

Dave Workman
September 5, 2007, 11:02 AM
I photograph firearms all the time with both digital and slide 35mm cameras. Shoot with and without flash. Don't do stainless in bright sunlight; too much glare.

Get a neutral background and get the firearm away from the background when possible to give it some depth of field.

if you want a good colorful shot that bounces out of the frame, shoot the firearm with a red background. Red really jumps in a photo, and it contrasts with any gun finish. royal blue is another good background, but be careful of the lighting so your blued barrel and action don't blend too deeply, which is another reason for depth-of-field.

I also like a tan finish behind some gun photos.

September 5, 2007, 11:04 AM
I am no expert by far but some of the things I found that help me.

Get a decent camera and read directions. They can do all kinds of things if you bother to find out.

Outdoor light is best in gun pics.

Use a shotgun shell in the trigger well or prop handguns on something to raise it up off of the back ground. The shadows give it depth.

A tripod does wonders for close up pics.

September 5, 2007, 11:04 AM
Tripod. A cheap tripod from WalMart helped a great deal. Also found a cheap floor lamp, the 70s style with the independant swiveling lights, meant to be a goofy room light, works great for my photography. Play with lighting, and uncluttered backgrounds.
Take many many pictures, and if you find one out of ten worth looking at closer, you're doing good.
Get a good photo editing program, even though mine was free from WalMart with pics put on disc from a disposable camera...

September 5, 2007, 11:06 AM
I'm not a professional by any means, but I use my wife's "light box" (or "light tent") to get better, diffused lighting and a cleaner background. You can read more about setting up a box like this out of common household materials at:

Or, you can buy an inexpensive one:

The point is to diffuse light so you get good gradations of color, and you can control what color your light is and prevent unwanted reflections. It would also be good to use a tripod for time exposures too.

I didn't have to tweak the color at all here, because I got the light I wanted:

I did a little post-processing in Gimp with this one:

September 5, 2007, 11:08 AM
What a fantastic thread! Thank-you for asking this extremely important question. I have tried many "tricks" and all without result. Don't forget the recent thread about using flatbed computer scanners. There were some awesome pics there.


News Shooter
September 5, 2007, 11:08 AM
and also the cheapest

September 5, 2007, 11:15 AM
I'll give you a couple examples of mine, and then tell you how I do it.

First, I disagree that outdoor light is the best. It is too unpredictable, and except for just after sunrise and just before sunset, it is too intense. You need indirect light. I use a photo box (bought mine here for cheap There are instructions on the web to make your own too, if you don't want to buy one. This allows you to diffuse the light from the light source, so it is not hitting the gun directly. Instead, you have two or three lamps outside the box hitting the fabric of the box and diffusing. You can also change the color of the light by draping the box in different color fabrics.

Next, don't use a flash. On most cameras, you can choose to turn it off. Not using a flash and using diffuse light generally means a very slow speed, so a tripod is essential. Put the camera on tripod and, if you want incredible clarity, use a remote control to take the picture if your camera has one. If you don't have a remote, just use the self timer. That way you won't shake the camera when you push the button.

Take the pictures on a high resultion, then use your photo editing software to crop the image to how you like it.

I'm still trying to learn how to pose guns, especially with other accorssories, but I have the mechanics of taking the shots down pretty well.

September 5, 2007, 11:19 AM

September 5, 2007, 11:28 AM
I just use my Cannon 4.0 megapixel Powershot...and good lighting. I'd say these are my best. I'm not a professional.

I borrowed a very expensive Cannon Rebel for these shots.

I'd say invest in a good camera with high resolution pixels and a great zoom. I personally like Cannon, but there are other good ones too.

Oleg Volk
September 5, 2007, 11:31 AM
Will post my suggestions in a bit. In the meantime, I highly recommend this book (,M1).

In general, observe reflective and matte surfaces and decide what you wish to reflect in them. I use black and white paper cards to add or reduce contrast. I use flash for speed, but a $10 halogen light would do if you have a tripod and can slow down.

Separating the background from the subject helps if you are trying for a "floating on white" look.
In this image, a sheet of black paper under the suppressor gave a darker shadow at the bottom of it for separation from the background.

Ala Dan
September 5, 2007, 11:40 AM
I have a Nikon 8400 "Cool Pix", that I have not learned to master. I only
wish that some pic's I posted in the past had turned out better than they

What makes (besides color) for a good background? And, at what distance
should I be from the object being photographed? Seems like I'm either too
close, or too far away. Anyway, thanks for the tips thus far; please keep
'em coming~! :scrutiny:;)

Sniper X
September 5, 2007, 11:50 AM
One thing to remember is light coloure tempreture. For example, the coloure tempreture of average daylight is 5600K which is 5,600 degrees Kelvin. For tungsten or halogen it ranges from 3200K to 3800K but you can buy lamps, or what you may call bulbs in coloure ballanced 3200K for just about any light instrument or even home lighting fixtures. I agree that diffused light is not only essential but the best for close up photos of pretty much any product shots. My opoint here is you need to shoot coloure correct, so need to know a little about coloure tempreture.

Also, rember to never use flash unless it is part of the shot, and needed. I have never seen good flash photography of a firearm that isn;t pure luck, or used correctly as in diffused. I like to shoot my gun pics on either my point and shoot digi if it is strictly for posting here or somewhere else. But use my medium format camera and break out all the lighting gear, which I have a lot of because my job is shooting HD video, and shoot for real.

I don't currently have any shots doen with my Hasselblad or Bronica because they aren't digital and on my computer. But I love to use it or the 35mm pro system I have, which is Canon A2E 1Nrs, and an elan 2E. I will probably get a digital rebel or somehting from Canon to shoot quality digital photos this year.

Oleg Volk
September 5, 2007, 11:53 AM
Background -- keep it far enough that you could light it separately, if needed.
Diffusion works -- or bouncing off neutrally hued surfaces, such as white ceilings. White card bent 90* can be used for bounce of diffusion.

September 5, 2007, 11:54 AM
Get a decent camera and read directions. They can do all kinds of things if you bother to find out.

Also learn how to use photo-editing software on your computer.
Proper cropping with a 15% brightness increase, and a 15% contrast increase does wonders.

If your FEET appear in the picture, you need to repeat kindergarten.
If your BARE feet appear in the picture, you are a lost cause.

September 5, 2007, 11:59 AM
I agree with others that this post should get a stickey. It has a lot of helpful tips that I just can't wait to try out myself.

September 5, 2007, 12:07 PM
I'm far from a pro, but l've started playing around a little with photography.

You need diffuse light, and a tripod, and a basic book that talks about f-stops and depth of field and exposure time.

Here's my setup (pretty cheap one, tripod + light tent + lights + misc were maybe $300). Nowhere near pro quality, but enough to learn with.

September 5, 2007, 12:14 PM
Title:Photo finish: a crash course in handgun photography.(Gun Lore). Author(s):Dan C. Johnson. Source:Handguns 21.5 (Oct-Nov 2007): p10(2). (1120 words)

September 5, 2007, 12:14 PM
I wonder if my wife will let me borrow the Cannon camera and nice Cannon lenses I bought her? :rolleyes:
I just get to use the little Sony I got her before I bought her the Cannon.

September 5, 2007, 12:44 PM
Dedicated amateur here, and a big topic.

I bought two 8'x10' sheets of felt (one grey and one black, very inexpensive) for backdrops and I drape them from a wall over a card table (these backdrops perform double-duty since they also get used when we are playing poker :)) This allows me to set my tripod at a multitude of heights and able to easier control distance. I also don't have to keep bending down.

I don't use a built-in flash and I got three of those aluminum coned adjustable lights and arrange them roughly Left-Right-Above the subject. I use those blue "natural" light bulbs and diffuse them. I use that light-grey fiber ground cover for diffusion cut into squares. Sounds weird but it breaks up the light and doesn't add much coloration of its own. It can also be placed directly on a bulb without catching on fire.

Set your camera on a 2-second delay or use a remote. That way you minimize vibration. You can use a white wall or a sheet of blank white paper for white-balance adjustment. If you don't know what that is; roughly, it is just getting the camera to compensate for the discoloration of white caused by crappy light. If you need more info there is a lot on the web and in your camera manual.

Bracketing shots is essential IMHO. Shoot three shots of each subject: One with the f-stop and shutter set where you think it should be, then two more with the f-stop one setting above and one setting below your inital setting. That way you have options.

A lot of people say "I'll fix it later in X program" IMO this is bassackwards. It is always faster to get it right first. In truth the "getting it right first" is where the fun is and can be a life-long pursuit. Which brings me to my final point: IMO shooters make fine photographers, the two disciplines have a lot in common. Careful though, the other thing that the two disciplines share is expense.

September 5, 2007, 01:03 PM
Good lighting is really the key for photography. You can just use a swivel lamp and use a white sheet or white tissue paper to diffuse the light.

If you are using incandescent bulbs you may have to adjust the white balance. Also if you are up close use a macro setting if it's available.


Also learn how to use photo-editing software on your computer.
Proper cropping with a 15% brightness increase, and a 15% contrast increase does wonders.

If your FEET appear in the picture, you need to repeat kindergarten.
If your BARE feet appear in the picture, you are a lost cause.
I agree with all of this.

September 5, 2007, 01:11 PM
3 things that helped me: Lighting, tripod and most importantly READ YOUR CAMARA'S MANUAL! I learned a few new settings just by reading. Hope this helps. Thanks.

September 5, 2007, 01:24 PM
Get a tripod, get a tripod, get a tripod. That can't be said enough time. Not only does a tripod allow you to take a much steadier, and therefore sharper picture in diffuse light, but it also gives you the opportunity to really ponder your composition.

Also, if you don't have a light tent, try shooting outside on a sunny day, but in the shade. You can also try to bounce the flash off a reflector if your flash detaches or can be aimed (obviously you're getting into higher-end cameras there).

Also, pay careful attention to Depth of Field. This is a function of your F-stop, your focal length, and how close the camera is to the subject. You have to play around with this a bit in order to get a feel for it, which is why digital cameras rock. It makes learning cheap and quick. :D

Anyway, in general, (and in layman's terms) the larger the F-stop number the wider your depth of field. The smaller your F-stop number, the shallower your depth of field. However, the F-stop affects shutter speed. So if you go with a bigger F-stop number, then you have to have a longer shutter speed. This matters because to shoot metallic objects such as guns and knives, you want that diffuse lighting source which might mean not as much light which might mean a longer shutter speed which means GET A TRIPOD.

Try this for an exercise. On a sunny day but in deep shade, set your camera's "film speed" (a.k.a. ISO speed) to 100 and then:

1. Mount your camera on a tripod.
2. Move your camera as close to your subject (let's assume a gun) as you can get it and still get it to focus. How close this is depends on the lens on your camera.
3. Manually set your F-stop to as small of a number as you can get it. Typically this will be something like F/2.8.
4. Most modern cameras will then automatically select the shutter speed for your in order to get a proper exposure.
5. Take the picture.

Now repeat the above, but set the F-stop to as large of a value as your lens will allow. This is F/8 or F/11 or something like that.

Now try it with a mid-range F-stop.

Compare the pictures on your computer monitor. Note how in experiment #1 there's only a thin slice of the gun in focus, and the rest is out of focus. In #2, much more of the gun is in focus, possibly even the entire thing. In image #3, you'll have an intermediate amount of the gun in focus, but overall the parts of the image that are in focus might be sharper than the portions that are in focus for #1 and #2. This is because that as you push your optics to their extremes, you'll start to notice imperfections in the optics. How noticeable this is depends on the quality of your optics.

Now go back and try again. But this time play around with zooming your lens in order to see how that affects your DoF. Generally, if you zoom in you're increasing your focal length and that will result in a shallower depth of field. If you zoom out, you're decreasing your focal length and that will result in a wider depth of field.

These things matter when taking close ups of anything. You may want your entire subject in focus, in which case you want a bigger F-stop number, to pull the camera away from the subject a bit, to reduce your focal length, etc.

On the other hand, it is sometimes visually interesting to deliberately use a shallow depth of field. Do this to really make a portion of the firearm, knife, whatever pop out at you. But now we're getting into composition and artistic expression.

The wonderful thing about digital cameras is that you can play around with them for as long as you have time to devote to the activity and it costs you nothing. Feedback is almost instantaneous too.

Go now and have fun with this. But not so much fun that you forget to go to the range! :D

September 5, 2007, 01:55 PM
I'm surprised Chris hasn't chimed in to point you to a link in our 'THR Library'.

Our very own P95carry put together some excellent info on photographing guns.


Ala Dan
September 5, 2007, 03:33 PM
This may be a dumb question, but using my Nikon 8400 "Cool Pix" digi-cam,
how do I eliminate the pop-up flash if I decide not to use it? Please bear
with me, as I'm a real novice at photography~! :eek:;)

September 5, 2007, 03:46 PM
Ala Dan, you'll probably have to read your camera's manual to see if any of the settings allow you to turn off the flash. You should be able to do so. Just check the manual. If ultimately you can't, then take some tissue paper and tape it over the flash so at least it diffuses the light and makes it less intense.

Brad Johnson
September 5, 2007, 05:00 PM
It's already been mentioned, but I'm going to reiterate for sake of impact...

Get a tripod. And get a remote release if your camera is equipped to work with one. End of line.

With extreme closeups, especially on things as detailed as firearms, learning to control your depth of field is a must. A very shallow DOF can add visual impact to a particular detail while a very deep DOF allows you more "still life" kinds of shots. As the iris gets smaller, the amount of forground and background that are in focus increases. Most landscape shots are taken with pinhole sized apertures so that everything remains in focus. As the iris gets larger, the amount of focal depth decreases. With a very fast lens (think 3" plus objective bells), a very wide aperture, and a short focal length, you can have focal depths measured in fractions of an inch. Set your camera to manual mode and play with the aperture using something with regularly spaced intervals so you can see the difference. I did my testing standing beside my backyard fence, shooting a paper plate I'd stuck between the pickets about halfway between me and the other side of the yard.

Now you can advance to playing with perspective, and how lense length (zoom) affects the viewers sense of depth in the picture (not to be confused with Depth of Field)l

Pay attention to shadows. A properly positioned shadow can be as dramatic as a poorly positioned one can be detrimental.

Don't fret if the pic doesn't come out "perfect." Play with it and explore the alternatives. Get some basic photo manipulation software. I use PhotoShop Elements and am always monkeying with different colors and crops in pics that ain't the best right out of the camera. Often you can take what looks to be a horrible shot and, with a few selected tweaks, turn it into a wall-hanger.

But, by far, the most important thing to do is experiment in a controlled way. Use one feature and play with it until you can stand the sight of it, then advance to the next. With digital it's a breeze, unlike with film where you have to wait (and pay) to see your results. Once you familiarize yourself with the interplay between aperture (f-stop), shutter speed (ISO), and focal length (zoom), you have the basics.


Dave Workman
September 5, 2007, 05:13 PM

Here's an example taken with a 1.2 MB camera

September 5, 2007, 05:16 PM
Flatbed scanners work for some simple profile shots and are convenient.

September 5, 2007, 05:20 PM
for basic photo manipulation software, look at the gimp
It's similar to photoshop but it's GNU and free

The Wiry Irishman
September 5, 2007, 05:39 PM
Number one piece of advice for beginners: get a decent SLR that gives you control over your pictures instead of some crappy point-and-shoot. The most expensive point-and-shoot will never yield pictures as good as the cheapest SLR. What good pictures you do get from them is chance more than anything else. Once you get your SLR, just learn to use it. Do more than read the manual, learn the basic principles of photography, how you can control the amount of light getting to the film/sensor, what different amounts of light do, what depth of field is and how to control it... the list goes on. Start learning about image composition, what makes a good picture, etc. Don't just practice on guns, go out and take pictures of everything. Its understanding and practice that will make your photography better.

Number Two: Once you've got photography down in general, start controlling the environment you're shooting in. Get a light box and some lamps or just go outside on a sunny day and string a sheet between your subject and the sun. This is definitely a second step, though. A crappy picture in good light is still a crappy picture. If you take time to learn how to take a good photo, then add good light, you've got a great picture.

Photography is a lot like shooting: anyone can learn to do it, they just need a little dedication, and the deeper their understanding of the principles behind the final outcome, the better they will be.

As for photo editing... if you must, go with photoshop, but if you learn to take good pictures, you won't need to edit them.

November 29, 2008, 05:28 AM
I thought I'd bring this back from the dead since I started recently photographing some firearms using the so-called "bathtub method". I've had good results with minimal post-processing. I don't have room or equipment to set up a giant light box studio so this is my only current option. I use a round silver reflector and a diffused flash set to +3.0 for bouncing off the reflector while taking these offhand for maximum light since I almost religiously shoot at ISO100. Unfortunately the nature of a bathtub requires I be very close to prevent things like the drain or unsightly items showing up in the image, giving a very shallow depth of field.

Each image is clickable for more information and options for higher resolution versions.

MSAR STG-556 ( (

IWD SG2000 ( (

Bushmaster AR ( (

Saiga-12 ( (

Mateba Unica ( (

DPMS LR-308 (

Friendly, Don't Fire!
November 29, 2008, 05:38 AM
Wow, those are some futuristic, impressive arms there.

In fact, DOUBLE WOW!

November 29, 2008, 08:47 AM
This is a GREAT thread! Agree it ought to be a sticky, or maybe have a permanent link from the library?

November 29, 2008, 08:57 AM
Mateba Unica - That is a cool looking revolver.

I manage to get some really good pics sometimes, but I cannot do it at will because I really don't know what I am doing.

November 29, 2008, 10:47 AM
It isn't the camera, it's the lighting. You can have the best camera in the world, but if you don't have good lighting you can forget it. If I was going to be photographing a lot of firearms, I'd invest in lighting equipment first.

Find a good book on doing product photography and study the lighting techniques.

November 29, 2008, 12:59 PM
I'm using pretty remedial lighting equipment. An SB-600 hotshoe flash and a cheap $20 folding reflector over my head. Using the "bathtub method" gives me a lot of bounce fill that usually requires a bunch of studio lighting and umbrella reflectors. Studio-type lighting would be ideal and allow more options in composition.

The upside is most everyone has a white bathtub and can give it a try.

The downside is you are very limited on angles and you have to be close to avoid unsightly things like the drain plug. This guarantees a shallow depth of field so its more difficult to take pictures of a firearm where every detail is in focus. Plus you're kneeling over in strange positions and it's not good for the limber-challenged.

November 29, 2008, 01:24 PM
elric's setup on the first page can be cheaply duplicated. A light box for firearms is the way to go. It's one of the best tools for "product" photography. You can make one very cheaply. This thread is the bible of DIY light boxes:

The key is to get the color temp correct.

November 29, 2008, 01:38 PM
I've had this thread saved under the "Quick Links" tab for qiute a while...

Beautiful work, Cesiumsponge; I'd have never thought of a 'bathtub method' for photographing firearms, especially large ones. Unfortunately, my tub has a textured bottom, so I don't think I could it.

How did you manage to eliminate shadows thrown by the flash/reflected light?

November 29, 2008, 01:46 PM
My experiences:

It can be difficult to get good pictures of long guns because of the lenses and/or distance needed to get the entire gun in the frame. If you want to do a shot from above and want a flattened perspective, you need a ladder taller than most indoor home ceilings. Sections of the guns sometimes turn out interesting, as Cesiumsponge's work shows, and that's when lighting comes into play. His subject is so interesting, the contrast, lighting, and placement are done so well that you don't notice that the guns are "bent" due to barrel distortion of the wide angle lens he used.

Basic techniques for general photography and art help. Contrast is usually always good. The rule of thirds (Wikipedia has a definition of this) works, too. Direct flash from on camera almost always sucks.

Especially if you have a digital camera, don't be afraid to experiment! You can always erase what you don't like, unlike a film camera. Studio photographers learn to control lighting. If you can only control one light in your scene, turn off all the others. Even if you only have one light for your scene, control it!

If I spent time or money right now to improve my studio photography it would be on learning how to light scenes, or getting more and better lights. ( (

November 29, 2008, 03:00 PM
Years ago I thought it would be a good idea to get an advanced degree in photography, looking back I should have gone to med or law school probably.

Photographing guns is tricky and requires a lot of experimentation and a lot of hit and miss. Sometimes I can set up a gun to photograph and right off the bat get a fantastic image. Other times I spend hours and probably loose some hair just because I can't get the gun and camera to work together. Long guns are always difficult to photograph and I find it much more enjoyable to photograph handguns.

Setting up: When setting the camera up to photograph I always use a sturdy tripod and a cable release, if you don't have a cable release then use the timer setting. I also use high apertures and long exposure times, this increases the depth of field and allows me time to do some manipulating to the lighting while the image is being exposed, this can be very helpful if what you are photographing is very shiny.

Getting a good RAW image: As far as I'm concerned getting a good in camera image is only the beginning but very important. Back when I learned photography digital was discussed but the mainstream was still film and the darkroom. It wasn't really until I finished school and went back for a graphic design degree a few years later than I really learned digital photography and Photoshop. Now digital is all I use and I have to say it makes life a lot easier. However like film you need a proper exposure and a good negative to work from to get a good final image. Once you have a good capture then using a photo editing program can be extremely helpful in tweaking the image.

Removing color cast and balancing color: One of the biggest problems I see in many peoples gun photos is color cast. Depending on what your light source is you are going to get a certain color cast. In daylight you get a blue cast, in incandescent you get reddish/orange and in florescent you'll get a greenish cast. If you have mix of all these light sources then you are going to drive yourself nuts trying to correct it. Make sure that your camera is set for the light source you are using and try to use only one type of light. Photoshop and other imaging programs can be extremely helpful in removing unwanted color casts from your photos. Sometimes no matter how hard you try a color cast will slip into your photo that shouldn't be there.

Natural light can be used but it can also be tricky. If you photograph in natural light then photograph in the shade, this will provide you with more even lighting. If you photograph indoors then simply make sure your camera is properly balanced for the lighting type you are using.

Cameras: The common misconception is that the more megapixels you have the better you image will be. The truth of the matter is that megapixels have very little bearing on how your image turns out. Unless you plan on printing your images larger than 8x10 megapixels really don't matter a whole lot. If you are only posting images on the web at 72dpi and roughly 640x480 in size then you could get by fine with even a 3mp camera. The resolution comes from the quality of the sensor and the quality of the lens. I've seen absolutely gorgeous and amazing photos taken with 3mp point and shoot cameras. The advantage of DSLR's is that you have a lot more control of the settings and can use different lenses. The point is don't feel that you have to run out and buy a top of the line DSLR if all you plan to do is post gun pictures on the internet.

Anyway there's tons more I could talk about but I'm not going to write a book. The trick to photographing guns, like photographing anything is to do a lot of it and be willing to experiment. Its not going to happen overnight so give yourself time to get it right and be prepared to fail miserably at times.

November 29, 2008, 03:02 PM
I wrote a bit about photographing guns here (

I use white foam core to reflect natural light, and a 4.0 megapixel point and shoot camera. To me, composition is as important as lighting.

If the time of day is different, The colors in the same area will be different, as shown below.

Take a lot of photos from slightly different angles and with the light controlled differently. Chose the one you like the most and delete the rest.

November 29, 2008, 09:15 PM
Beautiful work, Cesiumsponge; I'd have never thought of a 'bathtub method' for photographing firearms, especially large ones. Unfortunately, my tub has a textured bottom, so I don't think I could it.

How did you manage to eliminate shadows thrown by the flash/reflected light?

I read about the "bathtub method" elsewhere so I can't take credit for it, only in using it.

There are no harsh shadows or light because I put a diffuser on my flash which diffuses the concentrated flash source into a more scattered light, I point it upwards and bounce it off an overhead reflector about four feet above me, and then back onto the subject. Since the flash is diffused already, it spreads quite a bit when it hits the reflector, and spreads out even more on it's way back down. Also any flash light that doesn't nail the reflector is pinging around off the white ceramic tiles and bathtub.

You can use those reflective automotive windshield heat guard things as a cheap reflector.

You can also save an old milk jug and use the milky translucent plastic taped over a flash as a great diffuser. Just make a rectangular box without a lid that'll slip over your flash unit. It should stand off about 1/2" from the flash so it'll throw some light to the sides/top/bottom as well.

His subject is so interesting, the contrast, lighting, and placement are done so well that you don't notice that the guns are "bent" due to barrel distortion of the wide angle lens he used.

I believe Photoshop has a tool that'll correct for basic barrel and pincushion distortion but it's never bugged me enough to even look for the tool. For those people that do architecture or are super picky, this should be a simple fix that is readily available.

The greatest thing about digital is it's absolutely FREE once you have a camera and software. I did film SLR back in high school and didn't touch cameras for about 6 years after because I simply didn't have the money or space for a darkroom and my own gear. With digital, you only pay when you make a print. Memory is reusable, and you can instantly see your efforts, delete what you don't like, and try again. Plus, post processing in something like Photoshop is extremely powerful as an artistic tool and technical correction tool, and you can repeat it time and time again.

Anyone that has done "analog photoshopping" in the darkroom knows that getting multiple prints to develop identically is very difficult, even more so if you're stacking negatives and doing burning/dodging.
November 29, 2008, 10:23 PM
Cheap dogital camera, no flash Picasa processing

November 29, 2008, 10:53 PM

One more time in case you missed it.

Resolution on a computer monitor is pretty low. High res. photo files do nothing except tie up bandwidth and take forever to load.

Forum formats don't allow replies until all the photos are loaded on the thread. If you're posting a photo that's six times the width of the screen, you're going to screw up the format for the text. I don't want to scroll across a screen to read a post. And I don't want to wait fifteen minutes to view a photo of your EBR draped across a stack of your dirty laundry. Think about "setting" -- photograph the GUN, not the pile of crap that is your living space. :neener:

Neutral background.

Guns are pretty high contrast items and so a "dark" background and low contrast lighting works.

Use a tripod.

Use a small aperature so you have depth of field.

If you're photgraphing rifles, long-guns, pose them oblique to the film plane (diagonal in depth) so that you get a compact image/composition.

Edit visible serial numbers out of the photo. Once you post it online, it becomes "public property." You don't need your gun with its serial number appearing in Craig's List.

I did a nice photo of a specific caliber ammo. Now when I Google "images" in that caliber the photo shows up in the search. AND it's NOT from something I've posted, but rather from a thread where someone else pirated the image.

As a matter of course, I remove firearm images from my PhotoBucket acct. on a regular basis to disable hot links to the image from "pirates."



Small file, like 640 X 480 pixels and "0" resolution in PhotoShop. :cuss:

November 29, 2008, 11:34 PM
Just don't post full sized images for people to pirate if you're worried about that. Use lousy compression and throw watermarks on it. You'll always have the original, high resolution image. I don't have originals of any of my material on the Internet. I can guarantee my Mateba images are going to end up pirated to the Internet since such few pictures of them exist. Oleg's Mateba/model poster is all over the place.

72dpi is the standard monitor output so if its for web viewing, it doesn't need to be higher. Setting quality to "0" though is like watching a screen capture from an 8-bit NES game because jpeg artifacts are so bad. 6-8 is usually fine. Just link smaller images to a URL leading to the original.

November 30, 2008, 11:32 AM
I know there was a thread that had a link to the disussion on "Bathtub photography."

I tried to find that thread again on Arfcom and couldn't. That place is such a mess and I can never find what I want.

Does anyone have a direct link to that thread on Arfcom on Bathtub photography?

Or a link to the thread here that linked to the Arfcom thread.

November 30, 2008, 11:52 AM
Wow, CesiumSponge, are all of those yours? You have some guns that I would like to get or make replicas of. Very nice. I am also curious as to how much money you have invested in all of those weapons put together. That looks like an awfully expensive assortment.

November 30, 2008, 11:59 AM

How do you get your bathtub so clean? :-)

November 30, 2008, 02:10 PM
I can't confirm or deny that the models depicted in the images belong to myself or a local collector, only that they were volunteered in a photo shoot :)

The tub actually has quite a few scratches as it's 30yrs old. I simply clipped the white a bit under Photoshop's levels adjustment and it makes it look brand new. You can still see some scratches in the shadow areas that I was too lazy to remove. Shh, don't tell anyone though!

November 30, 2008, 02:28 PM
^^^LOL, ok.

November 30, 2008, 04:12 PM
I'm no pro, but I think this one turned out well.

April 4, 2010, 01:39 PM
I did a google, which lead to this old thread. Didn't have any materials around, so I used the inside of an Igloo cooler. Need to get some better lighting, but I see potential with the "ghetto" method.

April 4, 2010, 02:07 PM
Good lighting, NO FLASH (for your typical Point and shoot camera. A DSLR and a real flash is a great method to use if you bounce it)

if you get close, look for a flower symbol on your camera, thats for CLOSE photos..

but in the wonderful world of digital photography... take a ton of photos!... its easy to delete. when i do a photo of one of my guns, i tend to take 50-80 shots in a similar layout... and i can always find the one that just kinda POP's... then i edit it if necessary.

April 4, 2010, 11:17 PM
These are all good tips. a good photo editing software that takes some getting used to but takes you further than any basic photo editing software is GIMP. It's like photoshop, but it's free, just google it.

Here's what I do. Since I don't have a soft box I setup my own studio. I have three big windows facing south along one side of my dining room. I wait until sundown or sunup and set the blinds so that I still get a good amount of light through the windows, but yet I am not letting beams of light through the blinds. My platform is the kitchen table, and I use a black or white (or whatever else) sheet as a background. I lay the sheet on the table, with boxes stacked up high at the end of the table (or big stiff posters) and drape the sheet over them to white out the background to take away any distractions. I use the chandalier as an above or "boom" light (in pro photography terms), then I get a garage plug in light with the clamp and the metal bell around the bulb and get a piece of white cloth to cover over it (this softens up the light a bit). I set that off to the left of the "set", in front of the camera. this serves as another fill light. I then might get a tall lamp with a removable shade and a high light output, and unscrew the lampshade and lay it on it's side, draping over the bulb and the metal support, so it gives the light some direction rather than just "up". (you can also do this with a metal shop light but many lamps have adjustable brightness so you have more control over your lighting) this serves as my main light, giving you somewhat of a studio setup. Place this light next to you or right behind you. Now, you have a "poor man's studio". feel free to toy with the lights to how you see fit. Now, camera choice is important. I have a canon DSLR camera that I run manually (ISO, Shutter Speed, ect...) this allows me to have full control over the lighting of the set without using flash (which I HATE) I set this on a tripod. if you have a basic point and shoot camera, I would turn the flash off and set the camera on a tripod and have a countdown timer in place so you have as little of a chance to have a blurry photo. But, going with this option, you have to have more control over your lighting in the studio, control which this poor mans setup lacks. If you have a DSLR but don't know how to run the camera manually, set it to auto or whatever works best for the setting and go ahead. but this makes you camera more like a standard point and shoot. my advice- turn flash OFF!

hope I helped

also, I tend to use things like holsters or a small block to prop up your gun. NO pens through the trigger guard. It just looks tacky. Something like a small leather wallet that can hide behind your gun when you are shooting is fine. THEN, use props. have magazines, ammo, knives, holsters, belts, military junk, whatever else.

also, with guns, a softer light tends to work better due to the reflective or hard surface of the gun.

April 5, 2010, 12:09 AM
I am going to just suggest on the software side if you are unfamiliar with photo-editing and GIMP comes off as being a foreign interface then try "Paint.Net".

I am pretty computer literate and tried to learn GIMP but it just didn't make sense to me. The interface is designed for Photoshop converts and not newcomers to photo editing. I prefer another free (Free as in Freedom, and Free as in beer) program called because it has an interface designed to be familiar to the Windows User. The only downside of is it doesn't run on Linux or OSX and also lacks some of the extensions and therefore extensive functionality that GIMP has, however for simple stuff it hasn't failed me.

Just thought I would offer it up.

April 5, 2010, 12:34 AM
n/m, delete

April 5, 2010, 01:10 AM
Basics, to me at least, are a SOLID color background in contrast to subject being photographed; lots of light; tripod; add some appropriate props, and experiment with cropping, angling, etc.. Main thing is to keep clutter to a minimum in your composition, and above all, ENJOY! ;)

Some examples of my beliefs:

Iver Johnson's STAR VEST POCKET 1870-1890 with box of ammo same vintage.

COLT CAMP PERRY 1926-1941, with factory letter and box of ammo same vintage.

BIG HORN ARMS late 1960s with its original triangular-shaped box with plastic carrry handle.

Best regards ~ ~ ~ 45Broomhandle

Oleg Volk
April 5, 2010, 02:48 AM
Photos of guns, like photos of all objects mixing matte and reflective components, are a matter of getting the light where you want it. You can choose to light the flats with dark "seams" (with diffuse light) or light the edges with dark flats (with hard light).

April 5, 2010, 04:12 PM
One thing I found while trying to take pictures with a standard pocket digital camera that is helpful is to not have the camera take the picture when you press the button. Instead, set the delay timer (mine has a 2 second or 10 second delay). This prevents the picture from being blurred by the camera moving around while you press the button. Its not as good as having a tripod and an remote, but it helps.

April 5, 2010, 04:20 PM
cheap chino lightbox and a tripod + any decent digital snapshooter


April 6, 2010, 08:59 PM
Irfanview is a free download from
Other programs there too, do a quick search.

April 6, 2010, 10:21 PM
also, I tend to use things like holsters or a small block to prop up your gun. NO pens. something like a small leather wallet that can hide behind your gun when you are shooting is fine. THEN, use props. have magazines, ammo, knives, holsters, belts, military junk, whatever else.

Yes, I try to include related items myself.

April 6, 2010, 10:51 PM
I'm a cheap bastard at the moment, which means inexpensive digital camera and natural lighting on the kitchen floor next to the window:


April 6, 2010, 11:49 PM
As many have said before I am no pro at taking pictures of guns and in my case anything for that matter. I recently took a few pictures of my SR9 that I thought turned out pretty well. I used a gun case opened up and light from a window. The only advice I can give you is try with and without flash and multiple angles. Also if your camera has micro zoom or different shoot setting it is always good to mess around with them as well. Here is a few I took the other day.

April 7, 2010, 10:57 AM
Primarily I'm a collector, NOT a shooter. This prompts me to avoid PARTIAL shots of my guns. All or nothing! Shooters may find ONLY the action of a rifle a real turn-on, but a collector wants to inspect the ENTIRE firearm, handgun or long...

I make no attempt to add anything to the long gun pics. Only exception is IF the gun is a takedown model, then I try to show it in the takedown mode as well as the full gun. Here's my popular old MOSSBERG MODEL L.

AND, in its takedown mode...

Nothing in either pic to distract the viewer from the gun's details. That's what matters most to the collector.

Best regards ~ ~ ~ 45Broomhandle

April 7, 2010, 12:09 PM
doubleA those are some awesome photos...the one with the leaves is awesome.

April 7, 2010, 02:20 PM
Shot with a Nikon D80, tripod, no flash.

November 11, 2011, 04:23 PM

How do you get your bathtub so clean? :-)
With many houses having shower rooms these days, the tub doesn't really get used, especially if it is one of the jacuzzi tubs and your hot water heater does not have the capacity to fill it and keep it warm.

Of course, another option might be to just drape some sort of neutral fabric into the tub. Personally, I like a more course weave type of fabric like a canvas drop cloth.

It probably depends upon the reason that you are taking photos of the firearms. If it is for artistic means, then angled or partial shots might be appropriate. If it is just to record the firearms that you own for insurance purposes or to share them on the web when discussing a particular type of firearm, then a flat neutral background with no accessories might be acceptable. Just laying the firearm on your carpeted floor and taking the picture while standing above it can work for documentation purposes.

You might want to remember to vacuum the floor beforehand though. You might find it slightly embarrassing if the photo contained some a few long dark hairs from you S.O. Of course, some of us know that it's not our hairs since we don't have enough hair left that it would even show up on a photo... :)

One thing that I've considered doing though is going up to Tandy Leather and pickup of a suede hide for a firearm backdrop. I have an oil tanned thick black leather hide that I could used, but I don't think that it would bring out the right contrast with a dark colored firearm (e.g. AR-15, blued rifles, etc). It would probably work pretty good with stainless firearms, as long as there aren't any black grips on it.

November 11, 2011, 06:39 PM
Inspirational thread. Too great hobbies that go great together!

Bobby in TX
November 11, 2011, 07:12 PM
I just found this site a week or so back and have enjoyed some of the reading here, but..... this thread has been the best!

dubbleA, that shot on the deck is awesome!!

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