Taking Quality Pictures of Long Guns


December 6, 2007, 12:40 PM
Hi Guys; Am I the only one that has noticed that taking a good picture of the entire rifle is difficult. I'm sure it can be done with real good equipment but say you are using a digital pocket camera. I'd like to know of any tips or secrets that y'all might be able to share :)

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December 6, 2007, 12:43 PM
Don't know how far you want to go, but a rife-sized, elongated one of these would really do the trick (you don't need a DSLR to use this, either):


Edit: what do you have available to take photographs?

December 6, 2007, 12:53 PM

1st picture at the top of the page was taken with a cell phone. Actually, I think all but one of the pictures were taken with a cell phone, excpet for one (my digital camera's batteries were dead)

December 6, 2007, 01:04 PM
Lighting, lighting and lighting. The poster who linked to a do it yourself lightbox had a good idea. The trick is to get a nice even lighting over the whole thing without glare spots or glare from a flash if you use it.
Although I get to use my wife's gear (professional photographer) I've found a couple of things that work for me for shooting down the length of the rifle or part of the rifle:

1. A tripod
2. Higher f-stop if possible - you get a better focus along the length
3. Timed exposure

The higher f-stop, f4 to f8 or better will usually need a longer exposure thus the tripod and timed release.

A macro lens or capability is great for serial number records, or markings.

Photographing a rifle from the side to get the full length is tough, you have to be far enough away to get the whole length and that can cause details to be lost.

December 6, 2007, 01:09 PM
Don't know how far you want to go, but a rife-sized, elongated one of these would really do the trick (you don't need a DSLR to use this, either):

Thanks for that link :thumbsup:

December 6, 2007, 10:01 PM
Diffuse light! Lots of diffuse light. Don't even think about using a mounted flash unless you're using a diffuser and bouncing off a white ceiling or such.

Make sure the rifle fills up the frame so you get the maximum number of pixels. Use an f stop that's on the tight side, as previously stated. If the camera is too close to the rifle, you'll get lens distortion, i.e. the rifle will not look straight. Better to back away a bit and zoom in unless you want the dramatic effect of the distortion-- like the rifle is bigger than life. Camera on a tripod unless you have enough light to get 1/30 or faster shutter. Make sure your background contrasts well from the rifle. Spot meter on the dark part of the rifle (that's if it's a black rifle especially).

Unless you build your own light box or studio setup, outdoors on an overcast, but still bright, day is close to ideal. Direct sun should be avoided due to the extreme contrast. If there are no clouds, go into the shade where your subject has plenty of light on it but no direct sun.

I took this in a home-built "studio" which consists of a large, white window blind suspended on a welded steel frame, with about 6 to 10 broad-band fluorescent shop lights (each a twin tube four-footer).. Exposure is about 1/10th second, but I "bracket" (taking several shots of differing exposure) to pick the best one later. Probably about f7 to f8 using a "prosumer" grade digital of about 5 megapixel, then a little touchup and formatting to screen resolution in Photoshop:
Took these later:

The backgrounds that aren't white, and the shadows, are added in Photoshop, but you can do pretty well with a natural background.

That's just a few basic tips of course-- whole college courses are offered in photography and I'm just an amateur shlub. The biggest mistakes people make are using a camera-mounted flash, having inadequate light, harsh light, and inadequate contrast between the rifle and the background.

Oleg Volk is the master at this. I can only hope to come up to his ankles in sature as a photographer:

December 6, 2007, 10:22 PM
Hang up at least one white sheet somewhere off-screen to bounce light back at it, make sure you have immense amounts of indirect light from many directions, and get as close to the rifle as you can/fill the entire picture.

Take MANY pictures, all from slightly different angles, to try to catch the best light.. The assumption should be that of ten, nine will suck and one will be okay.

But eventually you get a nice one:


December 7, 2007, 12:34 AM

I barely fit this in my light box. I could have fiddled with settings etc to get the whole gun in focus, but I was in a rush. Diffuse lighting is the key.

December 7, 2007, 03:30 AM
As a professional photographer I can tell you that good equipment is only half the battle, you need to have a good eye as well;)

However don't get hung up on thinking that better equipment means better pictures, I've seen amazing images created from low megapixel point and shoot cameras. As others have pointed out already having proper lighting really helps and being able to balance that lighting takes practice sometimes training helps to.

I never photograph without using a tripod, most of my exposures are done in studio with proper lighting and long exposures, usually I shoot at the highest aperture to get the maximum depth of field. I shoot primarily with a Nikon D2X in studio and a Nikon D200 in the field. You certainly don't need high end cameras like these to take good pictures of your guns. You need a solid platform, proper lighting and a little patients. Minor adjustments can be made in Photoshop but if you don't want to pay lots of money for that program there are others out there for less money and there's always Photoshop Elements.

Most of my gun images are done just for fun, I have done some professional gun photography in the past but that was years ago before I got into digital cameras and Photoshop, back in the day when I was shooting with 4x5 large format cameras. Digital spoiled me however and now I've given up film completely in favor of megapixels.

There is no easy solution that will allow you to take great long gun pictures, you need to experiment and get creative. My style consists of shooting at high aperture with fairly long exposures and dynamic lighting, sometimes moving the lighting around as the image exposes to prevent glare spots. I always use a tripod and cable release, but if you don't have a cable release then just set the timer and let it count down so you don't have to touch the camera. I tend spend a long time on each shot and often I'll take a shot look at it and then change the lighting or make other adjustments that are needed, another beautiful aspect of digital cameras. Like I said this is my style, it doesn't need to be yours.

Remember you don't always have to show the rifle in strict profile you can do angles and portions as well. Sometime getting up close and just photographing a part of the gun can make a more interesting photo than trying o show the whole thing. Remember photography whether its photographing guns or whatever is an art not a science, what's wrong to some is right to others, that's how art is, there's no right or wrong in the end its what works for you and gets you the results you're looking for.

December 7, 2007, 04:00 AM
I guess I should put my money where my mouth is so here's a few pics.....


December 7, 2007, 08:36 AM
I've struggled with this too. Tried cropping the long photos and using landscape orientation to fill the photo. Sometimes it's better to show a partial view instead of the entire gun.



December 7, 2007, 11:55 AM
First, using a point and shoot, turn off the flash and get a tripod.
Second, read up on lighting. Fill lights, key lights, etc...
Third, learn the rule of thirds.

Taken with 5 mpxl Nikon point and shoot.


Here's a few shots I took using an old Sony 2 mpxl. Cybershot.

BTW, no expensive studio flashes were used. Just the overhead flourescent lights in my workshop and a clamp on work light with a standard 100 watt bulb.
It's all in the eye.

December 7, 2007, 01:13 PM
what's been said above. You can use a piece of paper to bounce your onboard flash off a ceiling or wall, although you may have to drive the camera manually.

I've been messing around with a DSLR and a nice (but dated) speedlight.

December 7, 2007, 10:18 PM
Have I ever told you guys you are the bomb :D That is some excellent info. I definately am a hack .... but I'll work on that :rolleyes: What I like is the fact that unlike discussions about firearms you all pretty much give the same advise and opinions. This tells me that photography is not really subjective in the areas of the mechanics of how to do it.
But you all did fall squarely into my trap. I got you guys to post some of your best pics of some of your supercool firearms .... kudos :) Omnivore are you connected to UltiMak? If so I have a comment. I have an UltiMak mount on my M1 carbine ..... IT ROCKS !!! Extremely well made product. Anyway I'm a slow learner so I think the more you guys post your quality pics of your cool stuff the more it may sink in ;) Rembrandt, what kind of firearms are those with the peeps on them. I like those, very nice.

December 7, 2007, 10:28 PM
I've noticed the best pics are taken in natural light



December 8, 2007, 08:50 AM
I agree, outside lighting is best. (pic posted by Guisan on another board).


December 8, 2007, 09:32 AM
I too am a very poor photographer. However, using Photoshop does help. My gun and someone elses background. :)


December 8, 2007, 09:41 AM
Nice to hear from some of you accomplished photographers that are also gun lovers. Great idea on the light box. I've always just used white sheets draped over chairs and such. White light is the key though for best color balance and softening of glare. Light to photography is like paint to the artist.

Outdoor lighting is best. Especially when it's overcast. It's like a big outdoor light box.:) Use the tripod whenever you can and use the timer if you don't have a remote shutter release. Almost as fun as shooting. Well,....actually it IS shooting.:D

December 8, 2007, 09:44 AM

Now you confused me.....I don't know what part of your picture gave me a woody!:what::D

July 9, 2008, 03:30 AM
I thought I'd bump this for more discussion. I find I learn a lot from these kinds of discussions and then going out and trying things.

I'm still working on getting good shots of a whole rifle. Right now what works best is for me to highlight just a particular part of the rifle and maybe "set the scene" a bit.

Here's an example: These are two M-1 Carbines shot in natural light by a point 'n shoot digicam (HP 735 3.2 MP). I think I used the built in flash for a little "fill flash." You can see some glare on the bottom rifle from the flash. The background is an old sleeping bag that works well for it's neutral gray color. I used the ammo boxes to prop up the rifles to get them up and off the sleeping bag a bit. The picture (and all my pics here) has been compressed and resized for uploading and storage on Photobucket.


Here's a shot that I think is a little less succesful. It's a Daweoo AR100 taken with the same Digicam and I think on the same day. I didn't prop the rifle up at all and the result looks kind of "flat" to me. Notice the dark area by the trigger guard.


Here's an attempt at a full length shot. I always want to avoid at all costs the dreaded "guns on the brightly colored bedspread" pics. I can't remember if I had an overcast day at the range or not when I took this. Overcast is best, but the range is quite a distance away and if I'm taking pictures that day I have to take the lighting I can get. I stood on a chair to get this shot.


Here's what I think is a more interesting shot of the same rifle. It's a Brit Martini Henry rechambered in .303 and more rightly renamed a "Martini Enfield." I was playing with shapes and colors a bit. I'm not really happy with the overall exposure. (And yes, the bullet hole is from that rifle. Only 50 yards though. I shot the rifle and then I shot the rifle, if you know what I mean...)


Here's a pic I really like. It's more abstract, but I think it works. It's an UZI SMG resting on a black carrying case. I named it "fun switch" for obvious reasons. This one was taken indoors in my "quickie foto studio". That's when I lay down some neutral background, drag over some floor lamps, and take a bunch of pics with and without flash looking for some keepers.


I know this thread was about photographing rifles, but here's a couple shots I took a few weeks ago of a new revolver purchase. It is SO much easier to shoot handguns (with a camera that is) then rifles!

This was my "quickie outdoor studio." We had a nice overcast day and I had some spare time, so I dragged a folding chair out to the backyard, slapped on an old army blanket (neutral color, remember?) laid out some props and started snapping. It turns out the day was TOO overcast as I only got five minutes of shooting before it started to rain!



And one last picture I'm not as happy about. The glare really bothers me in this shot. Close, but no cigar.


I've found the key to improving as a photographer is to learn to recognize what's wrong with your pictures and figure out why they look the way they look. Even something you are happy with can probably be improved if you look at it more critically. These are better then the shots I was taking a couple years ago, but hopefully not as good as the ones I'll be shooting a year from now.

My personal next step is to work more with reflectors and create my own diffused light to shoot more indoors. I'll probably be building a lightbox soon. What *really* helps is we moved from an apartment to a house so now I have both room to set up and shoot indoors AND a private backyard where I can take gun photos without the neighbors calling the SWAT team! I used to have to drive an hour, one-way, to the range to take outdoor shots.

Oh, one last thought. I did NOT use a tripod for any of these pictures. I've used tripods before and will use them again, but I used to shoot news and got used to shooting almost strictly handhold. If you learn how to find a really stable body position and not move the camera at all when you trigger the shutter (sound familiar?) you can do surprisingly well handheld.

I'll be shooting more with a tripod though as I set up an indoor (tear downable) studio though.

July 9, 2008, 07:27 AM
The simplest way is to take pics outdoors on slightly overcast days. You can improve further by adding a tripod. Those two things will make a huge improvement with a little practice.

July 9, 2008, 09:24 AM
One simple tip I can give - read the manual for your camera and figure out how to do a 'custom white balance.' Many times on firearms, especially black rifles, they'll come out with an odd color because the auto-white-balance in most digital cameras won't handle a mostly-black subject very well.

These are far from fantastic pictures, but here's some examples. First, a picture of my Bushy 5.56mm that I took years ago, using auto-white-balance. Note how it came out sort of brown/plum color:


Now a more recent quick picture using custom white balance. To do this, I set up the camera and picture, and then put a piece of white paper on top and snapped a picture of that paper. In my camera, I then go into the menu and select "Custom White Balance", and select that picture of the white piece of paper. The camera now knows what white is SUPPOSED to be. Here's a picture of my RRA 9mm AR-15, taken in the same lighting on the same green rug - but with correct white balance:


July 9, 2008, 10:29 AM
I am a novice when it comes to photography, but I agree on the lighting. I have no light boxes, but use an old three swivil head floor lanp as my lighting, usually aimed at the white ceiling and walls to diffuse the light. The camera, now, is a $99 Nikon Coolpix 7.1 Megapixel from Wally World, mounted on a cheap, ($18) tripod I actually bought to use with my Chrony. So, long gun pictures have always been a pain for me, as well, but I keep trying.

Bad glare on this one, but I used it for now.


This was trying to use a neutral background that still had a message in it. Play as I wanted with the various lights I have, I could not get this one to come out exactly right.


And this one, where the cheap focus can't quite get thewhole thing focused in...


For some reason, many of the pics from the old 5 megapixel Vivitar came out better...wish I hadn't "lost" that camera.


July 9, 2008, 11:11 AM
Random thoughts:

Proper lighting and framing are essential. A tripod is a good investment.
Take a few slightly different shots of your subject so that you have a few to choose from.
Don't zoom in tight, crop and enlarge a clearly focused picture whenever possible.

I took 3 pictures of this display with a tripod, indoors with a flash.
I chose the best of three and cropped it.
Click on the image to see the details. It's not my best picture, but it ain't bad :cool:

http://www.athenswater.com/images/PreBanChiComs-2.jpg (http://www.athenswater.com/images/PreBanChiComs.jpg)

This one was shot outdoors with natural lighting and I think it is of better quality.
Click to super size.

http://www.athenswater.com/images/MK14_SEI_Mod-1-.jpg (http://www.athenswater.com/images/MK14SEIMod1.jpg)

I use an 8 meg digital camera and can't tell if my subject is in sharp focus until after I download the images ...

July 9, 2008, 12:38 PM
$69 Fuji 2600z
Yard sale tripod $10
Indirect sunlight free

July 9, 2008, 02:58 PM
One thing I did just remember - timer. No matter how fast or lightly I'd depress the shutter release, I would always move the camera just a tidge, so now I always use a timer.

July 10, 2008, 05:04 PM
Wow, looks like I deleted the pics from Photobucket that I had posted earlier.

Remember sometimes you can make an image work by showing the whole gun but that can be tricky. If you're trying to photograph the entire gun then finding the right angle can really help.


Sometimes you can get up close and personal with long guns and it will work just fine or even better. Cropping is difficult for some and just requires practice and experimentation.


July 11, 2008, 12:48 AM
I thought I'd list some other photo threads on THR here. They are worth a look as well:





And here's one with advice on what digital camera to get and some lighting tips


Here's a thread on taking handgun pics with a scanner:


This is a short thread on light boxes with links to other threads.

Here's one on how to capture muzzle flash:


And here's the "Image matters" that I believe is also on the THR library.


Steel Talon
July 11, 2008, 01:01 AM
Great thread!

July 11, 2008, 11:38 AM
Best thing I found was to shoot outside, but not in direct sunlight, and to shoot from an angle. Have the gun propped up on it's side and don't shoot from straight on. It seems to give depth to the photo.

July 11, 2008, 07:43 PM
Great thread, with a lot of great info.

I bought a light green, microfiber blanket from the local "Big Lots" store (about $10) and use that as background. The green color enhances the look of wood and presents with enough contrast to set off the metal components of the subject. I works OK in well lit shade, but is better if photographed at twilight, or in early morning light.

I realize the question was asked about full length shots and I had some. Problem is they were taken (the photos) for an auction site and deleted after the sale.

July 17, 2008, 12:37 PM
Without getting fancy--

Outdoors, anywhere in the shade or with overcast light.

Indoors, by a big window but not in direct light.

Make sure your white balance is set, most compact digitals can do this. I like a telephoto perspective to not make the gun appear disproportionate, but sometimes you want want to do so (ex use a wide angle to make the barrel look longer).

To get fancy: www.strobist.com

July 17, 2008, 01:01 PM
The biggest problem most people have in getting good pictures, of anything really, is lighting. They either don't have enough, or it's too harsh and and you get glare. You need lots of light, and it needs to be indirect or diffused light. Natural light works great too, but if your using a digital camera you can adjust the white balance and fix the color effects from artificial light.

July 17, 2008, 03:56 PM
So your post prompted me to try to take a good pic.....all I can say is it was tough! I didn't do anything special...I just put up a sheet and tried some different arrangements......I took a few hundred pics and very few came out very good at all. Just take lots of pics and try various angles and I think you'll end up with a few good ones. Natural light worked the best. The good news is you don't need to waste film with a decent digital camera....Just snap away.



July 17, 2008, 04:04 PM
Am I the only one that has noticed that taking a good picture of the entire rifle is difficult.
Heh.I find taking any picture of anything difficult. I just seem to have real problems getting pictures to come out clear, and decent looking. Having them be especially nice, fancy, etc like a lot of people here can do is somehow WAY beyond my ability.Granted, I have only a mid-level digital camera with no tripod, but plenty of people here manage to do way better than me with equal or lesser equipment, so, it must be me.:o

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