Photographing guns

Discussion in 'General Gun Discussions' started by GunTech, Sep 5, 2007.

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  1. GunTech

    GunTech Member

    Mar 16, 2007
    Helena MT
    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?

  2. Father Knows Best

    Father Knows Best Member

    Apr 14, 2005
    Minneapolis, MN, USA
    Good topic. I've always wondered the same thing. If we get some good tips here, we should make this thread a "sticky".
  3. Dave Workman

    Dave Workman Member

    Jul 6, 2006
    Washington state
    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.
  4. TIMC

    TIMC Member

    Feb 16, 2003
    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.
  5. armoredman

    armoredman Member

    Nov 19, 2003
    proud to be in AZ
    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...
  6. jephthai

    jephthai Member

    Jul 26, 2007
    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:
  7. Geno

    Geno Member

    Jun 11, 2005
    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.

  8. News Shooter

    News Shooter Member

    Sep 9, 2005
    Moonbat Central, MA
    What's the best photo software program?

    and also the cheapest
  9. TX1911fan

    TX1911fan Member

    Mar 7, 2006
    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 http://cgi.ebay.com/LARGE-Photo-Sof...ryZ79008QQssPageNameZWDVWQQrdZ1QQcmdZViewItem) 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.
  10. Omaney

    Omaney Member

    Mar 13, 2007
    N. Central TX
  11. CountGlockula

    CountGlockula Member

    Oct 1, 2006
    In a Los Angeles coffin.
    Buy an expensive camera wth a 10X zoom....

    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.
  12. Oleg Volk

    Oleg Volk Moderator Emeritus

    Dec 19, 2002
    Nashville, TN
    Will post my suggestions in a bit. In the meantime, I highly recommend this book.

    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.
  13. Ala Dan

    Ala Dan Member in memoriam

    Dec 24, 2002
    Home Of The First Capitol Of The Confederate State
    Good Topic

    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:;)
  14. Sniper X

    Sniper X Member

    Jan 3, 2007
    New Mexico
    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.
  15. Oleg Volk

    Oleg Volk Moderator Emeritus

    Dec 19, 2002
    Nashville, TN
    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.
  16. W.E.G.

    W.E.G. Member

    Sep 26, 2006
    all over Virginia
    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.
  17. Zen21Tao

    Zen21Tao Member

    Apr 15, 2004
    Gainesville, Fl
    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.
  18. elric

    elric Member

    Jun 30, 2005
    Austin, TX
    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.
  19. wolf_from_wv

    wolf_from_wv Member

    Jan 26, 2005
    North Central WV
    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)
  20. Walkalong

    Walkalong Moderator Staff Member

    Nov 20, 2006
    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.
  21. SuperNaut

    SuperNaut Member

    Jun 19, 2006
    SLC, Utah
    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.

  22. SaMx

    SaMx Member

    Jan 5, 2007
    back and forth between PA and VA
    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.

    I agree with all of this.
  23. TwinCarry

    TwinCarry Member

    Aug 1, 2007
    Las Vegas, NV
    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.



  24. bulgron

    bulgron Member

    Aug 8, 2007
    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
  25. ChickenHawk

    ChickenHawk Member

    Dec 27, 2002
    Austin, TX
    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.


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