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Old 03-02-2018, 07:25 PM
ZvenoMan ZvenoMan is offline
Join Date: May 2011
Location: AL
Posts: 3,852
Default Zvenomans Firearms Photos 101

The internet is a multimedia venue. Having the proper tools without the skill means people will pass you by.
There are some great threads on the CMP forum, and some great photos.
There are also some photos that could have been great but are far from it.
I will share some simple steps that I have learned (most the hard way). I will show some (bad) example photos that I found on the google (and if the source is CMP I won't use them); hopefully none are any of yours. I will also show some good examples, feel free to IM me if you want me to link yours.
I will focus on the main areas we all need to address:
  • Subject (Of the photograph; a firearm or accessory presumably)
  • Purpose (Of the photograph; the entire firearm, a cartouche, what I want the viewer to see)
  • Background (My personal hot button)
  • Camera (You must have one, it need not be expensive)
  • Light (This will make or break your photo, almost as important as background)
  • Processing (If needed. Most photos need 1 or 2 edits)

I am not a professional photographer and do not consider myself much more than average. I took some photography courses to learn more; but most of what I'll share was learned by forums and simply experience.
I have a nice camera, but my experience is you don't need anything more than a smartphone.
I have a photo studio and lights, you will not see any photos using them on the forum (I figured out easier ways).
I do not own any photo processing software other than Windows Paint (which comes with any copy of MS Windows). Macs have their free (and probably better) app, there are plenty of free and low cost apps, and of course, Photoshop (Gimp is a free app that many people like as much as Photoshop). I won't discuss anything more complicated than Windows Paint.

In this thread, if you have some other ways, please share. If they involve anything valued more than $100, don't! If they involve a complicated app, don't! Start a thread for that; I'll participate, but this is Zvenoman's thread and it assumes $$ goes to the subject, not the photography.

If you have questions, please ask them. If I don't know maybe someone will.

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Old 03-02-2018, 07:55 PM
ZvenoMan ZvenoMan is offline
Join Date: May 2011
Location: AL
Posts: 3,852
Default Subject

This one is easy. Our subject is the rifle/accessory/whatever.
It may be the subject in action, we can refer to that as a "snapshot"? Something showing it in action or as you may see it if you were "there".
Most pictures on this forum are to show the rifle or features on it so I'l focus on that.
"In Actions" shots are covered elsewhere and more importantly, I have few words of wisdom. Buuuuut, if the action distracts you from the subject, was that your intent?.
2 examples.

One is an action shot, but it is a pretty good study of a Garand.
The other photo has a Garand in it, but is less appealing.

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Old 03-02-2018, 08:13 PM
ZvenoMan ZvenoMan is offline
Join Date: May 2011
Location: AL
Posts: 3,852
Default Purpose: What is THIS picture supposed to portray

Is it to show the fine wood?
Is it to assist the readers in identifying or assisting with something?
Is it to show a nice rifle in a nice setting?

I just got this rifle in a pawn shop, tell me what I have:

It's a 1917, and has a sling. The end.
The lighting sux, there is too much wasted space, and it's 1 picture from 6 feet away, and it's too small.
Even worse are the pictures that are 50000x50000 pixels. If the user has to scroll left and right, it's too big. Many photo hosting sites allow you to post a thumbnail that includes a ling to the full size pic so do that, or post a reasonable size picture and past a link TO the full size picture. A rifle needs detail. If you post asking "what do I have" don't post just that. Markings, features, parts, any damage.

Here are 2 of my favorites:

The purpose in them is to show the viewer some detail.
In the 1917 it's the woodgrain and the color contrast between the wood and sling.
In the SVT-40 it's to show the front heat shields and condition of the front end.

A nice full view. You have to see the full subject, then get some detail.

Here is some detail. It's my pic, to me the shag carpet is a distraction.

Enough? Just remember the purpose of THIS picture. Or Thread.
For your new CMP M1, show a good full view like the SVT-40, then get some of the important parts (Carthouches, markings, wood, etc.)
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Old 03-02-2018, 09:25 PM
ZvenoMan ZvenoMan is offline
Join Date: May 2011
Location: AL
Posts: 3,852
Default Background

Background. This is the easiest thing to plan, and the most common mistake.

Hint: Taking a picture of your new possession that is on the afghan throw on the couch is useless.

Use a solid color background (not distracting) and use a neutral color (white, neon red, black, nope)

This is where I suggest spending your hard earned money:
Posterboard: You will need to have at least 2 for most rifles, maybe 3. Some of mine above are dollar tree poster board (blue).
Sheet: You can get a cheap one. If too thin you may need to fold it in half, it should work fine. Make sure it is smooth (a wrinkled backdrop is distracting; if you spent the $6.49 then pull out the corners)
Fabric: I went to the fabric store looking for "something" and got the grey backdrop for under $10.00. It is like velvet, I would have preferred a less glossy finish (like felt?) but it has worked out well. It's probably 10'x3.5'? I lay it out (on the driveway, on the lawn, on a bench, or kitchen table), it takes no time and makes all the difference.

The fabric store has all kinds of fabrics you can use, I suggest avoiding vinyl or anything shiny that may reflect. Patterns may work if not too distracting. Search the internet for ideas. They sell a few types of camouflage (or drag out your trust poncho liner), but that is pretty busy, OK for a staged photo (rifle on some web gear), not so much for detail shots of markings.

So I'm bidding on a Glock online, from the pics what can you tell me about it (Yes, there is a Glock here).
Well, he has a leaky roof, poor carpentry skills, and his light bulbs are old; oh, you want to know about the Glock? Someone pained it grey.

Nice airsoft you have there. Sure, I believe you, it's not an airsoft......

Mamy sections in this forum have the "official (Garand/Bolt Cation/M14) picture thread.
Look through those, you will see good and bad backgrounds.
Hint: In the M14 picture thread, in my opinion, nf1e and H20 MAN (now known as BANNED MAN) do great jobs at staged backgrounds.

Speaking of M14s;

Long ago, learning about light. But worth posting to point out bad light.

Staged photos are not my expertise, but I do get lucky sometimes.

Colors, other objects complimenting the subject, and maybe not the post holding up TMPs roof help.
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Old 03-03-2018, 11:18 AM
ZvenoMan ZvenoMan is offline
Join Date: May 2011
Location: AL
Posts: 3,852
Default Camera

Cameras: For most, the camera in any smartphone made in the past few years will be fine.
Here's a secret: In the world of amateur and professional photographers, megapixels is not as important as glass. My day job involves high end surveillance systems and the same holds true there, great glass on a moderate camera beats more megapixels with average glass.
How do you affect this with a smartphone? Simple: Clean the ^&#@ lens! A pack of lens cleaning wipes and some Q-tips will last you longer than the phone. Just clean the lens before taking pictures you want to post.

If you want to buy a camera there are plenty of forums about this.
More money does not mean better pictures; 90% is the operator + the staging (background and light).
Having said that, while a $100.00 camera will work fine, if you anticipate outgrowing it then wait, look into a more options, save tome more of the discretionary budget.
The Powershot and similar cameras in that price range are more than adequate. Remember the glass! Name brands have a well earned reputation to protect. Canon, Minolta, Pentax, Nikon will serve you well. Off brands; do some research.
I have a nice DSLR (Nikon D5100), more than I need. I'm beginning to try astrophotography with Zvenoson and it turns out the D5100 will be great. One advantage to DSLRs is you can buy specialized lenses, but the standard consumer lenses will be more than enough for photographing collectibles.
Selecting an appropriate background and managing light are always better than buying a better lens on your good camera. Always.

I took the below pictures last Sunday. One was with my iPhone (2.5 year old iPhone 6), one was with my Nikon D5100 with a consumer grade (low end, nothing fancy) 18-55mm lens. I should have framed the receiver pictures better so they are the same, but you get my point. On the Nikon I used the automatic selection. One advantage of the DSLRs is you can adjust everything possible, but in most cases the automatic settings work pretty well. The processing and sensors in today's cameras are quite powerful (note that the smartphones must rely on "automatic" as few allow many adjustments. Just because you can adjust doesn't mean you can do better than the programming from the factory.

FYI, the iPhone is the top image for both shots. And I forgot to clean the lens.
These were taken outdoors (natural sun, February 2018, so not too high in the sky).
Regarding the receiver pictures, had I framed both shots the same I could have displayed them the same size; don't think the size I chose to display means anything (I use Flickr and I picked sizes that were close).
You will note that the iPhone picture has a much larger depth of frame (note the heel markings are in focus as are the bolt markings). The Nikon was set to "automatic" and I focused on the heel. The depth of field is much narrower (the heel is in focus but the bolt is not). A DSLR allows you to adjust that (and many other things); I could have selected a larger depth of field and produced the same effect; the iPhone doesn't allow such adjustment. A large depth of field allows close and far objects to all be in focus. A small depth of field allows a tight focus on an object and blurring the farther objects. Both have their value, and trying both is the key. Is this important to you?
Any powershot or similar camera, and of course DSLRs will allow this kind of adjustment.
Most smartphone cameras have limited adjustments, but as seen from the iPhone pictures that is not a problem for this use.
You can buy aftermarket lens kits for smartphones. I have heard of and seen some good results. I suspect the $12 kit on eBay is not the same as the $50 kit. I have not used any of these but reviews are easy to locate.

My suggestion: Try to take good pictures with what you have; buy a backdrop, consider lighting and don't buy a new camera. You may find you can (easily) achieve the quality you want with the camera/smartphone you have.
If you see threads with great photos then just ask. And there are plenty of photography forums to get free advice.
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Old 03-03-2018, 12:47 PM
ZvenoMan ZvenoMan is offline
Join Date: May 2011
Location: AL
Posts: 3,852
Default Light

Lighting is as important as the background.
a few simple rules:
  • Flashes are great for portraits, close to useless for photographing objects. Why? Because you will be closer to the subject, and the flash is on the top of the camera. When you use it there will be a shadow, and often the lens itself will block part of the flash. Glare is common. If using a smartphone, indoors, try taking a few pictures with the flash on, and then off.
  • Natural light is excellent. If you use studio lighting the best will emulate natural light. The cost is worth noting as well.
  • Be aware of shadows. I forget this often!
You can take great pictures with a flash, but for staged photography of collectibles you will probably need either a high end flash or a ring flash. The lens itself will often cast a shadow because we are getting close to the subject.
Plenty of forums about this, I won't cover it here. Use natural light or manage what you have.
Can't use natural light? Then take steps to use what you have:
  • Don't take pictures in a dark room; bring in some lights.
  • Manage shadows. If they appear, rearrange the lights and take the picture again.
  • Build a photo studio.
Hopefully you have a backdrop already, so to build a studio (or get the parts needed to set one up anywhere) is not hard. You will need:
  • Backdrop
  • Lights
  • Diffuser
Look on ebay or anywhere for "photo studio lights" for examples. Consider this: You may make, or buy an inexpensive lamp assembly, and separately buy the bulbs. Again, plenty of internet resources, but again, try to emulate natural sunlight. So old 40w incandescent "soft glow" yellowish bulbs are bad. Look at the "temperature" of the lamp, 5000 degrees kelvin is not how hot the surface is, but a measurement of the light. HD/Lowes sell some high end bulbs that work well, place them in some BigLots flexible neck (or clamp light) fixtures and you can adjust them to both light your subject and remove shadows.
Diffuser: Look on ebay or amazon for portable photo studios. They come with a "tent" that you shine the lamps through, this diffuses the light, so less glare, smoother coverage and less shadows The low end kits use a tent that is 1 or 2 feet square; perfect for parts and pistols; useless for rifles. So, now that you know what it does, make one. Again, plenty of forums and info on the internet, but a frame made of PVC or 1/2"x1" and a sheet will work wonders.
I made one but since it takes 15 min to find the bag with all the equipment and another 15 to set it up, I just go outside.
I live in AL; if it's too cold I wait until the next day. If you live where it's cold then you may want to build a studio. If you live in the NW and have never seen the sun; same thing.
Remember, a studio may simply be the kitchen table with a few portable lams and a piece of cloth or your poncho liner.
If you simply remember that Zvenoman said light is important and put some thought into it you will see your photos improve and know how to correct problems you see.

Not a bad picture but the shadow is distracting. Rotating the scene so the light is different would remove the shadow. If using lamps then move one or two to fix it. This is why 2 or more lamps are needed.

Inside on my living room floor with no attempt at lighting. Raining outside.
I guess I need to clean the P1841 occasionally.

Not bad. Outdoors, but I should have adjusted the camera for a bit more light.

How much work would it have taken to deal with the shadow?

Not a bad picture

This is the bottom Turk Mauser from the above picture. You have to hold it just right, hold the camera, and manage the light (*or simply use a helper) and then maybe get the focus right in order to see the tiger striping. Nice picture but much to be learned. And maybe I could have placed my grey cloth on the garage floor.

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Old 04-08-2018, 05:20 PM
ZvenoMan ZvenoMan is offline
Join Date: May 2011
Location: AL
Posts: 3,852

Took a break, and took some new photos.

I use Microsoft Paint. It is free with Windows. I am sure Apple has something that comes with Macs and Iphones/pads.
All you NEED to do are these actions:
2. Save as .JPG

Rename when saving. If you are not the best at organizing then make sure the name tells you what is inside.
Edit out distractions that Cropping missed.
Adjust light, color
Add effects

When taking the picture try to zoom in so the subject fills the frame. Don't take a picture with the subject only using a portion of the frame and expect to "zoom in" during processing.
Nothing beats zooming in with the glass. Zooming the image after it's taken is just enlarging, that is where the image will pixelate. You can enlarge some, but if you remember to fill the frame and not waste pixels you will have better results.
See these 2 pictures:
To take a full profile picture you want it to look something like this

To get there, the picture itself will look like this:

When I took the photo I kept these things in mind:
1. Arrange rifle so shadows aren't distracting (looking at many of my photos I clearly forget this often)
2. Ensure my camera is aligned with the rifle. Note the rifle is crooked on the backdrop to get the shadows right, so align with the rifle.
3. Zoom in so the rifle gets close the the left and right side of the frame, no wasted pixels.
4. Visualize how you will crop it when arranging so nothing is in the corners. This one was close, normally I would have moved the rifle but I wanted to illustrate this. And I was able to crop it just fine.
5. This photo was originally 6.6mb (as a ,jpg). After saving it's 1.03mb.

See below. This is what I am thinking about when I take a picture.

No one wants to see my Zvenoman shadow, or the lawn. And all the grey backdrop adds nothing.
Frame the best shot with the intention of cropping some.
All that is distracting, it's just sloppy. Use a backdrop. As mentioned, this piece of cloth was $10 at the fabric store. A sheet works great IF it is a solid color; no one wants to see your star wars or my little pony sheets, trust me. The poster board from dollar tree is great, look hard and you may find a sheet or something similar.


I hate holding items, no one wants to see my hand, but I planned to crop this so I centered and got pretty close.
Here is the after:

Not so good:

1. Too much glare. Twist and re-take it.
2. At an angle. When cropped I still have much wasted grey space, a great triangle top left and bottom right. You don't have to be perfect, but think about it when taking the shot.
Holding the camera with 1 hand and the rifle with another means you may need a few tries to get everything right.
Not so good:

Just a few seconds cropping.......

Hey jimbo, hold my airsof.....errrr. M16 (and beer) so I can sell it on Craigslist. I can crop you guys out later.

Worth showing again. At least it's got a rockin' stock.

Last edited by ZvenoMan; 04-08-2018 at 05:23 PM.
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Old 04-08-2018, 06:14 PM
ZvenoMan ZvenoMan is offline
Join Date: May 2011
Location: AL
Posts: 3,852

Cropping has been covered, now for saving.
Many cameras save in many formats. I may keep the full size image on my PC or other storage, but for internet posting make them smaller, and use .JPG.
In Microsoft paint, after cropping, select "save as" and select JPG. Give it a new name if you want, and change the location for saving, and you are done.
If you are concerned about size, you can do this:
In MS Paint, select "resize" from the toolbar. make sure the "maintain aspect ratio" box is checked. Select percentage or pixels, and then reduce one number (the other will change automatically if you checked the box like I said). Making it 50% will obviously halve the size of the photo. If you photo hosting site has an aggressive limit you should get proficient at this.

Once I crop and save my photos they are done.
I may later crop and zoom to get parts of the item, I "save as" using a new name (usually an "a" at the end).
I use Flickr so I upload many there once I save them on my PC.
I won't recommend any hosting site but consider this:
  • Don't use Photobucket. Just don't.
  • Read the forums and see what others use.
  • Try it out for free. There is no 1 best site, if you find an easy one that works for you it doesn't matter what others use. Some are just complicated, some have rude posters, there is no "best" hosting site.
  • Many people find free sites that meet their needs. Others find you get what you pay for. Most (I have not used it) suggest that paying for photobucket does not make it any better.
  • USE THE TEST THREAD on this forum
  • Preview your post.
  • If the photo makes you scroll left-right, REMOVE IT and use a smaller photo. Many sites allow you to upload the full size photo then select the size you want to copy and post the link. The thread above uses around 640 pixels wide. 800 is good, 1024 is about as big as you should go on ANY forum. Any more and users must scroll, that is just rude. If the post deserves a giant picture then post the LINK.

If using a hosting site is just too inconvenient, then remember, no one wants to hear about it. Sorry to be rude, but it's 2018. Forums are electronically based; so basic internet (and grammatical) skills are needed. Typos happen, sentence structure, punctuation and etiquette are expected.
  • Why can't I just upload my photos to CMP like I can on xxxxxx forum? Or my other forum uses the same software as this one, why can't I upload here? It has been explained elsewhere on the forum but here is the reason: Remember the image size comments I made? Remember cropping alone took a 6+mb photo down to 1mb? That 1mb I uploaded to "the cloud" is really just sitting one somebody else's computer. Taking up space. Space that has a cost. Many forums allow direct uploading because they also host (=pay) the storage. CMP (and many others) do not.
  • "But other free forums allow upload" Sure, and who is paying? The site owner? Possibly. The advertisers? Most likely.
  • CMP provides the forum for free and if you want to use images, use a host.
Sorry for the tone and details. I am sure if someone wanted to donate enough $$ to host files for now + the next 20+ years CMP would be happy to change.....

One final point:

I just got a rifle my granpaw carried in Korea and they let him have it for free and so he took it home and my brother pawnred it and but I got it back and like it alot will you tell me what it worth he used it in venetian as well with a famus snipper named CArlos Hancoc who signed it with a sharpie so it is one of a kind and that mnakes it more valuable please tell me what to sell it for on ebay thanks

Do you think you will get any useful responses?
So a post should have an overall view of the rifle but it is useless for anything but an overall shot. We all know, start the post with that, then get the details. Don't know anything about the rifle? Then always use this list:
  • Markings
  • Stamps and cartouches
  • Wear patterns
  • Damage
  • Sights
That will get you started.
Few people can take a good picture of the bore. Try it and then LOOK at the picture before posting. If it shows a clear bore it's probably no help. If it clearly shows the rifling, any damage, into the crown, then maybe post it. Few can consistently get this.
Because you tried isn't a reason to post it, I have pleny of failed attempts, no need to advertise them.

Enough of my ranting

My investment in CMP photos is a camera (and I purchased it for other reasons), lighting (the sun) and the backdrop (mine was around $10.00).
It takes a minute to set up my studio (lay the cloth on the ground for the profile pictures, and lay it on a table on the deck for the close ups).
Instead of just transferring my pictures to my files, and uploading, I open them in MS Paint and crop them, that definitely adds a minute or so to each picture. It also allows me time to review them larger, and get rid (and retake) those that didn't make the cut.
I think a post above showed a few pictures where I used my Nikon D5100 and my iPhone at the same time to take the same picture. They are close enough for me. If iCloud got the pictures to my PC as fast as popping the SD card into my PC took I'd probably use the iphone more.

I hope some of this was helpful.
I have done very little with post processing of photos. I use MS Paint to add arrows and text, it is limited but as the pic is already one there, and it's free I make do just fine.
I have taken some photography courses form a local studio; one was on lighting and color balance; worth taking. The other was on photo composition, what now seems like common sense to me.
If you have any critiqe, or other methods to share, please do so.
If you have any suggestions for framing photos using creative backgrounds, please post as well.
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Old 06-15-2018, 06:41 AM
Cavtanker Cavtanker is offline
Join Date: Feb 2010
Location: Ohio
Posts: 386

Great post ZvenoMan! Just like your stock refinishing threads, this one was full of all kinds of helpful information and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

I agree 100% with your thread. Pics are amazingly easy to make look good, can be done cheaply, and you don't need to be a professional photographer. I've found over the years that posting detailed pics benefits me in the long run as it helps me learn more about my rifles from those more knowledgeable than I am. If I post a detailed pic, almost always someone will point out details and information about the rifle that I'd never noticed before.

And then, of course, there are the sales sites. This is why I never buy from Armslist. More often than not, it's two grainy pictures posted by a guy who gets bent out of shape when you kindly ask him to email more detailed pics. Sorry guys, if I'm going to have to drive a good distance for the deal, I want to have a better idea of what the merchandise looks like before I get in the car. A few detailed pics help alleviate that.

There's not much more to add onto your brilliant post. I do have a couple of tricks that I've taken to in recent years. Nowadays, I like to include other props in my photos that help enhance the image as well. For example....

Need both hands to take the picture, but still need the rifle at a certain angle for the shot? Lean it up on an ammo can. It looks cool, adds to the effects of the pic, and frees up a hand to take the image.

Got a few militaria items laying around, old unit patches and such? Toss a few of those in the pic as well. Again, just adds to the picture quality.

Anyways, again....great thread.
US Air Force Contractor
US Army Retired
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Old 06-15-2018, 09:31 AM
davidjeane davidjeane is offline
Join Date: May 2012
Location: Springhill, Louisiana 71075
Posts: 329

What an excellent post!! Thank you. All your points are valid but to me the lighting is the most important. Sunlight is free just eliminate the shadows and glare.
Forum members this is solid gold information so take it to the bank.............
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