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  #1  
Old 12-16-2009, 01:35 AM
IHCM1 IHCM1 is offline
 
Join Date: Oct 2009
Location: Bellevue, WA
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Default How to take Great Gun Pictures

When I purchased my M1, before even shooting it, I took a bunch of pictures. I then posted them here for fun. In that thread I got a bunch of feedback that people really enjoyed the photos and would appreciate knowing what tricks & tips I used to take such great pictures.



This post is intended to provide what I know.

I have to say, however, that I don't consider myself an expert or a pro. I do take a lot of pictures, and I'm constantly trying to learn new techniques and get better, but I really am a rank amateur.



The tips I'm posting here are really about taking close up (macro) photos of smallish objects such as guns, gun parts, or toys. I learned these techniques two ways

1) From others on the Internet.
2) By trying different things and seeing what worked and what didn't.

I'll start this discussion with some comments about this second point: When I decided I wanted to get good at taking pictures of guns I took _hundreds_ of photos. Each batch of 4 or 5 shots required a round trip from my camera (pulling the memory card out) to my PC where I opened the images and played with touch-up software. Then back to the camera to change some setting or lighting arrangement for 4 or 5 more shots. Over and over until I found a formula that looked good.

I think if you want to get consistent you'll have to invest this time.



Equipment:

I happen to have pretty good equipment camera equipment. A Nikon D80 with a 18-200mm DX VR lens is a $1700 investment. However it's not _great_ equipment. A D300 camera body is $2500 alone!

_However_, I happen to know that you do NOT NEED even "pretty good" equipment to take great shots like I've taken. Your pictures may lack some sharpness and you may struggle more getting just the right settings, but a good consumer grade digital camera will take _great_ macro pictures if you use the right technique.



Tips & Techniques

Lighting. For macro photography lighting is _critical_. I think it is the far MOST IMPORTANT aspect. You need LOTS of indirect, reflected light from multiple directions. There are a lot of ways of accomplishing this; I choose a "light box". This is a white box that has rounded corners that the lights are shined on. There is a roof and adjustable panels. Use Bing to find how to build your own light box.

A tripod. Sharp pictures require a perfectly still camera. Get a stable tripod for your camera. Make sure the table or whatever you put the gun on is also solid and free of vibrations. The movement of the mirror getting out of the way in a SLR can cause vibrations that will impact the sharpness of the photo! To avoid even this most cameras have a setting that will move the mirror out of the way and THEN activate the shutter. In all cases you MUST use either a timer or remote control so that when you press the shutter button you don't disturb the camera.

Long exposures. Set your aperture to one or two stops below the maximum for your lens (in my case the max is f/22 so I chose f/20) and adjust your exposure as long as possible to get a shot that is not over exposed. For these shots the shutter stayed open for 1.3 to 1.6 seconds. The long exposure/small aperture lets you get a deeper depth of field meaning more of the object will be in focus.

Color. Adjust the white balance/color temperature on your camera for the best color. Frankly, this is where I am still struggling & learning. I just know it's important and some of my photos look far better than others :-). I think I did an OK good job on the M1 photos (on the first picture on this post, note how the white background matches the white background of this page? If you don't get the white balance and color temperature right that white ends up looking pink or blue or yellow...yuk!).

Post Production. Use an image editing software package to touch up your photographs. This can help immensely in adjusting the color to look more natural and to crop the photos.

I also _always_ use the "Unsharp Mask" feature that most of these software packages have to sharpen the photos further. On gun photos this makes a HUGE difference in making details like serial numbers "pop".

Speaking of serial numbers. For my non-antique guns I don't want my serial numbers on the Internet. So I edit them out. Notice on the HK P7 photo above how the serial number clearly ain't "right" on both the gun and the paper? I simply "deleted" a few digits.

I use Microsoft Digital Image Pro 2006 which, unfortunately is discontinued (but still available if you look). I find it very easy to use (unlike Photoshop which has always felt like it was built for Klingons to me). I hear Lightroom is good too. For free, the Windows Live Photo Gallery included in the Windows Live Essentials package does the basics _really_ well (and is actually based on the same graphics engine of Digital Image Pro).

Camera Settings
I use a Nikon D80 digital SLR with (my wife's!) 18-200mm DX/VR lens. I set the shutter speed and aperture manually and turn off auto-focus so I can manually focus. It takes a lot of patience and trial and error to get it right. It's sometimes hard to tell through the tiny viewfinder of the camera whether the focus is right so a round trip to the computer is often needed.

Staging Objects
I'm still trying to find a good way to prop up pistols and small parts. You can see two examples where I accomplished it naturally above. I've also tried building a rig for holding pistols via the barrel.

But you really want to experiment with different angles. I have found that the MORE LIGHT from MULTIPLE DIRECTIONS allows for the greatest flexibility.

That's all for now. Maybe others can chime in with their own tips or questions.
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"My Constitutional right to bear arms is, to me, the most significant example of my American heritage of individual freedom and human dignity. Such a right implies that my Government trusts me and, in turn, is worthy of my trust." - Charles E. 'Ted' Kindel (My dad), Gun Digest #19 1965
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  #2  
Old 12-16-2009, 06:08 AM
jaw1947 jaw1947 is offline
 
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Thanks for the tips and pictures. It will put me ahead when I decide to take some studio quality pics. I remember reading that light source filaments can change in color temp over time. Great photos.
Regards,
John
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  #3  
Old 12-17-2009, 12:36 AM
Rondog Rondog is offline
 
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Very nice tutorial, ya did good!

But WHAT is the story about that little derringer? That is too cool!
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  #4  
Old 12-17-2009, 01:31 AM
IHCM1 IHCM1 is offline
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rondog View Post
Very nice tutorial, ya did good!

But WHAT is the story about that little derringer? That is too cool!
see this thread:

http://www.thefiringline.com/forums/...d.php?t=379182
__________________
"My Constitutional right to bear arms is, to me, the most significant example of my American heritage of individual freedom and human dignity. Such a right implies that my Government trusts me and, in turn, is worthy of my trust." - Charles E. 'Ted' Kindel (My dad), Gun Digest #19 1965
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  #5  
Old 01-15-2010, 12:37 PM
MhoinNV MhoinNV is offline
 
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Location: Nevada
Posts: 614
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Using a Fuji EXR 10X Optical Camera wi Macro which takes some pretty good pics.
IHCM1'S statement of lighting as being critical is right on. As to focus, I have no manual capability but have taken pics with and without the tripod. Occasionaly a pic on the tripod will be less clear than the tripod one. I am told this is due to the auto-focus feature. Am Curious to know if IHCM1'S lens is a macro capable, or just 18-200. Also have found experimenting with angle of camera to subject can make a difference. Wax paper on a whiteboard can soften some pics of the small gun parts. Am going to try different color background colors and cloth fabrics also. Will try to post some pics. Many of the pics posted need work on the lighting as many are too dark to see detail. Tried a little help from a small L.E.D. flashlight which helped in some situations...

Have a great day !!!
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  #6  
Old 01-17-2010, 02:09 AM
IHCM1 IHCM1 is offline
 
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No, my lens is not a macro lens.

Cheers.
__________________
"My Constitutional right to bear arms is, to me, the most significant example of my American heritage of individual freedom and human dignity. Such a right implies that my Government trusts me and, in turn, is worthy of my trust." - Charles E. 'Ted' Kindel (My dad), Gun Digest #19 1965
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  #7  
Old 01-17-2010, 10:45 AM
VMFn542bob VMFn542bob is offline
 
Join Date: Oct 2009
Location: Arizona
Posts: 1,068
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Last week I upgraded my point-and-shoot 1.2 megapixel Epson PhotoPC 750Z to a 10 megapixel Panasonic DMC-ZS1. Both cameras
have auto focus, optical zoom and macro. There are several differences: the Epson camera is 10 years old and cost $500 new and a
48 meg memory card cost $100.
My new Panasonic was under $200 and a 8 gigabyte memory card costs less than $20. I think both cameras take great closeups but
the Epson has to be used in telephoto and macro mode. The picture below was taken with with the Panosonic and no flash, no
telephoto zoom and no macro. The camera has a 7 element wide angle Leica lens and has more processing power and features than
I will ever use. In the world of cameras today it's considered a basic camera. I am very happy with it. The picture file size shown below
is below is 3648 x 2736 pixels and compressed by the camera to 4,765 KB in a JPEG format. I have placed line breaks in the text to
force it to wrap within the width of the photo, otherwise you would possibly
have to pan your screen to see all of the text. (Maybe some will have to do that anyway.)
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  #8  
Old 02-07-2011, 08:01 PM
sling sling is offline
 
Join Date: Nov 2010
Posts: 165
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Quote:
Originally Posted by VMFn542bob View Post
Last week I upgraded my point-and-shoot 1.2 megapixel Epson PhotoPC 750Z to a 10 megapixel Panasonic DMC-ZS1. Both cameras
have auto focus, optical zoom and macro. There are several differences: the Epson camera is 10 years old and cost $500 new and a
48 meg memory card cost $100.
My new Panasonic was under $200 and a 8 gigabyte memory card costs less than $20. I think both cameras take great closeups but
the Epson has to be used in telephoto and macro mode. The picture below was taken with with the Panosonic and no flash, no
telephoto zoom and no macro. The camera has a 7 element wide angle Leica lens and has more processing power and features than
I will ever use. In the world of cameras today it's considered a basic camera. I am very happy with it. The picture file size shown below
is below is 3648 x 2736 pixels and compressed by the camera to 4,765 KB in a JPEG format. I have placed line breaks in the text to
force it to wrap within the width of the photo, otherwise you would possibly
have to pan your screen to see all of the text. (Maybe some will have to do that anyway.)
It's clean, but not too sharp.Could be better
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  #9  
Old 06-06-2011, 10:40 PM
GGaskill GGaskill is offline
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Location: Central Arizona
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Default It's clean, but not too sharp.Could be better

It's clean, but not too sharp.Could be better

Come on now, it's a $200 camera.
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  #10  
Old 11-02-2012, 10:57 AM
booker5m booker5m is offline
 
Join Date: Jun 2011
Location: Emporia Ks
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Great info! Like you started out and said time is the best investment!
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