How to Shoot Your Gun: Gun Photography Tips

In this episode of TFBTV, James discusses some beginner tips for photographing your guns for posting on the internet (or hanging over the mantle?). You don’t need a fancy camera with all those megapixels to take great photos, just get some good light, properly direct it to your camera, compose an interesting shot, get your shot in focus, and fire away.

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Transcript …

– Hey, guys.

James again for TFB.TV, and on this episode of TFB.TV, I’m going to teach you how to shoot your gun.

What I mean by shoot? Photograph.

I know a lot of you guys like to take pictures of your guns to post them on galleries, to post in threads on your local gun forum or whatever, or to post to your classifieds to buy, sell guns, whatever.

And, interestingly, Ebay, they’ve got all these statistics on sales and the effect certain factors have on sales, and they say that your item is much more likely to sell if there are good pictures of it.

It’s going to sell, and it’s going to sell for more money.

So, it’s really important to be able to take good pictures of your firearm, especially if you’re going to be buying and selling guns.

There’s a popular misconception that you need a really nice camera to shoot pictures of your gun and to take great pictures, but that’s really not the case.

Many cell phone cameras are just fine now and even surpass the quality of higher point-and-shoots from even five years ago.

So, your cell phone camera is going to be just fine.

There are really more important things that lead to good looking photographs than just your camera.

Number one of those, the number one most important thing, if you’re going to take a picture of your gun, or anything for that matter, you need good light.

(ding) And what do I mean by good light? Well, you want a nice, even light on your object, and you don’t want it to be too bright and you don’t want it to be too dark.

Photographers refer to something as the golden hour which is the hour after sunrise or the hour before sunset, where you have nice, even light outdoors and you just take fantastic pictures.

That’s when most professional photographers will take pictures for weddings or architecture or whatever.

And the reason for that is, if you go out in the daytime, in the middle of the day, and you’ve got sub beaming down on your object, it’s what they refer to as very harsh light.

Harsh light will blow out your subject, make it too white, remove all the detail, you can’t see anything.

Here’s a couple of pictures I took, showing what harsh light looks like on a gun.

And you can see it’s hard to see detail.

Now, on the flip side of that, I would suggest almost never taking pictures indoors.

You’re just not going to have enough light.

Now, there are exceptions, like if you have a really well-lit room, like a sun room or a room with a lot of even fluorescent lighting, that may work, but even then it’s kind of tricky.

But, typically, most of us just have a house with incandescent bulbs and light fixtures and it just doesn’t put out enough light and the light it does put out is really warm.

You have warm light and cool light.

Cool light being a bluish hue and warm being orange-ish.

So, with low light, what you’re camera’s going to do to compensate is, it’s either going to up the camera’s sensitivity to light, the sensor’s sensitivity to light, and that leads to higher noise.

That’s what the ISO number is, I-S-O.

Now another thing that could happen is your shutter will stay open longer to compensate for the lack of light to let more light in.

And, you start to get into trouble once your shutter is staying open longer than an 1/8th of a second.

I think an 1/8th of a second is probably the slowest shutter speed that you can use and still take a pretty crisp picture.

Anything beyond that and I’ll post a few images here to show you what I’m talking about.

It gets blurry from, even from pressing the shutter, and it removes, you lose a lot of detail.

It just looks bad.

So, assuming you don’t have any good lighting anywhere, when’s the best time to take a picture? Well, dusk or dawn or if you have a really overcast day.

Overcast days can sometimes lead to some really good photographs outdoors.

Now, the number two most important thing, and somewhat related to light, is exposure.

(ding) Now, perhaps the second most important thing is getting proper exposure.

Exposure’s similar to light, but exposure is a setting where your camera manages the light that it has in order to make the image.

When you adjust your exposure, you’re adjusting your camera settings to either let in more light or let in less light.

I guess the best way to put it is if you have good light, so you met step one, well, now you need to figure out how to help your camera take advantage of that light, and that’s what exposure is.

You can see in this video, I’ve got a little click wheel on this camera that let’s me adjust my exposure on the fly.

Be mindful managing your exposure.

Now, if you can’t manually adjust your exposure, perhaps the next best thing, you’ll probably get good exposure if you also get good focus.

And that’s the third most important thing.

(ding) You want to get your object, the object you’re taking a picture of, the proper distance from the camera, and you want the camera to be in focus on the object to take a nice, crisp picture Most cameras on your phone will use your touchscreen and then you can touch the object you want to focus on.

And, your camera will automatically focus on it and select the proper exposure.

If you can’t get it right the first time, just keep trying til you get it, then take your picture.

And I’d say finally, in this very simple cursory lesson in photography, is to have interesting composition.

(ding) And, what does that mean? That means, make your picture interesting.

A lot of you guys, you know, everybody feels compelled to get the entire gun, especially if you’re shooting a rifle, to get the entire gun in the shot, and so you’ll see a lot of pictures of the guy standing over the gun.

You’ll see his feet and it’ll be on his carpet, and those turn out to be kind of junky-looking picutres.

Don’t obsess with getting the whole gun in the picture every time.

If you have a hand gun, that’s easy to do.

If you have a rifle, take several pictures of each side of the gun.

Not only will it give your perspective buyer more detail and a more close-up look, but he knows what the gun looks like.

He knows what an AK, what an AR looks like.

He’s going to want to see the details and the shots are just going to be more interesting.

So, pick a good background.

I mean, really grass works.

If you have a nice countertop.

But make sure it’s something that’s not too reflective because if that’s the case, then it’ll throw off the light that’s going into your camera, and it could make the picture look bad.

So, pick an interesting background, and compose your shot so it’s an interesting picture.

Play around a little bit, take a few pictures, take a few dozen pictures.

And, then pare them down.

Pick the ones that look good.

Keep working at it and you’ll take a really great picture of your gun.

And make sure you’re keeping an eye on your focus and an eye on your white balance.

If you are taking pictures and they’re looking too blue, or too orange, see if there’s a way you can adjust your white balance on your camera to make it look better.

And another thing that I’ll note, if you guys are familiar, some of you use Instagram or whatever, familiar with saturation.

If you desaturate your image, remove some of the color from it, most of these guns are black anyway, so if you remove some saturation, remove some color, you tend to get a better, higher quality picture than if you actually enhance your saturation.

A lot of photographers will salvage really bad, low light photography with a lot of noise by converting them to black and white.

Just removing that saturation really helps with the overall image quality and the sharpness.

In any case guys, just get familiar with whatever software you’re using or with your camera or whatever device you’re using.

Get familiar with it.

Learn how to use it.

Learn how to change the settings and adjust it.

And, I’m telling you, taking pictures of stuff you like, guns, cats, cars, whatever it is, can be very rewarding.

So, just keep working on it and I’d say a good resource, it’s called the Bastard’s Book of Photography.

I think that that’s one of the best resources for beginners.

So, if you liked this video and you want a little more information on how to take better photographs, The Bastard’s Book of Photography, which I have no affiliation with whatsoever is a great place to start and to get some beginner to intermediate information.

Anyways, I hope that was helpful.

Thanks for watching, guys.

See you next week.



James Reeves

James Reeves is a licensed and practicing concealed weapons instructor, the winner of Maxim Magazine’s MAXIMum Warrior, a graduate of Front Sight, the Shooter Performance Institute, and Tier 1 Group, and is an Appleseed-qualified Rifleman. James previously owned and operated a gun shop in Tallahassee, FL and worked as a regional sales representative for distributor/importer, Interstate Arms Company. He is a coverage litigation attorney by day. James likes traveling with his wife, boating, America, photography, guns, gear he doesn’t really need, cold beer, and a little exercise here and there (James is also GORUCK Tough). Above all, James enjoys creating content for TFBTV. Follow James on Twitter @jjreeves.


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  • BattleshipGrey

    Great video, but what about the part about making sure you get your feet in the photo?

    • wetcorps

      Proper choice of footwear is paramount. Socks and sandals will make for top notch pictures.

    • schizuki

      I prefer the barefoot look for full exposure of the tactical toejam.

  • Captain Obvious

    Couple more suggestions. With lighting composition being very important, use a background that isn’t busy and isn’t light colored. That striped, checkered, zig zag horse blanket or gosh awful bed spread is way cool but is too busy and distracts the eye. Unless you are professional photographer that white sheet, white or light colored counter top or cement slab reflect light more than your dark colored firearm and washes the photo out and upsets the color balance. For the love of all that is holy, do not photograph a gun upside down. It is not artistic it is disorienting. In fact a puppy dies every time an upside down gun photo is published. Finally, use your computer or photo publishing website software to edit the photo. Two most important features are ‘Crop’ which helps you get rid of all that busy distracting background junk. No more little gun, big green grass field with the kids toys and your feet in the shot. ‘Enhance’ will auto correct most of the stuff you screwed up when taking the photo in the first place.

  • schizuki

    The feet in the picture drives me nuts. For the love of Christ, open the picture in Windows Photo Gallery and crop your feet the f*** out.

  • Michael Hintz

    Are you paying attention Alex C?

  • Broz

    Best days to take photos of your firearms is when the sky is overcast…kinda like having a huge softbox as your light source…your background is equally important…I have a light blue (almost turquoise) piece of cloth…blues or greys are IMHO the best backgrounds…stay away from dirty carpets!!!

  • BrandonAKsALot

    Another trick is to get good at editing. I use Picsart on my phone and tablet and it can work miracles when you learn it and while it’s not nearly as in depth as photoshop, it’s much faster to use. I can overlay a brightness mask and remove the areas I don’t want to even out the light and then adjust tones and temperature. A simple Halogen work light can be a good light source for inside. I put my set up next to a wall and shine the lights on the wall to soften the light.

  • Red79cj5

    my favorite are the blurry pictures of wasr’s leaning on closet doors that people want $900 for on Armslist

    What are everybody’s thoughts on legible serial numbers on photos of your guns posted online. Many people cover their serial with a sticker or ‘shop in a black box. Are there any real worries about that information being out there? I’m paranoid enough that I don’t really post what I have. I just enjoy what everyone else posts. Classic lurker