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Old 6th August 2009, 04:23 PM   #1
Jens Nordlunde
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Default Photographing weapons - the details

Photographing weapons is not easy, but luckily many of us have digital cameras, so pictures can be taken again and again with different kinds of light, and from different angles, and the pictures can be seen moments later; from this we can learn how it is done best. The days when films were used are over, and I for one do not regret it.

Some of the pictures shown on this forum are good to very good, but unfortunately there are others not so good, and /or showing too few details. Please bear in mind that when you ask from where a weapon is, or how old it is, it is very important to show as many details as possible.

I think the attached picture is a relatively good example. The hilt shown from the front, and on the left quillon you can faintly see something missing, the detail is shown on the right bottom picture a missing hand guard. The disc is shown from the top, but not from the underside, as there is nothing to see it is blank, but had there been something, this should have been shown as well.
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Old 6th August 2009, 05:56 PM   #2
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Hi Jens. This is a good start, but there is really a whole lot more to it. As you say, photographing weapons is not easy. A few of us have been meaning to post a more definitive thread on the subject, but we seem to be dragging our feet on it. Photography is my profession so there really is no good excuse why we haven't put something together yet.
You have laid out some good points about shooting the details, but i would also like to suggest that it is important to provide a good overall shot that shows the entire weapon as well. It's important to view the entire forest as well as the individual trees.
Here are a few pointers i would add:
1. Know the limitations of your equipment. It is important to shoot details, but one thing i notice people doing a lot is trying to shoot closer than their camera is able to focus. A detail shot is useless if the photo is all blurry.
2. White balance. With the advent of digital cameras comes the concept of white balancing. Some cameras are all auto and will not let you adjust this, but many give you the option. Auto white balance is often unreliable. I suspect that in the photos you posted that the background material is probably white, not blue. The over all blue cast to your photos comes from the quality of shade light. If you have a shade or overcast white balance setting this might help that. Often we see shots done in house lighting that have an over all yellowish cast. Florescent light will give a green cast. These color casts can all be eliminated with the proper camera settings.
3. But shade lighting or shooting on an overcast day in the open is nice because it provides a nice even light. Of course, because the intensity of the light is lower, your camera setting will often give you a slow shutter speed. Blurry photos are sometime due to this, trying to hand-hold your camera at slow shutter speed creating motion blur. Use a tripod whenever possible to avoid this. I would not recommend trying to hand hold your camera at speeds below 1/60 of a second.
4. If your camera permits, try using it on aperture priority setting that allows you to control you aperture (lens opening). The larger the aperture number you use, the smaller your lens opening will be (don't let this confuse you ). The smaller your lens opening is, the great "depth of field" (D.O.F.) you will have. D.O.F. refers to the area of distance that will be in focus in your photo. So it's a good idea, especially when trying to do close-ups, to use the smallest aperture you can to gain the largest area of focus when you shoot.
5. Don't try to use crazy high ISO settings (this is what adjusts your cameras sensitivity to light). Many cameras these days go as high as 1600-6400 ISO, but for most equipment these high sensitivity settings produce photos with a great deal of digital noise or artifact that obscures the details of your photo. Try to keep your settings at 400 or lower for more clarity in your photos. Again, in lower light situations, this is where your tripod comes in handy, stabilizing your camera while you shoot at slow shutter speeds. Keep in mind that you exposure is determined by 3 factors, aperture (how much light you let into the camera), shutter speeds (how long you let the light in) and ISO (the sensitivity level of your camera's recording sensor or film if you are old school). So as you let less light into the camera (to increase you D.O.F. for larger focussing area) you will be using longer shutter speeds and may need a tripod to steady the camera.
6. You can help to fill in shadows with large white cards propped up around the subject opposite from the direction the the light is coming. Even when you are shooting in shade there is usually a direction that most of the light is coming from. A fill card can catch this light and direct it into the shadow areas to show more detail.
Below are some examples of a hilt i shot recently. Granted i shot these quickly and broke my own rule by not using a tripod. If i had used a tripod i could have used a smaller aperture to gain a larger D.O.F. and had more of the hilt in focus, but i think these are passable. The light here is coming from the right side of the frame. It is window light. It is a sunny day, but the light is diffused by gauzy white curtains. Direct sunlight would be too strong and over-powering. The keris is standing upright in a stand and i propped up 2 boards at right angles to each other, one behind the subject that i covered in a dark velvet material and the other (a white fill card) directly to the left of the subject which is catching the light from the window and throwing back on the subject. This is a very simple set-up that was done very quickly and very cheaply, but i think it gives nice results.
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Old 6th August 2009, 06:00 PM   #3
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I think that we can add to this thread as we think of more ideas and i personally welcome any questions that anyone might have and will do my best to answer them or help find the answers that i do not know.
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Old 6th August 2009, 07:08 PM   #4
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Thank you very much David, for your comments, and for your promise to guide members of the forum. An answer like this is what I had hoped for.
You are, of course right, that the whole weapon shall be shown as well, although, according to the length of the blade it may be rather small.
One thing, which may help when photographing is, an old umbrella sprayed white at the inside. When strong light is pointed into the umbrella, it is, due to the rounded surface, spread in a nice way, and often avoids shadows.
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Old 6th August 2009, 07:15 PM   #5
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BTW the background was in fact light blue, but I had the picture over PhotoShop. I showed this picture as it is not without faults, and others may be able to do the same.
I really like your pictures
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Old 6th August 2009, 07:45 PM   #6
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David, please comment on the quality of the picture - I mean the pixels and the RAW format. I think this may confuse some.
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Old 6th August 2009, 08:02 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jens Nordlunde
BTW the background was in fact light blue, but I had the picture over PhotoShop. I showed this picture as it is not without faults, and others may be able to do the same.
I really like your pictures

I see. I also noticed a bit od a yellow cast on the close-ups. Don't know if this is from an incandescent light source or not.
Yes, showing our pictures warts and all can be very helpful. Not much to say about a perfect photo, but if people post imperfect ones we might be able to advise as to how to make them better.
Over photoshopping can also be a problem. It seems some folks really like to over-sharpen for instance. And once you start messing too much with color balance, saturation, levels and all you can end up with a pretty artificial representation of your subject. Moderation in photoshop is always a good guide.
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Old 6th August 2009, 07:55 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jens Nordlunde
One thing, which may help when photographing is, an old umbrella sprayed white at the inside. When strong light is pointed into the umbrella, it is, due to the rounded surface, spread in a nice way, and often avoids shadows.

This is a great idea and probably a lot cheaper than buying a real photo studio umbrella.
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Old 29th December 2011, 04:41 PM   #9
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What you can often learn a great deal of is, if you take details. You will often see things, which you have not seen at first.

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