The art of collecting airguns – Part 5
by B.B. Pelletier
Okay, there has been a lot of interest in this series, and many of you have been champing at the bit to see what I think is wrong with the three photos I gave you as homework last time. So why don’t we begin there?
The three things I see wrong with the above photo are:
1. It’s too small. You can’t see any detail on the gun, which leaves any potential buyer to imagine what the condition might possibly be. It seems dishonest to me.
2. The gun is too dark. The seller made no attempt to clarify the photo to show wood grain, etc. This was so obviously wrong that several readers re-did the photo in software to show us what could be done.
3. The seller used flash, which usually ruins the image. It produces a bright flare on the central metal parts and allows the darker wooden parts to go black.
This is a better shot, but it’s still not good for selling. The perspective is off because we’re looking up on an angle from the butt. Because of that, a 50-inch rifle will look the same as a 32-inch carbine. You have to learn to show the gun from the side, on a 90-deg. angle.
What? Is this a girl at a dance and you’re afraid to walk up to her? GET CLOSER! Fill the frame with your subject. Learn how to use the macro function on your camera. Don’t you hate those old family photos of you at the beach where you stand a quarter-inch high in the middle of all the scenery? Can’t even see that it’s you.
The classic mistake of putting a dark blue gun on a white background, to make certain that no detail from the gun shows through. If the gun is dark, make the background medium dark, and then learn how to set your camera to over-expose the image, so the details pop out.
Okay, all of those mistakes plus the out-of-focus pictures that come from not knowing how to use the macro function or from being too cheap to buy a tripod are what I will concentrate on today.
Think about what you’re doing
When you want to sell an airgun, you have to put yourself in the buyer’s shoes. What about your gun is unique and good, and how do you show that to a buyer? The photos should make the buyer salivate when he sees them. And, they should match the words you write.
As far as the photos go, show both sides of the gun and use the largest size image you can. On this blog, we’re limited to pictures 560 pixels wide, but there’s no height limitation. That’s why I often rotate a long gun so it’s standing on an angle. That way, I can show you much closer detail while still showing the entire gun. A few people will balk at this approach because it makes them scroll…and they don’t like to scroll. The majority of people want the photos to be as big as possible, and they’ll handle the scrolling.
Show me the details. If you’re selling a revolver, show me the gun with the cylinder opened. If you have nice wood on the stock, please show me a closeup so I can appreciate it. Don’t use flash that leaves bright spots right where you don’t want them. In short, SHOW ME THE GUN!
A way to cut bright shiny spots that come from overhead lighting and even from sunlight is to stand in the way, so you cast a shadow over the shiny area. With digital cameras, you get such fine preview images that you can do this as you shoot, but only if you have a tripod.
Use the countdown function on your camera. I usually set mine to 2 seconds, which gives me time to stand in the right place before the image is taken.
I know this subject means different things to different people, and I also know that no one can impose their own standards on anyone else. When selling an airgun, one thing you want to avoid at all costs is after-sales issues that have to be resolved. Some of these come from damage in shipment, which cannot be avoided but can be offset with insurance. Having a customer regard the gun you sent as less than described can cause problems that go on seemingly forever.
Let’s face it — some people are pickier than others. A year ago, I was selling a S&W Model 37 snubnosed revolver to a man who lived in Texas, but four hours away. He was a collector, so the last thing I wanted was to have him drive all that way only to reject the gun because of its condition. The gun was in 99 percent finish, but it had a tiny bump on the sideplate, where someone had disassembled it. There was a drag mark in the blued finish of the cylinder, from a dragging cylinder bolt.
Both of these things are common on fine revolvers, but I didn’t want this man to be surprised. I took macro shots of both situations and sent them to him. I sent them as 12-inch wide photos, optimized for the internet, which is a trick I advise all prospective sellers to learn how to do. Doing that makes the file size much smaller, while still showing all the detail you want to show. Instead of photos that are 250K in size, mine are 36K, so they’re much easier on the server on both ends.
The images you see here are a little over half the size of the ones I sent him.
The bump is along the curved gap of the sideplate, right where the light and dark meet. It’s on the right of the photo, about two-thirds of the way down from the top.
This photo shows the drag mark on the cylinder of the S&W model 37 revolver. It actually looked a lot less conspicuous than this in real life.
He saw the images and decided the gun was still in good enough condition to make the trip worth it. When he finally saw the gun for the first time, he remarked that the marks were far less conspicuous than he thought they’d be. The drag mark didn’t even penetrate the bluing. That made him very happy, and we completed the deal.
The lesson here is to learn to use the macro function on your camera and to describe any damage in detail so the buyer is prepared for it. For gosh sakes, get a tripod and learn to use it, because sharp shots like these are impossible without one. You should be able to pick up a good workable tripod for under $20 at a pawn shop. Consider that to be one of your tools for selling and trading airguns.
Show the whole gun
Let me illustrate why showing the entire gun at a large size is so essential. Note that instead of a beige carpet background, I used a darker red background. That was to lighten the gun in the foreground.
I know there’s a flare (specular highlight) on the comb of the stock. I had to use direct light because the dark finish ate up too much light to show wood grain detail. You can see that one of the two stock screws in the forearm is missing — something I would have mentioned in my description.
Look at the “folk art” initials carved into the checkering on the forearm! A real condition-killer. Notice the varnish scrape above the triggerguard.
Here’s the Falke 90 I acquired at Roanoke this year. When I bought it, I was aware of the horrible condition of the stock, but not the fact that the gun won’t cock or shoot. I also didn’t know that fewer than 200 of this model were ever made. Mine is number 39. This rifle is far rarer than the fabulous Colt Walker revolver that sells for $150,000 up to a million dollars.
The stock finish is so dark that I had to over-expose these two images by two F-stops and to use direct lighting, which I almost never do. Most digital cameras allow you to over- or under-expose images somewhere in the menu.
Well, that’s the lesson for today. Please let me know what you would like me to discuss in this series. I want to help anyone who wants to start buying and selling airguns to get off on the right foot.