by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

History of airguns

This report covers:

  • Where BB shops
  • The junk table
  • Checking out the junk table
  • Solving the puzzle
  • Let’s get specific
  • To un-junkify the image
  • Can’t afford Photoshop?
  • Watch the brightness of your background
  • How about a dark background?
  • Dark images
  • Confusing listing
  • Here is the listing:
  • And here is what is shown.
  • Summary

Last week several readers had discussions about digital photography and film — discussing which is better. But a knowledge of how to manipulate images in software is a tool for finding hidden gems. Today I want to show you what I mean.

Where BB shops

I watch eBay and Gun Broker for my “finds.” Some of you know this and contact me offline if you see something I might like, or if you think I’m bidding on something and you don’t want to oppose me. I do the same for some of you.

The junk table

But, what if there was a junk table online — a table piled high with garbage that nobody would look at? Or, let me turn that around. If you were at an airgun show and you saw a table piled with what appeared to be old junkers, would you even bother looking at it? You’d better!

Checking out the junk table

The junk table at a gun show or an airgun show is where most of the real finds are! The guns are piled up and doing more damage to each other as they slip and slide around, but there on the bottom you see the barrel of a Quackenbush model 6, 7 or 8 BB gun. It’s under hundreds of other guns — a big (and expensive) Jenga puzzle! At the show you let the dealer get the gun out, but you can’t do that online. Or — can you?

Solving the puzzle

Today I will show you how to solve the Jenga puzzle for yourselves. And, it has everything to do with that photography discussion we had last week!

Shop PCP Rifles

Let’s get specific

While cruising the halls of eBay I came across this.

1907 M.M. Quackenbush BB gun NY, USA Antique BB gun Man Cave Works Antique Toys

it was accompanied by this picture.

Qbush pic
This dealer has done everything he could to make his picture impossible to see. He has skillfully laid a dark gun on a bright white background to fool his camera into stopping down the image, so all you see is a black silhouette instead of a gun.

To un-junkify the image

This is where Photoshop earns its keep! Look what can be done to this poor image by lightening the entire photo and darkening it again, selectively.

Qbush pic cleaned
It took 20 seconds in Photoshop to get this.

Qbush pic cleaned and rotated
Or you can enlarge the image by turning it to 45 degrees (blog image width is limited to 560 pixels) and you get this.

But this dealer knows he takes poor pictures, so he compensates with some detailed closeups like this.

qbush detailk
Oh, goodie! He provides you this detailed shot. It’s as if you are holding the airgun in your hands — in a dark room!

Let’s see what he wants you to see.

qbush detail cleaned
This is what he wants you to see.

And, if he thought like a buyer, he might even go the extra mile and really enhance the image!

qbush detailk cleaned and enlarged
This is as much as I can do with his photo. Still, how much better is it that the first one?

Can’t afford Photoshop?

Okay, you don’t want to buy Photoshop. I understand. You can still do things to enhance your pictures.

Use a tripod

First, buy a tripod at the next thrift store or garage sale where you see one. Ten bucks will get what you need. Twenty will get you a good one. Yes — even smart phones will attach with the right adaptors. How do you think I take all my movies?

You have seen images that were slightly out of focus when I hand-held the camera. A tripod fixes all of that. 

Many digital cameras have software for macro photography. You need a tripod to make it work the best.

Watch the brightness of your background.

A dark subject on a light background sets up what we see in the first image in this report. Yet that is the first thing many people do when taking a picture of an airgun. They plop it on a white sheet, because the software in their brains makes the gun look okay. But the software in their camera isn’t as sophisticated and the gun goes dark. 

Instead of the white background, use a darker one. The camera will brighten the entire picture, bringing out the detail of the gun. If you were using film you could overexpose the shot until a dark gun became a medium gray color.

light background
This is an unretouched photograph of a dark gun taken on a light background.

Okay, that didn’t work too well. Let’s try a flash.

Flash doesn’t work too well, either.

How about a dark background?

 dark background
A dark background brings out more detail on the gun.

None of these pictures was retouched in any software. They are exactly as they came from the camera. The point is, if you do a couple simple things like use a tripod and use the right background for your subject, your pictures will turn out far better.

This is starting to sound like a lesson in picture-taking, when what it really is, is using software to explore and  ferret out deals on airguns that are on virtual junk tables because of their poor photography. Lets do some more!

Dark images

Here is a detailed shot of an eBay pellet pistol for sale.

dark background
The seller wants at least $500 for this rare pellet pistol. Let’s see what he is really selling.

dark background lightened
Here is what can be done in 30 seconds in Photoshop. For $500 you would think the seller would at least do this. But if not it goes on the junk pile and you can do it yourself.

Confusing listing

Sometimes I wonder where these sellers get off with their listings so strange, poor and devoid of information that no one knows what is being sold.

Here is the listing:

“Pellet/Bebe Gun. $115. Condition is New. Shipped with USPS First Class.”

And here is what is shown.

poor picture
Huh? Let’s see what he is really selling.

poor picture fixed
Here is what can be done in 30 seconds in Photoshop. Now we know what it is.

He laid his BeBe gun on the floor and didn’t even bother to move around to where it was framed correctly. Now that we know that it’s a Daisy 880 with a scope, let’s see what Pyramyd Air sells them for. Oh! $60. And this guy wants $25 for shipping, so it isn’t $115 — it’s $140. A little difference there!


What we have learned today is how to peer deeper into those online items that we find listed on the auction sights. This is an advanced tip that can sometimes pay dividends.