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Air Guns Photographing for guest blogs: Part One

Photographing for guest blogs: Part One

This report covers:

  • Camera
  • Steady the phone!
  • Use a digital camera
  • No enhancement
  • Light — learn to use it
  • Summary

Many of you are interested in writing guest blogs so today we’ll talk about taking pictures to illustrate things in your guest blogs. I will need more than one report so this will be Part 1.


Some of you use a digital camera and many more use the camera on a smart phone. People will tell you how great smart phone cameras are, and they are wonderful. But they do have shortcomings. The biggest one is they don’t yet have good image stabilization. Oh, the ads say they do have image stabilization, but that’s for taking pictures of larger things like people. When it comes to taking the kind of pictures you need for a blog, they all fall short. Allow me to illustrate.

photo smart phone 1
Photo of American dime coin taken by a hand-held smart phone.

May people will look at that photo of a dime and say it’s pretty good. It was taken by my Apple 11 smart phone when I held the phone in my hand.

Yes, that picture is okay if all you want to show is a dime coin. But what if you want to show some detail ON the coin? Beneath Roosevelt’s neck to the left of the date are the initials of the man who designed the image of Roosevelt that was engraved in the die that struck the coin. What do they look like?

photo smart phone 2
The same smart phone photo, enlarged to show the initials of the person who designed Roosevelt’s image for the die that struck the dime. Doesn’t look so good now, does it?

Think you’ll never have to show details that small? Think again. Serial numbers and other tiny markings are often an important part of your story.

Steady the phone!

To get an image that’s more focused, find a way to steady the phone. A tripod works best, but you don’t need one if you know a simple trick. For the next shot of the same dime I rested the phone on top of a 24-ounce insulated drink container — my coffee mug! The phone’s lens was about 9 inches from the coin.

photo smart phone steady
Just by steadying the phone I sharpened the image to this.

Use a digital camera

To get the sharpest image use a digital camera and steady it with a tripod.

photo digital camera
The same dime was photographed with a digital camera on a tripod.

No enhancement

None of the images shown above was enhanced by any software. Those are the images as taken by the cameras mentioned and just enlarged to show the details.

It doesn’t take fancy equipment to take good pictures. It just takes a little fundamental knowledge of how photos should be taken. Okay, time for one more fundamental tip

Build a Custom Airgun

Light — learn to use it

Most people will take pictures of dark airguns while they lay on a white background. That’s wrong. Yes, your eye likes to see airguns that way, but your eye is connected to something far better than Photoshop — your brain. It resolves the image perfectly! Cameras can’t do that and Photoshop has a hard time doing it, too.

photo white background
White isn’t a good background for a dark gun because it overwhelms the camera’s “brain,” making it think the picture is brighter than you want it to be. It’s like staring at a snowfield on a bright sunny day. It makes you squint and lose the fine detail.

photo medium background direct light
A medium blue background allows more detail to come through, but this picture is overexposed (intentionally) to show the damaging effects of direct lighting. It’s only marginally better than the first photo. I exposed both this shot and the first shot at the same manual setting. Although this background looks grey, it’s the same one used in the photo below.

photo medium background camera controls light
By allowing the camera to select the right exposure, you get a far better shot, even with direct lighting. Hard to believe all three photos are of the same gun with the same lighting – florescent room lighting! Notice the shadow beneath the gun, indicating the light was not directly above the subject.

Now, let me show you what the image can look like when it is taken in indirect (reflected) light. This was taken with a single 500-watt Tota light (a photographic light) bounced off the ceiling.

photo medium background indirect light
No hard shadow, more details pop and there’s not as much detail loss in the dark areas. Notice this is the only photo to clearly show the front sight pins.

I’m not going to address flash photography today because that is too detailed to get into. It deserves a report of its own.


Today we have looked at some of the basics of photography for making a guest blog. You have learned that it doesn’t take a lot of equipment, but it does require knowing the basics.

author avatar
Tom Gaylord (B.B. Pelletier)
Tom Gaylord, also known as B.B. Pelletier, provides expert insights to airgunners all over the world on behalf of Pyramyd AIR. He has earned the title The Godfather of Airguns™ for his contributions to the industry, spending many years with AirForce Airguns and starting magazines dedicated to the sport such as Airgun Illustrated.

13 thoughts on “Photographing for guest blogs: Part One”

  1. B.B.

    Great suggestions. When I have gone my few guest blogs, it took me several tries before I came up with a “blog worthy” photo. Background color suggestions are perfect.


    • Yogi,

      I’m glad I could help. You understand this because you have tried to do it. I hope those who haven’t yet will take it to heart.


  2. B.B.

    Very important topic you just described. My another hobby is photography – recently no time for this… But if you have a decent SLR camera and a good optic you are able to show things in detail exaclty like you would like it. I’m talking about stuff like picture resolution (this has nothing to do with how many pixel picture have), stuff like depth of field (focus).
    I will provide some blog material regarding my new baby soon – I try to show you what I mean by that. 🙂

    Guys, my brand new FWB800Basic is now shiped and on the way to make me a happy man!!!

  3. Thanks for the tips BB. One DIY device I have used in the past is sometimes called a light box. It is simply a cardboard box with large “windows” cut into the top and three of the sides. The fourth side is left open. The “windows” are covered with thin translucent material such as thin cloth or paper. The thin translucent material diffuses the light coming through it much as clouds do the sunlight on a cloudy day. Light source(s) such as a lamp can be placed outside the box to shine through the “windows” as desired. The results are similar to the reflected light from the Tota light that you showed us above.
    They do make small table top tripods that hold phones steady for taking photos. Also, a remote shutter release switch (bluetooth I believe) for phone cameras is available.

  4. Light and backgrounds have always been my enemies when taking detailed photographs. I do not own one of those so-called smart phones. I do own a couple of digital cameras. Most of the airgun photos that show up in my blog attempts are made with a small, inexpensive digital camera set at its low-resolution setting. I also turn off all the lights and use only the light coming in the rooms. I do sometimes have serious issues with shadows.

    The big secret, as BB has pointed out, is being steady. The steadier the camera is, the more detail will show up and the less light you will need. Tripods are fantastic, but as BB pointed out, there are other ways.

    Smile! Click.

  5. Tom,

    Any tips on how to light up something painted in flat black to show the details? Do I wipe the surface with oil to give it some contrast?


  6. Siraniko,

    I use a flashlight of some kind. I “paint with light” which refers to moving the light over the image during the exposure. It’s a technique I’ll cover in the future.


  7. BB,

    Taking a good picture for a guest blog can be a bit challenging and can take some time to setup.

    I do quite a bit of photography so I have a semi-permanent photography bench setup. For those who may consider a photo-bench, mine consists of a cardboard base and backdrop (from a refrigerator box) covered with a neutral colored, low knap, soft cloth (a blanket) for a featurless background that minimizes glare and shadows; three multi-color, multi-brightness led floor lamps, and a couple of reflectors (white cardboard) and defusers (plastic bags mounted on wire frames) for managing the light. Most of this stuff readily available.

    As you suggest, my main light is bounced off the ceiling and fill lighting/reflectors/defusers are positioned required.

    A request… The 72dpi limit is not a problem for general pictures but I would prefer a higher resolution for DIY guest blogs where graphs and fine details are sometimes necessary. Wish that the picture size could be a bit bigger and while I’m wishing, it would be nice if full width 1:1 aspect ratio images were acceptable. Know that image size is a (loading) concern but these days with faster computers and internet connections, maybe the resolution and image size could be increased a bit. Just asking.

    Thanks for posting this and I’m looking forward to the rest of the series.


    • Hank,

      Higher dpi isn’t as much a loading problem as a storage problem. PAIR has to store millions of pix from this blog and all their new blogs, plus their website.


  8. Good tips BB. You can never understate camera steadiness and good indirect illumination.

    Photography was my hobby and briefly my profession, a loong time ago. I would like to add a note about resolution. In the same way that advertised speed sells rifles, marketing guys realized that megapixels sell digital cameras. Unfortunately, most budget cameras have optics that do not have the ability to resolve details as fine as the sensor itself. The result is very large files that when expanded reveal blurry images. Generally these files can be reduced significantly without losing actual details.

    Looking forward for the next installment in this series.


  9. I use a Samsung Galaxy S21+ 5G Android phone then send the pic to my hp laptop with just about unlimited photoshop options.
    For lighting, natural day or sunlight at the proper angle to avoid direct reflection works well but, in the home, I use an inexpensive LED flashlight with a house lamp, at just the right angle to highlight the specific item while avoiding direct reflections. Low-cost option. The flash will usually mess things up for you with unanticipated reflections, so turn it off or keep trying.
    An out of focus picture is not even worth the trouble so I usually take a few snapshots at once, not all at the exact same angle and sort through them for the sharpest. No doubt you need a fixed platform of some sorts for the really small stuff.
    The phone has auto focus but you really have no control over what it decides to focus on. May need retakes. I play with its magnification feature as well.

    Funny, when you go through all the photo shop options sometimes the original turns out to be the best or you wind up back where you started.

    Also I figured out that a background with a lot of color will sometimes force you to reduce the picture size, for a blog reply post anyway. It will take the same size picture with a white background.

  10. Another tip that may help if you’re trying to steady a camera by hand is to set a 3 second timer (or whatever timer duration(s) your camera has) and then take the picture. The act of pressing the ‘capture picture’ button causes camera “shake” and can blur an image. With the timer active, the button press has past and hopefully you’ll be holding the camera steady when the image is captured. Maybe newer cameras/phones take this into consideration to some extent already but I’ve found it to be helpful on cameras that didn’t seem to.

    Wouldn’t it be great if we could do this with guns? Then all the time spent on triggers could be directed into other items 🙂 Thinking about this more, I guess some of the older muskets/muzzle loaders had a longer delay in their shot cycle from trigger pull to actual firing but I don’t recall that being identified as something useful or providing any advantage, at least with those guns…

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