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The variable of light
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June 19, 2021 - 6:09 pm
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I’ve been thinking about the significant variable light plays when both looking at and photographing firearms.  I had my camera out to photograph some pieces yesterday and today.  Yesterday was very sunny and today was overcast.  I photographed the rifles outdoors on both days but as I examined the firearms, I also noticed the significant difference in the indoor light between yesterday and today.  The rifles looked quite different depending on the light.  Some, more than others. The defects were much more apparent in different light conditions.  In addition, the impression of the amount of finish coverage and density of finish coverage varied quite a bit.  I know this isn’t anything new to any reader here, nor is it new to me.  I’ve mentioned before the downside of, “gun show light.”  I was particularly struck between yesterday and today, how very different the finish could look and hence, the overall appearance/impression of the rifle.  

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June 19, 2021 - 6:39 pm
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Steve,

I agree 110%… the ambient light and type of light makes a world of difference.  My Nikon CoolPix camera very much prefers natural light on an overcast day or is bright shade.

This was picture was shot outdoors in the early morning hours before the sun was overhead.

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June 20, 2021 - 3:09 pm
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I share your concerns.  I am continually frustrated in my picture taking attempts trying to get an accurate representation of the subject.  I envy those who seem to be able to go out in an open area and get good photos even in bright sun light.  RDB

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June 20, 2021 - 3:53 pm
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rogertherelic said
  I envy those who seem to be able to go out in an open area and get good photos even in bright sun light.  RDB  

If so, I wonder how they avoid shadows and/or reflections.  I sure can’t do it.

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June 20, 2021 - 4:33 pm
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Guys!  I struggle mightily with it all!  Rob coaches me continually and I get frustrated and at times down right difficult to be around!  Rob and Brad make it look so damn easy, too.  Now as to the effects of lighting, with which I totally agree, I am overly nervous about trying to buy anything based on photos.  There are those on this forum who seem to have the programs to play with pictures and vary the exposures, the values of hues, etc, to detect flaws that I just plain don’t see in photos!  And artificial lighting can play tricks as well.  The bluish white overhead lights at Cody, for instance, do not illustrate a lot of the issues with a rifle.  Natural sun light can make a pig out of something at times, yet direct sun is usually a picture killer despite the childhood pictures of folks looking directly into the lights.  My successes, limited as they have been, are outdoors in the shade on sunny days, or better on overcast days.  My two or three cents worth!  Tim

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June 20, 2021 - 5:37 pm
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Good to hear I am not alone here.  Aside from taking photos, I am was also struck how different some of my own rifles look in various indoor and outdoor settings – all within 30 feet of each other.  I noticed this the most on receiver finishes – either blued or case hardened.  The amount of finish and the density of the finish that the receiver appeared to have varied greatly depending where within that 30 feet of distance, I was holding the rifle.  

Who else remembers the old, “Seinfeld” episode where Jerry has a new girlfriend.  She looks great in the coffee shop light but when he sees her in any other setting, she looks hideous Laugh

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June 20, 2021 - 6:15 pm
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tim tomlinson said
  Natural sun light can make a pig out of something at times, yet direct sun is usually a picture killer despite the childhood pictures of folks looking directly into the lights.

EXAMINE the gun in sunlight, if possible, to see every flaw (before you buy it!), but that’s about the worst lighting for photography without special eqpt. like diffusers & reflectors; it’s the reason artists usually arrange to have their studio windows facing north, to exclude all but indirect light.

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June 20, 2021 - 6:38 pm
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clarence said

tim tomlinson said
  Natural sun light can make a pig out of something at times, yet direct sun is usually a picture killer despite the childhood pictures of folks looking directly into the lights.

EXAMINE the gun in sunlight, if possible, to see every flaw (before you buy it!), but that’s about the worst lighting for photography without special eqpt. like diffusers & reflectors; it’s the reason artists usually arrange to have their studio windows facing north, to exclude all but indirect light.  

Clarence makes a good point.  How many have tried or asked sellers at gun shows if you can take a piece outside to look at it?

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June 20, 2021 - 8:01 pm
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steve004 said

 How many have tried or asked sellers at gun shows if you can take a piece outside to look at it?  

Might work if you know the dealer fairly well; otherwise you’d be wasting your breath.  Really, at a gun show it’s not practical, unless the bldg has windows that would allow you to do it without leaving the bldg, & few do.

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June 21, 2021 - 1:02 pm
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I know what You all are talking about when it comes to takin’ pictures. To begin with , I’m not good at it, and secondly neither are a lot of others folks. I’ve had guns show up here, tentatively bought from pics, only find to them to be a real clunk. On the other hand I’ve received pieces that were questionable in the pics, but were gorgeous in hand. I’ve also had guns poo-po’ed on this sight from My lack of photographic skills, knowing full well the gun “in hand”, is proper. I use photos only as a pre purchase aid and like to have the return option on a purchase, same as I offer. I have recently delved into the world of percussion Colts and they are definetly tough to distinguish good from bad by just a few pictures. It’s always nice to see pictures of recent acquisitions on here but I try not to be to critical of a piece unless it is a blaring fau paux, or the owner is asking for “opinions”. After owning a few thousand of ’em , I kinda think of Myself as a reasonable”expert” on mod. “94’s, and get a lot of people sending pics, wanting an appraisal on their gun . I usually tell Them I would need to have the gun “in hand ” in order to do that properly and accurately. I also realize I’m still learning and once in a while am thrown a curve ball from the Winchester manufacturing process, i.e: the lack of the hole in a particular ’94 frame in another post on this site. I find it all Very Interesting.

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June 21, 2021 - 4:40 pm
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Hello all,

I will try to help out a bit on this subject as I have been a pretty darn serious photographer for a few decades.  Problem number one is the fact that the cameras “sees” light VERY differently than our eyeballs do.  Our eyes see all light in pretty much the same color rendition.  If you take a red piece of colored paper from near a lamp inside your house and then go into the open shade out doors and then into bright sunlight you brain will tell you it is the same color in all three instances.  Now pick up your typical camera and take a photo in each situation and look at the resulting images and you will see three fairly different looking shades of red.  This is because the light  that is illuminated the three setting is actually VERY different in ITS color and therefore the reflected light from the paper (what we see or what is captured by the camera) appears different to the camera.   The problem is that the camera chip now days, or in the past the type of film was normalized for certain wavelengths of light.  In the “old days” you had outdoor balanced film or indoor film balanced for tungsten light.  To further complicate things all “outdoor” light is not created equal.  Bright sunlight is not the same color to a camera as the light in open shade which is basically lit by the big open blue sky.  And partly cloudy skies is a slightly different color form either.  Bring your rifle and camera indoors and things get even crazier.  A typical tungsten light bulb will look dramatically different to a camera as you adjust the rheostat switch which controls it.  Fluorescent lights are an entirely different color to the camera!  Halogen light are still another color unto itself.  

At this point many of you may have thrown up your hands.  BUT… there is hope.  Go find the owners manual that came with your camera.  It was the multipage little pamphlet printed in multiple languages that you most likely never looked at.  The way to get around all of these light color problems is to “tell” your camera what color of light it is looking at.  My Canon SLR digital cameras have a menu option that allows for that called White Balance.  In the series of attached photos it shows the different color temperatures in degrees Kelvin for various light sources.  Something white in color will look different in each setting if the camera is not set for the correct light source.

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The right hand most shows an “Auto” mode in which the camera will assess what color of light is illuminating the scene and try to adjust for it.  Be forewarned that this might not be 100% accurate but it will most likely be much better than using a totally wrong setting like Sunny and trying to photographed the rifle indoors with the lamp at the end of the couch!

Of secondary importance is the relative size of the source of light relative to the subject.  When I shoot portraits and and want a flattering result I typically will use a very large light source that is maybe 2×3 feet in size and it is 6 feet from the model.  This produces a very “soft” light that fills shadows and does not cause unflattering, sharp edged, high contrast shadows.  A small single bulb source the same distance away will give a much different look to the some model.  It is a relatively small and specular light source.  This is like the sun outdoors on a bright day.  It causes harsh, high contrast shadows, but it does amplify details because of how “sharp” and focused it appears.  The same rifle photographed on a totally overcast day will look different as long as the color is adjusted correctly.  There will not be harsh shadows because light will be “filling” those areas from other directions.  

Another point to keep in mind is DO NOT EVER use a white background to use in the images.  Use some soft color such as a green, tan, or blue.  The best thing to do is grab you camera and rifle and go practice.  There is little that will help you than some experience and practice.

Michael

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June 21, 2021 - 6:08 pm
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Michael – 

Thank you for this.  It is very helpful.  I think it will even be more helpful after I read it through several times.  It’s great to hear from someone who clearly has experience and expertise on the topic.  

As I think through the lighting issue, I realize things can be made to look better than they really do.  This has much to do with light of course.  I recall when bought a new television several years ago, there were several settings to chose from.  We chose a setting labeled, “dynamic.”  Some people objected to this setting, pointing out it didn’t look, “realistic.” I liked it.  Personally, if I can look better than I really look, I’ll take it.  Same for the world around me 😉  I find I most enjoy looking at my rifles in the light that makes them look their very best.

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June 22, 2021 - 12:01 am
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While driving today I had an oldie’s station on the radio.  I heard Rod Stewart singing, Maggie May –

The mornin’ sun when it’s in your face really shows your age

And I thought, that’s it!

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June 23, 2021 - 5:00 pm
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I try to shoot pictures of my guns in the shade.  On cloudy/dark days I also may use a flash.  Often with a diffuser.  Using a flash may cause some other issues like glare or shadows.  Most if not all SLR cameras have the auto white balance but I’m not sure about the cameras in the phones?  Don’t think that professional photographers can just shoot and a perfect pictures occurs.  They take a lot of pictures to just get one good one.  A lot of time is spent using software to fix the picture.  Years go into how to compose and handle the light.

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June 23, 2021 - 8:14 pm
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Chuck said
I try to shoot pictures of my guns in the shade.  On cloudy/dark days I also may use a flash.  Often with a diffuser.  Using a flash may cause some other issues like glare or shadows.  Most if not all SLR cameras have the auto white balance but I’m not sure about the cameras in the phones?  Don’t think that professional photographers can just shoot and a perfect pictures occurs.  They take a lot of pictures to just get one good one.  A lot of time is spent using software to fix the picture.  Years go into how to compose and handle the light.  

Chuck,

People so often ask “what kind of camera do you use???”  Good photos just don’t happen.  They are created.  A person MUST understand the tool (camera), how it works, decide what they want the photo to look like, and then control the camera to get the result.  I get so flippin’ tired when I hear “my camera sucks” when it is SO obvious that it is operator error and not the camera that is at fault.  So, it is an easy correlation to see.  Don’t take the time to learn how to take good photos?  Then take lousy photos, and when you try to sell your rifle you will get a lousy value for it.  

Michael

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June 24, 2021 - 4:36 pm
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I got my first SLR in 1972 when I was overseas.  I’m still trying to get that perfect picture.  I play with Adobe photoshop elements.  But even this is way over my head.  There are many good brands of cameras.  The one I use most is set up for use outdoors and fast moving objects.  It has to be built well to withstand the shock, sealed tight to keep out the rain, snow and dust, shoot real fast and have as much zoom as possible. 

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