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Old October 31st, 2005, 15:25   #1
Penguin
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Intro To airsoft Photography

Introduction to airsoft weapon photography
By Peng

The purpose of this tutorial is to bring light to basic photographic techniques and camera operations that will help you develop your own and let your individual styles breed. Excuse any spelling or grammar errors, most of this was written over a long long night.

Many of you have been wondering how to get that perfect photograph of your gun, just to show her off to everyone... well I'm here to tell you
how to do it. The misconception is that you have to have an incredible camera, this DOES help immensley but you can get away with
some pretty fine shots with conventional point and click digitals (or may I say... film.) There are just a few things you should have
before starting.

1. your camera
2. A tripod (or something to steady the camera, though a tripod is encouraged) Tripods range anywhere from 19 dollars to however much you can imagine.
3. something to clean the gun, anti static cloth or shammy (dust looks horrible in photographs [especially when the flash is involved]
4. an environment with plenty of light
5. extra lighting you may have be it a desk lamp or flashlight.
6. if you're on the higher end of the equipment scale a speedlite (flash) with adjustable head will help greatley.

The rig im using for photos now is a Canon EOS300D, Canon 430X speedlite, Velbon Cx586 Tripod, 50mm fixed lens and for detail shots
my EF 75-300 III USM (telephoto).

Before we begin there are some terms and items that we should go over.
________

The first one is a "fill card". A fill card is a large piece of semi reflective material that will allow you to direct light to a certain area.
You would do this to get rid of shadows you dont like or to just smooth out or "fill" the lit parts. When using a fill card, make sure to have
your camera on a timer (so you can old it in place) or even better get someone to help you. You can really use any material for a fill card, I
find white bristol board (or sometimes I use a small whiteboard that I "borrowed" from my office) works quite well. A fill card is good if you're
in a sunny area because sometimes when the light is too intense, most of the item being photographed is cloaked in shadow. Desk lamps, flashlights
and such can be used with a fill card but I'd suggest the sun or a studio light.

The second term is "Depth Of Field", depth of field is the range of acceptable sharpness in a scene. A photograph with a small depth of field will have a crisp foreground and a blurry background, a photograph with large depth of field will have most of the photograph in focus (if you have infinite focus, all of your photograph will be in focus) Depth of field is quite helpful when you're pointing out part of your item or just going for that artistic touch. The depth of field is inversley related to the apeture of your camera (for thoes with digital SLR's) The smaller the aperture the larger the depth of field, the larger the aperture the smaller the depth of field. Lots of things in photography are reversed like that, so dont sweat it.

Here is a good example of what DOF is. Notice how the aviators are in focus but the rifle and cartrige are blurry. Focus is immediatley drawn to the glasses.
______________________


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"Aperture (or F-Stop) "
is a pretty simple concept, for thoes with digital SLR's you most likely know what this is already - but for everyone else, aperture is the size
of the opening that your camera has in order to let light in. The larger (physically) the aperture, the more light is let in, ect ect. The f-stops go from
2.8 (usually) to 21 or 22 on most cameras. Believe it or not, 2.8 is actually the biggest opening and 22 the smallest.

The "Shutter " of your camera is the device that prevents (and allows) light from entering the camera, it's that nifty click you've all become so accustomed to hearing.

"Fill-Flash " (no, not the famous porn mogul) Fill-flash is a technique whereas you do not have the flash pointing at the item, the flash is directed elsewhere and bounced towards the item. This prevents the classic nasty too bright, gross looking, pale faced photo you're all used to seeing from your uncle's birthday party this technique can be achieved by angling your flash head (for thoes with adjustable heads) up towards the ceiling or a wall. This diffuses the flash and gives the scene a really nice overall ambient brightness. FF can sometimes stand in for having a multiple flash / slave setup (though it's not as good).

"Diffusing" is a good trick to use, this involves spreading the light evenly around the scene so that there isn't one gigantic obtrusive bright spot when the flash (or thing you're using to light the scene) is photographed. This can be achieved with a simple folded Kleenex© Brand Nasal tissue or store bought diffuser.

"Light Gels" are something that will add a level of cool to your photo you cant even imagine. A light gel is a fancy term for coloured paper or plastic placed over a light to change it's colour. If you have an actual other coloured light, that would work the same. Coloured lighting is not good for the main lighting in your scene, but it is good for adding an accent highlight on one side of the gun (you've seen the TM and WA catalogues, they do this ALL the time). The effect achived will be one purple or blue edge of the gun and the rest perfectly lit... it looks real neat when done right.
__________________________________________________ ____________________

There are a couple principles that I must stress. Be it a digital SLR or point and click camera, your hands are not steady enough to hold it on all
occasions. Sometimes the shutter speed exceeds 1/60th of a second (thats even pusing it), any longer than that and a handheld shot will be blurry as all hell. In low light conditions you should always steady the camera, preferabley with a tripod. I use a tripod for all my shots, because even the slightest movement while exposing the shot will blur it. Nobody likes blurry shots. The more steady the camera is, the more clear your photograph will end up being. Saying this, I would always suggest that you use your camera's timer setting, you know the one that the father always turns on in the commercials before running back to his old navy clad family... yeah that one. You can also use a cable or remote release if you're lucky enough to have one. Even you pushing down on the button moves the camera, the timer will prevent you from even coming into contact with the camera. Make sure your shot is nice and focued, press it and step away (believe it or not in the more sensitive cases even walking may effect your shot). Having enough light in your scene is the most important thing, I cant stress that enough. Light is your tool, learn to love it.

The process begins with choosing your item obviously, be it a rifle or pistol. Cleaning the dust and wear off of your gun is quite important, it makes
for a very lousy shot when it looks like you just took your gun from your case after a 24 hour game with rain. Make sure to clean all the surfaces, especially
metal components and reflective surfaces. When using the flash, every single particle of dust will show up, so be dilligent.

Choosing a background is the next step, you may want a clean white background to accentuate the item.. or to pose it in a scene with mags and gear. Either way having something muted in colour and unobtrusive is important. Let the background compliment the gun, not take the spotlight. A good platform for photography is to buy Matte White mounting board (also called foamcore). It's very rigid and comes in large sheets. It's good if you dont have a large white dinner table to work with. This gives your shots a very professional look. using one sheet for the floor and one for the background makes the shoot look as if it was taken in a studio. The matte surface is good because it doesn't have any glare when hit with light. A pile of camo gear or clothing makes for a good light absorbing
surface also.

One of the main problems with photographing plastic guns is the dreaded Grey Gun syndrome, you know the one.. you precious Armalite looks dark when you hold it, but when you take a picture of it, it turns out looking like it's pale and disgusting. Part of keeping your gun looking "metal" is the diffused flash ( or no flash at all, as long as it's a tripod shot).

now I'll outline the basic setups for various situations. Images to follow--

Here is a diagram of the setup I usually use for a controlled low light environment. (Im usually the one holding the fill card).



Here is a diagram of the setup for uni-directional sunlight (no flash) The fill card evens out the shadows that are cast on the side not being hit by the sun.


Here is my setup for making a colour highlight. Long exposure method (no flash) in a darkened room


Here is my setup for making a colour highlight with ambient room light


all of these setups may not work quite as well with a point and shoot camera, but if your camera has a "moon mode" or a "long exposure mode" you should
learn how to use it. The fill card will work, but if you do not have a directional flash... shine a bright light on it (you may have to diffuse it depending
on how bright the light source is) and turn your camera's flash off completely (or to the very lowest setting if it's not an option to turn it off).

Here are some sample shots which will help me demonstrate what the techniques look like. These were just snapped for the purposes of the tutorial.


#1 ambient room light, no flash.


#2 full camera flash.


#3 fill flash


#4 fill card


and another example of a fill card (note the smooth ambient lighting



#5 light gel
before

after


This is the first tutorial in a set I will be doing, the next one is advanced techniques and post-processing in photoshop. I hope this was of value to you and dont hesitate to PM me with any questions you have.

-peng out
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Old October 31st, 2005, 15:59   #2
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Awesome!
Thank you, Penguin.
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Old October 31st, 2005, 16:06   #3
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thanks you indeed! :cheers:

also, this foamcore or mouting board, can it be purchased almost anywhere or only at specialy art shops?
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Old October 31st, 2005, 16:20   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rat
thanks you indeed! :cheers:

also, this foamcore or mouting board, can it be purchased almost anywhere or only at specialy art shops?
Staples or any business supply shop should have it. It comes in a wide assortment of colours too.

edit: I forgot to mention that foamboard/foamcore/mounting board is 3 ply... one to pieces of thick card and foam sandwitched inbetween, you should be careful when handling it so you dont dent it.. it will show up like crazy in a photograph.
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Old October 31st, 2005, 16:25   #5
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ah...i know what you are referring to know...thanks!
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Old October 31st, 2005, 16:31   #6
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Impressive!

Wow Penguin, really nice tutorial.
Thanks for the good info!

Kymoz
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Old October 31st, 2005, 16:50   #7
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Yep, awsome tutorial. Thanks!
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Old October 31st, 2005, 16:55   #8
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Great tutorial. Lots of people (Me included) need help when taking pictures of all our gear.
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Old October 31st, 2005, 18:02   #9
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I think this should be stickied, great info.
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Old October 31st, 2005, 18:58   #10
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I also vote for a sticky
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Old October 31st, 2005, 20:32   #11
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We learned how to do that in a photo class I took, but we never got to actually shoot them because of time constraints, its amazing to see the difference in lighting

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Old October 31st, 2005, 20:43   #12
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Very nice, Tho you forgot the part about where to get pictures developed, If your not using digital.

I & a few others have incidents with the police regarding getting gun pictures developed.

Just thought I'd put that in there.
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Old October 31st, 2005, 20:53   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BC_K
Very nice, Tho you forgot the part about where to get pictures developed, If your not using digital.

I & a few others have incidents with the police regarding getting gun pictures developed.

Just thought I'd put that in there.
Its pretty simple. DONT. If you take pictures with guns in them.. make sure you have your own home darkroom.

It's not worth the trouble scaring the kid at walmart.
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Old October 31st, 2005, 21:35   #14
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I've done plenty of pics of guns and never got a problem... what you print is yours, you don't have to justify it. Of course, if its pictures of a bunch of friends in jeans shooting, that's another story, but pictures like the ones this tutorial is about is fine.

In my case, it was for a magazine and some brochures, and no one ever questioned my shoots, i actually got good comments instead.
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Old October 31st, 2005, 22:28   #15
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Awesome guide man. Excellent work.
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