It’s the time of year when the gun industry’s media flocks to Las Vegas for the week-long marathon affectionately termed SHOT—the Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade Show. Competition is fierce and manufacturers on the sprawling and hectic convention floor will vie for attention through a variety of creative means, hoping their latest and greatest will earn the kind of headlines that drive sales.
The pace is incredible, and complicating matters for reporters is the fact that companies are also taking orders from wholesalers and retailers during the event. Ethical journalists are careful not to encumber the commerce, but they still need decent images, fast, for their websites and blogs.
Setting up moderately complicated lighting systems sucks time from tight schedules, space is limited and even world-renowned Sherpas balk at towing bulky kit through thick crowds. About 10 years ago I lightened the load and the inexpensive (maybe $2.99) system is effective when leisurely creating photos to share with your friends, cataloging your firearm collection for insurance purposes or even at breakneck speed at an annual event—like SHOT.
No, the results won’t make the front cover of Shooting Illustrated, but the handgun’s details and serial number (if wanted) can be prominent in an image with just enough sex appeal to be noticed, even with a point-and-shoot or cell phone camera.
Instead of creating light, the approach simply reflects what’s available. Start by purchasing at least one sheet of reflective silver paper from a craft store. I use this foil version from Michaels ($1.99). Cut in half, then split one of them down the middle with scissors to create three lightweight and disposable “mirrors.”
To hold your reflectors upright and in position, scrounge some big black paper blinder clips (like these). Use two on each of your cut pieces to create the “feet.”
Now, place the handgun in the desired position. Prop it up if wanted (at home an empty casing does a good job with patience) and take note of the darkest side of the gun. Position the longest paper mirror near that side, and rotate to maximize light being bounced onto that dark surface.
Take a photo, and if you see black areas with no details add either or both of the other reflectors as needed. I took some solid photos of a black Springfield XD on a black surface to explain the technique in a YouTube video recently—using an Olympus point-and-shoot on full auto.
The results aren’t perfect, but they’re newsworthy solid, even without the cleaning, sharpening or color correction I usually take the time to do in Photoshop. Most cameras/phones do a good job in detecting color temperature, so the neon/tungsten lighting mix problem is minimized.
The photo you see above is how it came out of the small camera—dirt and all—using two of these reflectors. Below is a look at the setup.