GunBroker.com Toolbox

Published on February 16th, 2015 | by Patti Fowler

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Set Up a Sales Boosting Mini-Studio

FFL Unleashed previously shared advice on the importance of quality photos in optimizing your listing success. Now let’s look at creating a mini-studio to achieve easily repeatable consistent quality in your images.

The most important part of a picture is not the product; it’s the light. The product photos with the most appeal and showing the greatest detail are evenly lit, tack sharp, with nothing to distract you from the product. The best way to achieve this is with a studio. A dedicated space with the correct equipment means you can take high quality photos at a moment’s notice. No hour-long search for a clean backdrop or a trip to the store for a daylight bulb.

A studio need not be expensive or overly complicated, but it must provide a space large enough for your biggest items. An area approximately 6×8-feet should work unless you sell cannons. If possible, pick a location near a window or door for natural light.

Here’s what you’ll need:

Table: A card table is the perfect size for most close-up photos or photos of handguns. For long guns you’ll need an 8-foot plastic folding table. A used, 6-foot dining table is a great, more permanent solution. All three options could come from craigslist for next to nothing. No worries about scratches or dents since you’ll be covering it with backdrop material. Even planks on sawhorses can work.

Backdrop: Even the attractive wood grain from a table would be a distraction from your product. Backdrop material is used to create a non-distracting, even-colored, seamless way to showcase your product. White or photo gray (sometimes called 18 percent gray) are your best choices.

For small products, go to your local art supply dealer and buy the largest mat board (32″x40″ – $7) you can find in photo gray and white. Make sure it is a matte finish. Buy extras and store them carefully. You don’t want to create any creases or stains.

Another option is an infinity board. This is specialized matte white finished board that can be quickly shaped into an “L” to create a seamless tabletop background. It is $34.95 at B&H Photo.

Take it up a step by buying “seamless.” Seamless is a large roll of paper which prevents a “broken” background. Sizes are 53 inches or 107 inches wide by 12 yards. With this system, you’ll also need to purchase a roll stand for about $100. If you buy seamless, you will not need the other two. Simply drape the roll over the table and secure the front with painter’s tape.

Lighting: If possible use natural light. Overcast, but bright is the best light. It will provide the softest, broadest light with no harsh shadows or hot spots.

You don’t need professional lighting. Just get a couple of OTT Craft Plus Floor Lamps. OTT lights are daylight balanced and unlike a tungsten light, will not create any unwanted color cast. These lights are 42 inches high with a gooseneck so you can angle it almost any way you want. You can get these new for as little as $66 on sale or even less used on Amazon.com. The OTT light also provides continuous light so you can see exactly how it is going to look. With two you can evenly light any long gun. Stand them on milk crates to increase the height of the lights. The farther away the light, the softer it will appear.

A 5-in-1 reflector is a must! A 5-in-1 reflector is a portable, transparent disc with zip-on options for reflecting in silver, gold, or white. There is also a black zip-on for blocking light and the original transparent disc for diffusing light. If you have your table near a window or door, you will probably need to bounce light back onto the subject from the opposite side to make it even. If you use the OTT lights, you might want the transparency to diffuse the light to eliminate hot spots. Buy a kit with a stand unless you have a helper to can hold it.

Camera: Believe it or not, the least important part of the studio is the camera. As long as you have at least 6 megapixel definition, you can take quality photos with your smartphone, point-and-shoot, or an DSLR. However, you must be able to turn off the flash, and you should always use the highest image setting your camera has available.

Tripod: More important is the tripod. It must be sturdy enough to not wobble, have three independent legs and adjust to about six feet. Get one with a sturdy ball head. You want to be able to shoot without the camera dropping/sliding because the ball head can’t hold it. A Gorillapod for smartphones or point-and-Shoots run $30-$40. For a DSLR, expect to spend $150-$200 for a decent quality tripod.

One last consideration is a way to prop the gun as needed. Bostik Blu-Tack is the answer. It doesn’t leave a grease stain, is reusable, and is moldable to your needs. Just make sure you can’t see it in the finished image.

For $300 to $700 you can get everything you need for first class mini-studio. If you purchase the right items, they will last for years and pay for themselves many times over in more bids, higher bids, building a repeat GunBroker.com customer base.

This photo is taken with natural light and OTT. No adjustments made except for cropping. This is a pure white backdrop, but your camera wants to turn it into photo gray. You lose all detail in grip and metal looks dull
Same white background, but different set up. Adjusted for +1 overexposure in the camera. Sharpened and adjusted levels slightly in Photoshop.

Natural light plus OTT on photo gray background. No adjustments made except for cropping. This is the no fuss, no muss way to go for best all around photos.
This is the same image, but with some slight adjustments made in Photoshop. Is it that much better than the previous shot? Probably not enough to mess with.

Natural light plus flash. No adjustments made except for cropping. The wood grain detracts from the gun. Your eye naturally goes to brightest spot which isn't on the gun! Everything gets dark and murky. Definitely not the best choice.
Same as last photo buy with slightly adjusted levels and sharpening in Photoshop. Better, but not nearly as good or detailed as the plain background shots.

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