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January 17, 2013 / Gregory Williams

How to Photograph a Gun

Firearms are a manifest portion of human history. Throughout their age their images have been used to decorate banners and standards, uniforms, badges, flags, seals, and many other articles that owe their existence to the use of arms.  It is no wonder then that since the introduction of photography guns have been photographed in the hands of solders, hunters,  and criminals around the world.

These days, given many recent events and the growing controversy regarding gun control in the US, images of guns are everywhere, each with the dramatic subtext of intent, one way or the other–either for or against gun control.

No matter the photographer’s intended subtext, the challenges of firearms photography are the same.

Size and Shape

Some guns are very long, some are very small, some have crazy accessories that hang all over the weapon.  Finding a suitable background and perspective that consumes the frame and minimizes the need for digital editing is something that can best be achieved through experimentation, but no matter how good a composition is, expect to do some cropping for photos of single firearms.

For groups of firearms, a good background and a nice arrangement of multiple weapons can fill the frame easily.


Light can be an artistic or dramatic tool, but too much light, reflected from the shiny surfaces of a gun can ruin pictures of the best gun. To get around this problem, soften the flash and/or make it indirect. Use a flash diffuser, reflect the flash off a ceiling or wall, or add light and leave the flash off entirely. Taking photos outdoors on a bright but cloudy day is a good way to avoid glare related issues if you live in or have access to a place where you can actually take a firearm outdoors without having the police called.

Be sure to match the white balance setting of digital cameras to match the most abundant light source, and you might want to  take multiple pictures with different white balance settings of each shot, just for fun. White balance can in itself change the whole mood of a photo and is worth toying with.


The photographs I’ll be taking are for a online auction site. The price of AR style rifles has skyrocketed and to take advantage of the high prices I’m selling this one. Good pictures for this purpose can mean a more active auction and less work for me as a seller. The fewer buyer questions I have to respond to the better so the  goal is to let the pictures answer the questions for me by showing the whole gun, then detail shots of key markings as well as any flaws. Since the intended audience is gun buyers, the photos should show only the gun so that its own ascetic stands out. We’re looking for images that catch the eye and say “buy me for more than I’m worth”.





Leave a Comment
  1. / Feb 10 2013 1:14 pm

    Whatever truly motivated you to write “How to Photograph a Gun Social Williams”?

    Ireally adored the post! Thanks a lot -Janell

    • Gregory Williams / Feb 13 2013 3:50 pm

      I was motivated simply because I noticed images of guns were popping up everywhere and I wanted a chance to comment on the bias that images can represent, and I happened to need some photos of that particular gun about the same time I started posting to this blog.


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