Book review of

for Gunmakers, Engravers and Collectors
by Joel Schafer

For most of us, good photography is one of those impenetrable mysteries that always seems just out of reach of mere mortals. Yes, anybody with a camera might be regarded as a ‘photographer’ in the strictest sense of the word but for most of us the results demonstrate there is a near-insurmountable gulf between the ordinary camera pilot and skilled camera artisan. True, we may capture an image of sorts but it is often fuzzy or badly lit or poorly composed or possessed of some unnatural hue or some unholy combination of the above.

Few of us will ever be called upon to illustrate a coffee-table book on guns but it would certainly be nice to produce images of solid quality for firearms sales work, insurance and security purposes, recording professional work, properly illustrating a manuscript for submission to a periodical or just preserving a look at a gun you may never see again. Luckily, there is hope for most of us.

While there is a considerable distinction to be made between industrial and artisanal photography, it would still be nice to make unremarkable photographs of good quality. Sometimes, the best work is quiet and calm and does not draw attention to itself but rather directs attention to the subject matter. Most workaday gun photography should do just that. It doesn’t have to be great, just not bad. That may sound like setting the bar pretty low but there are only so many hours in a day to create images and so many ways to view the checkering on a gunstock, for instance, and convey the important information about it. That said, even well-done business-class photography takes on a quality all of its own. Believe it or not, it can be done and with a modicum of relatively inexpensive equipment. Joel Schafer shows us how.

Schafer’s story is a familiar one. He is a fellow member of the American Custom Gunmakers Guild, a gifted stockmaker and checkerer and author of an excellent book entitled THE FINAL TOUCH: A Complete Course in Gunstock Checkering. Like most of us in the trade, he relies a lot on hi-quality images to showcase his work, whether in a catalog, at an internet website or, perhaps, in a book entry or magazine feature article. While Schafer had a background in photography, he realized early on there wasn’t much material available to guide the untutored tradesman with limited experience so set out to outline and share his basic techniques built around affordable, readily available equipment and materials.

This little booklet explains in simple terms how to select an adequate camera and how to use it. You will be stunned to learn that most any $250-$300 high-quality pocket camera will do nicely. No need for a $5000 digital SLR. Some computer skills are necessary for navigating simple Photoshop software and techniques but probably nothing most of us cannot acquire with just a little practice. You will discover in short order the Spot-Healing Brush feature is invaluable in removing lint and other detritus inevitably drawn to an exposed firearm, especially when it finds itself in front of a camera.

The most important part of the book is devoted to rigging a simple background and lighting set-up. The background rack and diffuser screens call for a wee bit of very basic carpentry work with lumber-store 2X2s and some basic nut and bolt hardware. Some Walmart shower curtains and fabric-shop felt round out the materials list. Any good welding shop can cobble together the gun stand for a few bucks. The lighting itself is done with a couple of inexpensive internet light stands and bulbs, all accurately and specifically described to save time and eliminate any guesswork.

With a little workspace and a few hours of work, you can produce your own simple studio. With a little practice with Schafer’s techniques and equipment and some of your own, you might scare yourself with the results and start getting ideas. While this booklet is only 28 pages, it features almost two dozen high-quality photographs of the equipment, the set-ups and the results. At $19.95 plus HIS, it is an investment that will repay you a thousand-fold with high-quality images that will justify your pride in your work and your guns.

Price is $19.95 plus HIS. To order, contact:

Mr. Joel Schafer
904 Dakota Ave.
Alliance, NE 69301
(308) 762-8190

Also available at; price and shipping may vary.