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Taking GREAT Shots of Militaria, TIPS, Technical Details, etc. Sticky?

Article about: I'd like to start a thread, or a sticky, on getting fantastic shots of your militaria. It's not always easy, but it's worth it! First of all, you probably need a real camera, it's virtually

  1. #41


    Thx Glenn ;-)

    Those look absolutely GREAT!!! I love tabletop photography ;-)

    Really really good exposures, spot on, pun intended!

    Beautiful items also. I like that thing in the 2nd pic, what is that, a stein?

    This brings up another topic.

    "High key" vs "Low Key"

    These are Potraiture terms but they apply here too.

    These shots are "High Key", with a pure white background.

    This shot I say on the forum earlier today is "Low Key", pure black background, totally different school of thought. Both are equally challenging. Either one when properly applied can really make an item POP!

    Taking GREAT Shots of Militaria, TIPS, Technical Details, etc. Sticky?

    Great photo of a Gilded SMF Luft dagger courtesy of heers68 ;-)


    This brings us to another topic, HUGE!!!


    Backgrounds can really make or break photographs, and this is across the board, whether it be a portrait, or a "portrait" of your favorite medal.

    High key and low key, and/or any neutral gray backgrounds can be very nice, but the main thing is that the background not be distracting.

    Me, I like neutral, somewhat beige drop cloths, or an off white sheet sometimes (for larger shots). I think a Zeltbahn is a really fantastic backdrop for most things Third Reich (field gear anyway!), maybe a little overused (you see it a lot in ads), but still great.

    The idea is to isolate your subject from distracting backgrounds, which lead the eyes away from the subject.

    If the subject isn't right on the background, or even it if is very close, you can throw the background out of focus a little by using very "shallow depth of field", shooting with the lens wide open, at full aperture.

    With the better DSLR lenses that go f.2 or lower, this can make for a very pleasing effect also. A blurry background forces the eye to focus on the subject, especially if razor sharp and well exposed.
    Last edited by Larboard; 01-02-2016 at 02:10 PM.

  2. #42


    Eliminating Barrel Distortion

    Here's another little trick to better product photography, backing up and zooming in a little for product shots, to eliminate the "barrel distortion" you get when sticking the camera right up to a subject. This looks awful for portraits btw, so the same principles apply to good portrait photography. Think of this as "portrait photography" of your precious collectibles ;-)

    The idea is to get your camera out of the "wide angle" mode (which is where the camera is when you first turn it on), unless you're doing a shot of the whole room, etc. Most cameras are 28mm at wide angle, which is good for landscapes and group shots of people, but does distort slightly (visible when there are straight lines in the pictures like a picnic table). On my favorite point and shoot, the Lumix, the wide angle setting is 24mm which really distorts so I always zoom in a little to get rid of the "barrel" distortion you get from ultra wide angle lenses.

    Note, in Macro, you can only get away with so much zooming in before the camera refuse to focus.

    Here's a pic (courstesy of heers68) of the killer Heer dagger that he posted yesterday, and while reading this thread I noticed a little distortion to the picnic table boards at the edge of top and bottom edges, which I thought this would be a great point to bring up here.

    Taking GREAT Shots of Militaria, TIPS, Technical Details, etc. Sticky?

    Taking GREAT Shots of Militaria, TIPS, Technical Details, etc. Sticky?

    This is very slight but it is noticeable if you're sensitive to these things, and I can only guess that it is ever so slightly distorting the dagger also.

    So, if you back up and zoom in, you'll see most of the distortion in the boards (and the subject disappearing), which gives a more lifelike image, one that looks like our eyes see things.

    Again, if you're in Macro, there's a limit to this. All cameras are a little different. Some will do decent closeup shot zoomed in while in Macro, some won't and you have to switch the Macro off.

    Another benefit is getting yourself away from the subject a little, which can bring in a little bit more light. Many times you'll see reflections of the shooter in the item being photographed, this can be mostly eliminated by backing up and zooming in a little.

    This brings us into a related subject.


    Reflections can be a real bugger to deal with!

    There is an old saying about "the angle of incidence equals the angle of reflectance" which means that depending where you stand, you'll see different things reflecting in your subject if it is reflective, like watches with domed crystals, shiny blades with double angles, it can just about drive you nuts...

    My quickie way of dealing with this is to just look at the item (not through the camera!) and find the absolute best spot for avoiding a horrible reflection, like say a ceiling fan... and then shoot from that spot. It's almost guaranteed that if you're not out of the way and zoomed in you'll see the camera, your fingers, knuckles, etc...

    Here's an interesting article which I happened upon looking for verification of the quote, neat article about shooting an ancient Bowie knife!

    About Light

  3. #43


    Here's a shot off fleaBay that is very typical of a blade shot, reflections, flash... Gorgeous E. Pack. Sohne Luft dress bayo with frog and portapee, bad pics probably held the prices back, but that can be a good thing if you're the buyer. I would have squeezed another $200 out of it had I sold it, just on account of better pics, they can really make someone fall in love with an item!

    Taking GREAT Shots of Militaria, TIPS, Technical Details, etc. Sticky?

  4. #44
    JMM is offline


    Most useful thread. Thank you!

  5. #45


    Thx much JMM ;-)

    I have to catch a lot of typos and make sure it makes sense, and sometimes there are a lot of distractions in the house... but I try to make sure it is fairly well polished.

    Photography is always challenging, and getting the best shot possible even more!

    But is is very rewarding, to me anyway, and to the thousands of people who view these items online, and come to the forum to learn.

    We have a great forum here, very respectable I think, maybe the most respectable of it's kind on the net. I can't tell you how often I do a search for an item, click on images and sooner or later find images that are in the War Relics Forum.

    And rightly so, the mods here are very adamant (this really separates the men from the boys when it comes to forums!) about posting pics the proper way so that they are here in perpetuity, for the learning experience of others.

    I always struggle to take the best pics possible, sometimes I can live with "good enough", Craigslist, eBay, or just a sunset snapshot... but when it comes to shooting militaria (and I wish I had a dedicated room for this), I know other people are going to be looking and judging, not only the item, but also the quality of the image.

    At the very least, the quality of the image should not detract from the subject.

    Ideally, the image should be representational of the subject, and capture all of its glory.

    Anyway, I also love the "show and tell" here, looking at recent posts, often the high point of my day when I crave that daily dose of militaria. Some days you buy something, some days you just look at other peoples arrivals, and when your item arrives, you post it for other people to see.

    I'm usually behind on a couple items to post, on my list of things to do ;-)

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