“Shooting” Guns: A Creative Photo Stand for KHS Firearms

By Beth Caffery Carter, MC&E Collections Management Assistant

Beth and David for blog
Beth Carter and David McElrath make an unbeatable team when it comes to finding innovative ways to display artifacts in KHS’s collections that present a real challenge. Read on to learn how they and volunteer Jim Johnson  handled the difficult task of “shooting” guns.

The Museum Collections & Exhibitions (MC&E) team relies on our dedicated volunteers to assist us with a variety of projects. One of our volunteers, Jim Johnson, has been with us for several years. He spends each Thursday photographing artifacts.

This year Jim began working in an area in museum storage referred to as “the vault.” The vault houses our firearms, weapons and related accessories.

We soon realized that the challenge with photographing the firearms would be deciding how we wanted to mount each weapon to be photographed. Jim and I agreed that arranging acrylic stands for each weapon would be time consuming and would also distract from the artifact. Theoretically, we could Photoshop the mounts out, but that also would take quite a bit of time. Jim and I worked with David McElrath, KHS’s museum exhibition design and fabrication administrator,  to come up with a creative solution.Gun Photo Blog 01 - Guns inside vault

We started with a heavy coffee table as the base. David secured a metal plate with a variety of threaded holes in the center of the table. Then, an assortment of steel dowel rods in a variety of lengths and diameters were cut and threaded to match up with the holes in the metal base.

The rods were painted black to be less visible on guns with ported barrels. (Barrel ports are holes along the side of a gun barrel.)

When it’s time to photograph the guns, Jim carefully selects the appropriate rod based on the length and diameter of the barrel. A large gray paper backdrop is draped over the stand with a hole cut out for the rod to be placed through and screwed into the metal base. This creates a custom-sized post for the gun barrel to be mounted upon.

Jim uses a tripod and turns the camera vertically to capture the full length of the gun. When he uploads the picture to Photoshop, he simply turns the image 90 degrees. The result is an image of a gun without any distracting mounts set against a nice gray background.

If you decide to try making a photography stand like this at home, you need to keep a few things in mind:

  • SAFETY FIRST! Remove the rods when they are not in use. This is a safety precaution. Jim uses a brightly colored Superman cup to cover the end of the rod in between shots to alert other staff members and volunteers that the stand is in use.
  • Be careful when putting a metal rod inside of a weapon. These rods can scratch the inside of the barrel if you are not cautious.
  • Have extra backdrop paper. Your paper will get scratched, dirty and oily from weapons.
  • Keep in mind that this photo stand will not work for every type of firearm. Some guns are just too big or too awkward for this stand!


What photography tips and tricks do you have that would work well for photographing KHS collections? Send your ideas to: khsmedia@ky.gov and put PHOTO TIPS AND TRICKS in the “Subject” line. We’ll share the best ones in a future blog.



Chronicle|History Burgoo|Uncategorized

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