Many people have asked what kind of a lighting setup I use for gun photography. Lot’s of people have helped me out so here’s a bit of information of my own.  A note about the equipment that I use: I generally go for things that I don’t mind doing Something Stupid™ with.  If i am using a a $7,000 camera, a $1200 flash and a $300 light modifier, all I am going to do is try and be ‘safe’.   Screw that.  I’d rather throw a $50 flash into the air and try something new.  That being said, what I describe below is a great kit for just starting out or trying Something Stupid™ with.

The Kit

Lots of photographers use all sorts of lighting and fixtures for their product shots. I like to keep it as minimal as possible.


For lighting I like to be as bare bones as possible. Usually I use a very simple flash, something like the Vivitar 283 flash with a VP-1 varipower controller. These are out of production now, but they are regularly on eBay for a few dollars.

Light Control

Lots has been said about the different type of modifiers out there (softboxes, reflectors, grids, etc), but the most flexible thing I have found is a simple translucent umbrella.


The stands aren’t exactly one of the most important parts of the kit. I generally pick up something like a Lumoproor Manfrotto with a  simple cold shoe mount


The simpler the better, as always.  I have been using the dead-simple Paul C. Buff Cybersync  kits for a while now, and battery life has proven to be quite good –CST Transmitter and CSRB Receiver.  These really are simple devices.  You set the channel (make sure both knobs are on the same number) and then put on on the camera flash shoe and one on the flash itself.   In order to plug into the flash you will need an adapter cable of some sort.  This will plug the Vivitar 283 into the receiver


Now there’s a topic in of itself, but largely it comes down to these factors:

  • It fits your hand nicely
  • In works in full manual mode
  • It has a flash shoe.
  • Taadaa.


Ok, so what are we at cost wise so far?  I won’t get into camera pricing, as I assume you already have one if you are actually reading this.  Otherwise, to get a simple setup to use we have:

Flash and power adjustment: ~ $50

Light control: $20

Stand + mount: $36

Remotes + cable: $145

So far we are in for about $250.  That’s it.

There are other factors to keep in mind here, such as backdrops and all that, but I wouldn’t go out and buy a bunch of Westcott fabrics immediately until you know what you want.  When it comes to guns (hence the title of all of this), usually a simple black, white or grey cloth will go miles.  Stop by your local sewing store and see what is there for $5 to try out and see what works for you.

What does all the above described glory look like?  Not much, actually.