There are many methods that can be used to tune a bow and arrows such as paper, walk-back and bare-shaft tuning. All of these methods have their place and can be used effectively when performed by knowledgeable hands.
For many years I’ve also tried to use a visual check by watching the arrow while in flight. This is usually best accomplished by using the most visible nock and fletching combinations. For me this usually means white fletchings and either transparent green or opaque white nocks. It also helps to have the sun at your back when shooting. While the visual check is nice, it’s highly dependent on getting a good view of the arrow flight which happens in a split second.
Last year I came across a new idea to capture the arrow flight when I was working on the Lighted Nock Review. By using a camera and a long exposure time, an arrow with a lighted nock can be captured during the entire flight. My best results have been when using a 0.8 second exposure time and shooting just before full dark.
The image was taken as I was setting up the bow with the arrows for the first time. Before it got too dark I was able to do a quick paper tune and start bare shaft tuning; the mosquitoes were getting really nasty and I was only able to get the horizontal part of the tuning done (eliminating fish tailing.) I took the opportunity to take a few pictures of the slight porpoising still left to be tuned to perfection.
This next image shows what a perfectly tuned flight should look like:
The flight is even and perfectly straight (except for the arc of the arrow’s flight.)
By using lighted nocks and long exposure times, it’s easy to see any tiny perturbations in arrow flight. The camera can be placed at various angles and locations to capture the different aspects of arrow flight. I have put the camera to the side and looking down range (as the above pictures show), at my feet looking up, over my shoulder and even down range looking towards the arrow (using a remote to activate the camera of course!)
Not only is this method fun and can produce some neat images, it can also be a great tool to catch those pesky, minute imperfections in arrow flight.