Sunday, April 3, 2016

Learning Miniature Photography

Despite making my living as an artist, I've always been a terrible photographer. If there is bad light and poor composition, I can instinctually find a way to photograph it the way a great photographer can do the opposite. I truly envy the ability to properly catch a moment as a photograph - I've just never been able to develop that ability. Even in college, I did really badly at courses designed to teach illustrators how to take reference shots. Google image search has been a godsend to me in that regard.

Starting this blog has really emphasized how bad of a photographer I am, and how much I need to work on acquiring the proper skills needed to take good pictures of my little men. Luckily, I have had the good fortune to be friends with people who take pictures of wargaming miniatures for a living and they have passed on some great advice to help me out. I can already see improvement in the quality of photos I'm taking. 

My early efforts.

Much Improved.
For Sigmar! Or Dragons! Or Something!

I thought I'd share some info on my photography set up. First off, I moved upstairs to the dining room table because it offered more space and more importantly, MORE LIGHT. Finding the right balance of light is pretty key here. Previously, I've used a light box that I purchased from ThinkGeek a few years ago, but it was either diffusing the light too much or allowing the lights to blow out my miniatures. I decided to ditch the light box and see what I could do with better overhead light and more space to work.

A very easy to achieve set-up.

The light box I had purchased came with two small lamps which I've kept using. Each one has a regular, shmegular 60watt bulb in it and really aren't anything special. You could easily substitute a pair of desk lamps for them.

Any desk lamp will do.

The key here is that you need to position a lamp on either side so that your model doesn't end up with heavy shadows on one side. These two lights, with the light from above, should provide enough light to allow you to really see the detail on your models and in your paint jobs. Keep the lamps about 12" away from the subject and you should be fine. Too close and there will be too much light and your photos will end up washed out and looking gross.

Light the miniatures from the top and both sides.

Next, you need a good neutral background to photograph your models on. This should be something grey, green or even black. Try to avoid white as it will bounce in even more light and your models will be overpowered and washed out in photos. I used a cheap piece of grey Canson paper taped to large book. Again, nothing super fancy. 

No complex rigs needed!

Finally, you're ready to shoot. I use my iPhone for several reasons: first, its easy to stabilize by just using the tabletop; second I can use the headphones that came with it as a remote camera trigger (Lifehack - if you press the + symbol on your headphones while in camera mode, the phone takes a picture) which lets me have to fiddle with taking the photos less; and third I can then easily email myself the photo when I'm done. I can then edit the photo in Photoshop on my desktop if I haven't already done it on the phone. 

Setting up an awful composition. Sometimes, its better
to just take shots of one model at a time.
One guy makes for a better shot here.

While my photos aren't perfect, I can already see improvement. I'll keep striving to get better shots each time. 

In other hobby news,  I managed to get 6 more Hybrids done for Deathwatch: Overkill done this week. I also went back and updated the previous blog post with better pictures.

I mixed the heads around this time to give at least a little variety to them.


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