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Miniature Photography

OK, so here is the next in my series of helpful, informative and (possibly) patronizing articles, which (as you may have gathered) is about how to take photos of those lovingly painted and converted models that we all love so.

So, the things that you will need:

  • A model (to photograph). You might need more than one for some of the exciting options I have for you later on…
  • A Camera. Really doesn’t matter too much what kind, I use an old Nikon Coolpix mostly, though a more versatile camera will obviously be more helpful if you know how to use it.
  • A Tripod. This is amazingly essential. Seriously. If you don’t have a tripod, get one. If you can’t get one, then it is possible to get by with a pile of books, or something similarly steady.
  • 2 pieces of plain white A4 (or Letter, for you foolish Americans out there) paper.
  • Some blu-tack (or similar sticky putty).
  • At least one lamp. Preferably with a daylight bulb.
  • A desk and a wall. I suppose a floor could do in a pinch.
  • A computer, an internet connection, a photobucket account and (preferably) some photo-editing software (such as photoshop, paintshop pro, or GIMP).

Right then, assuming you have all those things, I shall continue (well, even if you don’t, I can’t stop you from reading… Mores the pity…).

  • Firstly, set up your space. On your desk, lay one (1) piece of paper flat. Add a little piece of blu-tack (or similar) to the middle top of your other piece, and stick it to a wall (or other vertical surface. In the picture below, I have used my PVA glue bottle to prop it up), allowing it to curve onto the ground, like a relaxed L (I believe these are called infinity curves, but I may be wrong about that).
  • Position your lamp shining onto the curve, from in front and slightly above.
  • Position your tripod slightly in front of the curve, and attach your camera to it.

You should have something that looks like this:

setup1

Quick note: Daylight is the best light of all. If you can’t take a photo in daylight, use as many lamps as you can. Because I am lazy (and a student), I only use one lamp, and normally end up taking my photos late at night, which means a lot more work at the editing stage for me. If you can avoid this, you will save yourself a lot of work.

OK, now onto the setting up of the camera. You’ve probably heard people talking about Macro modes. This is the little image of a tulip. If you have one, use it. A picture of mine is below:

macro

This tells the camera to focus on objects that are much closer than it would usually try to focus on, which is very handy for us. I find it works best if you zoom in a little as well.
If you don’t have a macro mode, fear not! For I have discovered a solution, but will go through it in more detail at the end, so as not to distract from the information…

Right, I will assume you managed to figure out how to let your camera focus, and take a picture all by yourself (it normally involves holding a button down lightly while the camera focuses, then pressing harder to take the picture).
The only thing to note here is: use the timer. this way, you won’t be holding the camera while it takes a photo, so you can’t jog it. Very important that bit…

Now that you have your picture, you want to put it on your computer and start editing it, as it will probably look a bit like this:

melta_unedited

Alright, but not that great really. At least it is in focus though…

The first thing you want to do is sort out the colour balance. Normally your photos will be quite yellowy, as you will probably have been using mostly artificial light, which is normally yellow tinted (for various reasons, none of which are particularly relevant at the moment…).

There are several ways to do this, depending on how involved you want to be. In photoshop, you can auto-colour balance (which is found in Image > Adjustments). This is normally the best and fastest, but can sometimes get it a bit wrong.

Secondly you can apply a cooling filter, which can be found under the photo-filters in Image > Adjustments. This is quite good, but sometimes doesn’t go far enough.
Finally, you can manually edit the colour levels. This is quite tricky to do properly, and generally isn’t necessary, especially as the other two ways are much faster.
So, your photo should probably look something like this now:

melta_coloured

Getting much better, huh?

But there is still more to do. Levels. These things are incredible. Now, you want to be very careful with these, as too much fiddling can ruin any photo, and make it hard to see what is supposed to be going on. They are found in Image > Adjustments (in photoshop, anyway).
So, lets have a look at the normal ‘levels’ display:

4up_levels_start

[note: I have just noticed this is a screenshot of the levels window for a different image, so please don’t be confused at the weird change in shape between this and the next one, they don’t normally do that]

This graph is a histogram, but that isn’t really important. The 3 little sliders, however, are. The white one controls the threshold for what ‘counts as’ white, the black one controls the threshold for what ‘counts as’ black, and the 50% grey does the same for 50% grey.
Fiddling with them is the best way to really see what they do, so have fun.

4up_levels_end

…and ended up with this:

melta_finished

…which will do nicely.
Now, I personally consider this done, because I’ve got a bit fed up of fancy gradients all over the shop, and because it seems more ‘natural’, but that is up to you. I won’t cover doing that sort of thing at the moment, but if it is sufficiently requested, I shall edit it in later.

Finally, upload your photos to photobucket, imageshack or whatever, and let everyone marvel at thier beauty…

So, that is how I take my photographs.

Appendix 1: Macro-less cameras.
Firstly, this is where the multiple models come in, so grab 4 or 5 minis. Anything will do. Then move your camera slightly further back than it is for all of us macro folks.
Line your 4-5 minis up in a diagonal line, like this:

setup2

Now, zoom in until you frame all of them. Your camera should be able to focus without too much trouble. Take that photo. Leave the models where they are (very important, that bit).

Now, put that onto your computer, and sort out the colours and levels (if you want).
Then, zoom in on each model. Hopefully, one of them should be in focus (shown below).

4up_blurs

In this case, I managed to focus on the 3rd model back. This is where you want to put your models when you photograph them, so maybe mark a small x just behind the models base, to remind you.

As usual, any questions, feel free to ask in a reply, or PM. Hopefully that has been of some use to you, and stay tuned for the next installment of minus_t’s guide to:…

Posted by on February 8 2009. Filed under Photography. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

11 Comments for “Miniature Photography”

  1. Finally, a definitive guide to taking decent pics!!
    thanks to you!

  2. what did you use for the banding on the closiest unpainted model in the last pict i'am trying to do this myself but to no avail

  3. This article was great! Thanks for share and taking the time to write it.

  4. Thanks for the tutorial!

  5. Thanks for the tutorial!

  6. Well, that is my first have a look at to your blog! We are a group of volunteers and also starting a brand new initiative in a local community in the exact same niche. Your blog supplied us valuable information to work on. You’ve done a marvellous task!

  7. Well, that is my first have a look at to your blog! We are a group of volunteers and also starting a brand new initiative in a local community in the exact same niche. Your blog supplied us valuable information to work on. You’ve done a marvellous task!

  8. Excellent details for upload files for having me personally get started. I am going to keep this particular website link and come back to it.

  9. I have been playing with these techniques, check my web site to see how I’ve done! 🙂

  10. […] CityMiniature VillageMiniature SideshowResources and TutorialsPhotographing MiniaturesMiniature PhotographyPhotographing Miniatures for the WebTips on Photographing MiniaturesPhotographing Miniatures – By […]

  11. This one is the latest technology just to create such high definition pictures in lower budget instead of spending thousand of dollars in the market.

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