How to Photograph Miniatures
This is a little Guide to help you through the world of photography. It is a very small compendium of what we need in order to take pictures of our minis. It won‘t make you a professional photographer but it will certainly help improve your images to insure everyone can see your hard work!
First of all a little excursion in the world of photography theory. Photography contains the word “photo“, which is from Latin “phos“ = light.
This is the most important thing - LIGHT!
Without enough light you can‘t take pictures, or else you will hardly see anything in the picture. Always make sure you have enough light to take pictures.
But light is not always white. In houses you mostly find yellow light, because the common type of house light bulbs give off a yellow tinge, which gives a warm ambience. BUT yellow light makes your pictures appear yellowish. We want our miniatures to appear as close as possible to real colours. How do we do this?
I recommend using sunlight (which is white), or if you want to control your light source (for example a desk-lamp), or just for the reason you aren‘t able to photograph during the day, make sure you use what is known as a “daylight” bulb. Although the bulb itself is usually coloured blue, the light from these is white and will let your minis be pictured in almost true colours.
Combining yellow and white light can work in some cases, but not always. So test it, play around and find out what looks the best.
If you do a WiP documentation it doesn‘t matter if those pictures come out yellowish. Just make sure they are well lit.Other Useful knowledge:Macro:
- Most cameras use a “Flower-Symbol“ for macro-settings. Macro means that you can get in very close to the model and still obtain an image which is pretty much all in focus.Apertures:
-This is the hole through which the light accesses your camera. Its size controls the amount of light which can pass through the lens into your camera.
- Most lenses start with an aperture of 2.8, although some may have even smaller numbers than this. The bigger the number the smaller the aperture. The smaller the aperture the smaller the amount of light comes into your objective.
Aperture size can also help in the focussing on a model. The smaller the number, the harder it is to get a model to be in full focus, especially when up close. Bigger numbers have the exact opposite effect.Exposure:
This is the length of time which the shutter remains open and lets light into the camera through the aperture. Time is measured in seconds or fractions of a second. These numbers are usually seen when looking through the viewfinder, but are also sometimes found written on the camera itself.
For example: 1/1 => 1sec (1); 1/60 => the sixtieth part of a second (60). The faster the fraction of the second, the less chance you have of getting a shaky image result when you take the photograph.Background Settings
First a simple background setting that can be done almost everywhere and it is very effective.
Just a white paper in size of DIN A3 (297x420 mm)
Just lean the paper on a wall/shelf or something else that stands stable. Make a “bow“ shape with the paper. In front of the bow you can place your minis. Simple as that! see image.
This can be done with different background colours, but the different colours can bring different problems.
- White and black are good for almost every colour-scheme (Black for bright schemes/ white for darker schemes)
- Basically, something like "A grey-toned background is probably a fairly bad idea, since grey tones are not just black or white but also may include other colours as well. This can give rise to difficulties when complementary colours to those found in the grey tone are involved on your miniature."
It might be that you choose to use complementary colours as a background, for example you use green for your army, but the background contains a lot of brown and red tones. This can mean that colours don‘t turn out right or in the right brightness.
- “Ambience pictures” as a background can be really cool and give pictures a feeling of reality. You should just look for backgrounds that are not stealing the show from your actual subject. I would count images taken in a garden as ambience background.
For WiPs I highly recommend to use the white paper technique so we don‘t see pics of your dirty desk, excel tables on your screen or the three month old orange-juice that is saying hello when we’re looking at your WiP.
ALSO it will help the auto-focus not to focus on the background!Light Settings
First of all you need a light source that can light the whole area, like a headlight or the sun.
Working outside on a sunny day is a simple start. But very bright sunlight is too much; there will be too many reflections on your minis. Also they can turn out way too bright.
A cloudy day can be better. A good mix between sun and light clouds is often better.
Indoors, use your normal light or a desk lamp, but remember what has been mentioned above.
It could turn out the spot of the light source is too strong. Just like outside on a sunny day there will be too many reflections. But inside the house you have possibilities to regulate this easily. Maybe you have to put your miniature closer to the light source to get enough light. Maybe moving it further away and using a longer exposure will help. Just play around and test different settings.Exposure-Time and Aperture
*Warning: advanced knowledge*
This is for all who have the equipment (SLR Cameras) or the knowledge that their digital-camera can do this.
Exposure time and aperture are relative tools of a photographer.
You either can set-up the aperture and allow your camera to set the time automatically (easier, as most cameras have a shutter priority setting) or set the exposure-time and let the camera set the aperture (tricky, and not every camera has an aperture-priority setting).Aperture
There is a little rule of the thumb: “when the sun shines use aperture 8” (aka F8). Depending on this you can decide to use a bigger or a smaller aperture for your photo. Due to this the photometer in your camera tells you what exposure time to set, or you can let it do it automatically for you anyway.
A bigger or smaller aperture will not only cause differences in exposure time, it can change the final outcome of your picture. A bigger aperture (F2.8, F4, for example) will make the Point of Focus sharp and the fore- and background blurry. A smaller aperture (F8, F11 etc) will let the whole picture appear sharp. When we are taking pics of our minis we (should) use macro lenses so it‘s normal that there is only a small Depth of Field. This is why those small apertures (F11 etc) are important.Explanation of terms:
Point of Focus: this is the actual part of the model which you have focussed on from a certain distance. Everything at that distance will be in focus.Depth of Field:
In front and behind every Point of Focus there is a range within which all items will be also in focus. This can vary from a couple of inches either way at F2.8, or from the end of the camera to infinity at F16. This can be altered by using certain settings for your camera, but that is getting into serious photographic stuff which is not the purpose of this article.Time
Exposure time settings depend totally on the light situation. A normal human can often take a handheld shot at 1/60 sec setting (or faster, eg 1/100 sec). Exposures of 1/30sec or slower should always be done with the help of a tripod.Last But Not Least
Even if you can handle these settings easily and get all the possibilities to set up a good light situation, nevertheless ALWAYS take several pictures of the same angle, not just one. Try different settings for one angle so you have in the end a pool of 10 or 15 pics of the same situation. Of these 15 images you can pick out the best 2 or 3. And if a picture is blurry on your seeker or on your little display, it‘ll be blurry on the screen, too! Delete these pics and take new ones.Digital Photography Tutorials
for those who are interested.
And the most important thing besides light is:
Play around, don‘t stay in one angle setting.
Special Thanks to:Eiglepulper
Thanks for reading.