Friday, January 18, 2013

Miniatures Photography

One of the hardest battles of showing miniatures work online is the ability to get a photograph that does your painting justice.

My early attempts to photograph my models were done using the camera's built-in flash, and the macro mode the point and shoot allowed.

The main issues I had were ones of focus and the lightening effect that the flash had on my paint jobs. You can see above that the (admittedly drab) colors of the model wash out and become muddled, especially the machine gun which loses all definition. More of an issue was that in the darker indoor shooting, the autofocus of the camera had difficulty locking onto the model at short range and insufficient light.

Another attempt to capture a paint job seen here was an improvement on flash photography, I moved my subject outside. In this case I shot mid day during fair weather in mroe or less direct sunlight. There were some advantages and some disadvantages to this. If the shot was to imitate realism in the photograph (ie look like a picture of a real tank), the natural light cast the natural shadows onto the model, and had stark, real-world lighting conditions. While this looks interesting, it is not always the result I am looking for. Much of the more subtle paint work is completely lost in the photo.

The next step in my photographic progression was to use indirect outdoor light, as well as light from early morning and late afternoon (Cloudy days are the best!) This gave much clearer color definition, and can make for some really interesting effects, especially if you get just the right time of day. While this does offer some tremendous lighting, it leaves the photographer to the mercy of the weather, the time of year, and their schedule. I have found with the winter time change that I am no longer home at good shooting hours, and as the weather turned rougher (well California rough...) I found myself stuck needing to shoot indoors and after dark.

This Christmas, my wife Loni gave me the kind of gift that lets a miniatures painter know he married the right girl: a pop-up light tent for macro photography. With this, I have been able to experiment with controlled indoor lighting and diffused outdoor light.

Here's a side by side comparison of my old indoor shooting vs my new. First, my older shot of the Perry Brothers Napoleonic British Officer:
This was shot at night inside, using a white paper
 background and light from a desk lamp.

Then, a new shot of the same model. The more subtle effects of the paint come through accurately, and there is much less pollution in the colors presented.
Shot in cool indoor light tent.

I am still experimenting with settings on the camera to take the best, clearest photos, but will be posting more as I learn what works.

1 comment:

Erik Winter said...

These are looking good! I'm glad to see you correcting the white balance on the newest post. The next step is offset secondary/tertiary light sources to soften the shadows slightly allowing a bit more detail to be brought out.

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