I’ve got a rather unconventional work in progress for this week. For the past few nights I’ve been focusing on photography rather than painting. What I’d like to do is talk a little bit about my setup and how much of a difference it’s made in my pictures lately.
So normally for Work In Progress posts I’m just taking a picture with my cell phone. Really, for what it is that’s fine. Just trying to get a quick shot of the models as they stand that evening to show progress. They come out something like this….
When I’ve finished a model in the past I often want to take some pictures of it to show off on the blog. They have never been of a quality that I’ve ever really been happy with though. Here are some examples of “finished” pictures that suffer from a variety of ailments! The backgrounds are messy, they are covered in shadows, a flash has washed out the image, the focus is too shallow, etc, etc.
What I’ve done is create a setup that can get pictures that look like this though…
It’s not perfect, but the difference is huge. I’ll continue to work out the finer details as I go. I need to tinker a bit with the lights to remove the shadows, however minor they are.
The setup looks like this….
Basically I’m turning my basement work bench into a photo shoot. The overhead lights are just task lighting with T20 fluorescent bulbs. Available from your home store, I think these were about $50 each.
The background is critical here. I’ve tried many times before to get good images with the rest of this setup minus the backdrop and it just doesn’t work! Sheets of paper come close, but unless you have a very large roll you end up with unsightly shadows and edges. This backdrop was about $25, and I got it from Hanger18 Miniatures. This one is a blue/white transition which is a classic look technically called “ombre”, or so I’m told by my wife!
It’s critical that the camera be on a tripod to eliminate camera shake (which will make the photo blurry, especially since you need a very long exposure time). This one I got from Amazon and it wasn’t very expensive. It also isn’t very good!! It’s actually broken right now and I’m in the market for a new one. This one was about $30 (but I would recommend getting a better one).
The light umbrellas are used to help distribute light around the subject evenly. If done properly there will be no shadow around the subject at all. A light-box could also work very well for this. I got the umbrellas because they would be more versatile. They came as a kit for about $100. The power rating on the bulbs from the kit isn’t great and getting higher output bulbs would be a nice upgrade.
The camera is an entry level DSLR. It’s a Canon Rebel T5i. You really need a DSLR so that you can control the camera parameters. I won’t go into the technical details since you can find them elsewhere (Garfy did a nice post about photography recently on http://taleofpainters.blogspot.com/). I have a 18-135mm lens on there so that I can sit the camera back away from the models a bit and zoom in. This leaves me a little more flexibility in where I can place the lights since the camera doesn’t have to be right on top of the miniature. That also helps with focusing, since it’s hard to focus really close with some focal length extension tubes. I think you can find this camera and lens combo for about $500-600 these days.
The camera is connected to a laptop which completes the setup. Any laptop will do pretty much, nothing special there. The laptop also isn’t required. You could shoot the pictures directly from the camera and transfer and edit them later, but you’ll need a fob for remotely firing the camera so it doesn’t shake when you touch it if you do it that way. All said and done it’s just shy of $1000 worth of equipment, but honestly only the backdrop was specifically purchased for shooting miniatures and that was such a small part of the cost. The rest of it is useful for many other things (yes, even those umbrella lights) and I didn’t buy any of those specifically for taking pics of minis actually.
So what does this all mean for the blog? Well it means I’ll be posting better quality pictures. haha. What I’d like to do though is start a new category something along the lines of a “Model Showcase”. A place to show off finished models with nice pictures. Since I’ll be taking the pictures hopefully I can get some of the other Unplugged Gamers over to do some photo shoots and I can show off some of their awesome miniatures too.
So watch out for some High Elf models as I get new pictures of that army first, probably followed by the Skaven.