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SDub

Introduction to Photography for Miniatures

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Hey reaper forums!!

 

I recently made a video detailing photography for miniatures aimed at beginners with little to no tools showing that you can still get serviceable photos w/o spending tons of money. What do you guys think?

 

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Generally very good advice, but (there's always a "but"  ^_^ ):

  • You show a variety of backgrounds, which is fine if you know how to handle that in post or in camera. For the real beginner, though, I strongly recommend a neutral gray background to prevent the need for exposure compensation or leaving auto white balance in your camera. If you use the yellow, blue, black, or white backgrounds you show without adjustment or post-processing, either color temp or exposure will probably be off enough to be distracting.
  • You don't really talk about where to place your lights, but in the examples, you have them significantly above the level of the camera. The result is uneven lighting from top to bottom in some of your example photos. (This is mitigated by the use of bounce, but bounce is typically 1 - 2 stops down from the source light, so the effect is still there.

If you haven't seen it, you might want to take a look at this thread:

 

http://forum.reapermini.com/index.php?/topic/55357-miniatures-photography-101/

 

which is aimed directly at the "I don't know, or want to know, how to use a camera. I just want to photograph miniatures" audience.

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Ooh yeah, lamp placement is something I should have talked about.

 

In your guide you place them directly in front of your miniature and now that I think about it, that's probably the way to go. As long as your highlights aren't clipping, you'll have nice even lighting on your mini. The only problem I have with pointing the light directly at the miniature is when you're trying to get an "inifinite black background" effect. Often times, the model will be near the background meaning your lights will shine on your background whereas you want it to be as dark as possible so you can crush them in post and not effect any of the color on your miniature.

 

This of course is handled by pulling your miniature far far away from your background, but something to note. Great write up!

Edited by SDub
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Ooh yeah, lamp placement is something I should have talked about.

 

In your guide you place them directly in front of your miniature and now that I think about it, that's probably the way to go. As long as your highlights aren't clipping, you'll have nice even lighting on your mini. The only problem I have with pointing the light directly at the miniature is when you're trying to get an "inifinite black background" effect. Often times, the model will be near the background meaning your lights will shine on your background whereas you want it to be as dark as possible so you can crush them in post and not effect any of the color on your miniature.

 

This of course is handled by pulling your miniature far far away from your background, but something to note. Great write up!

 

Because of inverse-square law, it's easier to darken the background relative to the subject if you move the lights in very close to your figure (which softens the lights as well, of course, and increases the shutter speed as well.) Though at that point you start having the same problems with automatic exposure as if you had started with a dark background. Not an issue if you understand exposure compensation, but most people really don't.  ^_^

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If you move the lights closer to your subject, the light gets more harsh, not softer I believe. Same reason why using diffusion softens the light is because the apparent light source gets bigger. If you move the lights farther away they become "bigger" thus softening the light. You can see it in the reflections on things like a black base rim on minis. The closer the light is the more harsh the reflected light is, the farther away the softer it is. But, it would darken your background because the light is more focused on  the miniature as opposed to bleeding all over the background. 

 

I retook a photo following the advice in your guide: http://imgur.com/ckzMVrQ(the resolution is rather large, so I won't link it here). I'm curious what your post production process looks like. For a photo like this, it was shot at f/16, 1/25 shutter speed, at 400 ISO with the WB set to the color temperature of my lights. Exposure was a bit low so I brightened it up a bit, did some noise reduction, sharpened it a pinch, and I was done. What else might you do? Your insight is always appreciated. 

 

Just took a look at your flikr. Holy cow you take some beautiful nature photos. 

Edited by SDub

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If you move the lights closer to your subject, the light gets more harsh, not softer I believe. Same reason why using diffusion softens the light is because the apparent light source gets bigger. If you move the lights farther away they become "bigger" thus softening the light. You can see it in the reflections on things like a black base rim on minis. The closer the light is the more harsh the reflected light is, the farther away the softer it is. But, it would darken your background because the light is more focused on  the miniature as opposed to bleeding all over the background.

Nope. Closer is softer because the lights subtend a larger solid angle. Note that "softer" is a term of art meaning the transitions from highlight to shadow areas become wider as the light gets softer. This is a mistake that most people make. There are two significant problems that can arise from very close lights:

  • You can get inverse-square law falloff across the figure. (See below.) This tends not to be much of a problem except for very large figures, because the ratio of light-to-figure-distance to figure-size is usually still large. This can often be fixed with a gradient exposure filter.
  • Your lights can obtrude into the area of the shot, which is typically easy enough to solve in post.

     

I retook a photo following the advice in your guide: http://imgur.com/ckzMVrQ(the resolution is rather large, so I won't link it here). I'm curious what your post production process looks like. For a photo like this, it was shot at f/16, 1/25 shutter speed, at 400 ISO with the WB set to the color temperature of my lights. Exposure was a bit low so I brightened it up a bit, did some noise reduction, sharpened it a pinch, and I was done. What else might you do? Your insight is always appreciated.

Looks very clean to me. The one thing I'm seeing is that the skull on the staff is a bit hot, probably from inverse-square law issues. I'd probably knock it down a bit in post.

 

Post tends to be really simple for miniatures. I don't want to try to enhance my painting digitally, so I usually crop and rotate, de-spot, pull back on the highlights or push the shadows if necessary, add a bit of Clarity (maybe 5-8 points), adjust exposure if I've missed it, and set the white balance. I've also come to really love the de-Haze filter in LR (used judiciously) to give photos a bit of a pop and occasionally I'll throw in a subtle vignette.

 

Then just export to sRGB jpg at some resolution useful for wherever I'm putting it.

 

(Nice painting, btw.)

 

Just took a look at your flikr. Holy cow you take some beautiful nature photos.

Thank you. I live in a pretty area and I do like nature photography.

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