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We've all had this problem. You're shooting a mini and while the front is clear, the back is fuzzy, or the back is clear, and the front is fuzzy. What's going on?

 

Depth of Field.

 

The number one rule is: The smaller your lens apeture, the greater your depth of field.

 

"What's that mean?"  ???

 

On a lot of SLR and high end digital cameras you'll see what's called the "Apeture ring"... also know as the "f-stop". These are a series of numbers from 22, 16, 11, 8, 5.6, 4, 2.8, 2, and 1.4. Not all cameras cover these ranges, and not all cameras will show you what the f-stop is. The thing to remember is that the larger the number, the smaller the opening is, and the longer your shutter will be open (thus requiring the use of a tripod). It's always a good idea to have your camera stabilized in some way when shooting closeup work.

 

For those of you who have a good digital or automatic camera with a macro setting, look in your manual for "depth of field." There should be some instructions on how you can work the depth of field on your particular camera. In this lesson I'm just teaching the basics so once you know you can find out how your own camera works. If you can't find anything on depth of field, let me know and I'll see what I can find out for you.

 

Now, I've seen cameras that set their own shutter speeds and was able to work my depth of field simply by adjusting the f-stop. The more manual a camera is, the greater your abillity to take the picture you want. If you can't afford the price of an expensive digital camera with a macro lens, go for a regular SLR with a 28-80 zoom lens (this gives you a wide angle ability on the lower side) and either a macro ability, or get some closeup lenses (I've spoken about those on two other threads Here is one . The other pretty much says the exact same thing.

 

For those of you with auto-focus you'll typically have a small circle or partial circle in the center of your lens. Is is the "focus spot." If you aim that at the portion you want most in focus and LIGHTLY press your shutter just until the lens focuses, you can keep it lightly pressed to that halfway mark, move the camera to where you want to frame the item, and then press the shutter the rest of the way to take a picture. This is called "locking the focus."

 

Now, with the standard 35mm film-type SLR (single lens reflex) camera you do have to take your film and get it developed, but they do tend to be less expensive than a digital camera (I purchased a Nikon with auto-focus and manual focus abilities as well as macro, zoom, and wide angle on one lens for under $300).

 

For those without digital cameras:

 

Now, film speed. The higher the ASA, the larger the grain and the less detail will be in your photograph. For those using film for their mini's, I'd use a 400 speed film indoors and 50-200 speed outdoors. Most 50 speed films require a lot of light, however they have awesome color and the finest grain. You have to use this film outdoors in bright overcast or bright sunlight. Generally 100-400 speed films will get you by.

 

Also, note, the higher the ASA, the greater the silver content of the film, and the more expensive they are. Also, the higher the ASA the more apt it is to capture the ambient surrounding light indoors, and I've seen it even amplify this ambient light to a point of it being near impossible to correct (as in the examples given Here .

 

Hope that helps !!

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One other thing... using a bright colored background such as blue, yellow, red, or green can also cause film (this is for those who use film) to pick up too much.

 

I've also noticed, with digital cameras as well, that often people will use a black background on a darkly shaded figure. My advice is to use either a neutral grey (which gives a good contrast to both darks and lights) or a light grey or white. This way your colors won't turn out too weird and the edges of your minis don't blend into the background.

 

For those shooting film, you can go to your local camera store and pick up a "grey card." Normally it's an 18% grey card that is used by professionals so that when the film is developed all the pictures on that roll will have identical exposure and color balance. If you use that as your background, you'd basically be doing the same thing as the pros, and your pics will look all the better for it.  :D

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My.. Gawds... 'Nun... You've made it make sence to me!!!

 

Seriously, that's good stuff. I know a camera place near my house I've been meaning to go to and ask them about photographing my minis. (and I know where a scanner is in my house. bwhaha). But that missive has shown me the way! Thanks!

 

--lstormhammer, so enlightened he glows.

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Glad I could be of help. I've been going through the coolmini website page by page of the mini's posted and have been taking mental notes of what are the most common errors. Seems to me that a lot of people expect those who paint mini's to be professional photographers as well in order to get a good ranking.

 

Using a good photo editor helps also. I have both Paint Shop Pro and Photoshop, and utilize them both, often doing some work in one, saving it as a .tiff, and then doing more work on it in another to make it it looks as close to the original as possible.

 

One other thing. For those who use film. When you drop your film off to be processed, mark on the envelope "Print for Subject." Don't let those (mostly) moronic one-hour lab people in a grocery/pharmacy tell you a picture cannot be printed darker or lighter. I worked as a lab manager for six years and we processed a lot of film for wedding professionals and dentists and did all sorts of tweaking, which is also where I learned a lot of my trade (that and having started in photography when I was 13). And make sure you get your negatives. I had a friend who didn't get their negatives back and the lab had the gall to tell them that the negatives weren't their property.  :angry:

 

Anything else I can clarify?

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Depth of field ey?? HMmmmm... gonna have to try this again.  

 

I'm so NOT a photographer (point and click is about my limit), but when I once tried to photograph my army ala Warhammer style, the guy in the front came out all right, but everything else was blurred.  Solution as I understand it: Increase depth of field.

 

Ok check.

 

The other problem I had was refelction of light off th minis.  They wer eall very glistening with refelctive light!  They looked like polished silver or something!  Do you know how to set up a good lighting 'profile'?  

 

And the other question is, is the basic technique the same for photographing a "display mini" by itself (ala "Look what I just painted!") vs. a large dioramma styled collection of minis?

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The other problem I had was refelction of light off th minis.  They wer eall very glistening with refelctive light!  They looked like polished silver or something!  Do you know how to set up a good lighting 'profile'?  
If this is caused by flash there is a very simple and inexpensive solution. Take a clean, white kleenix (non-lotion kind, don't want to grease up your camera) and fix it over your flash area. You can tape it if you have an imbedded flash (found on the upper right of your camera if you have a point and shoot style or above the lens) but be very careful you don't cover your lens or any other sensors. This will diffuse the light.

 

If you have a seperate flash unit on your camera you can use the above method as well. However, if you have a single flash unit with a posable llight you can do what I do.

 

Take a piece of foil (dull side down will diffuse the light even more than the shiney side, but you can try it both ways) and tape it to the top of your flash and point the flash upwards. Then angle the foil (oh so versatile stuff) and angle it to about a 45 degree angle towards the front. The light will reflect off the metal but not directly, thus giving you a more scattered area of illumination over the area. I actually use this a lot indoors when shooting people.

 

If you're using indoor lights it gets a little more complicated. You can do the foil trick mentioned above if you have posable desklamps (like those with a gooseneck). Otherwise I advise shooting outside either early in the morning when there is little bright sun overhead or on an overcast day (when it's not raining, though). Overcast days are great because you don't get harsh shadows and glaring sunlight. If you can manage to shoot in a well lit area of diffuse daylight (maybe a covered porch) if you don't have an overcast day, that would work as well.

 

And the other question is, is the basic technique the same for photographing a "display mini" by itself (ala "Look what I just painted!") vs. a large dioramma styled collection of minis?

 

The basic answer to this is yes. All rules of photography apply to everything. However, when shooting a single mini you don't typically have to worry so much about depth of field (as mentioned in my first post) as you do with a diorama. Sometimes shooting a diorama using depth of field to your advantage can do some really interesting effects (like focusing on the adventurers with a slightly fuzzy dragon in the background).

 

Examples of depth of field (should have done this in the first post, but better late than never). Note, no, these aren't miniatures, but they do get the point across.   :D

 

Very Little Depth of Field : Here I focused on the flower and blurred out the background so the vibrancy of the flower stands out.

 

Everything Crisp : Here I wanted the wonderful leaves to complement the flower as well as the small buds.

 

Overexposure with Medium Depth of Field : Here the entire image was overexposed (this was shot on a cloudless day with brilliant sunlight if you can believe that) and the depth of field was moderate (an f8 iirc). Using overexposure can give a softness if the image is printed correctly. Notice the reflection of swan is as clear as the swan itself yet seems to lose some near the bottom. (This picture was a complete accident, btw. I was loading my camera, not even looking through the viewfinder or focusing, and it wasn't a self focusing camera).

 

Good Exposure with Moderate Depth of Field : This is a regular good exposure,but notice the trees in the background (no, Texas isn't all desert and sand.. pretty much non-existance in the Austin area) are a little blurry, but you can still make out shadows and branches, while the old plow and saddle are crisp and clear. This was shot on an overcast day, but it was almost rainy conditions, and the film was a 50 ASA Agfacolor. Great film, but the colors can be so oversaturated that in certain conditions they can seem too glare-filled (such in the case of the white of the Mexican blanket and poncho).

 

Hope that helps !!

 

:D

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Nikon N65, I use Aperature Priority mode. I set the aperature ( f stop ) and the camera sets the exposure time accordingly. At f 27 or so, the exposure times indoors can be several seconds.

 

Using this, I've taken very nice flash pictures of minis at cons. I usually use a setup of 3 lamps to blend out shadows, and don't use the flash when taking mini pics at home.

 

-Daniel

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Nikon N65, I use Aperature Priority mode. I set the aperature ( f stop ) and the camera sets the exposure time accordingly. At f 27 or so, the exposure times indoors can be several seconds.

 

Using this, I've taken very nice flash pictures of minis at cons. I usually use a setup of 3 lamps to blend out shadows, and don't use the flash when taking mini pics at home.

 

-Daniel

Yeah, I've used that myself.

 

My old Nikon EM sets the exposure automatically, so by working with the f-stop I was able to shoot from the top of the Tower of the Americas (in San Antonio), through the fence around it, and get some nice, long exposure night shots where you can see the lights of the cars moving (I should scan these in and post 'em). What's more, by using Depth of Field to my advantage, I was able to make the fence I was shooting through seem non-existant.

 

I still need to play around with my N65 some more. I haven't really had time to go out and experiment with it.

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Thanks for the great advice!

 

I've been slowly improving my painting by reading all the helpful advice here.  But, the pictures I've attempted to take were even worse than my first few painting attempts.  Now I feel all inspired to try my hand at trying to get good photos of them again.  Thanks muchly!

 

Hugs

Nevy

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