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Tutorial: Photographing Minis with a Digital SLR


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I used the steps below to photograph almost all of the minis in my gallery.


Materials Needed:


1. Digital SLR Camera

2. Tripod

3. Lightbox (you can make your own very cheaply by cutting "windows" in the sides of a box and covering them with tissue paper)

4. Three incandescent desk lamps, preferably with bendy necks (you can get away with just 2)

5. Sheet of WHITE paper (printer paper works best) - I use white to fascilitate Photoshop post-processing, but you can try different colors if you want

6. Light Meter - most Digital SLRs have one built in




1. Place the lightbox on the edge of a table.

2. Position the lamps to shine light from either side and down on the top of the box.

(Tip: If you only have 2 lamps, position one at the top and one at the side, angle your mini to face one of the front corners of the light box so the side lamp gives it decent coverage on its own.)

3. Put the paper in the lightbox, curving along the back and bottom of the box. (I made a handy drawing of this to upload, but this forum apparently doesn't allow attachments.)

4. Place your camera on the tripod next to the table, slightly above the mini, so it's looking down at it just a bit. You can adjust this angle to photograph certain key features that can't be seen well from this angle, but for most of your basic shots, this angle works best.


Camera Setup:


1. Turn to Manual Mode. (For most digital SLRs, there's a dial with an M for manual).

2. Select the 2-second timer (read your camera manual)

3. Set White Balance to Incandescent (again, read your camera manual)

4. Set your ISO to 200


Focus and Exposure


1. Zoom in as far as possible while still capturing the entire mini in the frame.

2. Set your F-stop to 22 or more (I use 27) - you want to capture as much detail as possible

3. Use your light Meter (probably built in to your camera - read the manual) to set the Shutter speed for 0.5 or 1.0 exposure. Yes, you're overexposing, because the light meter is reading the white background, averaging the light on the mini, and telling you there's too much light. Don't worry about this. 0.5 or 1.0 (try both!) will give you what you want.

4. Depress the shutter trigger halfway to auto-focus. If you can't focus that close, unzoom a bit or move the camera back until you can.

5. Take your picture. Remember the 2-second timer? The shutter speed is very slow, so the slightest jitter will blur your photo. The timer ensures that any movement of the camera from your finger pressing the button is long ended by the time the photo is taken.


Photoshop Post-Processing:


1. Image-Lighting-Levels: Look at the histogram. If it ends anywhere short of the rightmost side, move the far-right slider until it just reaches the edge of the histogram.

2. Image-Color-Remove Color Cast: click on the white background. (If you used a color background paper, you can try clicking on a white spot on the mini itself, but it doesn't work as well.)

3. Duplicate the background layer, set the duplicate layer type to Screen, then turn down its opacity to about 20-30%. (You may be able to skip this step, or set the opacity to under 10% if the image is bright enough.)

4. Layer-Flatten Image

5. Crop

6. If you want, at this point you can use the Magic Wand to select the perfect white background (see, it's really the best thing to use!), delete it, and replace it with any background or gradient that you want.

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