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MojoBob

Light Stage

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I've just whipped up a very cheap and easy light stage which will make photographing my miniatures about a bajillion times easier.

 

2014-04-01_lightboxtest.jpg

 

That's not the best photo in the world; I probably should have moved the light out a bit so that the stage isn't so over-exposed.

 

Essentially, it's just a seamless stage built from foamcore and light card, surrounded by a cardboard cylinder, painted on the inside with matte white paint (I also tried silver; it's not that great), and with a cut-out in front to shoot through. A single daylight bulb provides all the light I need; a key overhead light, and lots of diffuse reflected light from all around. It's not a lighting setup that would suit portraits of human beings, but it shows promise for little toy tanks and roleplaying dollies.

 

I've done some quickie test shots to try out various parameters — the results are entirely unsurprising.

 

The best, easiest results come from using a matte white reflective shell, and a neutral grey background. That ensures that the stage itself isn't affecting the colour balance or under (or over) exposing the image.

 

2014-04-01_lightboxtest_01neutralbackgro

White shell, neutral grey stage

 

2014-04-01_lightboxtest_02neutralbackgro

Silver shell, neutral grey stage. Not too bad, but I notice it starts to blow out some highlights.

 

2014-04-01_lightboxtest_03bluelbackgroun

White shell, light blue stage. The background colour forces the camera's automatics to under-expose the image, so the miniatures look darker than they should, and tonally flat. It could be fixed with post-processing, but why go to all that trouble if you don't have to?

 

2014-04-01_lightboxtest_04bluelbackgroun

Silver shell, light blue stage. Pretty much the same issue as the last one, but slightly worse.

 

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I've been experimenting with the use of a painted background sheet for my new light stage, and I'm reasonably happy with the results. It provides a decent setting for the models without being overly dominant.
 
I've also been playing with fill-flash. I'm in two minds about it.
 
It does benefit the reduced-size image (shown here at bottom), but in a larger on-screen image it tends to flatten out the tonal range a bit more than I'd like. I haven't bothered testing images for print, because frankly, I doubt that will ever be likely to become an issue.
 
I suspect that best results overall will probably be to use the fill flash, but to Photoshop the crap out of it to bring the tonal range back up a bit, if need be.
 

2014-04-02_lightbox_paintedbackground.jp

15mm WWII British 25pdr and quad.
Figures from Battlefront.

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2014-04-03_dungeonraiders2.jpg

 

Another painted backdrop. It's just an A4 sheet of watercolour paper, with a watercolour wash slapped over it. Keeping the wash fairly dark helps a lot with exposure, as does the position of the lamp — in this instance, it's tilted forward so that I'm getting more reflected light washing obliquely down the front of the figures, and a little less from directly above. The lighting is less flat this way than when using fill flash.

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