How to photograph miniatures

A few people have asked me about my miniature photo set up so I thought I’d note down how I do it and the equipment I use. This is be no means intended to be a definitive guide to miniature photography – there are doubtless improvements that could be made and better equipment that could be used, but I will show how I achieve the photos you see on this site, and give some advice based on the knowledge I have gained researching the subject.

Equipment

Firstly, here is a list of the equipment I use:

  1. Camera
  2. Tripod
  3. Light tent
  4. Lights
  5. Background

Camera

In an ideal world I would choose a DSLR, at least 12mp with a separate macro lens. If I was really into photography beyond taking pics of my models and could justify the cost, this is what I’d go for. I have myself what you could call the next best thing, a Canon G12, which is somewhere between a compact and a DSLR. It has enough manual control to do the job while being less expensive, smaller and less complex than a fully manual DSLR.

canon-g12-compact-camera-4

Camera Settings

I use AV mode with the aperture set to F8 for enough depth of field to ensure the front and back of the miniature are in focus, and ISO100 to minimize noise in the image. These are the settings I get best results with on this particular camera. If I had a DSLR I would probably go for F16 for a bit more depth of field but F8 on this camera is good for a nice sharp image.

IMPORTANT! Unless you have a cable release for your camera make sure you use the Timer mode. The number one problem encountered when photographing miniatures is camera shake, resulting in blurry, out of focus images. Along with Timer mode, another thing that will help minimize camera shake is…

Tripod

I have a Velbon Mini CX 460mm which is excellent quality, low enough to use on a table top but extendable for use on the floor when photographing something elevated. It folds away nice and neat for storage, is sturdy, strong and good value. Check out http://www.velbon.co.uk for full spec.

velbon_cx-460mini

Light Tent and Lights

A light tent is great for diffusing and softening the light hitting the miniature, reducing glare and over-exposure. Daylight lamps also help give a true representation of colour which can be altered drastically by normal household lighting. I have a set similar to the one pictured below by Ex-Pro which I got from Amazon for about £60. The tent is a pop-up type, very quick to set up and fold away. It folds up very small and flat for easy storage. The lights are not great quality – you could certainly get better if you paid more but the bulbs themselves are good. It comes with some flat colour backdrops but I use something more interesting – more on that in the next section…

ex-pro-light-tent-lights

Background

Light bounces off whatever is around your miniature when you photograph it and can affect the colour as well as the mood of your image. Plain white or black will probably give you the truest representation of colour but personally I prefer backgrounds with a bit more texture and atmosphere. I use some backgrounds I downloaded from Massive Voodoo (http://massivevoodoo.blogspot.co.uk/2010/05/photo-backgrounds.html). There is a guide on the page describing some tips for using them. I just printed them out A3 on an inkjet printer.

photo-backgrounds

Set Up

The picture below shows the typical set up I use. The key things to note are:

  • The room is dark apart from the lights used to illuminate the scene
  • Both the camera and lights are pulled back from the miniature

Photographing in a dark room ensures no other light sources (ceiling lights, the sun) are interfering with your scene. Pulling the lights back is important for avoiding glare and over-exposure of the image, and pulling the camera back and using the zoom function ensures a sharply focused image without distortion.

photo-setup

That’s about it. I hope this helps those wanting to improve the photography of their miniatures. Any questions please leave a comment!

Cheers,
Luther

Categories: Tutorials, Uncategorized

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