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.
Firstly, here is a list of the equipment I use:
- Lightbox & Lights
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 instead what you could call a ‘compact DSLR’, or a ‘DSLR light’ – specifically a Canon G12. This particular model is quite old now, but still serves my purposes. No doubt newer and improved models are now available. This type of camera has enough manual control to do the job while being less expensive, smaller and less complex than a fully manual DSLR.
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…
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.
Lightbox & Lights
Lighting is critical when taking any kind of photograph and miniature photography is no exception. A lightbox is useful for absolute control over the lighting of the image, and the specific make and model I use is a Foldio3 by Orangemonkie with the optional Halo Bar set. Foldio lightboxes are an all-in-one photography studio and have folding sides with magnetic panels for quick-and-easy setup and convenient storage. Foldio3 is currently the largest but there are also smaller models (Foldio1 and Foldio2) that are also a little cheaper.
The lightbox has a built in dimmable LED strip light at the top and the Halo Bars can be positioned in any location (usually in front of the model) to give maximum flexibility to your lighting setup. The Halo Bars are also dimmable and magnetic, so they can be attached at different points to the lightbox itself, both horizontally laying flat or vertically.
Because of the small size of our subject matter, I find that it’s best to have the lights at quite a low, dimmed setting. This helps to avoid over-exposure and make sure all the colours and details are visible in the image.
The Foldio3 comes with a set of backdrops (white, black and mirrored) with velcro pads to attach them to the lightbox. The black background that you see in use in my photos is of a thin felt-like material to minimise any kind of reflection. This material does unfortunately attract dust and fibres, but it is possible to avoid these showing up in the photograph by positioning the model towards the centre-front of the lightbox, so that the backdrop itself is out of focus and any dust or fibres are blurred out. A low light setting also helps here.
The picture below shows the typical set up I use. Note that the camera is set back from the model (about 60cm) and is set to maximum zoom. It is best to photograph in a dark room (e.g. in the evening or at night) to ensure that no other light sources (ceiling lights, natural light) are interfering with your scene. This gives you complete control over the lighting and helps achieve consistency with your images.
I usually raise the model up on a small wooden plinth, so that any dust or fibres on the floor of the backdrop will not be visible in the final image.
That’s about it. I hope this helps those wanting to improve the photography of their miniatures. Any questions please leave a comment!