Miniature Photography

by Phil

Taking photos of your miniatures can be a real struggle if you are not familiar with cameras. And since it’s becoming very popular to post your works online on your blog, facebook, CMON and Putty&Paint they should be better than your average smartphone WIP shot.

I’ve been asked a few times how I make my photos, so I thought it’s time to write a tutorial on how I make my photos of miniatures. The tutorial will be split up into three parts/posts. I will try to cover low budget and semi-pro equipment, so every one can get the best of this tutorial.

Part 1: The Camera
Part 2: How To
Part 3: Post-Processing

Part 1: Do I need an awesome camera for good photos?

I made a little test. One miniature, one lighting situation and three different camera setups.
 I photographed The Happy Monk II by Ben Komets and used a simple direct lighting with 2 lamps and a black cardboard background. I didn’t put a lot of effort into it. I placed the figure set the cameras and shot. I just made sure everything was properly in focus.

Simple point-and-shoot < 200€
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FS35
Your average affordable cam, I am sure you can replace this by any other model in the same price range.

Entry or used DSLR < 500€
Nikon D90 + 50mm/1.4 (1.8 would be fine, too)
You can get those used for a good price. Or get something equally good like a Nikon 3xxx, Canon 1xxx or Canon 600 (Canon Rebel T3). The Canon 50mm/1.8 for example is a great and affordable lens.

Expensive DSLR >2000€
Nikon D600 + 105mm/2.8
Another great option would be a Nikon D7000 / Canon 60D and Sigma 105mm/Tokina ATX 2,8/100 which would be around 1000€ and are awesome setups.

The Results



Here are bigger version of each image:
Panasonic Lumix
D90 (50mm, f8, 1/20s)
D600 (105mm, f14, 1/3s)

So on first sight there isn’t actually a big difference if you consider the huge price difference. All three photos look sharp and the colors are ok. They should be all fine to be posted online. YAY!

But if you take a closer look you will notice the differences. The first one is really flat, everything seems to have the same depth. The other two taken with DSLRs have much more depth. You can see it very good on the monk’s round belly. The first is oversharpened, the other two are more accurate. And last but not least the image quality itself. The point-and-shoot one has some noise and jpeg artifacts, the DSLR versions don’t because they were shot in RAW format and with a very low ISO.

I always mention both DLSRs together because the difference is very subtle.

Conclusion

Well, actually you don’t need an awesome equipment. You can get some decent results without spending too much money.
A medium priced point-and-shoot cam, a tripod and you’re good to go. You already have some lamps you use for painting. Some paper can be used as background and to set the whitebalance. Using the timer instead of a remote can save some bucks, too. Don’t go for the cheapest tripod beacuse most of them are not really steady.

Must haves for your point-and-shoot cam
Manual whitebalance
ISO100 setting
Remote or Timer
Tripod mount
Optional for better results
RAW format
Exposure setting
Apperture setting

But if you are painting on competition level and want to get the best results you should consider investing in a DSLR. If you only want to take pictures of your miniatures you can go for a very affordable entry model. Maybe last years model or a even a used one. In any case you will have better results and much more control over your photos. Which will be important in the second part of this tutorial.

DSLR recommendations

There are many many different models out there, everything not too old is great.
But if you are looking for something affordable I would suggest a Canon 450D, 500D, 550D maybe used if you want to save some more. Plus a 50mm 1.8 which costs less than 100€ an is a fantastic beginner’s lens.

See you on Part 2: How do I take good photos of my miniatures with a DSLR the main part of this tutorial.

Cheers
Phil

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