Saturday, October 6, 2012

Taking Pictures- an Amateur's Journey

Hello all, welcome back to SB40k.  Today I'd like to tell you about my journey from the miserable, washed out, color inaccurate images, to what I believe is a marked improvement of image quality.

First things first- I, most probably like you, am not a photographer.  I started out with the Kodak EasyShare C813, an $80 Walmart special.  In the daylight, it took ok photos, though anything in sub-optimal lighting was disappointing.  A week ago I decided I wanted a decent camera to take pictures with, deciding on Canon's PowerShot SX500 IS after trying out some cameras at the local electronics store.

I took my camera home, super excited about the amazing images I would get out of my fancy new camera.  After about 40 or so pictures, I noticed a trend- they were still looking washed out.  AURGH!  Such frustration.  Still, I knew my wonderful new camera had potential (didn't all the reviews say so?) and didn't give up.

Any of you who have searched the internet for information on how best to take images of your miniatures will know how nearly impossible it is to find good information.  It's either very technical and confusing, or doesn't address the problem.

So here I sat, confused and unhelped by the internet photography gurus, holding my $300 camera and scratching my head.  And after a while, I just took photos.  Here is what I discovered.

1.  Use a white, ascending backdrop- Miniatures look much better when they aren't interrupted by a plane line behind them.  Obvious horizontal and vertical surfaces take away from the image.  It will also help with lighting, especially with the white background.

2. Use lots of lights, very close to the miniature-  I have 3 different lights, an Ott light on the left, a desk incandescent light on the right, and an off-white bulb overhead, all covered in tissue paper to diffuse the light and prevent hard shadows.  Keep the lighting close to the image so you won't have to rely on flash, which is horrible for miniature photography.

3. Try every setting on your camera if possible-  Seriously, try it all.  Macro close, macro far.  Flash, no flash.  Adjust your ISO settings (if your camera has it) and take an image with each.

4. Don't rely on Auto functions-  These are terrible, and colors will NOT look they way they really look, even when you are taking your pictures.

5. Check your lighting functions on the camera-  Does your camera have settings for outdoors?  Inside lighting with outdoor lighting?  Overcast lighting?  Incandescent lighting?  Florescent lighting?  All of these options make an enormous difference on how your pictures will turn out and whether the colors will look the way they really do with the naked eye.

6. My color settings- This was what helped me find what I needed to get the images perfect.  Modern cameras have settings which allow the photographer to imitate color film, black and white film, vivid colors, and other settings which can help to get the image just right.

7. Don't be afraid to move your lighting around-  If shadows seem odd, move a light.  Change the angle.  Don't be afraid to try something different to get a new result

8. Finally, take lots of pictures with your different settings-  If you want to be able to come away with the images you can be proud of, you'll need to get the image right.  This will require practice, eventually leading to experience.

Now, I'm still not an expert, but I think I have experienced the 'ah-HAH!' moment I needed to break through the horrible pictures I've taken in the past to come out ahead of the curve.  Here is the first image and the final image of the Abaddon the Despoiler I took practicing with the camera.  I think the differences speak for themselves.

Lets look a the image above and point out what's wrong with it.  First, the shadow behind the model is distracting.  The colors look washed out and overly bright in some areas, indicating a flash was used.  The purple cloak looks too blue, and the yellow/brown gold areas looks incorrect as well, almost garishly bright. The white areas are almost obscene and unrealistic.  Overall, not a terrible picture, but a picture which can be achieved with little effort.

Low lets look at the final image.  This is the closest to what the actual model looks like.  the purples are closer to their actual color (though still a little off), the reds look spot on to the burgundy/red I applied to the model, and the whites no longer have the obscene glow to them.  The yellow/brown areas now look like the golden coloring they were meant to have.

Overall, I am happy with the final results.  I may need to replace the above light bulb to a white incandescent to match the other two lights, but overall this is almost spot on to how the model looks up close.

Well, I hope you've all enjoyed my journey, and if you have any experiences you'd like to share with your photography journey, I'd love to hear/see them!  Till next time, happy gaming!


  1. I notice a real lack of credit being given to your wife, who did a lot of research on the camera, and has taught you the basics of what you know.

    1. Lol, yes, my lovely wife was instrumental on this journey, and I couldn't have reached the lofty plateau I have without her invaluable help and expertise.