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  1. IndyFanChuck's Avatar
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    Jul 17, 2011, 11:54 PM - How do you correctly photograph miniatures? #1





    Really need some advice here........ Lets say I have a 3 to 4 inch tall Action figure of Batman. And I want to take photographs of him, as if he was a real person, to create a "live" comic book, but instead of drawings - I'm using action figures. This is nothing new. You've all seen things like this - usually done to make funny comedy skits. Here's an example from online that I think is PURE artwork and is what I'm going for:




    But lets say I wanna do this. HOW in the world do I photograph the miniatures? Action figures aren't that hard to get set up, but the photographs aren't coming out. I'm at a loss. I have no clue. None of my photos are turning out right. I need some help here. ANY and all advice is welcome.

    Thank you friends!




    -----Chuckster
  2. thegreatgalling's Avatar
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    Jul 18, 2011, 12:01 AM - Re: How do you correctly photograph miniatures? #2

    My two cents is that it's rough, so lower your expectations a bit. The eye is trained pretty well because we know what people look like, so you are never going to capture 100% realism in my opinion - even in something VERY well done as the photo you posted. See how big the grains of sand look under the ST's feet?

    Water and fire also give away scale. Even Spielberg couldn't get it perfect in TOD.

    My first bit of advice is to mind your surroundings. Watch the ground, watch any leaves etc. or anything in the background that can give away scale. I would also light it on the dark side if possible.

    The pic you show also went through some photoshop filters. That might be a good way to play with the contrast etc. to make it look more realistic. Sounds like a fun project!
  3. Jedi2016's Avatar
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    Jul 18, 2011, 12:02 AM - Re: How do you correctly photograph miniatures? #3

    What kind of camera are you using? Shooting small things up close like that usually requires some special lenses, especially if you want them to come out good.
  4. LizardJedi's Avatar
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    Jul 18, 2011, 12:12 AM - Re: How do you correctly photograph miniatures? #4

    Kinda need to see your "bad" pics to suggest things.

    First things first, is you're going to need a macro lens. If you have a SLR, this is a seperate lens. If you have a P&S, some of them have macro mode (you might see a flower icon next to a mountain icon... macro is the flower). Though obviously, a nice macro lens on a SLR is your best bet.
  5. darth_myeek's Avatar
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    Jul 18, 2011, 12:37 AM - Re: How do you correctly photograph miniatures? #5

    with a minox of course.


    But seriously, lenses that tilt & shift make it easier.
  6. RPF Premium Member Mara Jade's Father's Avatar
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    Jul 18, 2011, 12:51 AM - Re: How do you correctly photograph miniatures? #6

    I'd like to hear more about what is going wrong in your pictures. As you can see from the posts, there are a lot of elements involved.

    What are your specific problems? Is it a camera issue? Is it a subject issue? Is it background or other environmental issues?
  7. DarkHelmet's Avatar
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    Jul 18, 2011, 12:53 AM - Re: How do you correctly photograph miniatures? #7

    It all hinges on Depth of Field (focal point).

    Your background has to be in focus along with the foreground. Not easy, especially the smaller you get.

    Read up on foreground miniatures/forced perspective.

    Check out the miniature town of Elgin Park. It's combination of foreground miniatures with full size backgrounds. Amazing stuff:

    Elgin Park - elginpark's Photos
  8. DaddyfromNaboo's Avatar
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    Jul 18, 2011, 2:41 AM - Re: How do you correctly photograph miniatures? #8

    DarkHelmet said: View Post
    It all hinges on Depth of Field (focal point).

    Your background has to be in focus along with the foreground. Not easy, especially the smaller you get.

    Read up on foreground miniatures/forced perspective.

    Check out the miniature town of Elgin Park. It's combination of foreground miniatures with full size backgrounds. Amazing stuff:

    Elgin Park - elginpark's Photos
    You need to keep some distance tp the object, shoot with a longer focal length, use lots of light so the aperture can be kept small and have a short exposure time. Again, lots of light because of that. That will keep the DOF very sharp, making the pics look more realistic.
  9. neosporing's Avatar
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    Jul 18, 2011, 6:37 AM - Re: How do you correctly photograph miniatures? #9





    telephoto lens with a zoom macro
    I took these just now with a 250mm about 3 inches from the figure.
    the light source is a compact fluorescent about 4 inches above.

    no ps was used.


    1. just shoot like you would a full sized subject... i.e. frame the subject not the figure
    2. single light source looks more natural
    3. 'zoom macro' lens as opposed to 'macro' lens will help with the depth of field effects like in the first shot
    4. low angles help

      dengar was standing on the edge of a desk, and i'm on the floor with the most of the camera below the desk shooting up.

    good luck
    Last edited by neosporing; Jul 18, 2011 at 6:45 AM.
  10. DaddyfromNaboo's Avatar
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    Jul 18, 2011, 6:48 AM - Re: How do you correctly photograph miniatures? #10

    neosporing said: View Post



    telephoto lens with a zoom macro
    I took these just now with a 250mm about 3 inches from the figure.
    the light source is a compact fluorescent about 4 inches above.

    ...
    Great pics !!!

    But donīt you mean 3 feet insted of "3 inches from the figure"?

    And dang, those action figures really came a long way, with those ball joints. That pic makes me want to go and pick up a dengar now, with all those other bounty hounters, build an SD backdrop and recreate the classic ESB scene...
  11. neosporing's Avatar
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    Jul 18, 2011, 6:56 AM - Re: How do you correctly photograph miniatures? #11

    ManfromNaboo said: View Post
    Great pics !!!

    But donīt you mean 3 feet insted of "3 inches from the figure"?

    And dang, those action figures really came a long way, with those ball joints. That pic makes me want to go and pick up a dengar now, with all those other bounty hounters, build an SD backdrop and recreate the classic ESB scene...
    it's an 18 - 250 zoom macro. so I can get under three inches away at full zoom.
    when I saw the sculpt I had to have it
  12. DaddyfromNaboo's Avatar
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    Jul 18, 2011, 7:07 AM - Re: How do you correctly photograph miniatures? #12

    neosporing said: View Post
    it's an 18 - 250 zoom macro. so I can get under three inches away at full zoom.
    when I saw the sculpt I had to have it
    What about trying to shoot it with the tele from farther away, to widen the DOF by using a smaller aperture?
  13. JLeezy23's Avatar
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    Jul 18, 2011, 7:07 AM - Re: How do you correctly photograph miniatures? #13

    Yes single light source does help, the closer the ligut the more "heavy" the object will look by making the shadows more dark close to a normal human in the sun or in a room. And yes again lower angles do help, add a some tilt like my Megtron hnow and then. I as well just took these pics with my Galaxy S camera phone with selective focus:

    [IMG][/IMG]

    here NBE 1 looks good, but is surrounded by normal scaled objects
    [IMG][/IMG]

    Better off scaling down everything on a created and controlled set or diorama as seen in TTT Toyfare sets with mini props.

    Here Meg looks 8 inches tall...
    [IMG][/IMG]

    but wait... The bottle is a scaled model as well!

    [IMG][/IMG]

    Manipulating the envrionment and the camera=convincing the viewers/audience it is full scale.

    Get the right angles/models/lighting= a great "lie" picture (manipulated to simulate a full sized Batman in a regular sized environment) I'm no profesh photographer, but i have made a few stop-motion short vids with toys and have used all info i just typed. Yea i'm up late and have lots of time on my hands lol. Hope it helps!
  14. neosporing's Avatar
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    Jul 18, 2011, 7:24 AM - Re: How do you correctly photograph miniatures? #14

    ManfromNaboo said: View Post
    What about trying to shoot it with the tele from farther away, to widen the DOF by using a smaller aperture?
    that works too, especially if you want to shoot less detail and more 'action' type shots. but your subject will be smaller and depending on it's surroundings, and your angle and light source, might start to look like a miniature
  15. Sym-Cha's Avatar
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    Jul 18, 2011, 10:44 AM - Re: How do you correctly photograph miniatures? #15

    Hi there Chuck,

    Apart from the above you need to consider the pose of the action figure within your story-line. Here's an example of full screen with DOP,



    After mild photoshop FX:



    -Chaim
    Last edited by Sym-Cha; Jul 18, 2011 at 10:56 AM.
  16. DaddyfromNaboo's Avatar
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    Jul 18, 2011, 12:06 PM - Re: How do you correctly photograph miniatures? #16

    Sym-Cha said: View Post
    Hi there Chuck,

    Apart from the above you need to consider the pose of the action figure within your story-line. Here's an example of full screen with DOP,



    After mild photoshop FX:



    -Chaim
    The DOF makes it look even more like a miniature.

    That is why tilt shift pictures are the latest rage:

    Tilt-shift photography - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    You want the miniature look crisp with as much focus everywhere as possible.

    Look at the old monster movies, the miniatures fail when you can see that not all detail or the foreground is not sharp.

    Chaim, in your example the level of the camera is IMO too high, you are above eye level of your "actors". You need to be a bit below eyelevel, cameras e.g. for movies usually are at around 1,20 - 1,40m.

    But I like the approach you took with setting up that dio very much, using everyday objects to create an imperial backdrop I can hear the imperial march blasting away!
  17. Sym-Cha's Avatar
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    Jul 18, 2011, 1:56 PM - Re: How do you correctly photograph miniatures? #17

    Well the level of the camera depends on the function. In this case it could be an establishing shot . . . zooming in on the action. But true it al comes down to lightning, correct DOP etcetera.

    Yeah that's a radio in the background, a round lid from a coffee pot and another part of the coffee machine
    (I don't drink coffee ) and a transparant knife-cutting mat for A3 paper as the floor. Don't you love that speeder bike driver going by with a little PS-help an probably smashing into a wall when turning his head to watch Amidala in Storm Trooper outfit ‪Imperial March or Darth Vader's Theme‬‏ - YouTube (Notice that Darth Vader Helmet on the top of that double bass )

    -Chaim
    Last edited by Sym-Cha; Jul 19, 2011 at 7:45 AM.
  18. RPF Premium Member nick daring's Avatar
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    Jul 18, 2011, 7:46 PM - Re: How do you correctly photograph miniatures? #18

    Tilt shift is what you DON'T want. It makes every look mini. Crisp foregrounds and backgrounds are the ideal if you are trying to trick the viewer into thinking a mini is large.

    Eye level shots help alot too. People are used to looking down on small toy figures. Most photographs of real people are shot at eye level.

    Nick
  19. Member Since
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    Nov 24, 2015, 7:37 AM - Re: How do you correctly photograph miniatures? #19

    It's all about the angle and having DEEP depth of focus. Get more light on it so you can stop right down to f22 or so.

    If you are photographing your miniature against a real background and want it to blend in, you need to measure the angle of the camera for the background and the duplicate that in your miniature shot. For example this shot I did of a 1/18th scale Aston Martin in a real garden. I measured the angle of the camera for the real shot standing up (I am 5' 10" tall) then measured the scale height and made sure I got the camera the correct scale height and scale distance in relation to the model car. I removed the green screen support where I raised the car up and voila.

    Click image for larger version. 

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  20. Member Since
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    Nov 24, 2015, 8:43 AM - Re: How do you correctly photograph miniatures? #20

  21. blakeh1's Avatar
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    Nov 24, 2015, 9:50 AM - Re: How do you correctly photograph miniatures? #21

    Something the model train guys do is stack images. That way you get the background and foreground in focus for shot you normally can't.

    How To Do Model Railroad Photography - (Part 2) Image Stacking for Maximum Sharpness



    Part 1 - the basics. Demonstrates how even simple cell phones can still get great pictures

    Last edited by blakeh1; Nov 24, 2015 at 9:55 AM.
  22. blakeh1's Avatar
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    Nov 24, 2015, 10:00 AM - Re: How do you correctly photograph miniatures? #22

    Also some tips from Paul Dolkos ( a well known model railroad photographer )

    How do you light your scenes?
    Everything is taken on a tripod using continuous light sources. I use Lowel Tota- and Omni-lights—you can shoot under fluorescents, but the lighting is very diffused. With hot lights, you can create shadows, like the sun.

    What equipment do you use?
    I don’t need a lot of horsepower, as far as cameras go. I started with a Rolleiflex and I had a Linhof 4x5. Now I use a couple of very basic Canons. I started shooting digital several years ago with the first EOS Digital Rebel. I decided I needed a backup, so I just bought a Rebel T1i with the 18–55mm f/3.5–5.6 IS kit lens. It’s perfect for model railroading. It focuses close (9 inches) and stops down to as much as f/36, which is very important. We’re taking photographs of things fairly close up, and you need the depth of field to go maybe six feet back. You can’t just have the front of the locomotive in focus and have everything else fuzzy.

    Do you achieve your depth of field solely in the camera?
    I use software called Helicon Focus for extended depth of field and focus-stacking. You take several photographs at different focal points, and the software takes the sharpest point of each exposure and combines it into a single exposure. That means I can have a finger practically touching the lens in focus, and 20 feet away have the wall in focus. If it’s a routine picture that won’t get blown up, I’ll stop down to f/29 or higher to get the depth of field. But if it could be on the magazine’s cover or a double-page spread, I open the lens up where it should be, f/8.
  23. DS Operative's Avatar
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    Nov 24, 2015, 10:42 AM - Re: How do you correctly photograph miniatures? #23

    Simple answer - play with your aperture settings and you'll figure it out.
  24. NS4's Avatar
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    Nov 24, 2015, 11:25 AM - Re: How do you correctly photograph miniatures? #24

    Aperture wont help if you are taking a photo of a small model close up because even stopped right down, the DOF is still incredibly narrow (plus you would need to consider issues with diffraction too).
    As has been mentioned in previous posts, focus stacking is the key to achieving a greater DOF and a more realistic result.
    Photoshop makes it fairly easy to do:

    http://phlearn.com/focus-stacking

    <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iYA7wb2Vkz8" target="_blank">

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