Thursday, 9 May 2013

Photographing your minis

When I'm not working for a living or playing 40k I take photographs, a lot of photographs! Mostly portraits, weddings, families and business, but, thanks to this game, I also dabble in a little product photography. So I thought I'd share my set up with you and give you some ideas on what you can do to get great looking photographs with a point-and-shoot and a couple of desk lamps.

Firstly, here's how I set up the lighting for the shots of the Helldrake featured in last week's post and my update on 40K Global's site:

It's a two light set up with my main light firing through a white umbrella at 45 degrees to the lens. My second light is set up roughly head-on to the main light, through the built in diffuser, at half the power of the main light. To fill in the shadows, I've got a reflector set-up to catch some of the second light and throw it back on to the front of the model. I'm using an 80-200mm zoom lens so I can get nice and close, and the camera is set up at f11 and 1/200th shutter, everything is synced via radio triggers. At that speed I could have gotten away with hand-holding but a Tripod is always a good idea to ensure the final image is as sharp as possible.

That's a lot of fairly expensive kit just to get a photograph of a £40 model but you can get pretty much identical results with a point-and-shoot camera and a couple of desk lamps. The only thing you'd really need is a tripod or some way to stabilise the camera as you'll need a longer shutter speed to compensate for the fact that the table lamps are going to be far less powerful than photographic lights.

To set this up you'll want to set the lamps up in the same way as the flashes are set in the photograph above but they'll need to be much closer to the model. You may want to diffuse the light from the lamps otherwise you'll get shadows on the model which will hide details. A simple way to do this is to hang a thin white cloth in front of the lamps, however the lights are hot and cloth can be flammable so be careful! An alternative to this could be to rough up a piece of clear plastic with some sandpaper, slightly more work but far less flammable and it'll give you the same result. Lastly for the light set-up you can substitute the reflector with a piece of tin foil.

As for the camera set-up you'll need to make sure the on camera flash is turned off. If you have manual controls on the camera you want as small an aperture as you can, f11-16 will be fine. You'll have to experiment with shutter speed to get the right exposure, depending on the amount of light your lamps are throwing onto the model. However shutter speed shouldn't matter as you'll be stabilising you camera to take the photograph so an exposure of a second or more shouldn't be an issue. If your camera doesn't have manual controls I suggest you put it into landscape mode that should get you roughly the right settings.

I hope that's at least a little helpful, if there's anything on this subject you'd like more info on, let me know.


  1. I've been using multiple lights for a while for my mini-photography, but hadn't ever used a diffuser, I'll have to try that in future as I do find I end up with shadows that I struggle with. Nice tip, thanks loads for sharing it.

    1. I also recommend a reflector to help fill in the shadows. Combining diffusion with a reflector should get you great results.


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