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Author Topic: How to take photos of minis on a clear or gradient background  (Read 3275 times)

Offline Painter_Dan

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Hi all,

I am new to the forum and I want to show the progress I am making on my recently purchased Crusaders. I have finished one today and cannot seem to take a vibrant photo that I am happy with :?. I have looked at Captain Blood and similarly Bugsda's galleries for lots of inspiration (even before I joined the forum) and also other miniatures on the forum and can't get even near the high quality :'(. I use a light box and three light sources but still don't get a decent picture. If anyone could show me how they take clear photos that are high quality that would be a great help, which would also mean I could show you my new minis.

Thanks for the help,

Dan
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Offline fred

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Re: How to take photos of minis on a clear or gradient background
« Reply #1 on: June 28, 2015, 09:45:32 PM »
A light box, and multiple light sources is a very good start.

From the look of the photo on your blog, it looks under exposed, and to have a strange colour cast to it.

The under exposure is probably due to the white background - this will make the sensor on the camera think that it should reduce the exposure time. But you want the correct exposure for the dark figures at the front.
You can adjust the camera settings to compensate - or use a medium coloured background.

The odd colour may also be due to having loads of white.
You can adjust the camera - look at the white balance settings - or again using a different background may help the camera get better settings automatically.

I've generally found white backgrounds really hard to get good photos on.

Offline Painter_Dan

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Re: How to take photos of minis on a clear or gradient background
« Reply #2 on: June 28, 2015, 09:51:50 PM »
Thanks for the advise Fred.

I have a few pictures of the finished model that I could show you and maybe that could help more.

What other colour background do you suggest as my aim for these models is to display them.

Thanks again,

Dan

Offline fred

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Re: How to take photos of minis on a clear or gradient background
« Reply #3 on: June 29, 2015, 07:53:17 PM »
That one is a lot better than the ones on the blog (The painting looks good too!).

Is it shot on a white background? - because the background has come out fairly grey. Do you have some image editing software, because you could try adjusting the white balance in that.

For crusader style figures I'd try a sky blue or a sand/tan background - I see you found the backgrounds linked a couple of threads below this one. These look good, and I'm going to print a couple and try them myself.

What camera are you using?

Offline Connectamabob

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Re: How to take photos of minis on a clear or gradient background
« Reply #4 on: June 30, 2015, 03:37:27 AM »
Both photos show a strong warm color bias (easy to spot w/ the white background). As Fred says, that's probably down to incorrect white balance. If you camera is set to auto white balance, it might be getting mixed up w/the colors on the minis vs the white background. The auto setting basically tries to deduce what's "white" by averaging what's in frame. The white background actually helps this... but it also makes any degree of inaccuracy much more obvious to the viewer than it would be with, say a picture of your family at the park.

Set the white balance manually using the empty background first, then place the mini to take the pic. Or if your camera has white balance presets, scroll through those to find one with the least visible bias.

White backgrounds are only hard to photograph if you're dependent on auto settings. A white "ground" is actually your friend, as it acts as a bounce to provide fill light. I'm an advocate of white or grey backgrounds for pure documentation/display, as framing the subject in colors can actually alter how the viewer perceives the colors of the subject itself to a surprising degree (our own eyes have auto white balancing that, while better than cameras', is still susceptible to the same problems). IMO a proper exposure w/ a white background looks best, as it isolates the subject cleanly without biasing the colors.

A grey background will let you continue using auto exposure settings, as it won't offset the auto exposure like a white background will. A colored background WILL offset the auto white balance (both in the camera and the eyes of the photo's audience), you just won't notice it unless you're comparing the photo to the mini in person (i.e. it may look good, but it won't be accurate). 'Course pursuing color accuracy has a relatively low ceiling for diminishing returns on the internet, where everyone will be viewing on monitors with mismatched calibration anyway.

The photo on the blog has hard shadows indicating a single undiffused light source above and behind the minis. This makes the minis underexposed, as the side facing towards the camera is effectively in shadow. For a basic photo setup, you want two lights (with matching bulbs), well diffused, flanking the subject from a slight forward angle. Second photo looks much, much better (lighting looks soft and even), but still underexposed overall (probably auto exposure mistakenly trying to dial down the white background), and of course with the warm color bias.


« Last Edit: July 01, 2015, 12:27:58 AM by Connectamabob »
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Offline Painter_Dan

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Re: How to take photos of minis on a clear or gradient background
« Reply #5 on: June 30, 2015, 08:50:02 AM »
Thanks for all this great advice!

The camera that I do use isn't the best due to the better one not being at home. However, it is being taken home today and I will take some better photos.

I will use a white background as you suggest Connectamabob and hopefully it will come out nice and crisp with a white background. You also said to use two sources of light, one one either side. Shall I use the third light source that I have or will it make no difference.

Thanks again,

Dan

Offline Connectamabob

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Re: How to take photos of minis on a clear or gradient background
« Reply #6 on: July 01, 2015, 01:12:29 AM »
You shouldn't need a third unless you're trying to do something fancier than just the normal showcase pics, provided the two are placed right and well diffused. In fact, you can even get away with just one if your diffusion and reflection setup is well designed (and the light is bright enough).

It is important that lights have the same color temp rating, otherwise you'll have different white balance conditions on different sides of the mini. Simplest way to ensure that is to make sure you're using the exact same make and model of bulb in all your lamps.

Lighting for photography can be a complex art in itself, depending on what you're trying to accomplish, but for what you're trying to do here, you don't need anything nearly that involved. This sort of photography lends itself very well to KISS setups that anyone can bodge together regardless of skill or money.

Its actually super easy (and dirt cheap) to just build a fold-up light box to make things easy and consistent. Do a google search for "DIY light box", there's loads of tutorials.

« Last Edit: July 01, 2015, 01:17:15 AM by Connectamabob »

Offline sundayhero

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Re: How to take photos of minis on a clear or gradient background
« Reply #7 on: July 01, 2015, 05:56:02 PM »
Hi,

What kind of light do you use ?  You need daylight (6500K) lamp for the best result.

Then camera choice can make a dramatic diference. Avoid any (even the best ones) smartphone, use a real camera with optical (very important point) zoom and macro mode (or best, "ultra" macro mode). No need for a very expensive camera, even a 6mexapixel used camera bought for 30euros can make the deal. it's the kind of camera I'm using.

Last thing : use a tripod, or a "poorman version" ( can be a book pile, a piece of wood or whatever) of it so your camera will not move during shooting.

For the gradient background, it's a very simple effect you can obtain in a free photo software like GIMP :




Basically (and considering you used a white background, with good light) you just use the "magic wand" tool (I'm not sure the real name of it) and select the background, and paint a gradient with the gradient tool. It's a very basic photo montage effect, you can find hundreds of tutorials (for both paysoftware like photoshop, or free alternative like the GIMP I'm using).


Offline Painter_Dan

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Re: How to take photos of minis on a clear or gradient background
« Reply #8 on: July 01, 2015, 10:03:12 PM »
Brilliant!

Thank you all for your help. I will use all of this to take some photos soon enough. That effect you have sundayhero is exactly what I want my background to be like so I will be using GIMP to do that.

Thanks,

Dan

Offline Connectamabob

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Re: How to take photos of minis on a clear or gradient background
« Reply #9 on: July 02, 2015, 12:43:16 AM »
You need daylight (6500K) lamp for the best result.

For photography this is only true if you're stuck on a "daylight" white balance preset. For the typical color temp range of different "white" bulbs, the bulb temp doesn't really matter as long as the camera's white balance setting is correct.

What is important is the color rendering index (CRI rating). Picture a histogram for the bulb's total color output range. Color temp is like a slope or bell curve when averaging across the entire spectrum. A low CRI, however, means lots of peaks and valleys scattered along the spectrum. A low CRI bulb is "colorblind" to specific shades or minor color ranges. This causes things like different shades of the same color to appear muddy or low contrast, or for some colors to look duller than they should while others to look vibrant, seemly at random. For best results you want bulbs that are 80 CRI or higher (natural daylight is 100 CRI).

Most household bulbs, even the fancy "full spectrum" ones, have a low to middling CRI, unfortunately. It isn't something that's a priority for home/work lighting outside of art galleries or artists studios, and higher manufacturing tolerances are of course more expensive, so it's a corner that gets cut early and often. You have to do some hunting and prepare to pay high prices to get high-CRI bulbs.

HOWEVER: it's worth considering that the lighting your figures will be seen under most is the lighting wherever you do your gaming, so you might wish to illuminate your workspace with that in mind rather than to a more abstract standard like "ideal" daylight (6500K, 100CRI). Lighting strongly effects how colors appear, so if you want your figures to look best while they're on the table, IMO you should paint under similar light in order to make sure everything looks "right" when/where it actually counts.

...Avoid any (even the best ones) smartphone...

This isn't true anymore. Smartphones do have some strict limitations, but these days the good ones have sensors and lenses good enough to take very good pics with, under the right conditions. The reason it seems like they don't is because they're being used by people who only know how to point and click, and because often the important settings are hidden by the OS. If you already have a decent modern smart phone, chances are you can take the pics you need with just a ~$10 app to unlock full control over the camera.

Dedicated "proper" cameras are still a better choice, as they give you waaaayyyy more freedom (apart from smartphones' portability advantage, that is), but IF you have a relatively recent one, and you know what you're doing, you can take good showcase pics of your minis with a smartphone.



Offline Dr Mathias

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Re: How to take photos of minis on a clear or gradient background
« Reply #10 on: July 02, 2015, 02:02:06 AM »
Good advice here. You want to make sure that your camera is set to whatever light you're using. Check to see if your bulbs are all the same color; they usually have '3200K' or something on them and you want to set your camera for that color.

Next is exposure; you want the whites to look white while still having discernible detail within that white area. On automatic settings, if your background and scene is very bright your camera will underexpose the scene. Most cameras usually try to 'even out' the light - overexposing dark scenes and underexposing light. That's why snowy landscapes are so hard to photograph- your camera's internal meter tries to do what it thinks is best.

If you have manual settings you could try bracketing- take a bunch of photos, changing the shutter speed (I've found that aperture really needs to be f11-f16 at least, for minis, unless you want out of focus areas) and record which one looks best.
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Offline sundayhero

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Re: How to take photos of minis on a clear or gradient background
« Reply #11 on: July 02, 2015, 11:16:09 AM »
If you're searching for 6500K bulbs, I advise you this reference :

OSRAM DULUXSTAR Mini Twist
Cool Daylight 6500K

Personaly, I'm using the 23 watt version (in 2 architect lamps). They are durable (6000hours), relatively cheap (less than 10euros), stay relatively cold (you will not fry your brain) and with no flickering or noise. High quality for good price. You can find diferent powers, diferent shapes and diferent "screw butt" to adapt to your lamp.

For the workshop room itself, I'm using 36watt neon bars with fast starter, 6500K also (5 neon bars for a 20square meters room). If needed I'll search for reference too.

I also heard that 6500k is good for light therapy too, so a good thing if you spend usually 8hours a day in the workshop  ;D

I'm a very lame photograph, so I found it was easier to use the proper "neutral" light (so white is white, not blue or yellow) than expecting my camera (or my photograph skills  lol) would fix "bad" light source.  lol

Offline Painter_Dan

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Re: How to take photos of minis on a clear or gradient background
« Reply #12 on: July 02, 2015, 02:19:28 PM »
Hi all,

I have taken some new photos with a better camera. I used 2 lights which were diffused, one on either side, as was suggested and used macro with the highest resolution I could get which made the phots come out much better.

As with the light i am using I am not sure what K value they are but it does say on them that they are 230-240V - 50Hz Halogen bulbs.

The photos have come out much clearer and I am more than happy with them :) :). What are peoples views on the new photos.

Thankyou everyone for your kind advice yet again,

Dan

Offline Connectamabob

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Re: How to take photos of minis on a clear or gradient background
« Reply #13 on: July 02, 2015, 02:48:39 PM »
I'm a very lame photograph, so I found it was easier to use the proper "neutral" light (so white is white, not blue or yellow) than expecting my camera (or my photograph skills  lol) would fix "bad" light source.  lol

It makes no difference. Having a 6500K lamp doesn't make things easier for the camera, because your camera's baseline for "white" is an internal abstraction, not an objective external yardstick. Your camera isn't calibrated to 6500K unless you set the white balance manually under 6500K lighting, or are using a preset. That's what white balance is: calibration. There is no "good" or "bad" color temp lighting, only good or bad calibration.

Your camera has no concept of "white" as an external reality. It can't tell the difference between a green object under white lighting, and a white object under green lighting: it only knows it's seeing green. White balance is an arbitrary calibration: you point it at a solid color and tell it "this is supposed to be white", and it believes you. Take a white balance reading off a pink paper, and all your photos will look green like you're in the Matrix, except the pink parts, which will look white.

Auto white balance is just the camera doing this to itself every time you press the shutter, only it's just guessing by interpreting between the colors it's seeing. It doesn't know it's looking at an object under 6500K lighting, it just knows it's seeing a little bit of red, a little bit of green, a little bit of brown, etc, and tries to average and interpolate from that. Depending on the colors it's seeing, it's guess will be any kind of inaccurate.

It makes no difference what color temp your light is. It doesn't simplify things for the camera to have 6500K lights. All else being equal, you'll get the exact same photos from 5000K that you'll get from 10,000K if you're using either auto white balance or manual white balance. The only way you'd get different results would be by using the same preset for both.

Offline Connectamabob

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Re: How to take photos of minis on a clear or gradient background
« Reply #14 on: July 02, 2015, 02:54:36 PM »
Hi all,

I have taken some new photos with a better camera. I used 2 lights which were diffused, one on either side, as was suggested and used macro with the highest resolution I could get which made the phots come out much better.

As with the light i am using I am not sure what K value they are but it does say on them that they are 230-240V - 50Hz Halogen bulbs.

The photos have come out much clearer and I am more than happy with them :) :). What are peoples views on the new photos.

Thankyou everyone for your kind advice yet again,

Dan

Looks good! Still a little underexposed IMO, but otherwise spot on!

 

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