As a miniature hobbyist, you will probably want to take pictures of your creations to show off your skills. Having social media allows you to connect to other people online that share the same interests.
By having pictures of your miniatures, you can share your work with the world. You will want to take a great picture though because a bad picture will ruin the representation of your miniature.
How do you take a great picture of your miniatures? You can use a DSLR camera or a smartphone to take a great picture of your miniature. Turn off the flash, use a macro lens, create a background, use some basic editing software, and adjust the focus to create a great photo that captures the details of your miniature.
The hours of work and passion that you put into your miniatures can be captured on a camera to allow you to show off your work. Posting photos online is a great way to share your miniatures so you will want to know how to get a quality picture that shows off your work.
Let’s talk about what you can do to make sure you get great results.
- How to Take A Great Picture of Your Miniatures
- How to Take Great Pictures of Your Miniatures With a Smartphone
- How To Use A DSLR Camera To Shoot Miniatures
- What Is Focus Stacking and How Does It Apply to Miniatures?
How to Take A Great Picture of Your Miniatures
Miniatures are a great hobby that can be a lot of fun. Taking pictures of your miniatures allows you to document your work as well as show them off to your friends or the internet. When taking a photo of your miniatures, you will want to capture the details perfectly and there are some things that you can do which will improve your picture quality.
The idea of photography is to capture what already exists, so your miniature is fantastic, but you have to get an accurate picture to show a true reflection of your artistry. Just as with people, a poorly shot photo can make any miniature look awful!
With some simple steps, you can be sure that you capture a great photo every time. Here are some things that you can do to improve the picture quality of your miniatures:
- Turn off the flash. This is by far the most important thing to remember when taking pictures of your miniatures. The flash is far too bright for a close-up and will cause the picture quality to be terrible, regardless of the quality of the miniature. It will be impossible to capture a good photo of your miniature with your flash on.
- Use natural light. The best way to capture light when taking a picture of your miniature is to use natural light. Go to a window on the north side of your house and place the miniature on the windowsill. Avoid windows where harsh bright light is shining directly in. Instead, opt for a window that is shaded and allows filtered light to come through. You can also take pictures outside on a cloudy day or when there otherwise isn’t bright sunlight.
- Use a macro lens. Whether you are using a smartphone or a digital camera, you will have the option of buying an additional macro lens that can be used to get close up shots of your miniatures. This is a great way to capture the details of the miniature that are not exactly visible otherwise.
- Create a background. To create a background, you will need to take into consideration the purpose of the photo. You won’t want to focus on the details of the background around the miniature so it’s best to have something that is distraction-free.
You can make a simple background with a box, a piece of tape and a sheet of white paper. Tape the piece of white paper to the side of the box where it is halfway parallel to the box, but the bottom of the paper is curved and rests on the windowsill too. Place the miniature in the middle of the white paper so the background and area underneath the miniature are just white.
- Use editing software. There are many programs on computers and smartphones that can be used to edit the photo. Of course, the idea is to enhance the photo, not change it, so be careful not to edit too much. Otherwise, it won’t truly capture your miniature. Some programs require payment, but others are free.
- Stabilize the camera. When taking a photo of a miniature, you will be focused on the small details of the miniature so there must be no camera shake. To stabilize a camera, put it on a book or rest it on the windowsill. A shaky camera can make a fuzzy picture and it won’t be a good picture.
- Change the focus. When you are trying to capture a picture of your miniature, you will want to make sure to focus on the miniature and not the background.
A good picture of your miniature will show the small details that only a camera can capture. If you have a macro lens, you can focus on a specific part of the miniature like the hand or face. A macro lens will offer an even more detailed photo, with the right focus.
How to Take Great Pictures of Your Miniatures With a Smartphone
If you want a good picture of your miniature, you may feel like it’s necessary to buy an expensive DSLR camera, but it’s not. You can get a decent picture of your miniature with your smartphone.
Using the settings on your phone and some applications, you can get great results.
When smartphones first came out, the camera was not very good. It was grainy and was totally ineffective in low light situations. The smartphones of today have improved greatly and now offer photography comparable to an expensive DSLR camera.
In fact, most of the functions of a DSLR camera are available on a smartphone. Plus, you can use photo editing applications right on your phone without having to use a computer.
Here are some tips on how to take a great picture of your miniatures with a smartphone:
Buy a lens kit.
There are many lens kits (like this one on Amazon) that you can buy, which will attach to your phone’s camera lens and give you even more freedom and abilities. These lenses are comparable to a DSLR lens, so you can get great shots with a smartphone and lens kit.
A macro lens is ideal for a miniature because it will show the close-up details. The kit below fits both iPhone and Android phones and comes with a Macro and Wide Angle lens.
Tap to focus.
When you are taking a picture of your miniature with a smartphone, you should tap once on the screen to tell the camera where to focus. This way, you can get in close on details, such as hands or face.
Play around with the focus and see what looks best, you can tap the screen multiple times to bring the camera in and out of focus before you snap the picture.
Slide to adjust exposure.
When using a smartphone to take a picture of your miniature, you will want to tap on the miniature to focus the exposure on it, but you can also then slide your finger up and down (iPhone) or tap a slider (Android) to adjust the exposure which will make the picture lighter or darker.
This allows you to adjust the brightness and contrast of the photo before you take the picture, so you won’t have to mess with it in a photo editing app.
Use photo editing apps.
When you have taken your picture of your miniature, you will want to then open the photo in a photo editing app which can help you make the picture even better. Using the settings, you can adjust the color, contrast, brightness, sharpness and more.
Be sure to not over-edit though because it can change the true look of your miniature and the picture won’t be an accurate representation. Some smartphone photo editing apps are:
- Photoshop Express
- PicsArt Photo Editor
How To Use A DSLR Camera To Shoot Miniatures
It’s not necessary to buy a DSLR camera to shoot your miniatures, but you may already have one on hand. A DSLR camera offers a sharper and more detailed picture than most smartphones so you will end up with a slightly better picture.
A DSLR camera is a bit more complicated than a smartphone though, so let’s define a few terms before we get started.
DSLR Basic Terminology
- Shutter speed. The shutter speed is how fast or slow the shutter closes when you take a picture. Fast shutter speed will close quickly and let in less light while a slow shutter speed will let in a lot of light. This setting is in seconds, so the shutter speed of 1/60 is 1/60th of a second and the shutter only stays open for that long.
- Aperture. This is the opening in the back of the camera lens that controls how big or small the opening diameter is. This setting is controlled by adjusting the Focal Stop or “F-Stop”. This is another way to control how much light is being taken in when taking a picture. An F-stop of f3.5 is a wide opening while f22 is much smaller.
- ISO. Before digital cameras, the ISO was dictated by the type of film you bought. Today with digital cameras, you can now adjust this setting digitally. When you are adjusting the ISO, you are adjusting the sensitivity of the sensory.
A low ISO number will produce a crisper image, but it will require more light to expose the picture. Avoid going over ISO400 because it will be very grainy and not a great setting for a close-up shot of a miniature.
- White Balance. The white balance of the camera impacts how the camera perceives color. You can adjust the settings to make it warmer or brighter. There are many pre-set options too, such as daylight, tungsten or shade. Adjusting the white balance will give you a better picture.
- Depth of Field. When taking a picture with a digital camera, it often automatically gives you a short depth of field which is when the focus of your photo is clear, but the background is very blurry and distorted.
When taking a picture in manual mode, a meter will come up that looks like:
This meter will tell you if your picture is going to turn out too dark (underexposed) or too bright (overexposed). The lower the number, the darker the picture will be, so a -2 picture will be too dark while a +2 picture will be too bright. Your goal is to aim for the 0.
In manual mode, you will be able to adjust the ISO, aperture and shutter speed, but hold down the shutter button slightly (not fully) to allow the camera to calculate the picture and adjust.
The meter should show you where you are at as far as exposure. If the number is not at 0, you will need to adjust your camera settings until it shows that the picture is going to come out nice and balanced.
The ISO, Aperture, Shutter Speed and White Balance are all intertwined, so if you have a slower shutter speed that closes slowly, you will want to adjust the aperture to reflect that.
If your shutter speed closes quickly, you will want to allow in enough light to expose the picture. As you adjust these settings, pay attention to the meter, which will tell you if your picture is too dark or too light.
How to Get That Great Photo with a DSLR
Now that we have those basic definitions defined, let’s get started on how to take a great picture of a miniature with a DSLR camera:
- Use a lightbox or use the suggestion above of taping a piece of white paper to a box and creating a background for your miniature. Be sure to do this in a soft light area, such as a windowsill in the shade.
- Mount your camera on a tripod. If you don’t have one, stack books to the desired height and place your camera on top, so it stays steady.
- Set the camera to Manual or “M” on the dial. On the display screen, there should be options to control the Shutter Speed, Aperture, and ISO.
- Set the aperture to a smaller hole (a higher number, like f22).
- Set the ISO to a low number like 400. The lower the number, the longer the shutter speed will need to be.
- Use the camera’s timer or a remote. Even the gentle touch of pressing the shutter button can cause the picture to come out blurry. So, it’s best to take a hand’s off approach, and either use the built-in timer or a remote shutter button.
Pro tip: Get a “grey card” (they are cheap online). A grey card is a grey square that can be placed in front of the camera lens to adjust the white balance.
Often, the camera will overcompensate for white and it will leave it looking grey or discolored. With a grey card, you can adjust the white balance setting to give your image a crisper background. Play around with the settings and experiment with different options.
What Is Focus Stacking and How Does It Apply to Miniatures?
Focus stacking is a photography technique in which you use the camera to take multiple shots of the same picture with different focal points. Then, you combine all the images into one image and it shows a much clearer picture of all the details with an almost 3D-like effect.
Focus stacking can be done with both a smartphone and a DSLR camera. Here is how to focus stack a picture of your miniature:
- Use a lightbox or the white paper method listed above to create a controlled environment for your miniature.
- Use a tripod or place the camera on a book or ledge. This is mandatory for focus stacking. A shaky series of pictures will produce a terrible image and you won’t be able to focus stack.
- Turn off auto-focus and use the manual mode to focus. This will allow you to focus freely on different parts of the miniature.
- Focusing on the nearest piece of the model to you, take a picture.
- Repeat step #4 3-8 times but focus on different parts of the model. The idea is to take a picture at the same position multiple times, just with the focus being different for each picture. So, by the end, you should have several pictures of your miniature, which are identical except where the focal point is.
- Upload the images to your computer. You will need to convert the images to a JPEG or TIF file.
- Import them into your photo editing program with each image set as a different layer.
- Using your software, select all the layers and click “Auto-align” (Located in Edit<Auto Align in Photoshop).
- Next, you will need to select “Auto Blend” (Located in Edit<Auto Blend in Photoshop).
- Then, merge all the layers into one image by selecting “merge layers” (Located in Layers<Merge Layers in Photoshop).
- Use the photo software to crop the image as well as adjust the brightness and contrast.
Note: If your photo is not lined up properly, it will not look right so you may need to take the photos again or you can try to manually lineup the images on the software.