The Conclave

The Ordos Majoris - Hobby, Painting and Modelling => Painting and Modelling => Topic started by: MarcoSkoll on September 11, 2009, 10:52:21 PM

Title: Getting clear model photos
Post by: MarcoSkoll on September 11, 2009, 10:52:21 PM
This is simply something I remembered I'd written on Warseer while the 'Clave was down, and on remembering I'd written it, I thought I should probably copy it across to here (with a couple of changes). Although most photos on this site are actually pretty good, there are still some that would benefit from improvement, and people I know have lamented the difficulty of getting a decent photo.

This is simply how I do model photography. It's only one way of many, and the results may not be perfect, but they're certainly "good enough".
As an example of what the following technique can turn out, a picture some of my (still long delayed) sculpting. (


Firstly, find something to use as a backdrop (I used a towel), and lots of lights. Set all of this up so that it's brightly illuminated. Put the figure in question slightly in front of the backdrop, making sure the light's on it.
Alternatively, take the photo outside on a bright day - either works.

Now, here's the four tricks I use.
1) Find the macro mode (not the Marco mode ;D), usually a button with a little flower. This will tell the camera it should be focusing at shorter distances.
2) Turn off the flash. You should have enough light you don't need it. (If you don't then turn it on, but it's preferred that you don't use it - because at these distances, it can cause overexposed areas on the photo.)
3) Turn ON the 10 second timer - this is so you can set up the camera so you're not touching it when it goes off, and it's a much steadier platform.
4) Set the camera for 4x zoom or similar (or as much as you can if it's less than that). This means the camera has to be further away from the model, which helps eliminate depth of field problems. (i.e. parts of the model being in focus when other parts aren't).

Set up the camera so it's facing the model and the shot shows everything you want it to. Also make sure it's actually willing to focus on the model. A half press on the button will usually tell the camera to find focus - make sure this is right if you've got live view. If not, move things around and try again. If it really doesn't want to work, try turning off macro mode again, or reducing the zoom used.

Press button, step back, and don't touch any of it until the picture is taken. Because it's all steady, focused and with a longer depth of field, you should get a better picture.

Also, don't feel you have to go with your first attempt. If it doesn't turn out great, move some things around and try again - it's digital, so you can take plenty of photos, then select the best when you've transferred them to your PC (or your Mac, if that's what you've got).
Once on your computer, you can then take the picture you've got, and if you've got a decent image editor, you should be able to use the "Levels" control (or equivalent), which allows you to view and adjust the histogram for best contrast and brightness. Crop the image as appropriate, then upload to whichever hosting site you use.

This technique works well for most model photography. Don't feel forced to use it, but if you find you have trouble with taking photos of models, you might like to try it.
Title: Re: Getting clear model photos
Post by: Hadriel Caine on September 11, 2009, 11:16:41 PM
Do you know what Marco? that's really awesome.

I use a similar technique myself but it took a LOT of asking to get it right (and I still take sucky photos) the timer is a great idea and never even occurred to me. the bit about zoom to sort of depth of field issues was a new one for me too.

thanks for doing this.

Title: Re: Getting clear model photos
Post by: Kaled on September 12, 2009, 12:45:29 AM
The main thing I'd add, is that I think it looks better if you stand the model on a sheet of paper and then curve it up behind them to give a seamless white backdrop.
Title: Re: Getting clear model photos
Post by: MarcoSkoll on September 12, 2009, 04:18:22 AM
@ Adam Cunis: Thanks. It took me a while to figure out these different tricks myself, so I thought it was experience best shared. Photographing small models well is somewhat tricky to pull off, but is (obviously) important for this forum section. (On an aside, I don't know whether the staff want to pin this, but it wouldn't hurt to have some kind of guide for it.)

I'm sure there's more that can be done to improve things, but I think that my own efforts are "good enough".

On the note of using the timer, I've personally got a mini Gorillapod (, which is a great little "tripod" - and more than up to this kind of shot, given it managed this razor sharp 64 second exposure. (
There are few things I've bought that I would seriously recommend, but Gorillapods are on that list.

@Kaled: I'd agree with you on that one for appearance (the towel was what I thought of at the time), but the exact backdrop doesn't affect the photograph all that much, as it's the model which is the important part.

In this case, the backdrop is mostly to trick the camera into not deciding to focus on an element in the background. White is best (for purposes of colour calibration), but anything is better than nothing.

Colour is not something you should worry too much about, because you can't be sure about the colour settings of the screens of whoever may be viewing the image. So, however perfect you get it, the colour will still look different on every screen it's viewed on.  In contrast (pun may be intended) poor focus or over/underexposure will look equally bad on any screen.