Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Photographing miniatures, Part I; tools and set-up

Since I started blogging, my bane has always been Photographing miniatures. I hate it because it takes forever to set-up, and that means spare time not used to painting; I hate it because it always end costing money, from tri-pod to cameras to light-box, etc. (and again that means money not spent towards my hobby), and mostly I hate it because I'm not very good at it, and my pictures always end up too dark and I have to take 50 pictures to get two "good enough" picture. It has, in the past, played a role in irregular blogging posting habits. I would often wait until I had enough figures painted to spend an entire afternoon taking pics. But this way of doing thing really didn't work well with regular blog posts, and it's especially problematic during the Analogue Hobby Challenge, as I find it important to try to get a good rhythm and post every week or at least every two weeks.

So when I moved this Spring to a new house, I decided I needed to fix this issue once and for all, especially since I had the room needed; i'm indeed lucky enough to have an office (which also serves as my toys/comics collection room) upstairs to myself, as does Laurie. There were a number of things I wanted to adress, and it took me a long time to all put it together, mostly because I had to wait a few months because I was broke after the house move! So I wanted the following :
  • Permanent photography set-up. In the past I tried everything, from taking my pictures outside (not so good when summer is basically 3 months a year in Montréal), to setting up a table corner with terrain, to try to take pictures in front of a simple white paper sheet. All these would take time to install; bringing the terrain needed, getting the tri-pod, etc. I wanted something which would always be easily accessible, no set-up required.
  • A lightbox or something similar. I like to use my terrain for gaming, not taking pics, so I decided to go for a lightbox, with a permanent backgroup. Now, I like my house and my office to look nice, so not only did I wanted the box to be efficient and if possible cheap, I also wanted it to look smart in my office. So no home-made cheap looking cardboard box! 
  • A set-up right next to my computer; when taking pics outside or in the basement, you always have to go up and down the stairs to download your pics, and to double-check they are ok, etc. It's a lot of time wasted, and moreover not the best idea for my knees. 
So now lets look at the solution, which is fairly simple really. I already had a tri-pod (which I think is a must to take proper pics of minis) and a good camera. I needed a lightbox!

While perusing an Oldhammer blog, I found a review for the Foldio lightbox; it's a cheap lightbox, incredibly easy to assemble, small enough to fit on an office desk. And it was available through Amazon! And finally, it looks quite good and fits very well with the aesthetics of my Mac computer and office in general. I actually bought the Foldio 2, which is bigger and has more light than the Foldio 1, two problems mentioned by Matthew in his blog

However, lighting was still an issue, and indeed you don't have enough. I fixed this by buying two desk lamps and equipped them with daylight bulbs; faster and easier than buying more lights of the Foldio guys in Korea!

Here's a picture of the (permanent) set-up. 



To take pictures, I just roll my chair a bit to the left, get in front of the tri-pod, open all the lights and I'm done. 30 seconds and I'm in photography mode.



And then, to download the pics, I move the tri-pod with the camera still attached to it a few centimeters, and connect the USB cable straight from my usb multiple port adapter to the camera.



20 seconds later pics are uploaded, and I know if they are good. Yes, the whole point of this is to minimize as much as humanly possible all time devoted to photographing miniatures, while still getting great results. Toyota would call it "the lean method".

Of course, nothing is easy about Photographing miniatures, so I quickly realized that, while the set-up was great, my pictures still weren't...so stay tune for Part II!

11 comments:

  1. Looking forward to this... I'm happy with my set-up, but it's always good to see what other people come up with! Always something else to learn...

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    1. Thanks Clarence. Yeah you seem to handle the photography part of the hobby pretty good already!

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  2. Looks great, upgrading my own set up will be a mission for 2017 and I really like your philosophy about it.

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    1. Yes, lazyness (or efficency depending on how you see it) is a great philosophy we can all get behind!

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  3. Very cool post Iannick. Some kind of set up like this is always one of those things I just recoil at...like painting terrain...

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    1. I don't do terrain. I buy terrain ;-)

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  4. Very good start here Iannick. I take the cheap and dirty approach so it is always good to see how others do it. Carving out a dedicatd photo area is one of my goals for 2017 as well.

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    1. I highly recommend it, makes a blogger's life a lot easier!

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  5. I think your approach has merit. I have a backlog of stuff to photograph because of the setup issue. I have a suggestion, but I can save it for part 2. I'm supposed to be writing a post for another blog on photography, but I always put it off.

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  6. Iannick - I'm really happy that the posts I wrote about the Foldio lightbox were of some use to you!
    Your set up looks beautiful. I really need to work on improving mine -- one of my goals for 2017 is to start using a real camera rather than my old smartphone. Hopefully cameras and lenses is something that you will mention in one of your posts -- I know absolutely nothing.

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    1. I do recommend the camera (and the all important tri-pod); I use mine only for miniature photography really. There's smartphones for social stuff!

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