Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Tips for photographing your gaming models

Okay, I know there's a few of you out there who don't use miniatures in your games, and that's perfectly okay. These tips and suggestions can be applied to any sort of closeup or "macro" photography, or even if you just want to upload a few images of some things you want to sell on eBay.

The most common problem to overcome for most beginning photography seems to be getting the light just right. Sometimes the subject of the photo is too dark or the backdrop too bright. Other times the whole picture takes on a yellowy hue no matter what colour backdrop you use or what sort of white-balance setting you set your camera for.

There are three things that almost EVERY experienced photographer can agree on.
  • Multiple light sources help prevent distracting shadows
  • If natural daylight is unavailable, then "natural daylight" bulbs are the next best thing. Most yellow or red shift is caused by overexposing the subject under tungsten lamps.
  • Avoid mixing the types of light if possible. This makes white-balancing much easier.
  • Diffusing the light helps prevent glaring bright spots or reflections on the subject
  • Do not use the flash if you can possibly avoid it
If you're not much of a DIY person, there are a good number of home studio lighting kits available online. This one by Digital Concepts is quite popular and affordable, though I'm told that getting replacements for the lamps is difficult to impossible. There's also the XPRO Light Cube and other similar products out there. Unlike the first style I linked to, the cube allows you to light from any direction including underneath. Of course the lamps are sold seperately.

If you're a bit more inclined to making your own, there are some darn good tutorials out there to help you. I've also designed one of my own, which I have posted on my photography blog. (Yeah, I have other hobbies too. LOL)

No matter what sort of camera you use (including a camera phone), there are a few basic things you can do to make better photos.

  • Use a tripod or some other sturdy platform rather than "hand-held" if possible
  • If your camera has a shutter timer or remote shutter control, use that instead. Shaky hands make blurry photos.
  • Know your camera. Read the manual and learn its capabilities and limitations.You might be pleasantly surprised.
Being aware of your camera's focal range is important. Most cameras have the macro function (the one with the tulip) that lets you get a bit closer, but in most cases, six or eight inches is as close as you will be able to go. Fortunately, most modern cameras have high enough pixel resolution that a photo of a single elf archer from two feet away can be cropped so that the subject fills a typical web 400X300 pixel image.

For taking photos of games in progress, the real challenge is to do so without interrupting the game unnecessarily. This is when you may find you need to use the built-in flash. A simple way to avoid overexposed washed-out or red-eyed subjects in those situations is to diffuse the built-in flash. I've used everything from a folded slip of waxed paper to a potato chip can lid and got decent results.

Again, a tripod always helps. If you don't want to be bothered with using a tabletop tripod, you can use a plain old soda can to steady your camera upon. (Chances are there's an empty soda can sitting around the gametable somewhere.)

BUT THE MOST IMPORTANT THING to remember is that you are there first and foremost to play games. If your friends tell you to put that darn camera away, listen to them. Pictures are meant to capture a good time, not to spoil it.

Anyway, I hope this post can be of help to somebody. HOPEFULLY I will resume a more directly game-related pattern of posting after ReaperCon. There I'll be playing in several RPGs including one Swords & Wizardry advenure. I'll also be hob-nobbing with a lot of talented painters, fellow RPG enthusiasts, tournament gamers and nice folks in general.

Here's a picture made using my own light box.


orcs of ubiquity (Reaper Legendary Encounter pre-painted minis

And yeah...when I get back from ReaperCon, I'll be posting tons of photos.

1 comment:

Brunomac said...

So I guess I won't be able to get awesome pics like that with my drug store $7 disposable? Dang.