Sep 232013

I was pleased with the quality of my miniatures photos came out, so this is my cheap, cheerful and minimal effort method of photography.

What you’ll need

  • A camera –  any basic compact will do, as long as it has a manual settings mode.
  • Tripod – or at least some way of keeping the camera still.
  • A sheet of A1-sized thin white card – I found a sheet for £1.75 in Hobbycraft.
  • A desk lamp.
  • A daylight bulb – these shine white instead of the yellow of normal bulbs and cost about £10 at Hobbycraft (and if you’re painting using a standard yellow lamp, just buy one of these now, you won’t regret it!)
  • Some other form of light, either another lamp or a bright room.

The most important thing on this list (apart from the camera) is the daylight bulb. Balance the camera precariously, improvise a white sheet, whatever, but without a good bulb your photos will look horrible!


Room setup

Put the card on a flat surface and lean the back on something to make a nice curved surface. Put your miniatures on the card. Set up the lamp out front, shining more-or-less straight forwards. Put your camera on the tripod, maybe a foot or so from the miniature. Something like this (not ideal because some of my white card has been cut off and used for something…):

You want to minimise shadows, which is why you put the lamp in front and not off to the side. Multiple lamps from different angles help here, as does having a big window nearby and a bright day. But don’t use direct sunlight or it’ll cast shadows again. If you’re serious you can make a light box like this one which should give better results than I’ve managed to get (but requires some non-negligible amount of effort to make, plus storage space and more lamps than I have).


Camera setup

This style of photography is basically the ideal environment in every possible way – you have a completely static scene, full control of everything in it, controllable lighting and as long as you need.

First put your camera in macro mode (little flower icon) – this enables it to focus up close, and we’re very close here. Then put it in manual mode and use these setting:

  • F-Stop – this controls the aperture size. Set it as high as it will go. This makes the aperture as small as possible, which has the effect of making the in-focus depth range as large as possible (you may be able to see this from the diagram is my depth of field post). This will help keep both the front and the back of your miniature in focus in your photo.
  • ISO – this controls the sensitivity of the light sensor. Set this as small as possible. This means that a lot of light has to reach each pixel before it registers, which reduces the noise in your image (more light means that the relative random differences between neighbouring pixels are smaller).
  • Shutter speed/exposure – change this until your photos come out at the right brightness. With the tiny aperture and low ISO you’ll need a relatively long exposure, maybe 1/10th second.
  • Delay mode – you want to set a delay between pressing the shutter release button and it taking the photo. This is because you’ll move the camera slightly when pressing it which will blur your image. My camera has a two second delay option which is more convenient than the standard ten second delay.

Then just snap away, adjusting the shutter speed until you get the right exposure. I prefer to slightly over expose rather than have it too dark, to get a nice white background and bright colours. You can tell I’ve taken photos at different times without a light box because the background is whiter in some images than others, but I can live with that.

And this is a shot I just quickly took. The guy on the right is a little blurry because the aperture doesn’t go particularly small on my camera, at least in macro mode. That could be fixed by moving the camera backwards a bit to reduce the relative depths. There also isn’t much ambient light today so the background is quite blue, but again that would be fixed with a light box.

Sep 162013

I’ve got a reasonably well painted Warhammer 40K Chaos Marine army, so I thought I’d show off a few pictures (click through for larger images). I’ve not really found the time to do any painting for over a year now (too much blogging, programming, gaming etc) but some of the new Chaos Marine miniatures look really nice so I like to thing I’ll get round to painting some eventually.

Starting off with my first HQ unit, an old Daemon Prince with wings. The skin was the first larger painted area that I managed to get a fairly smooth finish on.

This is my other large HQ unit, a Chaos Lord on a Manticore (which I ran as a counts-as Daemon Prince because it didn’t feel right to have two Princes in the same army). It’s definitely my favourite and best painted model. I don’t really like the pose of the original model with both arms lunging forwards, but rotating the right arm down gave it a really dynamic feel of pushing its way through the ruins. Trim the rocks off the back foot to leave it free standing, swap out the Lord’s arms for 40k arms and job done.

The skin of the Manticore turned out really well, and it’s the first (and possibly only) time that I managed to get some really smooth layered blending working. I’d like to work on my smooth layering more in the future (although I suspect this is just a function of time spent – I remember it taking a whole afternoon to just do the skin).

I’d wanted a set of Lightning Claw Terminators since about 1995, and these guys all look suitably menacing.

And they need a Land Raider to ride around in. It’s amazing how much difference a bit of paint chipping makes to the apparent realism of the model. I think the mud effect works well – that just involves getting some really watered down brown paint and sploshing it all over the bottom section with a big brush, not technical at all (and it’s slightly worrying when you do it, potentially ruining your careful painting underneath…).

The Thousand Sons give some opportunity to get a bit of colour into the army. Blue seems to be a really forgiving colour for blending and highlighting, I don’t know why. I try to theme all of my Rhinos so you know what squad they’re carrying, so I added some warp-flame and lanterns (some spare Fantasy bits I had lying around).

The Berserkers were some of the first models I assembled and painted since coming back to the hobby as an adult, so some of the poses are a bit weird. Never underestimate the value of good posing – more important than the paint job for getting good looking models.

 Some normal marines. The Black Legion colour scheme is fairly quick to paint – the most time consuming bit is all the silver and gold edging (straight on top of a black spray undercoat).

I ‘borrowed’ this idea for the Vindicator from one I saw online a long time ago – the body pile from the Corpse Cart kit fits almost perfectly on the dozer blade, and then pack all the holes with rubble and sand.

 The Daemonettes were a vaguely successful attempt at painting skin and brighter colours, but they look fairly messy close up (I’d like to try another batch one day). The purple claws came out really well, which I think was mainly just through drybrushing.

A couple of Obliterators. It was all the rage to have loads of these guys but the metal models are such a pain to stick together than I couldn’t face doing any more after the first two (plus they’re really expensive).

I accidently ended up with a few too many Dreadnoughts (currently up to six I believe) so I thought I’d better paint one. Nothing special but it looks fine on the table.

I did a few Orks early on to make a change from painting black. I like to keep them nice and (overly) bright – I’ve seen darker green Orks on the tabletop and they become quite hard to distinguish any details.

More recently I felt like trying something a bit different, so I tried one of the old Inquisitor models (which are twice the size of the normal miniatures). I’m quite pleased by how it turned out, apart from the green on the back of the cloak which isn’t as smooth as I was intending (hence no pictures of the back!).