10 December 2013

"What do you use to shoot your figures?"

A Sony Cybershot like the kind I use here at home for all kinds of "Kodak moments" (remember those?) besides just the toy soldiers.

A good wargaming and writing friend in Ireland asked recently about the camera(s) I use to shoot my finished figures.  Never one to miss an opportunity to hold forth on any number of subjects about which I know little to nothing, in the now well-established tradition of the Internet, I thought I'd provide a quick and dirty guide to photographing your model soldiers this morning.

For the most part, I use a small Sony Cybershot DSC-TX20 just like the one shown above.  The great thing about this point-and-shoot camera is that it automatically flips itself into macro mode when you get close enough to the subject, making things almost foolproof.  Good for ten-thumbed, technically challenged guys like me.  As long as you have enough light, and the figures are shot against a neutral blue or green background, it's pretty easy to shoot reasonably good photographs.  Try to get as close to the figures as possible, and fill the frame with them although digital jpeg files can be easily enlarged and cropped without too much frustration these days.  Hmm.  Maybe some outpatient therapy or shock treatment might help might help with all of this unintentional alliteration this morning?

When I just cannot get a close enough shot without things showing up blurred, I pull out the Gun of Naverone below, the Sony Alpha100.  A large camera that's ideal for us guys going through a midlife crisis, but who lack the extra funds for a zippy red sportscar, or a second, high-maintenance "trophy" wife.  Since this is a more complicated piece of equipment, it requires more messing around with one of three lenses we have for it along with some experimenting with the macro and depth of field settings.  And you've actually got to read the manual.  Funny about that.  Oh, and for the slower shutter speeds associated with greater depths of field, a small tripod is a must since most of us cannot hold a camera steady for longer than a split second.  At least I can't.  You know?  All of that caffeine.

The Sony Alpha100 DSLR for those times when the tiny Cybershot doesn't quite suffice.  I use this camera more for photographing my armies when they are actually deployed on the wargaming table and things like greater depth of field become important if you want everything to be in focus.

Once again, and regardless of the precise camera you use, make sure to train a lot more light than you think you need on your subjects.  You can't have too much light!  And as tempting as it is to shoot your troops and officers in miniature on the wargaming table, sometimes it is better to opt for that same neutral (and uncluttered) blue or green background I mention above.  I use 18"x24" pieces of heavy craft paper directly under a couple of bright lights over on my painting and radio table.   I've also experimented with a third light at a lower angle to fill in some shadows cast by high, overhead lighting.  There is a certain amount of experimenting you'll need to do, to find what works best for you.

Remember to make sure your camera battery is fully charged too, since a low battery can affect picture quality and require shooting everything again later once the blasted thing is recharged, which is frustrating.  Finally, and much like fashion photographers, take lots and lots of pictures from various distances and angles -- "Make love to camera, baby!" -- so that you can pick out only the best ones for use on your blog, website, or to send along with that next magazine article submission.  

Geeze Louise!  I've got that old Duran Duran tune about girls on film stuck in my head now.  That'll take days at least to work itself out.  Guess I'll need to bell the cat and ask the beleaguered Grand Duchess about when she might bake us one of her authentic Dresdner Stollens.  Fresh stollen with fresh black coffee.  Mmm. . .  Yes.   That should be just the thing to help me forget about the Messrs. Simon LeBon, Nick Rhodes, and company for a little while.


warpaintjj said...

Good tips, thank you. I messed about with some pretty costly cameras with no discernible uplift in quality so I expect it's down to techniques like you mention. Many thanks, JJ

Sean said...

Funny you mention it. My first rule of photography is take lots of pictures. For me only 10% are any good. For some reason I don't follow this advice when taking pictures of miniatures. I'll have to change that.


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