One of the most frustrating things in the hobby for me has always been seeing photos online in which the poster asks for criticism or comments on his painting. You click on the picture, and… it’s blurry. Totally out of focus. Or not lit well enough. Or sitting on a cluttered desk in the middle of a dozen other projects. At that point, offering any sort of help becomes almost impossible. Usually, the photo is accompanied by a quick “Sorry, phone camera pic lol”.
This picture was taken using an iPhone 3GS.
So was this one.
Right now, the phone I’m using is several generations behind, but as you can see from the pictures, it’s still capable of taking miniature picture reasonably well. Here’s how I do it:
This is my lightbox – it’s about $45 on Amazon, and comes with two small lights(you can see on the right side, next to the tall desk lamp), and several different colored backgrounds. It folds up for easy storage, and it’s what I use for all of my miniature and dice bag pictures.
You can find tutorials all over the place for how to make your own light box – I find it easier to just acquire one on Amazon.
The next thing you notice is probably all the lights – I have four lights set up around the light box. These help to eliminate shadows and get the inside area lit as brightly as possible. The two smaller lights provide a side light, and the desk lamp and the other work lamp(on the left; you can just see the shade) help with top light. It’s a lot like lighting a stage for theatre – you want the actor(or miniatures in this case) to be well lit from as many sides as possible. Now, it’s entirely possible to get even more technical and discuss color correction after taking your photos, but that may be a topic for another day.
To actually snap my photos, I use an app called Google+Snapseed – a search in your app store for “Snapseed” should bring up results. It offers a ton of really useful ways to correct and modify your photos, including cropping, adjusting brightness and saturation, and more. From the app, you can post your pics directly to Google+, Facebook, Twitter, etc. Note the Moleskine notebooks I’ve set up in front of the miniatures – that’s what I balance my phone on to correct shakiness and get a good image. If you do get a blurry picture, you can always delete it and try again – there’s no point in asking for criticism on a photo that you know is blurry. Once you have a picture you’re satisfied with, I’d recommend cropping out as much of the empty background as you can. One of minor pet peeves is when I see a picture of a space marine, and there’s a ton of empty space around the mini. Crop it out; nobody needs to see empty desk/background. After that, it’s a simple matter of saving the picture to your phone, emailing it to yourself, finding some way to get it to a place where you can post it anywhere you like. I find Dropbox useful for this, personally.
And that’s about it for a quick and dirty primer on how to take good miniature pictures. You can of course take this further, getting an actual tripod, a camera meant solely for photography, macro lenses, the works. But this’ll do in a pinch, and goes a long way to eliminate “potato quality” pictures.