Photographing Models

Discussion in 'Tutorials' started by milhistory, Jul 27, 2004.

  1. milhistory

    milhistory Member

    Photographing Your Models

    I am relatively new to this discussion group and am greatly impressed with the dedication of its members, especially those who offer many wonderful photographs of their construction progress. Without meaning to insult any of these folks, I have noticed that some of the photos could be improved with a little technique. For example, many close-up pictures are blurred and are hard on the eye.

    Please accept this small tutorial as a way for me to give back to the group for all that I have taken so far by lurking and to improve some of our photographs.

    Brad Arnold

    Next Post: Flash
    d5j4vu likes this.
  2. milhistory

    milhistory Member



    Most of us know what flash does to our paper models. In short, it destroys them. I well-built model photographed with flash will look mangled and as if a three-year old put it together. Therefore, if possible, do not use flash. Below are examples of a model photographed with and without flash.

    It is difficult to take a photograph inside without flash, so that will be the subject of another topic in this thread.

    Photo 1: A close-up of the GPM JU-87 D-3 taken with flash.Ouch. You can see a lot of white as the picture is so stark.

    Photo 2: The same model photographed without flash. It is generally pleasing, despite the fact that I did not add cockpit glazing.

    Next Post: Tripods
  3. milhistory

    milhistory Member



    Since using a flash is usually a bad idea on paper models, it is best to photograph the models with plenty of sunlight. This means going outside. But since we can’t always go outside (rain and paper don’t mix well) and I am too lazy to go out anyway, we need to photograph our models inside, where the light is usually poor. Poor light means the camera will have to use a slower shutter speed to capture the subject, which will result in blurred photographs.

    Solution: Use a tripod. It takes little time to set up a tripod and take a few pictures. Please see the difference below.

    NOTE: Sometimes merely touching the shutter button on the camera while it is on a tripod will cause blur. In this case, use the timer function on the camera to avoid having to press the button yourself.

    Photo 1: Handheld with no tripod. Notice the model is “soft,†or blurry.

    Photo 2: Photographed with a tripod and timer set. A much crisper photograph.
  4. milhistory

    milhistory Member

    Aperture Settings and Focus

    Aperture Settings and Focus

    Many cameras have an “Aperture Priority†mode which enables you to set the aperture (the wideness at which the lens opens) while it chooses the correct shutter speed. Manually setting the aperture is very useful when you want to control how much of the photograph is in focus.

    A wide aperture (smaller “F-stop†numbers) will result in fewer parts of the photo being in focus (This is called depth-of-field). A narrow aperture (higher “F-stop†numbers) will result in more of the photo being in focus.

    NOTE: Narrow apertures (higher “F-stop†numbers) result in very slow shutter speeds. Remember the tripod!

    Photo 1: I used a “wide†aperture setting of 5.6 on this photo. Only the very front part of the canopy is in focus.

    Photo 2: I used a “narrow†aperture setting of 16 on this photo. More of the canopy and the seat are in focus.

    Photo 3: I used an aperture setting of 22 on this photo. Most of the canopy is in focus. Please notice, however, that the shutter time for this photo was five seconds, so a tripod was mandatory.
  5. milhistory

    milhistory Member

    Minimum Focus Distance

    Minimum Focus Distance

    Cameras and lenses have a minimum distance at which they will focus. That distance is usually marked on the lens. Taking a photograph within the minimum focus distance will result in a blurry or out-of-focus picture.

    This is particularly a problem for close-ups, especially those that use a penny or other small items for scale. Most modern cameras will indicate whether or not they are in focus. A flashing circle (or other symbol) usually means the camera is unable to focus while a solid circle means the camera had achieved focus.

    Photo 1: The camera was unable to focus because I was too close to the subject.

    Photo 2: I backed up a little so the camera could achieve focus.
  6. Leif Oh

    Leif Oh Member

    Very good advice - thank you! And you could always back away and use some zoom to get the same close-up effect, I presume.

    A question: How about different kinds of indoor lighting - ordinary bulbs, as compared to fluorescent bulbs, etc? My camera seems to compensate on its own for that, but the color temperature nevertheless seems to differ from one occassion to another, although my lighting generally are the same (ordinary desk-top lamps, with fluorescent bulbs and tubes).

    I really would like to let the camera handle that on its own, but if there's anything in particular I should think of, I'd be interested to know.

    Leif Oh.

    PS. The quality of your photos is only matched by that of the model - exquisite work! (Am I right in thinking that you have touced up the canopy with some polishable metal enamel paint?)
  7. Texman

    Texman Guest


    Thanks for the tips. I'll give it a try and see what difference
    I can make.

  8. milhistory

    milhistory Member

    Leif Oh:

    Thanks for the compliments. As for lighting, most cameras do a good job using Auto White Balance. My cameras does okay, but sometimes I use some of the presets, fluorescents, bulbs. etc. For the most difficult situations, many digital cameras have a custom feature where you take a picture of a white object (a sheet of paper) and use it as a custom white balance setting (It's like saying "okay camera, this is white."). Digital cameras with a RAW capture mode allow you take a photo and correct the white balance on the computer, but I would never use RAW for taking photos of my models because it is too much work and requires so much computer time. Like you, I allow the camera to do most of the work unless the colors are too far off. In that case, I switch to one of the presets. For the really hard core, some cameras allow you to set the light temperature in Kelvans, but that is far over my head and my camera won't do it.

    As for my Stuka canopy, I coated the structure with regular white glue to make the frame stronger. Therefore, any "polished" surface is unintended. I tried to make the glazing using clear transparency sheets, but I gave up in disgust. I recently finished Halinksi's P-51D Mustang and topped it with the Gomix canopy ordered from Lighthouse Modelart. Although I try to be purist, those preformed canopies are the way to go.

  9. Ron

    Ron Member

    Those are some fantastic tips Brad. Thank-you :) Any chance of some more pictures of that GPM Ju-87? The instructions leave a lot to be desired (or I'm just thick) You're right about the flash. Things get washed right out or if one takes the picture from a distance away, the flash is not enough.

    Looking forward to more

  10. wunwinglow

    wunwinglow Active Member

    Another point with distance from the subject, and zooming in. You will notice how the image will be very sharp where the lens is focused, and the image will go progressively out of focus in front of and behind the subject. This 'out-of-focusedness' will be the same for any situation where the image/subject magnification ratio is the same. In other words, using the Stuka, if you filled the frame nose to tail, the wingtips would be equally out of focus whatever lens you were using, given the aperture setting was the same. What will change, however, will be the perspective structure of the image, and generally better images will be obtained if you use a longer lens, (more telephoto) from further away. If you get close, but use a wide angle lens to fill the frame, you get the dreaded Big Nose effect that is currently in vogue with trendy web designers. Its a fad, it will pass....

    If you need more depth of field, ie the wing tips in better focus,you can only achieve this by using a smaller aperture, so either a slower shutter speed, more light, or faster film. Or faster electrons, in the case of digital cameras......

    Tim P

    Photography degree course flooding back after all those years laying dormant; eugh, shudder!!
  11. N. Charles Hann

    N. Charles Hann New Member

    i have found that using a telephoto lens above 180 mm. and a tripod, using painted light, a long exposure on a tripod and painting the subject, will give you a greater depth of field, more area in focus as well as even lighting, as you do not have the light from a single source but in reality by moving the light around during the exposure time you paint the image so there are no shadows and no hot spots. respectfully submitted,,,,,, n Charles an ten year veteran Marine corps photographer.
  12. Nothing

    Nothing Longtime Member

    am i the only one who cant see the pictures or are they somewhere else?
  13. Master-Bruce

    Master-Bruce Active Member

    Me too buddy. I could use this advice as my photos generally suck! :)

    I can't see the posted pics though. :(
  14. paperbeam

    paperbeam Member

    I just recently attended a small seminar with a professional photographer who recommended the following items (not mentioned yet):

    Use two lamps (one on top with the other to the side) of at least 100 watts each.

    Diffuse the lamp on the side through a sheet of mylar so that the light is less harsh and leaves fewer shadows.


    Ping-Pong Ball Cannon and N/Z scale Old West paper models (free samples) at: paperbeam - virtual paper models
  15. jaffro

    jaffro Long term member

    I agree... this tut is too good to let it fade into oblivion due to missing pictures...

    Are the pictures part of the old gallery (i've heard it mentioned that these are still around somewhere).

    If someone can point me in the right direction to the pics, I'd be happy to re-structure this whole thread as a tutorial to add to the reserves/downloads.

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