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Thread: How to take high quality “studio” pictures of your MOCs, at home

  1. #1

    How to take high quality “studio” pictures of your MOCs, at home

    This forum has given me so much knowledge on SW vintage collecting, I think it's time to give something back.
    I work and teach photography so here is my method for taking high quality “studio” images of your MOCs, at home, with household equipment.
    Figures are easy enough, but MOCs in Acryl cases have a lot of issues. Most noticeably the reflections of the case and bubble. Here is a step by step instruction:

    1. Take your time. No need to be hasty.
    2. Place your MOC on a clean table. (I plased it under a large black book to avoid reflections from the table in the acryl and bubble)
    3. Find a monochrome background. I would recommend white, as most cardbacks are black. (You can use a clean wall if that is available.)
    4. Use a large window as light source (no direct sunlight!). Don’t use direct flash as this reflects in the bubble and the figure won't show.
    5. Control reflections with black and white reflectors. You don’t need to buy expensive photographers equipment. White cardboard, A4 printing paper, aluminium foil (around cardboard) and black fabric are good enough.
    6. Use a tripod, as the natural lighting might not be strong enough for a short shutter time. If you don’t own a tripod, place your camera on cardboard box, on a chair. Be creative and use what’s around for support.
    7. Use the timer on your camera. With long shutter time a click with your finger might distort the image. You’ll also be able to hold the black reflector yourself. Making sure it is placed right so the front of the bubble and acryl reflects the black, leaving it nice and transparent for the figure and cardback to shine through.
    8. If you have a DSLR system, use a Tele-lens: 60-120mm. If you have a camera with optic Zoom, use a little bit of zoom. You will need to have some distance, about a meter or so from the MOC.

    Here is the set up

    The result:

    • The exposure time on this image (as it was evening) was over 1 second, ISO 400 and aperture F/11 (to make everything in focus)
    • The Alu. foil reflector will make sure the light is evenly distributed on the card and figure. The bubble will get a nice white reflection around its edges.
    • The black reflector (I use a black sweater) is to make sure there are no reflections in the front of the bubble and the acrylic case. Leaving the figure and card visible. This you’ll have to move around in front of the MOC to find the right position. It usually works good to drape it over the camera (not the lens) and hold it up with your hands to make a big surface.
    • Dressing in long-sleeve black is a good idea.
    • If you still find unwanted reflections: Find the source and cover it with black fabric.

    Photoshop: For thouse who got it.
    • Your image will probably be a little flat, as every digital image is, so you will have to UP the contrast in Curves or Levels.
    • In this image I’ve made the black surface under the MOC white by adding a layer of all white over it and reduced the opacity (but this is not that necessary)

    Try and fail. Fail again. Fail better.

    If any questions, just ask.
    Good luck!

  2. #2
    This needs to be a sticky.

  3. #3
    Looks good and a good initative!

    I have some comments though:
    1) the light is not constant; if you want to make more then one picture (of several items) you'll have different illuminations if the weather (and thus the light through the window) changes. Best to use a light that has been lit for a couple of minutes in a room where the light is controled.
    2) the light is too hard; by not using a softening methode you have more highlightes then needed by using direct sunlight. Best is to - if you want to use a window as a light - to put a piece of white cloth infront of it (like a linnensheet)
    3) the surface below doesn't flow, but has a hard break. Better to use a single linnen sheet that you guide upwards gradualy from where you place the item on it and further.
    4) the wall turns grey: light it up with a lamp!
    5) the item is not evenly lit: put the item on the same height as the lightsource.

    Perhaps I'll check if I can find some pictures of the setup I've used. Though there are several sites about productphotography.

    I do like the black reflection at the photograher side. I always drapped my sheets like a funnel to my lens, but this can help aswell. One to remember.

    Last edited by AJ_van_Zelst; 05-10-2013 at 04:34 PM.

  4. #4
    Hi Alex

    Thanks for the feedback.
    The Idea for the post was to show a method without the use of softboxes and comercial lighting equipment. Just house-hold things. What you find lying around in the apartment.
    1. The window is to the North (or a place without direct sunlight). The light is pretty constant for hours, and it'll takes 2 seconds to change the shutter if necessary. It's not ment for commercial 600 shots a day with a batch/dropelt photoshop action. As you can't do that without softboxes and professional equipment.
    2. It's actually not hard lighting at all. The window operates as a 1x1,5 meters softbox. And if you place such a softbox at 90 degras to a MOC with a sliver reflector on the other side; you'll get exactly the lighting you see here. The card has all even lighting to it. And take another look at the figure of Boba Fett: It got (in my opinion) a much more interesting and exiting lighting than a commercial flat lighting.
    3. The background has a cut between the grund and the background. But so has a horizon and every landscape in man's history. It feels often unnatural to have a cross-fading cut. It dosen't have the gravity of a proper natural cut. The cut at the bottom is very important in my opinion, and I have often lost costumers by crossfading from ground to background. It's a little boring I've been told again and again.
    4. If you light up the wall with a normal lamp it'll have another Light-Temperature than the natural lighting from the window. Nobody has 5500K lightbulbs at home, and your background will be all yellow and ugly compared to the MOC lit from the window. Have no unnatural lighting in the room!
    5. Have a third look at the item/figure and the finished image. You'll never find a cooler lit item in an e-commerce shop.

  5. #5
    Thank you for your advice, I took a couple shots. I will upload later, I did not have a perfect set-up, but I think it is a good start. Thanks again.

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by shawn_k
    Here's a repost from another guide I attempted to make on another board.

    I use a light tent like this one that I picked up from an electronics store going out of business a few years back. However you can build your own DIY with some instructions here.

    Here's a picture of my setup to take a picture of a Squid Head figure.

    I do use a DSLR in manual mode for my photos, but you should get similar results with the right settings on a point and shoot. You'll just have to dig out the manual. You'll also notice that I have all other lights off in the room which is important for having full control of the lighting. Also, never use the flash.

    These are some settings that I recommend, but you'll want to experiment a bit. I'd suggesting using Aperture priority mode which most cameras have. In basics, the lower the aperture number, the more blurry the background is. Also, the lower the number, the more light the camera is able to collect as the iris is more open. In this example, I chose an aperture of f5.0 which was good enough to keep the squid card/figure in focus, but also blur the blue background a little. In aperture priority mode, your camera will figure out the other settings for you, but I also had to set shutter speed and ISO.

    The other setting to make sure of is white balance. With my lights, they give off a yellow tint, so I use the Tungsten white balance setting on the camera, so it know to compensate for this. Basically, with white balance you are telling the camera what color is white, so it gets the colors right. Most cameras have an auto mode for this setting, but they don't ever seems to get this quite right, so I'd recommend using a preset like I suggested or going the extra mile with a custom setting which you can learn how to other places on the net.

    I do a little minor tweaking with software afterwards. The main things I do are straighten, crop, and some minor adjustments as needed. I use Apple's Aperture for this, but iPhoto would also work. If you're on Windows, Lightroom would work or probably Gimp as a free alternative. Here's a screenshot of Aperture with the Squid Head after I've made my tweaks.

    and finally, here's my exported photo, ready to share.

    I hope this helps. I'm by no means a photography expert, but it has become a hobby and I've been learning a few things as I pick them up over the years.
    10 characters

  7. #7
    I guess another problem I am having is losing quality in the upload process. Also when photos are rotated do they lose quality?

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by aussiejames View Post
    10 characters

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by BespinFatigues View Post
    mee no count so good neether

  10. #10
    Great thread, I'll give this a shot!

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