Introductory: Transformers Photography - Tips and Tricks

Discussion in 'Tutorials and How Tos' started by simplygriff, Jun 8, 2010.

Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.
  1. simplygriff

    simplygriff µ - Elitist Dick

    Joined:
    Aug 5, 2008
    Posts:
    1,894
    News Credits:
    1
    Trophy Points:
    137
    Likes:
    +3
    I was just gonna post this in the Cool stuff thread but figured it was high time we had a thread devoted to the tips and techniques of Transformers, Toy and Macro photography. Gonna start off with this quoted from the Cool Stuff thread...

    So Syd, how did you get the reflection along with the infinite background? I know I've tried using glass and polished granite tile and always end up with a horizon line to either Photoshop out or just get lazy and re-take the shot. What's your setup?
    -G

    I got the light box and tripod on lockdown. Built 2 of my own and they both sucked. I grabbed an eBay light box (same one process uses I think) for $40 it was totally worth it.
    http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=270505941337

    I've got the infinite background on lockdown.
    [​IMG]

    Hell, I've even done reflections but you can still see the horizon line. That's what I need to learn to get rid of.
    [​IMG]

    The above was shot with the figures sitting on a slab of polished black granite tile.

    -G

    See if there's a white balance setting on your camera. Make sure to set it to whatever lighting you're using. Tungsten for normal household lights. Fluorescent for fluorescent. Daylight for natural day light. Other than that, you can usually take care of it in post processing with photoshop.
    -G
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 7, 2011
  2. Crimson Primus

    Crimson Primus Deceptinut

    Joined:
    Sep 20, 2007
    Posts:
    1,078
    Trophy Points:
    136
    Likes:
    +0
    Two words..... Light Box

    Cardboard box with an open front, a circle cut out of the left and right side and a circle cut out of the top. Get a white sheet to line the whole box then get some clear plexi for the bottom to put the toy on.Get three lamps with bright white bulbs from a photography store for the cutouts and make sure they are behind the sheets for diffused lighting.

    [​IMG]

    I have a 250 doller canon A620 and a 3-8" tripod and take pretty good pics with out a light box....see my sig below for my gallery.

    Just be sure to play with the Macro and manual settings to get the best pictures like flash power and exposure.

    Shutter speed is usually between .5-1 seconds for good light and 8-10 seconds for low light.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 7, 2011
  3. Auto Morph

    Auto Morph Gimmick Bot

    Joined:
    Feb 8, 2010
    Posts:
    8,449
    Trophy Points:
    176
    Likes:
    +0
    I don't own a lightbox or a decent camera. For someone in my position - who is interested in taking more 'professional' looking pics of their TFs in the future - what would you recommend?

    For example, what's a good size for a light box, and what sort of spec camera should I be looking at?

    Also, please be aware that I (and possibly many reading this thread) am not well versed in a lot of the technical jargon to do with cameras and related hardware, so spelling everything out in simple terms would be much appreciated. :thumbs2: 
     
  4. Dormamu

    Dormamu I am Broot.

    Joined:
    Dec 21, 2007
    Posts:
    5,190
    News Credits:
    1
    Trophy Points:
    197
    Location:
    Clarksburg, MD
    Likes:
    +6
    One of the most important things I found when working with digital or SLR was just investing in a decent tripod, and using the macro (the flower icon for non-camera folks) with a 20 second timer set on the camera on the piece/figure to photograph. That way I don't have to worry about blur or low lighting. I still have yet to throw my hand into trying a light box though.
     
  5. Th0r4z1n3

    Th0r4z1n3 The F*cking Lizard King! Veteran

    Joined:
    Dec 20, 2006
    Posts:
    4,054
    News Credits:
    6
    Trophy Points:
    161
    Likes:
    +9
  6. Taziir

    Taziir Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    May 25, 2009
    Posts:
    1,706
    News Credits:
    3
    Trophy Points:
    137
    Likes:
    +4
    Duct tape ftw, otherwise known as Gaffer tape if you're british ;) 
     
  7. simplygriff

    simplygriff µ - Elitist Dick

    Joined:
    Aug 5, 2008
    Posts:
    1,894
    News Credits:
    1
    Trophy Points:
    137
    Likes:
    +3
  8. ryanlb

    ryanlb Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    May 17, 2010
    Posts:
    1,799
    Trophy Points:
    136
    Likes:
    +0
    My wife got me a lightbox on eBay, I'm getting it for Father's Day, I can't wait!

    One thing somebody told me a while back that sometimes works for me, and sometimes doesn't, is to use the Night Portrait setting if you don't have a light box, because it changes something about how or when the flash flashes and helps lessen the shadows.
     
  9. poorboy8u

    poorboy8u Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 5, 2006
    Posts:
    811
    News Credits:
    4
    Trophy Points:
    156
    Likes:
    +4
    It's all about lighting, one or two speedlight's off camera can do wonders for creating shadow,definition and soft light. Never use the pop up flash for a main light for table top photography. Below is a setup shot to how I did my poncho contest entry taken with my phone.

    [​IMG]


    Also here's a link to a very good thread over at another message board dedicated to DIY lightboxes and tabletop photogrpahy. It's got over 3000 posts so theres a wealth of information that can be applied here.You can use a few pieces of white board for a great lightbox.It can be broken down very quickly for far less than buying a dedicated one if you won't be using it all the time.

    Another DIY light box, with build and test pics - Canon Digital Photography Forums

    I wouldn't call it fancy but it is for photo. 12 bux for it from BHphotovideo.com A speedlight will open up so much for you photowise. That and some ebay triggers or radiopoppers and you're set.

    a speedlight is a hotshoe flash like a canon 540ez for example or 580ex. Radio poppers are little radio recievers and transmitters that let you fire the flash with it not attached to your camera. so you can have more creative and natural lighting instead of it coming from head on. Ebay triggers are just cheap ones from china usually yongnuo branded. they work fairly well but it's really hit or miss. Great way to get started would be ebay triggers, a cheap used speedlight from ebay keh.com.

    When using on camera flash as a main source.The camera will ignore all ambient light(your hot lights on each side) so they didn't even factor into the picture you took. All the camera saw was the flash you used.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 7, 2011
  10. Abrogate

    Abrogate Nondescript Former Poster

    Joined:
    Apr 19, 2004
    Posts:
    7,086
    News Credits:
    6
    Trophy Points:
    226
    Likes:
    +6
    Yeah, white balance is one of the important steps that often gets overlooked. Everyone mentions lightning, macro modes, and tripods, but white balance is the key to actually making your pictures look like they're in normal colored rooms.
     
  11. Night Flame

    Night Flame TFW2005 Supporter

    Joined:
    Jul 15, 2002
    Posts:
    4,884
    Trophy Points:
    232
    Likes:
    +5
    True macros are overrated when it comes to toy photography. What you really want is to get some serious distance between you and the toy you are shooting. It makes it easier to work with your depth of field and clear up the entire toy or just sections of it depending on how you want to shoot. True macros mean you're pretty much stuck shooting for one small section of the toy to be in focus while the rest of it is outside your dof and left blurred.

    The most important thing to do is learn your camera. Stick it in manual and adjust settings to see what differences it makes. You'll be shocked how sitting in one position, subtly adjusting aperature and shutter speed can change absolutely everything about a picture.

    I also recommend either using time delay, or getting a remote trigger and a tripod. Remove camera shake when shooting small objects or no amount of focus will be good enough. I'm sure I'll have more to add later.
     
  12. thenatureboywoo

    thenatureboywoo Veteran

    Joined:
    Dec 15, 2008
    Posts:
    8,206
    News Credits:
    3
    Trophy Points:
    207
    Likes:
    +18
    My wife hates when I spend money, so I went the cheapest route possible. I got a cardboard box and lined the tops and sides with aluminum foil to reflect the light. One problem with this is you get little reflections on the sides. And then I bend a peice of white posterboard for the actual background of the picture. This is my go-to lightbox for smaller figs because of it's size I don't need more than two lamps for lighting.

    For the lamps I use two 6 dollar reflector lamps from Walmart with 100 watt reveal bulbs. To diffuse the light I have a peice of embroidery backing on each bulb. I use this cause I have it at work and because it is really good at resisting heat. I wouldn't suggest wrapping 100 watt lamps with anything. But I am a daredevil. :lol  So I have maybe maybe 19 bucks in this? Here is a pic with lighting and without

    Here are a couple pics of this setup.
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    and a pic from this setup
    [​IMG]

    For bigger figs and special treatment pics I have been using a bigger lightbox. It is a bigger cardboard box. I lined all sides of this with white posterboard. Then cut squares out of the sides and top to use my lamps. For the sides, I use the same reflector lamps from the smaller lightbox, but on top I put a bigger reflector lamp and use the same 100 watt bulb. When I am not using the areas I cut out for the pights, I line them with a peice of white posterboard. You don't want any of your light to "escape"

    Here is a pic of this setup
    [​IMG]

    and a pic from this setup.
    [​IMG]

    And for the last setup, this is what I use for my black background pics. It's simply a peice of black posterboard bending to elminate the horizon line. And then for lighting, I use the same two 100 watt reveal lightbulbs.

    Here are a couple pics of this setup. One from head on and from the side.
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    and a pic from this setup
    [​IMG]

    As for a camera, I use a cheap old Kodak EasyShare C653. I know it isn't much, but for what I want it for, it does the job. I can change the brightness and darkness in the camera so I have to do little editting later. Also with this particular camera, I change the light/white ballance setting to light bulb/tungsten. Also you will not want to use a flash when using a lightbox. And also, I don't let the camera auto focus. I always manually focus by depressing the button halfway, then when I am happy with where it is focused, I push it the rest of the way. I have troubles with it capturing red hues on this particular camera from time to time, but I don't mind.

    And part of the whole process, is trial and error. And always use a tripod of something to place your camera on where you know it wont's move. If your camera moves when you click, you well get a blurry pic every time. Your gonna take a million bad pictures before you get 100 good ones. I take anywhere between 50 to a hundred pics sometimes before I find a real gem. Don't be discouraged. I am nowhere as good as a bunch of these dudes, but if you are in a bind and have no idea, message me. I'll try to help.

    To close it out, take constructive critisizm with respect and listen to it. I have a thread I started in December, and I have grown leaps and bounds since then. I hate probably the first 60 percent of the pics in my collection/photgraphy thread. It's because I still didn't know what I was doing. I'm thankful for tips I've gotten from quite a few members on here. And in a couple months, I'll probably hate the pics I'm taking now. I am always striving for better pics. :)  I hope this helps, these are the things that have helped me.
     
  13. Night Flame

    Night Flame TFW2005 Supporter

    Joined:
    Jul 15, 2002
    Posts:
    4,884
    Trophy Points:
    232
    Likes:
    +5
    First off, congrats on finding an inexpensive setup that totally works.

    Second off, this may be one of the most overlooked and most vital things to note when it comes to toy photography/macro photography of any kind. If your camera makes it really difficult to manually focus, you probably won't be able to get truly crystal clear shots. I started with an Olympus point and shoot that had electronic manual focus with no fine-grain control. Hated it. I could never get sharp focus. Switched to a DSLR (Canon Rebel XTi) and the biggest difference aside from complete control in full manual was being able to get really sharp focus right up front via manual control. And believe me, you don't need to go all the way to a DSLR to get good manual focus control. There are some amazing inexpensive point and shoots out there today with truly great focus control. If you're looking for a bargain camera, go shopping and play with the focus controls. I wish I would have done that when I bought my point and shoot.

    Oh, and if you're going camera shopping remember one more thing: megapixels mean squat. If you're shrinking things down for web viewing, anything over a couple megapixels is already overkill. Of course, more can help make things seem sharper, but better glass and focus control is far more important. You really can't buy a camera these days with so few megapixels as to make web pics difficult to scale.
     
  14. SydneyY

    SydneyY @syd_tfw Veteran TFW2005 Supporter

    Joined:
    Mar 29, 2005
    Posts:
    11,516
    News Credits:
    74
    Trophy Points:
    276
    Likes:
    +74
    Pic heavy!

    G - sorry to be late!

    Well yeah I've nothing to add to what's been covered already. Actually I know nothing technical :redface2: 

    The reason I started with the whole lightbox thing is to be able to focus on the toys. It is so much more easier that way than having various other objects in the background. I had a cardboard box with tracing paper windows for a while, then a friend of mine who's very handy with tools made this for me;
    [​IMG]
    It's made of some scrap wood, and the lights are the old kitchen lights with covers. I have it on top of a chest of drawers so that I don't have to bend my back. As you see it's tall but not wide, since I had TakTom 1/8 Votoms toys in mind (they are about 12 inch tall)
    [​IMG]

    My camera is a Canon point & shoot, as NF said a simple digicam is enough unless you plan to make a large printout of your pictures.

    As for the infinite look with reflective base, I just have a small glass pane taken from a cheap photo frame. If the picture is dark the edge is visible;
    [​IMG]

    To have the picture really bright, I use exposure compensation when I take photos, and very often I turn up the brightness and/or white balance with an image editing software. The edge of the glass disappears at this stage if it is present.

    If the backdrop is black, I'm not very good at all. (I use a piece of black satin cloth)
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    I tweak with white/black balance and sometimes come up with the images I am happy with :) 
    [​IMG]

    Shiny foil papers are also fun!
    [​IMG]

    I don't use tripod, I use auto focus as well as manual. My basic style is 'aim and shoot then hope for the best'. I just take lots of photos, and pick a few I am happy with.

    Some of you know that I am very fussy over the site gallery, but in general how the Cool Stuff thread is the way I love, people take pics of the toys they like and have fun :)  It shouldn't be tedious.
     
  15. Night Flame

    Night Flame TFW2005 Supporter

    Joined:
    Jul 15, 2002
    Posts:
    4,884
    Trophy Points:
    232
    Likes:
    +5
    Syd and others looking to do dark/black backgrounds, try to keep the turned up part of the black in shadow. True black backgrounds are usually shadowed heavily. No light = true black. In fact, having a knock-out back on your light box and keeping external lights off may be the best way to get a true black background.

    I was handed this tip on a photography site. No matter how good your background material is, no matter how black, it will show up some level of grey unless it's in complete darkness.

    [​IMG]

    I screwed up and let a tiny little bit of light hit the wall here, but that entire wall behind him is a very bright blue-green in reality. Looks pretty black in the upper right corner even with a twenty-five second exposure. No light makes anything look black.
     
  16. thenatureboywoo

    thenatureboywoo Veteran

    Joined:
    Dec 15, 2008
    Posts:
    8,206
    News Credits:
    3
    Trophy Points:
    207
    Likes:
    +18
    I've never aimed at a true black, because I thought it would be impossible to do yet still get enough light on the object I am photographing. But, that makes alot of sense to me. I'm not sure how to go about it with my current set-up. It may be time to go back to the drawing board and create a new lightbox. Maybe hang a peice of carboard or something straight up and down just above the object I am photographing to block out as much light as possible from getting to the back of the posterboard, yet keep that "light blocking piece" out of the pic.
     
  17. Wajo357

    Wajo357 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    May 24, 2004
    Posts:
    1,644
    News Credits:
    7
    Trophy Points:
    181
    Likes:
    +7
  18. Night Flame

    Night Flame TFW2005 Supporter

    Joined:
    Jul 15, 2002
    Posts:
    4,884
    Trophy Points:
    232
    Likes:
    +5
    That is one of the basic tricks. Slap a board of some type, cardboard, plastic, wood, whatever as long as it blocks light, to the back side of the light and keep it just outside of frame. Anybody looking for the "official" version of this, it's called a barn door on the photo sites. They hook right onto the lamps and can be used to hold light away from certain objects in various directions, depending on how they are mounted.

    But honestly, anything that can be propped up to block light hitting the background works. Oh, and make sure it won't catch on fire or melt from the heat of the lamps.
     
  19. thenatureboywoo

    thenatureboywoo Veteran

    Joined:
    Dec 15, 2008
    Posts:
    8,206
    News Credits:
    3
    Trophy Points:
    207
    Likes:
    +18
    This is always something I am worried about when people see my setup. I have a material that diffuses my light directly on my lamps. It is heat resistant to a pretty high temp. I hope that people don't look at my setup and think it's tissue paper and do that with tissue paper.
     
  20. Night Flame

    Night Flame TFW2005 Supporter

    Joined:
    Jul 15, 2002
    Posts:
    4,884
    Trophy Points:
    232
    Likes:
    +5
    Aperture. Wide open (F4.0 on that lens you have) = very shallow depth of field. Closed down (on my best lens that'd be around F36) = huge depth of field. Of course, for each F stop, you end up having to adjust your shutter speed longer and longer. But, so long as you're using a tripod, that really doesn't matter. I've done exposures as long as fifty seconds without any camera shake thanks to the remote trigger and tripod.

    The XTi has really good control once you get used to it. Either flip to manual or Aperture priority (AV) and play with your F stops. Pick a nice setup, adjust F stops from all the way down to all the way up and then look at the difference it makes in the photos. Track what F stops which photos are and keep track of it, then use it as a frame of reference in the future. It won't take long before you get a pretty good grasp of what F stop gives you what depth of field.

    I hate to see this thread die, so I'm adding another tip I found from another forum.

    I ran into a macro situation where aperture settings would not overcome the depth of field issue. Being me, I went looking for a solution. It's called "focus stacking." Essentially, you take many shots of the same subject, each with a very small adjustment to focus. Each focal point becomes a "slice" of perfect focus in a "focus stack" which is created by either manual editing, or use of a program design specifically for focal stacking, like, Helicon Focus. If I had to manually edit it at this point I would probably lose my mind, but Helicon Focus will take your series of images, find the focal point in each "slice" and fold the images together into one nearly perfect render.

    Case in point. These images (kept small to not slam my server) show the shallow depth of field I found myself stuck with. I didn't concentrate on perfect white tonight, as my goal was sharp focus.

    [​IMG]


    [​IMG]


    [​IMG]


    [​IMG]


    [​IMG]


    [​IMG]

    As you can see even in these very tiny images, at the beginning of the run, the cockpit is in near perfect focus while the tail is a bit blurred. By the end of the run the tail is in near perfect focus, while the cockpit is blurred. Fold them together, let the program find the focal points automatically, and. . .

    [​IMG]

    I could have gone just a little further in each focal direction, to get the far wingtip and the nosecone in better focus. But, overall, I think this shows how much focus stacking could help when taking macro/toy photos.

    Mine's 18" cube and I find myself frustrated with how much work is required to get a well formatted pic of a leader class in it. You're forever running into borders when "looking up" or from the sides. Get as large as you can. It'll never be too big.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 7, 2011
Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.

Share This Page