Using my new Lightbox

I have been meaning for sometime to buy a lightbox (or Photo Cube or Light Tent) to photograph my workbench models and my finished models as well. So was pleased to get a lightbox for Christmas.

Mine is a 12” cube, which folds flat for storage and comes with various backgrounds and a diffuser.

Before I would usually use some white paper, my work lamp to take photographs. The problem with this setup was that I would get harsh shadows. Also it was always a bit of a faff to set it up.

A lightbox allows indirect lighting so you lose most of the shadow. 

In my photographic guide I showed a photograph  of the professional setup that Games Workshop used for Games Day over ten years ago.

I said in that guide:

Longer term I would like to get a light box, this would make taking photographs even easier and should result in even better photographs.

When I got the lightbox I did some experiments to work out the settings I would need on my camera.

Initially my results were too dark, so I made some adjustments to the white balance settings on my camera and got better results.

These are some Star Wars Legion Rebel Troopers which have been undercoated and then given a base coat of Astra Militarium green contrast paint.

This is a Z-47 speeder bike with an Imperial Scout Trooper.

Compared to this photograph I took (same camera) but using my old setup of white card and my work lamp. There are a lot more shadows.

Tried out some painted miniatures.

These are 10mm Warmaster Lizardmen Skink flyers.

There are some old (1996) Warhammer Fantasy Battle drunken dwarves.

Overall I have been pleased with the results. It is also much easier to setup than my previous ad hoc approach.

It has also meant that I can take photographs more easily, faster and importantly consistently. I don’t have to worry about shadows either.

I have decided to cut down my photographic terrain so it fits into the lightbox as well for future photography.

You can get the lightbox I got from Amazon.

What camera should I buy?

On lots of gaming forums people often ask about which camera they should get for taking photographs of their painted miniatures.

My answer is quite simple, I would buy a cheap second hand Digital SLR. An old Canon Rebel (EOS 400D or 300D) would certainly suffice and can be picked up quite cheaply.

I have taken thousands of photographs of miniatures at home and at shows. The flexibility and ease of use that a DSLR brings makes it much easier to take decent, in focus and well lit photographs of your miniatures.

Imperial Guard Rapier

You will read a lot on forums and the like about the “importance” of macro when taking photographs of miniatures. That’s very much a myth. The key is having a high f stop, in other words the aperture is very small, as a result you need to keep the shutter open for longer. This is why you need a camera with full manual control such as an DSLR. It’s also the reason why you will need to use a tripod. With a standard 400 ISO (speed of the “film) you may find that the shutter is open for a couple of seconds, so hand holding the camera just isn’t an option. You could increase the ISO, but I have found with high ISOs on the low end DSLRs you do get a lot of “noise” and a grainy picture.

Lighting is just as important and wherever possible avoid using the built-in flash as this will wash out the colours of your beautiful paintjob. Too little light and you will find that the resulting images may be too dark or too noisy. In the main I now use the “daylight” work lamp I have for painting, but I also try and use natural daylight too. More on camera settings.

So what do you use to take photographs of your models?

Flames of War British Sherman Tanks

In a future blog post I will talk about setting the scene.

Depth of Field

The simplest way to explain this, is depth of field is how much of the scene is in focus.

With a low f stop (or large aperture), something like f5.6 you will have a shorted depth of field (less in focus) than if you use a higher f stop (small aperture).

The aperture is how wide the lens opens for letting light in. A low f stop means a wide opening, a high f stop means a narrow opening.

Virtually all my photographs (digital excepted) are taken on the highest possible f stop setting (in other words the smallest aperture possible).

Depending on the lense you are using, this should be from f22 to f32.

As a result and depending on lighting this means very little light is getting through, therefore to compensate you need to leave the shutter open for longer.You are looking at a shutter speed of 2″ to 4″ (as in two to four seconds), therefore a tripod is essential.

This is a shot using an aperture of f 5.0 with a shutter speed of 1/6th of a second. Notice how blurred the rear and front Orks are.

f 5.0

This shot uses an aperture of f 32, but a six second shutter speed, notice how all the Orks are in focus.

f 32

More on photographing miniatures.

Land Raiders on patrol during a storm

More digital trickery…

Land Raiders on patrol on a dark and stormy night. There are original plastic Land Raiders and a Snapdragon 6mm Bunker.

The first attempt was a little different (more harsh lines between the bunker and the sky).

Land Raiders on patrol during a storm

The final version used a feathered edge.

Land Raiders on patrol during a storm

So which one do you prefer?

Epic Imperial Guard Leman Russ

One of my favourite models…

The Epic40K Leman Russ is one of my favourite epic scale models, the level of detail and “realism” is superb. I actually prefer this version to the Forgeworld version which is relatively unique as with virtually every other model my preference is for the Forgeworld versions.

This picture was taken with a Canon EOS 300D on a “normal” setting, and as you can see the aperture was too open and thus you get the blurry effect. If I had closed the aperture to get a sharper depth of field then the shutter speed would probably have been around five or ten seconds which would mean use a tripod. My old Sony Cybershot (old it’s only three years old) can probably take a better photograph.

However the Canon is a six mega-pixel camera (compared to the Sony’s three) means better quality images especially for printing and cropping.