Friday, January 15, 2016

Tutorial: Taking Better Photos

A lot of photos I see from beginner and intermediate builders look like the photo above. They are usually taken on a messy desk or a bed; and they are either too blurry, out of focus, too dark, or the colors are blown out. Here are few very simple and very cheap ways of taking better photos of your Gunpla.

Hit the bump for the full tutorial

A very basic photo setup like the one I will use for this demonstration require the following materials:

Two light sources with the same colored light (ie. use the same brand and model bulbs in each light source.)

A large piece of construction paper (white, black or neutral grey work best)

A camera (for this demonstration I will be using the camera on my iPhone 5)

How to setup your photo area:

Position the light sources a few feet back from where you intend to setup your subject and roughly 90 degrees from each other. Increasing the light source's distance from the subject will diffuse the light hitting and reflecting off of the surfaces of the kit; reducing or eliminating obvious reflections of the lightsource. 

Pin or tape the construction paper on a wall and drape the material across the surface you'll be photographing on. A soft bend of the draped material removes the distracting transition of the surface from horizontal to vertical and keeps the viewer focused on the subject. Setting the subject further away from the vertical surface so that the background is out of focus can create the illusion that the background goes on forever.

Once your photo area is setup place your kit on the background material and grab your camera.

Basic Photo Tips

There are only a few basic guidelines to follow when you're taking photos:
  • Before you start to photograph check to see if your camera has a white balance feature. If it does, follow your camera's steps to calibrate the white balance. Different light source have different colors of light that can change the appearance of your subject. 
  • Keep the thing you want to show your audience in focus.
  • Use a tripod or find some way to stabilize your camera while photographing
  • Don't crowd your photos, when you frame your photo up in the view finder leave space around the subject.
  • Don't photograph off of your background. 
  • Don't setup your light sources, or take photos is such a way that you or your camera are casting obvious shadows onto your kit.
  • If you're taking photos of a highly reflective kit and you want to hide your light sources; you can place tracing paper in between the light source and your subject to diffuse the light further.
  • If you can't quite pull off the position you want and you need to use an action base remember that you have the ability to control what is and isn't visible in the image. Choose a perspective that shows only what you want.

In this photo I wanted the Exia to appear like it had just bounded off the rock in the background to attack some unseen target. Of course, it's not possible to pull this move off with Exia just standing. However by choosing the right angle I was able to almost completely hide the action base.

  • Don't be afraid to experiment. There are tons of little and big things like using filters, different colors of light, photographing on different materials or adjusting your aperture and shutter speeds that you can do to substantially change the photos you take.
  • Take more photos than you think you'll need. 

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