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Model Show Photography Setup


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Great idea for a forum, Dennis. I'll kick this new forum off...

 

I'm the unofficial, official photographer for the Long Island Scale Model Society. As such, I do the club photography for our annual RepLIcon show. Here's how I shoot the models at our shows.

 

Here's a look at my show set up:

 

274534738_EumdT-L-2.jpg

 

I shoot with a Canon 40D DSLR on a tripod, with a Canon 580EX flash. I have two side lights - the fixtures are Home Depot clip-on lights with 60(?) watt bulbs. I clip a sheet of copy paper over the bulb to act as a diffuser. The model is placed on a sheet of light blue poster board, taped to the wall, to create a seamless background. For camera settings, I use ISO 100, and an aperture in the f/7.1 - 11 range for acceptable depth of field. I'll take a few test shots to check the exposure - my settings usually result in a shutter speed around 1/8 - 1/15 second. In the setup above, I'm using a program called DSLR Remote, which allows me to control the camera from my laptop via the USB cable. I can adjust settings, and preview the image on the laptop, and photos are saved directly to the hard drive.

 

Here are some examples of my results:

 

274533536_X2PE6-L-2.jpg

 

501685326_Dfuzc-L-1.jpg

 

501801395_PQYLr-L.jpg

 

501682771_ixZgj-L-1.jpg

 

I shoot in RAW these days and use Photoshop CS3, but I try to keep my post processing to a minimum. I'll crop the photo as necessary, and use a little sharpening (USM - Unsharp Mask filter) and save as a JPEG. I'll probably do a little experimenting before we host NorEastCon 2010 - I'm not wild about some of the shadows I'm getting (although some of that is being caused by the lights in the facility.)

 

That's probably a bit of overkill if you are photographing your in-progress models, but here are a few ideas for that as well. If you can, use a tripod, or some other method to steady the camera. Set your aperture to a mid-range - f/7.1 or 9.0 for depth of field, and keep your ISO low. That's where a tripod will come in handy, so you can get a nice crisp shot at slower shutter speeds. If you can avoid using a direct, on-camera flash, that will help avoid harsh shadows in your photos. A desk lamp or two should give you enough light, especially if you can use a slower shutter speed.

 

If you have any questions, feel free to ask. You can see more of my photos at http://www.moose135photography.com

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So, the flash atop the camera isn't being used for your studio setup here, right?

 

Kicking in a little daylight balanced flash onto tungsten lights would not be a good thing...

 

Don'tcha just love shooting RAW format? I started doing that almost two years ago and will never look back.

 

For those of you that can only dream of such a set up, you can still do great model photography relatively cheap. I'm glad Moose stepped up and started the ball rolling by showing his mini-studio. Feel free to ask questions....there's no such thing as a stupid question here.

 

 

 

 

 

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So, the flash atop the camera isn't being used for your studio setup here, right?

 

Kicking in a little daylight balanced flash onto tungsten lights would not be a good thing...

 

John,

 

That is a good setup but I would have to agree with Dennis about the light mixture you are dealing with.

 

When utilizing a shutter speed as low as you are using, you are gathering light from not only your setup,

but also from any ambient light in the room (could be additional daylight if there is a window) and the over-

head fluorescent lighting.

 

You must have the flash dialed down or that must be Nikon's metering system that is allowing just a little

flash to kick in via TTL. You have very little catchlight (highlight) on the models.

 

I would say that the shadows you are getting are from the overhead lights. Not from your two lights that are low

and angled. The shadows from those lights would be long to the left and right of the model. I'm not seeing that.

 

I wouldn't be surprised if those two bulbs are providing little if no light to your subject due to the low wattage of

the bulbs.

 

Like Dennis, (I read your blog Dennis) I come from the film and darkroom days and have transitioned to digital (Wasn't

happy about it, still ain't).

 

I also shoot RAW but I'm not happy with the 'hard drive farm' I now own that grows every year. I have backup upon backup...

 

I just purchased one of these: Mini Cyc

 

I had my friend work out a shipping imperfection and paint it with a matte interior blue (PPG Auto Paint). I'm letting the paint

gas out for another week or two before I bring it in the home.

 

Thanks for adding this photo forum within the forum...

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If you are shooting models on the table, rather than transporting them to a setup like the one above, I highly recommend this diffuser. Works great.

 

Regardless of the do-dads we use to light our models, the one thing that ultimately makes the biggest difference is the QUALITY of the light hitting the model. Finding what works for you and your camera/flash equipment will take a little experimentation. When going around the display tables, I like to use an inflatable mini-lightbox held off-camera. In dark gyms, I'll even take along a mini tripod (5" high) to set on the table for added stability. Thankfully, experimenting doesn't cost anything with digital and mistakes are easy to delete.

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Dennis,

 

When I am shooting models on the table at a show, usually for use in our club newsletter or my blog, I use the Puffer to take away harsh shadows and some of the color shift. This tends to give me an acceptable photo that I can then work with in Photoshop. I'd like to shoot with a tripod, or even a monopod at a show but find that it is just too much trouble given the crowds, etc. The photos aren't as nice as if I'd shot in a lightbox with a backdrop, etc.

 

Here is an example from the Cinci show. It is Jack Bruno's JS II. I adjusted it a little in Photoshop, but didn't do much. It is a good representation of the original that I saw at the show which is what I am going for. Mostly what I try and avoid are the harsh shadows and radical color shift. This one was shot without the puffer which is why I got the flare off the turret.

 

cinci1.jpg

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A perfectly fine photo, David. The reason I like to use a flash off-camera is that I'm able to move the light to provide better depth and accentuate the portions of a model that I want photographed (like the engine in a car or tank, underwing stores, etc.

 

As for a tripod, I don't use my regular full-size version, I have Bogen tabletop model that sits nicely on the table. It allows me to shoot at a shutter speed that will allow me to capture some of the ambient light too -- lightening the background a bit.

 

Basically, find a method that works for you and refine it. For me, I have two

lighting set-ups, one if I'm near my mini-studio at home, the other when I'm at a convention where I don't want to lug around a lot of equipment. At home, I use multiple flashes and reflectors, in the wild at a model show, I'll stick with a simpler approach.

 

Shooting on RAW format will also allow me to correct any color balance or exposure issues after the fact.

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If you are shooting models on the table, rather than transporting them to a setup like the one above, I highly recommend this diffuser. Works great.

 

 

I would also recommend a Gary Fong Lighsphere II diffuser - I've had great results with them, especially in weird lighting situations. at about 35.00, they're relatively cheap versus the benefit you get from using them. They can be kind of tricky to keep them on the flash head though.

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This is a topic thats needed discussion for a while now. I joined the review team a while back and for the most part really enjoy doing it. I say for the most part because the aspect of it I don't like is photographing the projects. I have a Nikon D70 with a separate flash so I dont think the camera is the issue. My problems appear as depth of field issues because I dont have enough exposure time or the correct apparature setting? I do not have a tri pod which looks to be essential in this process. As for the RAW issue, I don't intend to start doing that but I would guess you can still shoot great pictures without using that format? The review moderator asks for lots of close up detail and I just can't capture that without the aforementioned depth of field problem. Any advice would be appreciated.

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This is a topic thats needed discussion for a while now. I joined the review team a while back and for the most part really enjoy doing it. I say for the most part because the aspect of it I don't like is photographing the projects. I have a Nikon D70 with a separate flash so I dont think the camera is the issue. My problems appear as depth of field issues because I dont have enough exposure time or the correct apparature setting? I do not have a tri pod which looks to be essential in this process. As for the RAW issue, I don't intend to start doing that but I would guess you can still shoot great pictures without using that format? The review moderator asks for lots of close up detail and I just can't capture that without the aforementioned depth of field problem. Any advice would be appreciated.

 

If you have a separate flash (what model number is it?) then you shouldn't have a DOF issue - I use a 60mm Micro (Nikon's euphamism for 'macro') Nikkor for my shots and I usually have it stopped all the way down to f/32 - usually at 1/200 sec - that paired with an SB800 flash with diffuser - with this set up, I don't even really need a tripod, though I do use it anyway. I've never had any real problems with my D80. I guess it'd help to know what lens and flash you're using to start some troubleshooting...

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Chris:

I use a couple OTT-LITES for illumination and set my lens to f/8 or f/11 with the camera set to aperture priority. I use a small tripod ($6 or so from Target years ago) to hold things steady and shoot away, careful to avoid camera shake. I can also do the same thing with a couple strobes but most folks don't have two strobes lying around....

 

Note: this is my setup for when I'm at home. If I'm at a show, I take the path Mike takes...strobe with difuser and off-camera cord for the flash.

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This is all very good information and I have spent several days web searching the various aspects like camera models, software, diffusers, tripods lighting... but I have got to say this is a rather expensive avenue. I'm all about spending model money on tools vs. kits but it seems like it requires $1000 minimum to get any where near this setup. OUCH!

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This is all very good information and I have spent several days web searching the various aspects like camera models, software, diffusers, tripods lighting... but I have got to say this is a rather expensive avenue. I'm all about spending model money on tools vs. kits but it seems like it requires $1000 minimum to get any where near this setup. OUCH!

Actually Jay, while us "photo freaks" enjoy getting all the bells and whistles, digital cameras and software today make getting good shots of models relatively inexpensive. The gadgets are nioce to have but not necessary to get very good photos for either posting here or using in print.

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If you have a separate flash (what model number is it?) then you shouldn't have a DOF issue - I use a 60mm Micro (Nikon's euphamism for 'macro') Nikkor for my shots and I usually have it stopped all the way down to f/32 - usually at 1/200 sec - that paired with an SB800 flash with diffuser - with this set up, I don't even really need a tripod, though I do use it anyway. I've never had any real problems with my D80. I guess it'd help to know what lens and flash you're using to start some troubleshooting...

 

 

Let me get the specs and we'll talk some more

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Chris:

I use a couple OTT-LITES for illumination and set my lens to f/8 or f/11 with the camera set to aperture priority. I use a small tripod ($6 or so from Target years ago) to hold things steady and shoot away, careful to avoid camera shake. I can also do the same thing with a couple strobes but most folks don't have two strobes lying around....

 

Note: this is my setup for when I'm at home. If I'm at a show, I take the path Mike takes...strobe with difuser and off-camera cord for the flash.

 

 

All very helpful information. I'm almost looking forward to shooting my next project.

 

Thanks for the feedback.

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This is all very good information and I have spent several days web searching the various aspects like camera models, software, diffusers, tripods lighting... but I have got to say this is a rather expensive avenue. I'm all about spending model money on tools vs. kits but it seems like it requires $1000 minimum to get any where near this setup. OUCH!

All the "toys" I have are expensive, but I do much more than photograph models - I shoot a wide range of subjects, and have even made a couple of dollars shooting events (no where near paying for my equipment...) And with the way my life is right now, I don't get to do as much model building as I would like, so I end up spending a lot of time on my photography. There are more cost effective ways of going about it - it all comes down to getting comfortable with your equipment and learning the best way to use it, taking advantage of its strong points, and working around any shortcomings it may have.

 

And just an update to my description in the original post. I took a look (since I haven't had the set up out in a while) and I'm using 100w bulbs for the side lights (and they do make a difference in the level of light on the subject). Dennis and Kevin, about your questions on the flash - I do use the Speedlite, pointed upwards with a bounce card to add a little extra light. The room lights are probably what is causing the extraneous shadows, unfortunately the room layout hasn't allowed me to correct that, but I'll have a different shooting location for NorEastCon (since it's in a different facility) and I'll have to see how I can avoid some of that - perhaps some fabric to act as a big diffuser. And I do shoot a gray card to check adjust for custom white balance with all the light sources.

 

I recently made myself a light scoop/bouncer for my flash, like this one. I shot a few models at a recent club meeting and thought it gave me decent results, and cost me about $3 in materials.

 

Kevin, I shot slides for 25 years before going digital, and I couldn't be happier. :smiley20:

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Let me get the specs and we'll talk some more

Ok I've got the gear right in front of me. My Nikon D70 came with a 18-70mm 1:3.5-4.5G telephoto lens and I have a Nikon Speed light SB-600 flash. Does that help?

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Jay: One thing that I think needs to be pointed out is that a few of us who will be participating in this forum make our living as photographers. I'm fully aware of the costs involved but I hope that some ideas that are shared here will save some costs. Many items that you need can be purchased at an art store like Michaels or AC Moore. Diffusers can be made from white bed sheets, or other white sheer fabrics. Reflectors can be made from white foamcore as well as flags (word we use for blocking light or creating shadows) which can be made from black foamcore.

 

You could consider a camera such as the Canon G11. G11

 

While you don't have the ability to change lenses, you can mount another flash on the camera, it has excellent close-up (macro) capabilities and allows for full automatic to full manual control (plus video).

 

Chris: Here is some info on your flash: SB600

You would have the unique ability to "link" a couple of SB600s together to carry with you a mini studio if you so choose. SB600 Remote That way you can pump all the light you need to get good depth of field with your subject.

 

One note on RAW or NEF (for Nikon): Nikon RAW

It isn't so much that RAW brings out detail (which it does) it is that RAW is the closest to film that digital has. If you capture your images as Jpegs, you will have less control over your images than if you captured your images in a RAW format. RAW gives you the best file that can be recorded in digital. You can make multiple adjustments without quality loss. Jpegs don't afford that option. Just remember that if you choose to try RAW, you NEVER save the adjustments you make on the RAW file to that same file, hence over-writing the original file. You always save your adjustments/corrections to a new file. (Save As instead of Save)

 

John: I would agree that you need some type of diffuser or more opaque material blocking any overhead light. You also need to be careful in bouncing your flash off of a wall because it will pick up a cast if the wall is not pure white. I would also recommend that you invest in some 'Cable Cuffs'. Cuffs You can pick these up at Home Depot. I would recommend that you clean up your wires and straps before an accident happens. I have seen it too many times in the past. I use these cuffs for everything photo related.

 

And John, I have been shooting for as long as you have. Digital is nothing but a recurring expense to me every two years. Film bodies were much more reliable and durable. It's just a cost of doing business... ;)

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Ok I've got the gear right in front of me. My Nikon D70 came with a 18-70mm 1:3.5-4.5G telephoto lens and I have a Nikon Speed light SB-600 flash. Does that help?

 

 

Chris -

 

I had a very similar set of gear I was using in the early days - here is the problem - to get a good close up shot of your model, I would bet that you're standing a ways back and have your lens all the way out to 70mm. The problem there is that the flash, while giving more even coverage is going to give you a less intense coverage, so your photos will be slightly darker...

 

Again, I use a 60mm Micro Nikkor lens specifically for taking close up shots (down to 1:1 if need be). That lens at around 450.00 can be somewhat cost prohibitive.

 

What I would suggest at a much cheaper alternative is to invest in a 50mm f/1.8 lens (around 130.00 or so new, but even cheaper if you can find a used one in good condition on ebay or at KEH.com) as well as a 'Close Up' lens set (around 50.00 for a good set - 20 bucks for a cheap one). A 'Close Up' set is usually a set of 3 filters of varying magnification power (usually +1, +2, and +3) that screw into the lens thread at the front of your lens. You can use the close up lenses each by themselves or in combination with each other until you get the desired magnification you want. A Nikon 50mm lens thread is 52mm, so you would need a 52mm Close Up set. Now, you're not going to get the same quality of photo you would get with the Micro Nikkor lense, but the average person isn;t going to know the difference between the two.

 

Once you have the 50mm lens and your close up lenses, you can set your camera to full manual mode and try playing around with different combinations of aperture and shutter speed with your SB600 - try setting your aperture to f/16 or so with a shutter speed of 1/100 sec as a baseline.... you can just keep playing with it until you get what looks good to you. One thing - I never use Nikon's 'P' mode when I take model photos because it's almost always going to give you the widest aperture and when doing close up shots, you want as much depth of field as possible to get the entire subject in focus. I never use aperture or shutter priority either - always full manual ('M' on your camera dial).

 

Mike

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Chris -

 

I had a very similar set of gear I was using in the early days - here is the problem - to get a good close up shot of your model, I would bet that you're standing a ways back and have your lens all the way out to 70mm. The problem there is that the flash, while giving more even coverage is going to give you a less intense coverage, so your photos will be slightly darker...

 

Again, I use a 60mm Micro Nikkor lens specifically for taking close up shots (down to 1:1 if need be). That lens at around 450.00 can be somewhat cost prohibitive.

 

What I would suggest at a much cheaper alternative is to invest in a 50mm f/1.8 lens (around 130.00 or so new, but even cheaper if you can find a used one in good condition on ebay or at KEH.com) as well as a 'Close Up' lens set (around 50.00 for a good set - 20 bucks for a cheap one). A 'Close Up' set is usually a set of 3 filters of varying magnification power (usually +1, +2, and +3) that screw into the lens thread at the front of your lens. You can use the close up lenses each by themselves or in combination with each other until you get the desired magnification you want. A Nikon 50mm lens thread is 52mm, so you would need a 52mm Close Up set. Now, you're not going to get the same quality of photo you would get with the Micro Nikkor lense, but the average person isn;t going to know the difference between the two.

 

Once you have the 50mm lens and your close up lenses, you can set your camera to full manual mode and try playing around with different combinations of aperture and shutter speed with your SB600 - try setting your aperture to f/16 or so with a shutter speed of 1/100 sec as a baseline.... you can just keep playing with it until you get what looks good to you. One thing - I never use Nikon's 'P' mode when I take model photos because it's almost always going to give you the widest aperture and when doing close up shots, you want as much depth of field as possible to get the entire subject in focus. I never use aperture or shutter priority either - always full manual ('M' on your camera dial).

 

Mike

 

 

Wow thats a lot of really good stuff. I guess I need to invest a couple bucks if I want quality shots. Thank you for all the advice Mike. Stay tuned for the results.

 

Chris

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Kevin, thanks for pointing me in the G11 direction. I have discovered further that this model does not support remote capture through the laptop software, the one really cool feature of Johns setup. However the G9 & G10 are supported but lack the ability to use RAW format from the software. Is this an acceptable compromise or is RAW format that superior?

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Jay-

 

I wouldn't let the remote capture turn you away from a camera. I know it's a nice function but if you become adept at reading a histogram Histogrammy it will allow you to capture images with less gear.

 

As far as RAW and other file formats, RAW is a superior file. I shoot RAW for all assignments but that is because my work goes into print as well as the web. The majority of newspaper shooters shoot jpeg. One reason is for space. Jpegs can be handled quicker for the web and for press. Screen resolution is normally 72 DPI and print resolution (newspaper) is around 150 DPI. Jpeg files are fine for those usages.

 

If you had a blog or were posting to this website, a jpeg is more than adequate. If you were going to submit an article to FSM, AFV, etc., their requirements are probably a minimum of 300 DPI and would probably need a tiff file which can be made from a RAW file. Sometimes they might even make the request to have the original RAW file so they can make their printing adjustments accordingly.

 

If you had captured the image in jpeg format, you can't up-res it to a RAW. A photo program, let's say Photoshop, will just interpolate what it feels the image needs and add pixels based on its algorithms if you try to up-res a jpeg. It just will not look good. If you capture that same image in the RAW format, your possibilities are limitless as long as you don't overwrite the original RAW file.

 

This will help you understand about jpegs: JPeg Section two, Typical Usage, will really tell you all you need to know.

 

Simply put, RAW gives you the most options for your images. It also takes up the most space. It all depends on your needs...

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  • 1 year later...

There are some interesting posts on this topic. Model photography (The Scale Kind!) has its own set of challenges.

Don't be too discouraged if you do not have a DSLR and a huge selection of lenses though.

I got fed up with lugging a huge bag of photographic gear around to shows, so started to look for a quality compact.

Having looked around for quite a while I finally bought a Panasonic Lumix LX3 and never looked back.

It has a fast Leica Vario Summicron lens. Although the lens has a very limited zoom range It is brilliant for low light

photography without the use of the flash. Great for sharp,hand held photos at shows.

I have also done quite a bit of set up scale model photography using nothing more than the LX3 camera, a tripod

and a backdrop for the model as shown in one of the earlier posts in this thread.

Normally I set the aperture at F8 the smallest you can on this camera, and rate it at ISO80.

I try to photograph in flat daylight to minimise any shadowing and use the self timer at 10 secs to allow the camera

to settle still after focusing and pressing the shutter release button.

The tripod is a must when working like this as the shutter speed will be slow because of the ISO80 setting.

Hand held at shows I set this to ISO200 or 400 depending on the level of light and set the white balance for the lighting.

If you can really hold it steady you may be able to hand hold at ISO100 and get away with it.

Being digital you could experiment to use the lowest ISO setting that is practical for hand holding at the time.

It's a brilliant little camera that I would recommend to anybody.

It has the equivqlent of a 24mm lens at wide angle in 35mm terms...Great for landscapes as well as scale models.

Look at one of the dedicated Lumix LX3 users websites and see what this little camera is capable of.

Panasonic have just released the LX5 as a follow up to the LX3, so there may be some LX3's around secondhand

when photographic entusiasts upgrade. (They did not use LX4 as a follow up number......Don't Ask!)

I can only speak about the camera I own, but there are some nice little high end compacts out there that would

also be well worth looking at.

 

 

 

 

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  • 4 months later...

Further to my last post, I was reading a UK photographic magazine with an article in it about photographing model railways (railroads to US readers). It featured a particular photographer who does a lot of stuff for modelling magazines where great depth of field is required. He was singing the praises about a piece of software named HELICON FOCUS. I looked at their website to see what it was capable of and was very impressed. Basically it 'stacks' a number of images taken at different focal lengths on the subject and translates them into a super sharp front to back image.

Edited by noelsmith
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