Thursday, 16 January 2014

Photographing miniatures.

So one of my hobbies outside of miniatures is photography, with that in mind I've put together a few comments and thoughts on how to get the best photos you can of your miniatures. If you've spent hours/days painting them and what to show them off then clearly a quick shaky snap on your phone just isn't going to cut it.

With all photography, there are a lot of factors that go into a great shot. I’m going to go over a few of the basics and so feel free to experiment and play around until you achieve the image you want.


The key to setting up your lighting is to position the lights to eliminate any harsh shadows and dark areas on your models all the while maintaining enough contrast in your lit areas to reveal details.

Here's this in a bit more details:

You will want a main light, If you’re shooting outside this could be the sun…. but chances are you’ll be inside and you will need to create this light your first task is to decide where you want the main light source coming from.

Next look at where the shadows have formed from this main light, look for where you are losing details and definition due to harsh shadows. You want to position a second light (a fill light) to bring illumination to these areas. Usually your fill light is a bit dimmer than your main because you don’t want these areas to shine, but just have enough illumination to reveal the missing details you spent so much time preparing and painting. 
For me I use two side lights and an on board flash (i have a custom built diffuser on this....tissue paper and tin foil basically).

Next is a back light, I don’t always do this but if you want the best possible image you should do. This light is to illuminate the background. I would recommend something simple such as a gray or white background. If you are looking to replace the background in a post-processing program such as Photoshop use an extreme color like a bright green or pink, something you can easily select the pixels and remove them as needed. You will want the back light to be just bright enough to bring contrast to your models, making them ‘pop’ off the backdrop. I strongly recommend a large piece of solid color paper. You want to place your models on the center of one of the short sides and then lean the paper up against a flat backing such as a wall. This will create a nice even curved (crease-less) surface behind your models.

And that’s really it for the lighting basics.


Fist rule for the camera. USE A TRIPOD. Don’t even argue, just do it.  You cannot hand hold a camera and get the image you want, you just can’t. At worst rest your camera on something.

Next use the camera's self timer, one big issue can be that the actual act of hitting the shutter button causes you to move the camera...which in turn makes the image blurred. Not even a tripod can necessarily fix this problem completely. The simplest way to solve this issue with a digital camera is to use the self-timer.

Activate this feature on your camera and then just let it sit there without touching it until the picture is taken. This way you can absolutely guarantee that your hand touching the camera will not cause the image to be blurred.

If you are used to using your camera, you will want to be shooting in aperture priority mode, usually the one with an ‘Av’ on your camera dial. Set this as low as your camera will allow and work your way up. This will allow you to get that nice clear focus and blur the background. This may blue the models next to the focus point, so again, you will want to work your way up the scale (bigger numbers allows for more depth of field) until you are happy with the result. You will want to always use manual focus here, don’t let your camera focus on the model in the back, while your model in the front is blurred, it will look very strange.

A simpler approach is simply move your camera dial to the macro icon, this will automatically set up your camera for taking pictures of minute details. Again, you will have much less control, but it should do the job 9 times out of 10. The only issue with using this function is that it narrows the depth of field significantly meaning that some of the model could be out of focus. Play with setting first and if/when you don't like the results start to use Aperture Priority.

Shoot in RAW if you can and you know what you’re doing! It’ll make the Post Processing easier.


  1. Great pointers there, any advice on what colour backdrops match the main colours of the miniature

  2. Neutral backgrounds are normally best as they help the model stand out more. i favour greys and whites.