Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Taking Photos of Your Miniatures

Damn it, Games Workshop beat me to it. I was planning on writing an article about taking photos of your miniatures, and they went and did it for me!

What I'm going to do instead is complement their post with some tips of my own and tell you how I improved my own photography.

Les start with the pretty fancy image they included. This really is all you need to remember. A cheat sheet, if you will.

Most cameras will do...
I have to agree, my phone has a better camera than my camera has! And some pretty cool built in editing software, so yep, you don't need to go an buy a snazzy expensive camera, especially when you could spend that money on more miniatures!
What I would say is, spend some time to get to know the functions of your phone's camera, there are some settings on there that will instantly make your photo a million times better.

Light it up...
I've told this story before, but I'll tell it again. When I was hanging with the Four Dad's, Rich posted some pictures one day and my wife mentioned that he was a better painter than me! Should I have divorced her then? Probably, but one thing I value about my wife is that she's honest and she'll tell me how it is. Now, Rich is a good painter, but I think I'm just as good (he may disagree) so I wasn't taking that! I asked him what he'd done differently, and he said nothing... except buy a light box.

20 minutes later I'd purchased a light box off eBay for £25, which came with two daylight bulbs, and I've never looked back.

Daylight bulbs are the best for taking photos because they emit a white light that doesn't effect the colour of the item you are taking a photo of.

Also, with iPhones, for example, when you are taking a photo you can adjust the lighting level. If the picture looks a bit dark, tap the screen in the darkest area of the image and the picture should become brighter. So simple to do, so easy to forget.

If you're serious about taking photos of your miniatures, I'd recommend spending that £25. Even my wife agrees...

Crop it...
Now, this is something I wasn't very good at doing. Quite often I'd want to take a photo of a miniature and I'd chop the end of a gun off or something, and my wife would have a go at me about it. But that's ok, it's like training a puppy, you tell it enough and it'll listen!

Make sure the miniature is square and centred and all bits of it are visible. Unless you are showing off a particular detail or something.

The other thing is, don't try and put huge miniatures in a standard light box. You just wont get the lighting right. Either get a bigger light box (mine is 600x600, ideal for single miniatures, dreadnoughts, rhinos and squads of about 5. Not good for Fellblades, Storm Ravens or 20-man tactical squads!). For these you'd be better off with a plain sheet or against a white wall.

Set the scene...
The Games Workshop guide suggests that you take photos on a white background. I admit, they look good, but I prefer a black background for my wolves. That might just be because of the colour scheme though, I just think they look better.

I've also been looking at getting some sort of war scene for the background, like they do in the Horus Heresy books, to make the scheme look more epic, like part of a battle. Still searching, so if anyone has any ideas?...

The golden angle...
Only you can decide what angle this is, but is usually the direction in which the face is looking. For blog posts I try and take the first picture from this angle, and then spin the miniature round at 90 degree increments to show off the rest of the detail.

You want the picture at 'floor' height too, looking directly at the miniature, not down on it (unless you are showing off the base or decals on the top of a dreadnought, for example).

Sometimes you take picture and don't realise until you come to post it that the camera was focusing on a knee pad and you were trying to focus on the face. this could be because you are a bit too close. In this case, move the camera back and either zoom in, or crop the photo later.

Something not covered by the Games Workshop guide is effects. Either using apps like Instagram or the built in editing functions, you can change almost every aspect of the image, apply filters, spin it round and crop it.

Just don't over do it. You are trying to show off your painting skills, not your photo editing skills!

Also, I've found that if you are taking a photo of an unpainted work in progress, a miniature that's got several shades of grey plastic, a bit of green stuff and a resin shoulder pad for example, taking a black and white photo can bring it together and give you a better idea of the end result. Instead of looking like a miss mash of bits, it looks like a monotone photo of a finished miniatures. this is probably the best trick I can share that is not already covered.

I hope sharing a bit of my own experience is useful to you. I cannot stress enough the benefit buying a light box will bring!

Dave - a blog dedicated to The Horus Heresy and Warhammer 40k - Get in touch on Twitter: @davetgent


  1. Agree with your points. I use Picasa photo editing, free to download, crop, auto white balance and Auto Adjust function works wonders.

    1. Ah cool, I'll take a look at that, cheers mate.

    2. Ps - your latest blog post actually demonstrates how to take and frame good photos really well!