Wednesday, November 25, 2015

A Plea for Help.

Some of you may know Ashton Holbrook. He is the man behind Red Model Painting. His Twitch Stream is all about teaching, as is his YouTube page.

Ashton is an amazing man, he has been an inspiration to me, a sometimes mentor and an all around great guy. Ashton is always quick to answer a tough painting question and offer words of encouragement to any who ask.

Ashton is going through the most horrible experience of his life. His wife and children were in a car accident and today he had to say a final good by to his daughter. As a father myself I can't even imagine the hell he is going through.

So please if you can, if it's at all possible. I beg you to donate to his family. We as painters and miniature game lovers are a caring community and I believe we take care of our own. So please go to the donation page and help Ashton and his family if you can.

Thank you from my heart,


Sunday, November 22, 2015

The long awaited, and frankly quite long Photography post.

As some of may know, I taught the miniature photography class at Warmachine Weekend. I also shot and edited the pictures of all the entries for the painting competition, which can be viewed here Warmachine Weekend Painting Comp Entries.

Since the pictures have been posted I have received quite a few inquiries about how I was able to produce the results I did.

There are a few basics that must be understood for taking decent (to great) pictures of miniatures.

1. Equipment matters. A good DSLR will always take better pictures compared to a phone or regular digital camera. I shoot with a Cannon T2i and 300mm lens.

2. Lighting, lighting, lighting. It's crucial to taking good pictures. I use at a minimum 3 lights around my light box, and sometimes a 4th in the front if a model has too much overhang, leaving too many shadows. I personally use daylight bulbs in my set up but even good desktop lamps with LED bulbs will work just fine. If you find that you have too much glare on your models, a good cheap trick is to take a bit of parchment paper and LOOSELY wrap the head of the lamp, it will act to diffuse the light.

 2.B. Light should never be focused directly at the miniature. My setup has one light on each side and one light over head. I aim the lights behind and at a down angle causing the light to bounce off the walls before hitting the miniature. This has given me a way to remove shadows with out washing out the miniature.

3. Background. Ideally you want a darker, contrasting background. (you would not want to shoot a blue model against a blue background....) Choose something that is on the darker side that really brings out the colors of miniatures.

 3.B. I was generously given backgrounds made by Hangar 18 Miniatures for the photography class and for the WMW shoot. They are the best I have come across for miniatures as of yet. The colors they use are subtle enough to not take away from the miniatures but contrasting enough to make your mini's stand out. They are longer than a standard piece of paper and bend well without creases so that you can have them as the floor and background of the model. A few words of caution when using these backgrounds. The images are a bit fragile, so gentle handling of the miniatures when moving them around on it is required. Also I would recommend adding a strip of  Velcro to the back so that it will hang in your light box. Most light boxes I have played with have a strip for Velcro on the back wall. All in all the Hanger 18 stuff is great and I would recommend picking a few up if your going to take pictures for CMON or other websites, competitions etc.

4. A light box. This is something that you do not absolutely need. People achieve amazing results without them. I find it easier and more convenient to have one. They range from $30 to several hundred dollars. A good $50 light box will fit all your needs and can be found on amazon, eBay etc.

5. A tripod and remote. As you will read about later in the post, having a completely still camera is one of the keys to taking a great picture. You will need a steady tripod for this. Now your tripod does not have to be a $150+ studio quality job. I have a $25 tripod that meets all the criteria and is fantastic. Things you want to look for are, rubber feat. A good wide stance, lot's of levels and easy head adjustment. As for the remote. Just go get one, They run $5 on amazon for just about any camera.

OK so we now have our shiny camera, that is sitting on our new and awesome tripod. We have our light box set up with the lights shining down upon it. Why are we still getting poor to mediocre pictures?  Settings, the answer is settings. So your shiny camera has an auto setting that you are probably aware of. What we need is manual mode. We want to be able to control the white balance, shutter speed and ISO. We also want to control the F-stop (aperture) but that's gonna be on the lens.

Let's take an aside and talk about the things we can control. Our ultimate goal is getting a proper exposure.

 Here is a brief summary of the notes I give out when doing a photography class.
Proper exposure - Too bright or too dark washes out information (pixals).

The three things that effect proper exposure.
1. F- Stop aka Aperture.
2. Shutter Speed
3. ISO (light sensitivity)

Aperture – Controlled by the lens. Basically the hole the light comes though. This allows you to control how much light comes in. (can help stop whiting out your pictures). Larger the opening the smaller the number (think gauges). (DSLR cameras move f-stop at 1/3 stops). I shoot at between 16 and 22 depending on light.

Shutter Speed – How long the sensor is exposed to the light. Measured in percentages of a second.
Longer exposure times gives more data to the image.  For miniatures we generally want a longer shutter speed.  (Again on a DLSR they move by 1/3rd) and why we want to be on a tripod with a remote to keep the camera still while the sensor is exposed. 

With longer shutter speeds we want a smaller aperture.
ISO – Light Sensitivity, higher the number the brighter the image. Need to be careful, the brighter the image the grainier it becomes. Lower numbers will be a bit darker but will give you better raw data. (Very important in low light situations) For a light box with lights. 200 – 400 are going to be your sweet spot.

Picture formats.
8mb medium
16mb large

RAW. RAW is what you want to shoot it. This gives you the true data so that editing is “easy”. 

Another thing we want to look at is our White Balance. White Balance is basically a setting on your camera that gives the little brain inside of it a way to gauge how much light is there for it to use. We want to create a customer White Balance when we are setting up our shoot. It will vary with natural light if your in a room with windows (even with a light box) ect. It's very easy to do and I'll let you look how in your manual or on the YouTube. 

Everything above is are the basics of getting great pictures out of your camera. But there is more to the story. We need to look at editing. There are things that we will have to do on the computer. It's time to color edit to bring out what you want to see. We might want to lower our exposure levels, decrease the white, raise shadows etc. I recommend Adobe Lightbox. For what we do Photo Shop just ins't needed. Light Box can do all the editing without creating layers and I feel like its a more user friends program. 

So there you have it. Let me know if this helps or you have any questions and I'll try to answer them. 

Also if you would like to book a shoot for your models send me a line and we can work something out!