This is my basic photo setup. A cheap(ish) camera, Canon EOS 400D. A kitchen counter. No tripod, just a stack of books. I described the light box a couple of weeks ago – to the right is a cheap halogen flood light I recently bought. It provides great light, but gets really hot really quick. Certainly not the sort of thing you want to leave unattended next to the tissue paper sides of the light box, or you’ll have a fire on your hands. Ideally, I’d like a light source on the left side too, but combined with the lamp above the counter it works pretty well.
You can also see the camera is hooked up to my laptop – that’s because I like to remote-shoot my pictures. This is not something you really need. Most, if not all, cameras can be set to shoot on a timer, which is ideal since your shaking hands won’t make the picture blurry.
A screenshot of the software I use. It’s Canon’s proprietary stuff, and allows me to change most of the settings and take the photo without even touching the camera. At the top is the shutter speed, in this instance 0.3 seconds. This slow speed allows for more light to enter the camera and hit the sensor. Which means that I get away with having a small aperture (opening in the lens system).
Using a small aperture (high f-number, 22 in my example) gives you a greater depth of field (DoF). As a rule of thumb, the higher the f-number, the more of your photo will be in focus. At the distance we’re shooting the DoF will be in the centimetres range, so you want to have control over this. Depending on your lens, you may want to zoom all the way out and get in close with the camera to maximise your DoF as well. Experiment a bit.
All of these settings can of course be changed on the camera itself. How to change them depends on what camera you’re using. I refer you to your manuals!
Don’t forget to experiment with different lights and camera settings. Some miniatures will end up looking flat in a light that shows off the colour of others.
The five most important things to remember
- Never hold the camera in your hands. Prop it up on books if you have no tripod. Shoot with a timer or remote control.
- Diffuse your light, this avoids stark contrast and shadows.
- Start with the highest f-number (smallest aperture) you can. Adjust the shutter speed and aperture until you get a good result.
- Higher megapixel count isn’t neccesarily better.
- Set your white balance to the light source you’re using.
Good luck with your photography!