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Posted (edited)

Hi all,

 

I recently bought some new photography equipment to try to improve my build pictures....

 

- LED light ... https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B07V7JRTM6/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_asin_title_o05_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

- White backdrop ... https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B01CZM177K/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_asin_title_o05_s01?ie=UTF8&psc=1

 

The backdrop is fine. It has a smooth surface on one side and a matt surface on the other. It arrives rolled and tries desperately to retain the 'roll' when being laid flat. Time should cure that.

 

The LED lights although cheap work fine. However I feel they are not that bright but possibly just about good enough for model photography. Brighter = larger camera aperture = narrower depth of field (eg only the ship's wheel is in focus).

 

I'll update how I get on with these.

 

Richard

 

 

Edited by Rik Thistle
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I think it's important that for a white backdrop, you buy something which is bright white.

 

For my use, I have a large card sheet called 'ice white' which is excellent. When I do larger photos, I draw down a vivid white roller blind as a drape. I still need to generally fix white balance in Adobe Lightroom, but it's pretty simple.

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This is an interesting and timely topic for me, for two reasons.  First, photography is one of my other hobbies.  Second, I am in the midst of trying to create the final, high(er) quality images for my America build.  While doing the build log, I mostly used an ancient point-n-shoot.  For the final images I am using my Canon DSLR (5D mk IV).

 

Regarding LED lighting, I have a Luxli Viola II.  They certainly are not cheap and it would be hard to justify solely for ship model photography, but if you have other uses I'd recommend them, or the newer Luxli Fiddle.  They allow adjusting both the brightness and the color temperature of the light.  They can also do colors too, though don't think that applies to ship model photography.  They have a smart phone app for controlling the light if you have a set up where the light is not near by.  For my final pictures I am using the Viola along with one or two flashes.

 

I should probably invest more in a good back drop.....for now I am just using a sheet thumb tacked to the wall and a second one spread on the table.

 

And yes, macro photography can be brutal for the ship modeller's ego.

 

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Gary,

 

The Luxli Fiddle (at around $200, less diffuser) is 'almost' justifiable for me... maybe one day. Ken Rockwell has favourably reviewed Luxli's products.

 

After I went into semi-retirement I worked part time as a videographer (in the days of DV tape) and we used, IIRC, halogen lights on the cameras. The halogens threw the light further than LED lights which was an advantage when quite a few feet away from the subject(s) in a dark'ish room.

 

But for product photography, LEDs are now likely the better choice due to a more dispersed coverage, longer battery life, and  they run cooler, I guess?

 

Richard

 

 

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I don't have currently the space for it, but I would build myself a 'light-box' from LED-panel lights that are now available at a reasonable price, attaching the panels to a framework of aluminium profiles. Dimmable units might be a good choice, but tend to be more expensive.

 

I also have a ring-light to attach to the camera lens, but don't use it very often due to the more involved manipulations.

 

In fact, for quick work-bench pictures, I am now frequently using my iPhone, rather than getting out the DSLR camera. Of course there is less control on the plane of focus and the depth of field etc., but the iPhone gets into places you can't get into with the DSLR camera.

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I do have a light box but it's not quite large enough to accommodate a model ship and it's tall masts. I'm currently rearranging my study to place my white backdrop against the wall and bench top, with my LED lights, one either side of the ship.

 

iPhones are really very good at taking pics. I believe one can use focus stacking to simulate a deeper depth of field - not sure if the iPhone has that s/w built in. I use Android. But for 95% of picture taking mobile phones are now good enough for generally most things. And, as you say, are very convenient and good for tight spots.

 

James H (IIRC) was kind enough to explain in one of his builds how he did his photography for Vanguard Models Instruction books. It was essentailly a white back drop and a couple of lights...at least that how I remember it as being. I'll need to check.

 

Richard

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The problem of trying to take more sophisticate photographs with a smartphone is that it is difficult to judge the focus on the screen and due to the autofocus it can be difficult to impossible to coerce it to focus on a particular detail or focal plane. Therefore, taking the controlled focal plane images for focus stacking is difficult (at least on my iPhone).

 

In my experience, a white background is problematic because most cameras have difficulties with the then high contrast ratios. A neutral grey or contrasting coloured background reduces the contrast between the object and the background. Of course, a strong (diffuse) light source from the direction of the camera also helps to reduce contrasts.

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Yes, I did try searching for a large enough grey (18% ?) background but couldn't find anything reasonable.  And I didn't what to spend too much time in s/w removing the grey.

 

I tend to restrict my camera metering zone to a small box (not spot or wide) so that kinda removes the influence of the white background. But for my basic needs, at the moment, I'll go with what I've got for now.

 

Richard

 

Edit: Just found large grey backdrops on Amazon....I'm sure they weren't there a few weeks ago 😉

 

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Posted (edited)

A solid green or blue background, e.g. photoboard, is also useful, if you want to remove the background in Photoshop in order to place the image in front of something else (like the blue-screen technique used on TV). Most (historic) models do not have one or the other of these colours so it is easy to select and remove them.

 

Below an early attempt using a blue background and then placing the image in front of a scanned photochrome postcard:

 

image.png.c095bb14bb452f13e067d09c87b896de.png

 

image.png.d337f6343eda3cea89576f992982d359.png

Edited by wefalck
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That looks very convincing.  Yes, PS is a great tool - I'm very rusty on it and am currently using paint.net for my needs.

 

A quick snap of my 'new' set- up ...

663282574_photographysetup13.thumb.jpg.29999b16793c49ec620944d032bd86cd.jpg

 

Total outlay appx £46. Lights £30 + backdrop £16. I'll need restraints on the tripod feet or they'll be meeting the floor soon. There's some stray light off mirrors but that can be sorted.

 

It's a bit blurry but gives an impression of the light brightness available from the (non-adjustable) 2x LED lamps. They'll never get close to sync'd flash but for current needs good enough. I didn't bother adjusting the camera's settings so will be able to post brighter images in future.

 

Richard

 

 

 

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"... lightweight microphone tripods ..."

 

Ah, you've reminded me I have a full length mic stand and at least a couple of desk mic stands, somewhere. The snag with my LEDs is that they don't have a 1/4" Whitworth thread ...but tie-wraps, at a pinch, could hold the head onto a stand.

 

But, to be honest, I think what I've got at the moment is worth persevering with, for a while. The only slight drawback is that they are not height adjustable...but that is what a thick book is for 😉

 

Richard

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Posted (edited)

I do a lot of macro photography, wildflowers, insects, etc., and use an excellent macro lens. So I have the camera equipment for model photography. I learned long ago that the best lighting for outdoors work is cloudy bright - a slight thin white cloud layer illuminated by the sun. This gives a nice diffused white light with good illumination from all around and no harsh shadows. Strong shadows are a real problem for most macro work.

 

Of course you can't always have a cloudy bright day, especially if you are trying to photograph something indoors or at night! For indoor work I do not want a direct light. A good white light bounced off a wall or ceiling gives diffuse shadows. For ship model photography I find it best to avoid harsh contrasts from bright lights that leave part of the image underexposed and part overexposed. Low contrast lighting is usually best for illustrations.

 

But when you have a diffused or dim light to avoid harsh shadows you need to use longer shutter speeds, especially if you are using very small apertures for greater depth of field. I mount the camera on a tripod and use up to 30 second exposure with f stops up to 34 or 40 - depending upon the light - to get good depth of field. I use a remote shutter release to avoid moving the camera.

 

Mounting the camera on a tripod allows me to make multiple exposures from the same camera angle. I often do this, adjusting the focus point to different places of interest on the model to get sharp exposures of that part of the model. Then I use photo stacking to get very good depth of field.

 

For example, in this composite image of 12 photos you can see the grain at the end of the bowsprit and the ring bolts on the boat booms on the stern are also in focus. This is a 22 inch (56 cm) depth of field! The diffused soft lighting allows you to see details in the shady bulwarks on the right and in the brighter lighted parts, with no harsh shadows.

 

644353440_Bowview.jpg.e4b8e3974e9edbc89255c344110a451a.jpg.b280d85b29ae1cd92bf08ca00cd5daa6.jpg

Edited by Dr PR
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On 4/27/2021 at 6:04 AM, Rik Thistle said:

Brighter = larger camera aperture = narrower depth of field

Actually bright can be achieved at most any aperture with adjustments to shutter speed and/or ISO. Most of my model shots are done between F/6.5 - f/11. Of course as with all photography the quality of light source is critical. 

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Glenn,

 

Yes, it was a general statement 'brighter is better', all other things being equal.  The more light one has to begin with the more flexibilty you have with the camera settings.

 

I remember reading Ken Rockwell's site quite a number of years ago when he was talking about film photography ( https://www.kenrockwell.com/tech/modern-exposure.htm  )  and he mentioned he generally used ISO 50. I couldn't understand that - here in Scotland I was struggling to use ISO 200 to get sufficient flexiblity between aperture and shutter speed. Then I realised that where Ken lived (San Diego) the outdoor light was much, much brighter.

 

Richard

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10 hours ago, Dr PR said:

 A good white light bounced off a wall or ceiling gives diffuse shadows. For ship model photography I find it best to avoid harsh contrasts from bright lights that leave part of the image underexposed and part overexposed.

Nice shot Phil.  Now I feel like an idiot for not bouncing the light off the walls and ceiling for my recent shots, though I have not done a lot of indoor macro photography.   I've also done some focus stacking for very small objects or for landscapes but did not really think about it for a medium sized object like a model.

 

Thanks for the tips, now I have something to try today.

 

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ISO/ASA 50 film had a much finer grain than ISO 200

 

Yes, indeed it had.  I shot mostly B&W back then (the home darkroom set up was much simpler than colour). B&W also had a certain appeal to me...I think it was because the shapes and composition were the eye catching points, rather than the colours.  But these days I rarely convert a colour image to B&W.... thought - I wonder if my Panasonic GX80 can switch the viewfinder to B&W?

 

Richard

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, Rik Thistle said:

the home darkroom set up was much simpler than colour

Yes I tried color in the home darkroom and after much frustration and failed attempts concluded it was way cheaper to send my 35 mm color negatives or slides/transparencies directly to Kodak and have them make an 8x10 color, or larger,  print for me than doing it myself.  So the home darkroom was strictly B&W.  

Edited by Jack12477
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When I started my photography life in the early 1970s, I was lucky that my school organised a practical course with a local photography club, where we learned the basics of b/w processing and the basics of photography in general. I also read a couple of technical books back then, my father had. The school had a darkroom for the pupils' use and I got the equipment to process films at home. Never got into colour processing and printing, using only slide-film - for the last 25 years of analogue photography I used Fuji Sensia 100. Eventually got a slide scanner and Photoshop, but when camera sensors became big enough to allow A4-sized prints, I went fully digital in 2006. Digital image processing allowed me to do all the things I always wanted to do to my slides.

Just looked over this Ken Rockwell's Web-site. The guy seems to have his nose pretty much up in the air and he prides himself being an 'artist', I feel. His pictures are colourful, but not that much more.

 

I am currently using a Nikon D5100 DSLR, but find that it handles stark contrasts less well than my iPhone SE, in spite of all the buttons you can turn. That's one of the reasons, why I am using the iPhone for workshop pictures, where I don't have much options to control the illumination. 

 

Rockwell seems to use a lot long exposure shots, up to 1 min of exposure time or so. His films must be pretty good not to suffer from the Schwartzschild-effect. Nowadays you can ramp up the sensitivity, but then you end up with 'white noise'. Still, for workshop-shots I often go up to ISO 3600 - you can eliminate it in Photoshop sufficiently for posting work-in-progress pictures in fora.

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Yes, of course, I am shooting in RAW only. With post-processing a lot of the contrast problems can be compensated for, but even with the various program options and selective metering etc. I don't seem to able to shoot high-contrast images, such as a moon at night for instance. The iPhone seems to do this without tweaking ...

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Just looked over this Ken Rockwell's Web-site. The guy seems to have his nose pretty much up in the air and he prides himself being an 'artist', I feel. His pictures are colourful, but not that much more.

 

Yeah, that kinda sums Ken up. A lot of his comments are tongue in cheek though. He does like 'vivid' pictures.

 

I still think he does take pictures that capture the emotions of the places he visits eg Yellowstone.

 

Richard

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5 hours ago, Jack12477 said:

Yes I tried color in the home darkroom and after much frustration and failed attempts concluded it was way cheaper to send my 35 mm color negatives or slides/transparencies directly to Kodak and have them make an 8x10 color, or larger,  print for me than doing it myself.  So the home darkroom was strictly B&W.  

I did the color darkroom for several years as I did track side drag race photos of the cars for everything from handouts to huge photos for framing such as over a fireplace.  A big PITA but really didn't have alternatives as the commerical processers priced everything out of the range of what my customers would pay.   Even still.. made a great second income and made a lot of friends.  Even the pros would have me do some shots for them.   Take pictures on Friday night, proofs for Saturday, and final print ready for them on Sunday.  

 

Now, I'm pretty happy with digital all things considered.   If we'd had digital way back when, I might have got some sleep on those "big" race weekend.

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Not sure, how much of it actually is genuine 'tongue in the cheek'. There is a lot of tech-stuff that is likely to frighten off many people (or perhaps sends them to Wikipedia et al.) and he keeps telling people that you need the artistic vibrations, which kind of belittles other people's work. There is also 'advice' on his site that in principle is correct (say on shadows and highlights), but virtually impossible to put into practice unless you have a crew assistants around and a van full of equipment or work in your studio.

Yes, I like the clarity and vibrance of his shots from the SW USA - but then unlike Scotland and here in Paris, the area is bloody dry with not that much haze in the air. But then luminance and vibrance and strong colours is not everything.

He claims that the vibrance is due to film he used, but I am quite sure that some post-processing was done on the images on the Web-site or on the newer shots in the camera settings. Photoshop, even in the amateur edition as 'Elements', is quite powerful. The tweaking one did in the darkroom can be done now with visualising immediately the results - I had been waiting for that for decades. Of course, if a pixel is black (dead shadow) or white (burnt out high-light) there is not much room for tweaking.

Anyway, we are veering off the subject, which is not the critising of a particular photographer, but getting better studio shots of our models.

 

BTW, if you are interested, here are my own modest attempts: https://www.imago-orbis.org

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BTW, if you are interested, here are my own modest attempts: https://www.imago-orbis.org

 

Wefalk,

 

I perused your website shortly after I joined MSW and apart from being very impressed by the excellent locations you visited, the photography also caught my eye.

 

I particularly enjoyed your Speaker's Corner pictures. I visited there a number of times whilst I was living in London from 1972 to early 80s...perhaps we may have been in the same small crowd that used to gather round the Speakers. Some were downright crazy but some were making excellent points.

 

Anyway, back onto the topic 😉

 

Richard

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