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I used to have a D5100 but gave it to my youngest grandson when the D5200 came out. I got the D5200 for the 24 megapixel photo element.


Extreme contrast images are difficult with any camera. I have made good shots of the moon at night, solar eclipse, etc.  The full moon looks bright to our eyes, but it isn't nearly as bright as full sunlight. But it is a LOT brighter than the stars and nebulae!


Here is a D5100 Hi-Res JPEG shot taken through a Nikon 70-300 mm FX lens (450 mm effective focal length on the DX series cameras) and cropped to 2048x1366 pixels. 1/320 second at f5.6 with ISO 200 and spot metering.




The great thing about digital cameras is instant gratification. With film I had to wait a few days for the pictures/slides to come back. There was no real time verification that the picture came out. With digital you can take a shot, look at it, and adjust as necessary while hopefully the subject is still there.


With model/macro photography I try to use the smallest f stop for maximum depth of field and low ISO for noise reduction. Then I just use whatever shutter speed is necessary to make the shot. The model isn't going anywhere.

Edited by Dr PR
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Posted (edited)

Everyone has his own tricks up his/her sleeves on how to photograph models, but over the years I noticed that it actually is quite simple and doesn't require any expensive equipment or a studio setup. All you'll need is a camera (preferably a digital SLR type, so you can exactly see what you are photographing, which in macrophotography is more important than in, for instance, a landscape photography, because here we are dealing with a parallax error).

Also the second piece of equipment you need is a tripod. And, off course, a model!    😁


You can use a standard lens, if it'll allow you to come and focus close enough to the subject, say min. about a foot, or so. Anything closer - you'll need a macro lens (might be expensive!) or a special (cheaper) macro ring which you'll mount between your standard lens and a camera body. This ring will allow you to focus much closer than the lens alone, a few inches or even closer, depending on the ring.

When I photograph models, I NEVER use any artificial lighting, e.g. a flash or any studio lamps. This type of lighting will give you sharp contrasts and ugly shadows, which might obscure details of the model. I  photograph preferably on the outside and only when the day is cloudy or overcast. Never in the full sun!  If I want to use a neutral background, I place the model in front of a sheet of lightly colored (blue or green) paper, but if the model is too big, I use natural background. On the inside, I use ambient light only, sufficiently diffused.

I place the camera on the tripod and set it on APERTURE PRIORITY and then select the smallest possible in my camera opening, say F. stop 22. The smaller the opening (bigger number), the deeper the depth of field will be, in other words, sharpness of all the planes. Macrophotography has notoriously shallow depth of field and you want to extend it maximally. This small aperture will allow equally small amount of light through the lens and the picture will turn out too dark. So, you want to extend the time of exposure accordingly to compensate for it. In the setting Aperture Priority, the camera will do it for you automatically. Typically, the time of exposure will be way too long (for ISO 100) to keep the camera steady in the hands and result in a blurred pic, hence the need for a tripod.

Also, set the camera on SELFTIMER, say about 5 seconds delay, in order to avoid shaking the camera during the pressing of the shutter button. If your camera doesn't have a selftimer, use a cable release.


Next thing is a composition. Before you take the pic, you should briefly think what exactly you want to show in it and compose the pic. Don't be afraid to frame as much as possible the details you want to show. Remember to focus first on the detail which is located about 1/3rd closer to the camera - that way everything closer to this distance as well as further away will still be in focus. In the first pic I attached, I focused on the capstan. The camera sometimes will select automatically another detail not necessarily at that distance, so in order to convince it, PRESS THE SHUTTER HALF WAY while focusing on that detail (in the middle of the frame) and KEEPING IT HALF DEPRESSED simultaneously recompose your pic and finally press the shutter all the way to take the pic. 


I always photograph with the setting RAW. The so called, post production tweaking is as important as the actual picture taking - with RAW you can manipulate sharpness, contrast, brightness, color saturation and many other parameters, which JPEGs don't allow you. Only after all manipulations, convert it into a final JPEG.


If the depth of field (focus) doesn't satisfy you with this technique, try the Focus Stacking technique. Use a tripod here too, take at least 10 or 15 pictures of the subject (with Aperture Priority again),  don't move the camera on the tripod, but with each picture manually change a bit its focus, focusing every time slightly further away. Get the entire operation covered with pics of varying focus. On the Photoshop or other similar software, place (stack) all your pictures, one on top of the other, and electronically merge them together. In the end, EVERYTHING will be in perfect focus. Save this final pic.

The second attachment shows one of my Focus Stacking experiments with my model of the MS Rattlesnake (not just finished there).


Oh, I almost forgot. When you photograph models in their glass cases, say in a museum, to reduce those ugly light reflexions, use a polarizing filter. Depending on how good it is, these glares might get significantly reduced or even eliminated.


Off course, there is also a way of panoramas picture taking, and/or a 3D pictures (yes, for macro objects too). But, this is another matter...

300 bending shrouds.jpg

rattlerstack Panorama.jpg

Edited by Dziadeczek
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It would appear from the posts in this thread and viewing a lot of the builds on the website that we cover almost the complete gamut of photography skills from enthusiastic part timers to highly skilled and experienced togs.


One thing I would note, and it is something I am guilty of, is that one needs to become really familiar with one's photography equipment. These days I use my 'big' camera kit (a Panasonic 4/3rds) infrequently and usually take the route of least resistance .... my Android phone (less buttons and settings to think about).


But Summer is arriving so I will make a serious effort to refresh my big camera photography skills.  As  someone once asked "how do I get to Carnegie Hall? - practice, practice, practice"



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True, but modern cameras, or rather the software built into them, comes with so many bells and whistles that I tend to forget many of them. 


My philosophy has been, since I went digital, to shoot 'neutral' images as a starting point for post-processing. So, I am mostly not using any of those built-in exposure-correction programs. However, if there is a risk of underexposure in the shadows or overexposure in the highlights, I would try to adjust this with selective metering etc. As I said above, if the pixels don't have any other information but black or white, there is not much scope for post-processing. 


Talking about post-processing, a feature in Photoshop I am using frequently is the geometry correction. In the old days one would have called this Scheimpflug-correction of converging lines. Some studio cameras have the possibility to shift and tilt the lens and one can do this also in the darkroom. Now it is easy to correct distortions digitally, but one has to be aware that it degrades the image to some extent. However, pictures look so much more professional, if lines that are vertical also appear so on the image. I also use this e.g. in museum shots, when I have to take an oblique position to avoid reflections from surfaces of paintings or glass cases. 


I inherited from my father a Nikon lens in which the actual lens can be moved sideways by a few millimeters to give you a greater depth of field, when taking oblique shots. This is useful for table-top photography. However, I am not using it very often, as it pre-dates the digital age and does not transmit the lens data to the camera body. 


Much of this serves to work around sub-optimal photography situations. A professional, of course, would take the time and has the resources to make lighting and other arrangements. As amateurs we mostly cannot do this, unless we work in our own 'studio'.


Another point of DSLR vs. iPhone: on the DSLR you can switch to manual focus and set the focal plane to where you really want it to be, tweaking the autofocus on a smartphone is difficult to impossible.



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a feature in Photoshop I am using frequently is the geometry correction.


Yes, once I discovered there was a PS method for correcting barrelling and pincushion there was no going back. But it probably led to a bit of laziness when clicking the shutter button.




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Posted (edited)
On 4/27/2021 at 12:04 PM, Rik Thistle said:

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

Richard, I owe you a big 'thanks' for motivating me to try and improve my own photography. Like you, I went to Amazon to get the lights and backdrop, although I went for a larger woven backdrop as I felt it would give me more flexibility. I got some very useful advice on camera settings from Glenn (@glbarlow, here), and picked up useful tips from contributors to this topic (I'm particularly grateful to @Dr PR and @Dziadeczek).


Anyway, here's one of my first attempts with my old Nikon D90. Lots of room for improvement, but better than I usually manage:



...and a cropped version, slightly tweaked in photoshop:




Edited by DelF
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7 hours ago, wefalck said:

tweaking the autofocus on a smartphone is difficult to impossible

Not true on more advanced and newer iPhones. I can direct the focus point as I wish with my iPhone 12 Pro, I could as well with my prior iPhone X too. 

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1 hour ago, DelF said:

slightly twaeked in photoshop:

Since you have Photoshop play with tweaking white balance. This works much better if the photos are shot RAW, but jpegs can also have WB adjusted to a degree. Maybe reduce magenta or just slide the temperature left (cooler) a bit. 

Though not on a model photo, I’ve spent hours on editing a single landscape photo, many of which are in my galleries at GlennBarlow|Photography Yes blatant self promotion 😁

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Posted (edited)

Yes, one can 'point' the focal point on my iPhone SE too, but that is not enough, one needs to put a particular element on the object into focus and then you are dependent on how the autofocus reacts to the object's area. For image-stacking one would need to move the focal plane step by step through the object and this you can really only do with a manual focus ring.


In the house, including my workshop, we have gone virtually completely LED now, mainly filament bulbs. In the workshop I installed an indoor LED floodlight over the workbench and have a moveable architect's lamp with a strong LED bulb in it.


The colour temperature of illumination in a workshop can be quite an ideological matter among modellers. Some people go to great lengths to install 'day-light' (5500 K) illumination in their workshop, paint walls bright white etc. Personally, I wouldn't like the hospital feeling. My models typically would be seen with artificial light, rather than in bright day-light, so I rather would go for something that looks good under 3600 K. With the possibility to set the way how the camera interprets the light or to adjust the light temperature in Photoshop et al., the colour temperature of the illuminating light is also not so critical anymore, compared to the days of film. 'Warm' LEDs, however, are about 10% less efficient than 'cold' LEDs, because the yellow filter that is painted on them absorbs some of the light.


One thing to avoid, if possible, is to mix sources of light of different colour temperature, because the resulting (local) colour tinting is difficult to correct.

Edited by wefalck
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Re. sliding stones: I vaguely remember that there was a paper in Nature on it in the early 1990s and in the meantime they have hit Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sailing_stones


Agree, there are striking images on that photographer's Web-site. I gather, if you live by it, it needs a fair bit of self-promotion ... lots of competitors.

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2 hours ago, wefalck said:

The colour temperature of illumination in a workshop can be quite an ideological matter among modellers. Some people go to great lengths to install 'day-light' (5500 K) illumination in their workshop,


I control the white balance in the workshop at 4300-4500 degrees Kelvin when I want to take photos. The reason is very easy. If I take a photo with white, I do not want the color to be red or yellow or blue, I want it to be white. WB is only to tell the camera what the colors should look like.

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I actually just had delivery of some led lighting as I too was tired of taking poor pictures.   I have little room left in my brain to really learn how to use a camera correctly with with so many settings.  I have a pretty good camera that takes some really nice pictures.  I also bought a white backdrop 10 x 10 white linen.... but it looks light blue or gray in the pictures afterwards.  I dont mind this at all.  The cool blue looks really good to my eye against the warm tones of the hull.   I try and get the sharpest details and try to make the saturation correct so the yellow cedar looks true to its actual color.  If I can get that and the background is not perfectly white I am perfectly fine with it.   Here are some test shots from just today as Mike (stuntflyer) was helping me understand the camera setting etc.   Just too much info to learn on this stuff....


Luckily I dont have to get it perfect.....just pretty good.....I hope.  I also want to try focus stacking.  So I downloaded some freeware.  I will try that next.  But having those new lights made a huge difference.   I am pretty happy about the new lights ...backdrop...and the fact that you cant see the crap laying around my shop next to the model in every photo I take.  They are cheap ones for sure but work fine.  








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On 5/2/2021 at 11:58 AM, Rik Thistle said:

But, what's going on with the sliding stone on the dry lake bed?.

It’s quite famous and a long held mystery. How do they get out on the dry lake bed and how do they move…know one know for sure, aliens is one theory. 🤣

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1 hour ago, Chuck said:

background is not perfectly white

I could tell you how to to fix that, it’s pretty simple to get it whiter, in camera and or in Lightroom. However I agree with you, the soft background highlights the model. As a photographer I know that more isn’t always better. The model suspended in a ultra white universe with no balance or grounding (like shadows at the base) just looks weird and unsettling. 

Still one thing to try is using a light to just light the background either from above or the sides. That will give you more contrast and separate the model without sending it off into a white void. James knows how to do this very well with his product photography. I can do it, but it’s not my specialty. 

Focus stacking is easy in my D850 and Z7, a little harder in older cameras and not insignificant post work regardless of camera. You can get the ship in focus between f/11- f/16. (Well, Winnie is really big:-) without all that hassle. I’d recommend your photography energy be spent on lighting and basic processing. Just my two cents. 


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I think I figured out the white background thing.....


auto white balance is a wonderful thing...I prefer to do as little editing as possible but that is almost impossible.


Thank you for pushing me to keep trying....but yes white like this is very stark.



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On 5/1/2021 at 7:52 AM, Rik Thistle said:

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, go into your setting and change from color to b/w.


I am an avid pro-amateur photographer (40 years experience), and considering going back to regular analog camera along using digital.
I still have my equipment except the darkroom items.

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A photo-table is highly recommended, they come in various sizes and qualities.

Choose a table that has an acrylic flexible top.
Blue or green back drop paper will work amazingly if you like to post-edit picture and insert a background. 

The sweep is important as it will eliminate shadows, and using in-direct backlight your model will certainly stand out.

See this one



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