Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Photographing Minis: How much can Shutter Speed effect your lighting?

Okay, so while working on this series of articles about photographing my minis I took a lot of pics in one evening for the article specifically.  And, in my opinion, none of them were as good as the ones I usually take.  Which sucks because I really thought I had it figured out and could help point some people in the right direction.  My methods may still help you, but don't stick to exact parameters and expect same results.  I did my usual thing exactly, but the difference being at night instead of in front of a window during the day as normal.  Maybe this changed the way my lightbox works and the lack of light between lens and box or whatever.  So, I guess my point is, sometimes I make what I think are pretty good pics and other times mediocre pics while doing the same thing with only slight variations in room lighting.  I do the same thing almost every time with varying results every time.  This still puzzles me and I am gonna come up with a real system that works every time the same.  Until then, maybe this post will help with part of the puzzle.  

This post is gonna show how much changing only the shutter speed can change the picture dramatically.  Below are a series of pics that were all taken back to back changing only the shutter speed.  I will note in the captions, some have been edited and altered to a suitable state of posting, but are still not what I like to get. I will not get into the numbered settings of my shutter speed as the same speed can take entirely different pics in different lighting conditions.  My previous post shows some pics taken a while back using same methods that are much better in my opinion.

Taken with long shutter speed
Resized, cropped, lighting corrected version of above

Slightly shorter than above

Again slightly less than above

And another with less than above-getting closer

Resized, Cropped, Lighting corrected version of above-decent

Shorter still speed than above

Resized, Cropped, Lighting corrected version of above-probably best of night, but still color is off

As shutter speed increases, light decreases more

And shorter still speed and lighting darkens significantly

Well, maybe this little segment on shutter speed effects will help you in your own search of taking the perfect mini pic.  I know I still have a lot to learn and will continue to look for new ways to be more consistent with taking better pics.

My next foray into better pics will involve working more with a macro function, but with manual settings.  If this helps then I am gonna try to learn more about white balance settings and see if this will help even more.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

How I Photograph my Minis in Minutes

The setup I use when photographing my minis

Today, I will be continuing the series of posts about how I go about photographing my minis.  When doing this I try to keep my time doing this to a minimum to save my valuable hobby time I could use for painting, modelling, etc.  

The first timesaving tip is I keep the above setup in place so all I have to do is place the mini in the lightbox and put camera on tripod.  I use my wife's Nikon D40 SLR camera to take all my pics.  I have my own SD card just for minis and blogging that I swap in so mini pics don't get mixed in with wife's pictures.  The lightbulb in the lamp is a 150W Reveal(daylight bulb).  

That is my basic setup of all the hardware.  As far as settings on the camera go, I am still experimenting with that, but I will show you some of my results below and tell you how what I use.  I put the camera in Shutter Priority mode first, I know I should use macro mode but I am still learning.  Using the Shutter Priority mode allows me to change the shutter speed up or down depending on light.  This can vary the outcome of the picture greatly as I have found out during my trials.  Another key component in this is to always use the self-time mode.  Touching the camera especially during long shutter openings is very bad for quality.  I usually setup and take a pic using timer.  I then check the lighting in the picture and adjust the shutter speed up or down to let in more or less depending on this outcome.  Usually after a couple test pic I am close enough to finish with my next step.

When I have something I want to post, I will take the photos from SD card and open in imaging software like photoshop.  I usually keep my changes simple, Crop, Resize to 600x400(or thereabouts), then Autocorrect the lighting.  These take just a few seconds and can help the quality of lighting and pic alot.  Sometimes if I did everything right in the photobox I skip the Autocorrect lighting step.  Below are some pics I have taken in my photobox using the settings talked about above.  I am still in the trial and error stage and am still learning more about the camera each time I use it, so hopefully I will get better.

Pics taken just for this article using blue gradient background

Pic posted previously on blog using white background

Taken at same time as above pic

Pic taken with same camera setup, but no lightbox, just paper leaned against glue bottle

Taken same as above

Taken same as above

Pic taken outside with no other lightsources or tripod

Pic taken in lightbox with white background paper

Pic taken in lightbox with white background paper at same time as above pic of Gobbers

As you can see from above there are varying ways of doing this all with slightly different outcomes.  I think all of the above are acceptable for my blogging purposes.  The bottom pics(not Hordes pics) were taken over a year ago while the top pic was taken just two days ago.  As I am still learning the settings of the camera, I feel like I need something that pushes it to next level.  If you see what I am doing wrong, please tell me.  I think there is a little black magic involved in great pics, but that's just my opinion.

Well, I hope you have picked up something useful from my ramblings and poor grammar that will help you take better pics for your blog.  I really don't make a concerted effort to get great pics as I am pretty happy right now with my outcome.  It really only takes a minute or two per pic to photograph(and edit pics) of your minis to the above quality so give it a shot.  I bet you could have photographed your last project in less time than it took to read this post if you used the above methods. 

And as always if I learn more on the subject I will post the results of my trials and errors.  If you know something I can try, let me know and I'll give it a go.  

Monday, September 27, 2010

How to Build Your Own Photo Lightbox for Free, well almost Free.

This week I will be doing a series of posts about how I photograph my minis to coincide with the collaborative post going on over at From the Warp.  The first will be showing how I built my own lightbox to place my minis in.  I have no step-by-step pics of the process of building as I did this last year, but I think the pics in this post will explain most.

Items needed for build and setup:
Cardboard box
Parchment Paper
Printer Paper
Lamp with 150W Reveal(Daylight) Bulb
Nikon D40 SLR(what borrow from wife)

To start I found a cardbox at work that I thought was large enough to hold a unit or a vehicle.  Next I used a hobby knife to cut the top flaps off, this would become the front opening.  I then marked off lines 1 inch in from the corners of the sides and top so I would have a guide to cut my openings.  After these were marked I cut these openings for the top and sides.  These were then covered in parchment paper(found in cabinet at home) to help with light diffusion.  As you can see in the pic I also made a couple triangular shaped pieces of white paper for the corners at top(not sure if it actually helps, but it looks like it does).  I then used some 11" x 17" printer paper and taped to bottom front and raduised through back corner and taped again at top.  I took pics with only white for first year, but have now added the gradient paper as seen in pics this week for new trials.  Building this took less than an hour and used only items found laying around, so free so far.

Pic of the setup I use

Above is my full setup, minus camera.  I usually leave this setup somewhere to speed up my picture taking.  I will get more into the setup, camera settings and example pics in the next post.  

I hope this helps you decide if a lightbox is what you need for your minis.  For the time(1 hour) and money(none) invested I think it is worth building and have laying around to use if you have space.  Or you could just lean a piece of paper up against an Elmer's glue bottle like I used to do.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Organizing Your Bitz

Fantasy Chaos/Undead Bitz Box

Here's another post about how I organize my things to maximize the little time I get to spend on my hobby.  After about the first six months of playing 40k, I like most had a stack of sprues with extra bitz laying around. I decided to minimized the space these took up in my college apartment at the time, so I went to Wal-mart and bought a couple tackle boxes used for fishing lures.  These costs 5-8 bucks depending on size.  At first I was able to put all parts in one box, but as I grew my hobby to other armies and games systems I began to expand my bitz box collection to the point of the last picture in this post.  

Now every time I purchase a new box of models and build them I clip the extras and sort into these bitz boxes by army.  Then in each box I have spots for heads, legs, torsos, left arms, right arms, backpacks, close combat weapons, ranged weapons, etc.  This is great as sometimes I don't build all the models that come in the box.  These are used later to kitbash other models, swapping bitz between armies and even game systems.  

Fantasy Empire Bitz Box

40k Chaos Space Marines Bitz Box

Stack of Bitz Boxes in Closet for all but vehicle bitz includes from top down: IG, SM, CSM, Fantasy Chaos/Undead mix, Lizardmen, Mordheim, Wood Elves, Kroot, Orcs & Goblins, Empire, Ogre Kingdoms, Necromunda, Oddball box

Now I just need to organize my vehicle bitz as they are just thrown in a drawer haphazardly.  This will be taken care of eventually when I purchase some more boxes.  Try this type of organization and I guarantee it will speed up your conversions immensely.  I know I used to just toss extra stuff in a box and then dig around for ages trying to find that plasma pistol I knew I had from a while back.  I would never go back to that cluster now.  Though some may think my OCD style of organizing is over the top and they may be right, but I'm sure you know someone that digs around for hours looking for bitz in a box.  If you're one of these, try this, it is inexpensive, efficiently stored and time saving.  Hope this helps, till next time.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Making/Using a Wet Palette and Painting Efficiently

My makeshift paint station

After seeing so many guys painting nice models on their blogs recently, I have become inspired to do more painting.  My painting has been almost non-existent for about 5 years now.  I have amassed great armies of nicely built plastics/metals in this time, but put paint to few.  As most people that are finished with college know, life takes a lot of time, especially with a more than full-time job, wife, 2 year old, 2 month old and a new house to settle into.  With all of this going on I thought painting was impossible for now, so I just keep putting it off.  Until now that is, I have come up with a few things that will maximize my efforts in the time alotted.

First thing I did was to drag out everything I need for painting and put in one large plastic drawer that I have a stack of in my closet.  You can't just leave all this stuff out on a desk with a 2 year old on the loose.  I then primed up a few models to have in the drawer for next up.  I also tried out a Wet Palette, which I will go into more detail below.  After the first session I did during naptime, I painted more models than I had in two years.  This was great inspiration, but also showed me how useful an airbrush would be, while basecoating.  So, as I posted earlier I purchased one and I think it is a great investment for painting armies quickly.

The star of the show was the Wet Palette though.  I don't know why I never used one before in my painting.  It was so easy to make.  I just used an old plastic storage container, putting a 1/4" of water into the bottom and placed a piece of parchment paper into it.  It really was that easy.  Even with all my paints being at least five years old, I was able to keep wet paint for my entire painting session.  I am reviving these paints as I use them now, putting a stainless steel nut into each one and adding a few drops of water mixed with Future Floor wax.

 The wet palette is so effective for many reasons.  For me, I like to use a base color and a lighter shade and just mix up several stages of highlight.  When doing this on the parchment paper I am able to start with a blob of basecoat and mix only one end of this making a line of paint that transitions from dark to light.  Who cares right?  Well an hour later when I have moved on from the jacket of a model to his gunbarrel and my brush slips and spooges his jacket, the paint that I did this with is still completely usable.  I do not have to go back and mix or pull pots, anything.  Even if I don't slip with the brush it is nice to be able to get up and stretch, or get some water, or change a baby diaper at any point during my painting without having to finish this last highlight before my custom mix dries.  The wife appreciates this also, as I don't have to say, "Hold on I gotta finish this highlight before I help you."

My old tile palettes are now a thing of the past.  I doubt I'll ever use them again.  With the wet palette it doesn't matter if I used the paint an hour ago or just pulled it from the pot, it is the same.  I haven't pulled any several hour paint sessions, but for 1-2 hour sessions it has been working great.

Well, I'll stop blabbing about how great I think wet palettes are.  Even ones as simple as the one I made up.  So if you have been hesitant about trying one out, stop and go get one or make one yourself.  You won't regret the few bucks it costs(read free if you just take it from the wife's things like I did).

If you think you don't have time to paint, try a few of those things to help you get more out of your next session.  Here's the quick list:
Get your stuff together in one area or drawer like me for a quick setup and takedown.
If painting models with 90% one color basecoat, get an airbrush to do it quickly, then black out small stuff.
Batch prime models in between other chores for family.
Use a wet palette, seriously, do it.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Trollbloods on my Mind

This past weekend I did a little more painting, making a little progress on my yet unplayed Trollbloods army I posted about last week.  I primed up the remaining models for my 25 pt list and tried out the new airbrush basecoating a Dire Troll Mauler.  Above is a pic of Madrak, an Axer, an Impaler and Fell Caller that are next up in painting, that is if I can keep the brush off the Mauler.  With so little time I am hoping to get one model per weekend painted.  With the scale of these being a bit bigger than I'm used to, things are a little slow.  Not painting in over a year is not helping my speed either.  I am also trying to lower my standards a bit and just try some quick basecoats, couple highlights and plenty of washes to bring everything together.  Below is Alten Ashley.  He took around an hour, some parts I'm really happy(trench coat) and others are just meh(gun stock).

Alten before matte varnish and static grass

Also before matte varnish

Matte varnish is drying, didn't take the time to put in photobox

More post matte varnish, yes I touched the base too early and smeared it, but fixed later.

I am enjoying painting the Privateer Press models more than building them.  I don't like multi-piece metals on the building side of things, though the detail is great.  I'm glad to see more plastics coming out of PP, even if they're all for the Warmachine side of things.  Once I get my 35 pt list painted I hope to start jumping back and forth painting a 40k army while throwing in the odd Trollblood model here and there.  My painting progress should increase when work goes back to 40 hrs, though the overtime is nice.

Next post will talk about how I am just starting to use a wet palette.  Also have some Bloodcrushers coming, so more Chaos conversions are on the way.

Monday, September 13, 2010

I finally bought an airbrush and it's a time-saver already.

I have been debating an airbrush purchase for several weeks now and finally took the plunge.  There were several reasons for wanting to take this step.  First, I have very little hobby time, so any time saved for me would be time gained and more models painted.  Also, after finally painting a few models the other day that started out as predominately one color, I decided it was a must.  Basecoating a model with a brush could take upwards of a half hour while with the airbrush I can basecoat with any color in my collection within minutes.  This was what I would find out after the airbrush arrived.

After much searching of the interwebz for info on all the various brushes available.  I knew from the search that I wanted a double action gravity fed airbrush.  Picking the Paasche Talon was the easy part, the air supply was the hard part.  After much searching I just picked up a kit that included a hobby compressor.  The price was right, though I know it isn't what I would really like.  I figure if I upgrade I can always sell this one.

After ordering and getting in the mail Friday, I finally had a chance to get it together Saturday and play around with it.  While I wanted to use some other models to practice on, I couldn't wait, so just threw down my Dire Troll Mauler that I had just finished building.  I figure to basecoat this model with a brush would take almost an hour.  However, even with putting everything together, practicing on some paper, basecoating the troll and cleaning up, I still had less than an hour in model.  It came out pretty good, I just need to get used to the trigger and get my paint consistency down.  I also need to do more research into cleaning the airbrush properly.  This time I just sprayed Windex through it until clean.

So, there's my first experience with an airbrush.  It was pretty easy just basecoating this model without messing it up.  I think the purchase was well worth it and it will be used a lot in the future.  Any model that is mostly one color will definitely be basecoated with it, then just black out the bits I didn't want that color, which most of us would have to tidy up these with a brush anyways.  I will continue to post my airbrush experiences on here as they happen.  Hope this helps some guys that are on the fence about getting one.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Trollbloods Painted So Far and First List - 25 pts

Lately, I have been wanting to play Hordes more and more.  I have been buying Trollbloods models for a few years now, building them as I get them but never playing.  I owned all of the MKI rulebooks but still never played.  Then a few months ago I ventured into the local comic book store that I don't ever visit.  I don't do comic books, I do miniature wargaming.  However, this time was different there were some guys playing Warmachine.  I started talking to them and a new owner was just starting up selling things like Warmachine/Hordes, Malifaux, etc.  This got me excited so I read all my old books and then bought the MKII when it was released.  Well, the family comes first so I have yet to make it down there during game time on Sundays to learn to play and start in their league.  I have traded for some new models and painted a couple recently.  The Trollkin Champions were painted a couple years back, but the Swamp Gobbers below I did last weekend during naptimes.  When I do get a chance to go I wanna at least have my first list painted if possible.  Hopefully, I don't just get owned and wanna switch list immediately.  Check them out, I'll post list thoughts below.

I really want my list to be a Grim Angus centered list once I learn to play.  Too bad most of the models I own don't do as well with him so I hear.  I really want a more shooty list using something like Grim, Earthborn, Alten, Impaler, Axer, Bushwhackers, Swamp?, and don't know what else.  But for now I have written the below list using pMadrak at 25 pts.

Dire Troll Mauler - 9 pts
Troll Axer - 6 pts - free
Troll Impaler - 5 pts
Champions x 5 - 10 pts
Swamp Gobbers - 1 pt

At 35 pts will add
Krielstone Bearer with 5 Scribes - 4 pts
Fell Caller - 3 pts
Alten Ashley - 2 pts

I already have all of these for both lists built, just have to get painting now.  Does anyone think these will be semi-successful early on?  I really don't want to get stomped all the time.

I know this is off the regular 40k path for me, but this is the only game played locally for me to get in on.  I have some 40k projects in the works that I will be posting soon.  I have already painted some and am just waiting on my airbrush setup to arrive in the mail before finishing the rest of the project.  I'll leave you with a quick WIP of this taken with my cellphone camera.  This project will be broken down into several articles, but want to get finished first, so I don't leave it hanging for weeks/months.  Till next time....