Feedback on my camera set-up?
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Thread: Feedback on my camera set-up?

  1. #1

    Default Feedback on my camera set-up?

    Hey, guys. I'm totally new to both painting and taking photos of my models. I've been reading these forums for a couple of hours and talking to a professional photographer friend for several months about getting my models painted and photographed.

    I wanted to get feedback from the Cool Mini Or Not community on my intended photography set-up.

    At present, I'm using an old digital compact point-and-shoot Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZX1 that I got a few years back to take travelling with me. I don't have a light box or a tent and I'm using two different bulbs in a pair of £3.00 desktop lamps I bought from ASDA. I haven't got a tripod and I'm yet to work out whether I have a shutter delay on my camera. I'm shooting photos against a backdrop of some paper towels taped to my computer monitor.

    These are my very first couple of photos of the very first miniature I've painted:

    Name:  December Paint Comp. 01.2.jpg
Views: 284
Size:  145.7 KB

    Name:  December Paint Comp. 02.1.jpg
Views: 273
Size:  136.1 KB


    My plan at the moment is to invest in a light tent, some cheap daylight bulbs and a small table tripod. I'm about to start playing around with Photoshop Express Editor (any advice on settings for which would be gratefully received!). That should cost me less than £30 and hopefully give a marked improvement in my photos.

    To complete my camera set-up, I had planned to save up and eventually buy a shiny digital SLR - possibly a Nikon D3100. However, it turns out my girlfriend - who currently lives in the US - has got a Canon EOS 500D, what I believe is a standard lens and what appears to be a shiny and upgraded lens. She doesn't use the camera at all and, prior to her moving to the UK in the summer, I'll be visiting her in the US in March - she's offered to give me the camera then to bring back with me.

    So, can anyone give me thoughts on a set-up using that camera/lens combination with a tripod, shooting into that light tent with two of those daylight bulbs? I appreciate that I'm still very much at the starting-out stage of learning how all this works, so what I'm saying may not make any sense at all and I beg your patience if that's the case; also, I may be being far too specific with the bits and pieces - I'm trying to judge what to tell you based on the information other people seem to be discussing.

    Hopefully you guys can give me some solid feedback on the kit and on how best to use Photoshop Express Editor to its full potential. Thanks in advance for any help and thanks also if you've managed to read through the full post!

    Edit: I'm also curious to know how I can post larger pictures that show in the post as thumbnails. I had to resize my photos before I could post them, or they ended up exploding all over the place! Thanks again!

  2. #2

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    The first of those two photos after playing around in Photoshop Express Editor:

    Name:  December Paint Comp. 01.3.jpg
Views: 213
Size:  160.7 KB

    The colours are improved, but I'm a bit alarmed by the reduction in clarity on the photo!



    Edit: trying to get the image to show up in the thread.
    Last edited by el_don; 01-07-2013 at 05:39 PM.

  3. #3

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    Nearly 100 views and not a single reply from anyone? That's a bit disappointing.

  4. #4

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    Hi
    Probably best not to play with photoshop too much and concentrate on getting a good image to start with
    Light - the best light is diffused sunlight - a cloudy day is ideal though I have seen white plastic containers used as cheap diffusers - effectively if the shadow is sharp you need to diffuse the light
    Aperture - you should aim to get the highest f stop (smallest aperture) that you can as this will increase the depth of field - the amount "in focus" - doing this sometimes will lower the shutter speed so that a tripod is required (below 1/60), and with a tripod delayed or remote release would be preferred

    I hope that helps..I am no expert...just practice and adapt what works for you

  5. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tercha View Post
    Hi
    Probably best not to play with photoshop too much and concentrate on getting a good image to start with
    Light - the best light is diffused sunlight - a cloudy day is ideal though I have seen white plastic containers used as cheap diffusers - effectively if the shadow is sharp you need to diffuse the light
    Aperture - you should aim to get the highest f stop (smallest aperture) that you can as this will increase the depth of field - the amount "in focus" - doing this sometimes will lower the shutter speed so that a tripod is required (below 1/60), and with a tripod delayed or remote release would be preferred

    I hope that helps..I am no expert...just practice and adapt what works for you
    Tercha, hey! Thanks for replying!

    When you say highest f-stop, does that mean a bigger number? The camera my girlfriend is letting me use has two lenses: an 18mm - 55mm f/3.5-5.6 and a 55mm - 250mm f/4-5.6.

    Am I right in thinking that the former is my best bet there? People here seem to be talking about a 50mm f1.8 lens a lot. Presumably I can set the 18mm - 55m lens at 50mm, but the f-stop (?) is a bunch higher than what seems to be generally accepted on the board. Is that a problem?

    Also, I kinda thought you wanted to have a decreased depth of field, since we're photographing very small objects, as opposed to, say, landscapes.

    Thanks again for feedback and helping out. I really have no idea what I'm talking about at the moment, haha!

    Oh, also, final point: I live in the UK, so useable sunlight for taking photos is very limited. Hence the light tent. I figure that natural daylight bulbs must be the next best thing, right?

  6. #6

  7. #7

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    The f-stop is this "f/3.5-5.6" it is an indication of how far the lens can open the iris, this lets more light through and also reduces the depth of field. the two numbers on your lens 18mm - 55mm f/3.5-5.6 mean that at 18mm the lens can be open to f/3.5 and at 55mm the lens can be open to f/5.6. Those are the widest/most open/fastest settings.

    What you want is the opposite, to set the lens at f/16 would only let a small amount of light through but would give you large depth of field meaning that more parts of the mini would be sharply in focus. This high f-stop requires a longer exposure though so the camera will need to be secured with a tripod and depending on how much the button or shutter move the camera, some people use the built-in timer or place something on the camera to remove further vibration.

    I hope that helps a little.

  8. #8

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    Here's an alternative to those paper towels:

    http://www.coolminiornot.com/forums/...read.php?43844

    I took those images to the local Kinko's and had them print them out in color (of course) and on nice paper. Sweep one of those under the mini and it will have a better effect.

  9. #9

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    Thanks again for replies, folks. Flow, I'll check out those backgrounds. If I'm getting that light tent (it seems cheap enough to be worth a punt?), do I still need the backgrounds, or do I use the coloured bits in the light tent?

    In the meantime, I'll definitely look into getting them printed out. If i use 'em for a couple of months, that's better than nothing!

    I think I need to wait until I have the camera in my hands and I can look through the manual to try and work stuff out. The most important question, I guess, is whether the two lenses I'll have access to will do what I want them to do. Do I need a different lens, or will one of them be right for me - and, if one of them is the right thing, then which one will I be using?

    Thanks again!

  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by el_don View Post
    Thanks again for replies, folks. Flow, I'll check out those backgrounds. If I'm getting that light tent (it seems cheap enough to be worth a punt?), do I still need the backgrounds, or do I use the coloured bits in the light tent?
    It's all a matter of personal preference!

    I bought a small light tent from Amazon and found I liked to use the backgrounds I linked above. The light tent did come with a few colored cloth panels that I could velcro on behind a mini; but I found that the texture of them would show up in pictures. Plus, tiny bits of lint would get caught on the cloth panel, and these would show up in the photograph. I found that using the printed backgrounds provided a much smoother, aesthetic, and less distracting background that put the focus more on the mini.

    That said - maybe the colored bits that come with your light tent will be better than mine. When you get it and experiment it will probably become obvious which you prefer

  11. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by el_don View Post
    I think I need to wait until I have the camera in my hands and I can look through the manual to try and work stuff out. The most important question, I guess, is whether the two lenses I'll have access to will do what I want them to do. Do I need a different lens, or will one of them be right for me - and, if one of them is the right thing, then which one will I be using?
    The 55-250 has a minimal focal distance of about 1meter. Using this lens that far back will mean zooming in, and will give you a very 'portrait' type of look, with a compressed sense of depth.

    You'll likely find the 18-55 is better (more natural looking) than the 55-250.

    With the camera on a tripod around 12-18" or so away, you will zoom in all the way to 55mm to frame the mini nicely. Put it in manual mode. You will then set the ISO to 100 (always best to go low), and then the aperture around f11-f16 which will ensure that all of the mini is in focus (it might be high enough to get entire landscapes in focus normally, but the closer the object is, the narrower your depth of field becomes).

    With spot-mode metering selected, and the focusing dot over the mini's lightest point, you will then simply adjust the shutter speed until the light-meter on the screen/veiwfinder tells you it's correctly exposed. Ideally using a remote trigger to reduce shake, take a shot and then check exposure on the screen. Adjust shutter as required and repeat.

    There's a bit more to it than that, and much of which has been mentioned already, so this will get you going to start with.
    Last edited by Orki; 01-20-2013 at 01:04 AM.

  12. #12

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    Quote Originally Posted by Orki View Post
    The 55-250 has a minimal focal distance of about 1meter. Using this lens that far back will mean zooming in, and will give you a very 'portrait' type of look, with a compressed sense of depth.

    You'll likely find the 18-55 is better (more natural looking) than the 55-250.

    With the camera on a tripod around 12-18" or so away, you will zoom in all the way to 55mm to frame the mini nicely. Put it in manual mode. You will then set the ISO to 100 (always best to go low), and then the aperture around f11-f16 which will ensure that all of the mini is in focus (it might be high enough to get entire landscapes in focus normally, but the closer the object is, the narrower your depth of field becomes).

    With spot-mode metering selected, and the focusing dot over the mini's lightest point, you will then simply adjust the shutter speed until the light-meter on the screen/veiwfinder tells you it's correctly exposed. Ideally using a remote trigger to reduce shake, take a shot and then check exposure on the screen. Adjust shutter as required and repeat.

    There's a bit more to it than that, and much of which has been mentioned already, so this will get you going to start with.
    This is an obscenely awesome amount of useful information, thanks. I'll use what you've given me to get started when I get my hands on the camera. Looking forward to playing around with the thing!

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