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  • Photography - the basics before you start in Photoshop

    Following Spacemunkies excellent article on how to Photoshop your mini I though I would post this here so that people can start by crawling first, before they trip over trying to run. On numerous occasions I have seen people go completely blank at the mention of aperture settings and other technical terms so at the end of this article I will list and try to explain some of the technical terms.Owning a camera is just the start of the game to get some good shots of the mini that you have just spent hours painting, you will need to go that little bit further. Nobody likes looking at fuzzy pictures ater all.Primary amongst these is a tripod, the type of tripod you will need will depend on the type of camera you have and what you intend to use it for as well as shooting pics of mini's, they can range from small pocket size table top tripods to huge beasts used by professionals.A quick note on tripods here if you will bare with me a few don'ts to think of.Don't over extend the centre column, one third of it's total length is as far as you should go. Any higher than this and you're likely to get shake.Don't extend the bottom section of the legs if the middle sections are unused. Most tripod legs are in three sections, but most people extend the bottom section first to gain height. These are the thinnest and therefore, flimsiest sections and should be extended last. Always use the middle sections of the tripod first.Don't set the tripod unevenly and then make all corrections with the head. Vary the length of the legs and make minor adjustments with the head.Do get the tripod as level as possible. Keep the centre column right down unless absolutely necessary and always tighten both leg and head locks to ensure maximum stability.[pagebreak]Cable Shutter releases.This is a length of spring loaded cable that will screw into the shutter release button on your camera. They can be aquired in various lengths but for taking pictures of our beloved mini's a short on is all that is required.The one in the picture below is approx 30 inches long but you can get them longer or shorter than thisDon't panic if you haven't got a release button on the camera capable of taking this though as most camera's come with a timer option and you can use that method instead although you might have to wait a minute or two each time for it to take the picture.Both the tripod and either a timer or cable shutter release are essential to prevent camera shake.Next up is some lighting, the flash on your camera in this case is not going to help you, in fact it will make things a lot worse, the best light you can get is natural daylight however not all of us are that lucky especially those of us in the UK where most of the time the weather is dull and S*****.When I first started I used to use 2 halogen desk lamps and my painting lamp which had a daylight similation bulb positioned around a piece of paper/card.This is OK if you didn't have a dedicated area in which to make something more permantent. I also found that it can give harsh lighting and unwanted shadows if you are not very careful.[pagebreak]As a more advanced set up I now use a light cube and three lamps with daylight simulation bulbs. (Yes I know bulbs grow and lamps glow but I am a clanky not an electrician).These light cubes can be aquired on EBay quite cheap and come in various sizes, they can also be folded up when not required to save space and help keep them clean. The one in the photo is approx 12 inches square and ideal for single figures or small figures and I own another of approx 20 inches square for photographing larger subjects. Alternatively you can make your own.The purpose of the light cube is to defuse the light evenly across your mini rather than have direct harsh lighting. I also put a small box inside the light cube to raise the subject up and you can either use the back drops that come with the light cube or use sheets of coloured paper/card.For photographing mini's I always use my camera in an aperture priority mode, this means that I can set the size of the aperture and the camera will set the shutter speed after all the mini is static and the camera is on the tripod so the shutter speed is not important the the aperture is, as this allows you set your depth of field (the amount of mini that will be in focus).Once you are set up and ready to go you can then take your photo, making any adjustments you need as you go.For this I have used a Reaper guardian Angel that I am currently working on as part of a little diarama that I started for ME3 (yep that long ago) I want to see how the Angel is looking with the progress made so far on the flesh and the bottom robes so once it was loaded into Photoshop I used the quick method to adjust levels of shift+control+L (auto levels) here is the result shot on a white background.[pagebreak]And finally here is the promised Jargon buster .Some BasicsShutter SpeedThis is one half of the exposure equation, the other being the aperture. Shutter speeds are measured in fractions of or whole seconds. A typical auto focus has shutter speeds running from 30 seconds to 1/2000 sec, a manual focus will typically run from 1 second to 1/1000 sec.What does this mean? Well if you wanted to take pictures of a helicopter but you wanted to see the rotor blades stopped then the higher the shutter speed the better, or for instance taking pictures of joggers or racing cars, ever wondered why they looked blurred when you took the picture? Well that’s because your shutter speed was to slow.Shutter PriorityThis is a semi-automatic mode where the user sets the shutter speed and the camera sets the corresponding aperture for the correct exposure. This is handy for those times when you need to take control over subject movement. On most camera’s dials this is the setting marked S.ApertureThis is the size of the hole in the lens which light passes through to create a picture. Apertures on most non digital camera’s the apertures are found on a ring called the aperture ring. These numbers are called f/ numbers as each number has a value double that of it’s previous number. F/ numbers go from f/1.4; f/1.8; f/2.8; f/5.6; f/8; f/11; f/16; f/22; f/45; f/64Aperture PriorityThis is the other half of the exposure equation. Aperture priority allows the aperture to be kept the same while the camera’s computer calculates the optimum shutter speed needed for a correct exposure. On most camera’s this is the A setting on the dial.Depth of FieldThis is the amount of sharpness there is within a photograph. This is controlled by the size of the aperture in the lens and is also affected by the lens’s focal length. Wide angle lens’s offer more depth of field than a telephoto lens, for instance.What do I mean? Well the best way to explain this is if you took several pencils or other objects and lined them up one behind the other and you then focused your camera on the centre object, with a low aperture setting of say f/2.8 the objects in front and behind the centre object will be out of focus in the final picture. If the f/ number was changed to a higher number for instance say f/11 or greater then all objects would be in focus.BracketingThis is the process of taking a series of different exposures of the same scene. Most commonly done in threes: one exposure under-exposed; one correctly and one over-exposed.Some digital camera’s will have this facility built in. Bracketing can be done in either shutter or aperture priority mode. For instance in aperture priority if I have an f/ number set at f/5.6 I would take one picture at this then one with the f/ number set at f/2.8 and a third set at f/8.ISO/Film SpeedThis is not really applicable to digital camera’s as they do not have film loaded however the camera still needs to fool the system so most digital camera’s will have a facility whereby you can set the ISO/film speed to fool it. In the old days before digital each type of film had a sensitivity rating. This is the sensitivity of a film to light and was calibrated in numbers. The bigger the number, the more sensitive to light the film is. The bigger the number, the lower the quality of the image (image became grainy). Film speeds range from ISO 100 up to around ISO 600, in photographing your mini the ideal ISO setting would be around ISO100 to ISO 200, these are the normal light type films whereas ISO 400 or greater would be used for poor light situations.
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