How to photograph GUNPLA

November 18, 2013 at 12:04 | Posted in How-to | 2 Comments
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#The following is based on my own limited experience in photography, so take it with a pinch of salt.

So after spending hours completing your model kit, it’s only natural that you would want to take a picture and show it to random people on the internet. While snapping a photo with your camera phone sounds simple enough, quite often the results don’t do justice to your model kit. The following steps require a bit more time & effort, but you’ll get a blur-free, less noisy, and overall nicer photo of your model kit.

Here’s what I use for my setup:

  • Light source : I use a USB-powered flexible lamp. Getting one with controllable brightness is a bonus. You can also use multiple light sources.
  • Camera : My go to setup is the Olympus OMD-EM1 mirrorless camera with 12-40mm f2.8 lens. Any DSLR, mirrorless, or compact camera with manual controls will do.
  • Sturdy tripod : To stabilize the camera and prevent blurry photos. I’m using the Slik Mini II with a ballhead.
  • Background paper : Acts as the background of the photo. Nothing’s more distracting than a gunpla pic with a view of someone’s bedroom. I prefer black or a white-blue graduated background paper.
  • Mirror (optional) : A normal mirror to reflect light from the light source to shadowy areas on the model kit.
  • Action base (optional) : To give more options in posing the model kit
  • And don’t forget the completed model kit.

The setup:

That’s what my makeshift studio looks like; it’s also my computer table. Here’s a cartoon of what it looks like from the side:

I experimented with a DIY lightbox made from a cardboard box but I ditched it because I couldn’t find space to store it in my cramped apartment. If you have a permanent space for a photo shoot, that’s obviously better.

So here’s what I do for every photo shoot:

1) Drape the background paper over my monitor.

2) Pose the model kit (see below) and put it in front of the camera (on a tripod). A tripod with a ballhead is recommended because it allows you to position the camera more easily to get those good angles.

3) Adjust the position the table lamp so that the model kit is well illuminated. Optional: Position the mirror so that light reflects onto heavily shadowed areas.

4) Setup the camera and *snap*

5) Change the pose and/or camera angle, and take more photos.

Camera settings:

It would be good if you’re familiar with your camera and its various settings. Here’s mine: *Some photography jargon ahead*

  • Aperture mode (A), set to small aperture settings (f8-f11) for maximum depth of field.
  • Lowest ISO speed available to your camera (e.g. ISO100). This reduces noise & loss of detail of high ISO speeds.
  • Set the shutter to 2 second timer. This is to minimize blurring when the shutter is pressed. If your camera has an anti-shock feature, then use it.
  • You can set white balance according to the light source (flourescent, tungsten, custom white balance etc). But I just leave it to auto white-balance and edit it later using Lightroom software.
  • Turn off image stabilization (lens or in-body). Since the camera is stabilized on a tripod already, I just turn off this feature.
  • Focusing: if possible, move the focus point to a specific point, usually the head of the model kit. If not, manually focus to the region of interest.

During shooting, I like to move the position of the camera (attached to tripod) to get interesting angles. I use the wide angles of my lens (24-30mm equivalent) for full-body and action shots and the long end (80mm equivalent) for close-up shots. You can also use a macro lens for close ups, if you have one.

When using the wide-angles, I like to get close to the model & shoot from a low angle to emphasize & exaggerate the perspectives.

You may notice I don’t use a flash (in-body or external flash). Since I’m dealing with a non-human, plastic model, I can get it to hold a pose indefinitely and not worry about shutter speeds.

Posing your model

Another important aspect to photographing your model kit is the pose. This is particularly true for the humanoid-form of Gunpla kits. I think this rather old picture best summarizes how to pose your Gunpla kit:

gpose

Another way to put it is, try and imagine that YOU are the Gunpla being photographed. You wouldn’t want to appear limp and toy-like in front of the camera, do you? Other than that, it’s up to your creativity. You can always browse some hobby magazines or internet forums to imitate some nice poses. Or you can fall back to the standard Strike Gundam pose :

strike-pose

 uni_37

And there you have it. It may not be a definitive guide on Gunpla photography, but I find that it works for me. Generally I tend to spend an hour or so for photography because I like to try out different poses and viewing angles. As I mentioned earlier, it takes a bit more time & effort but the end product is definitely worth it. Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide what works best for your needs.

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2 Comments »

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  1. Hi, thanks for your article here. Can you show me some tips to make the clear parts (beam, laser effects etc.) glow brightly?

    • A laser pointer. Maybe I’ll make a proper post about it one day


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