How to photograph GUNPLANovember 18, 2013 at 12:04 | Posted in How-to | Leave a comment
Tags: cameras, gunpla, How-to, photography
*First off, I’d like to state that the following is based on my own limited experience in photography, so any further advice or comments would be most welcome. *
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 (1): I use a normal table lamp with a piece of semi-transparent paper surrounding the bulb. This is to dampen the light so that it’s less harsh.
- Camera (2): I use a digital camera with wide angle and macro lens. Any DSLR or compact camera with manual controls will do.
- Sturdy tripod: To stabilize the camera and prevent blurry photos.
- Large sheet of paper: Used for the background of the model kit. Nothing’s more distracting than a gunpla pic with a view of someone’s bedroom.
- Mirror: A normal mirror to reflect light from the light source to shadowy areas on the model kit
- Action base (optional): It gives more options to pose the model kit
- And don’t forget the completed model kit (3)
That’s what my makeshift studio looks like; it’s also my computer table. 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 photoshoot, that’s obviously better. So the first thing I do is drape the large sheet of paper over my monitor. I tried various colors: white, light blue, brown but now I mostly use black paper. Then I position the table lamp so that it’s directly above the model kit. You can try with different directions, but I prefer from above. The position of the mirror depends on which parts of the model is heavily shadowed. I tend to move it around during shooting. Finally I position the camera attached to a tripod in front of the kit.
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.
- Set white balance according to the light source (flourescent, tungsten, custom white balance etc). But I tend to edit white balance using software later anyway.
- Turn off image stabilization (lens or in-body). Since the camera is stabilized on a tripod already, I just turn off this feature.
- Set to single autofocus with manual override (SAF-M or something similar). But sometimes it’s more convenient to just completely manual focus, especially for close-up shots.
During shooting, I like to move the position of the camera (attached to tripod) to get interesting angles. Regarding the lens, I use the wide angle lens for full-body and action shots and the macro lens for close-up, detailed shots. When using the wide-angle lens 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). That’s because I feel there’s enough illumination and I don’t need fast shutter speeds (plus I’m still not familiar with using a flash).
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:
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 :p
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.