Monday, January 29, 2018

Fun with Photography: The Marvellous Minis

Early in the new year, we asked if you'd made any creative resolutions or goals/challenges and shared that on of my own creative goals for the year was to whittle down my craft supplies for the move (we're moving again!) and a fresh tidy start at the new house. I'm not off to a great start since my new Cricut has been followed by a flurry of project ideas and kitting out with cutting tools and materials, but otherwise I've been holding pretty firm to my resolve to try and stash bust.  Part of this has meant slowly working through all of my stored materials and that's when I remembered how much creative fun I used to have doing silly staged photos with my marvellous minis many years ago.  They have been boxed in storage since our last move, and I think it's time for me to return them to my creative project pool.

I use HO hobby train model figures to create my mini photos. HO scale is 1:87 and all of the modelling figures (people, animals, vehicles, other) are scaled accordingly for use in building a landscape around the tracks to match the size of the HO model trains.  It is currently the most popular scale, which means good availability, variety, and prices for figures and the size also works well for tabletop lightbox staging. The figures are staged along with everyday objects re-purposed to "giant" props in the world of my marvellous minis. Food is a favourite - so many options and I do love photographing food. Edible props are always a plus!  Because the railway figures include lots of people at work, there are tons of fun propping and posing options.  Keep an eye on our social media, as new mini photos will pop up in our feed in the future. Suggestions for photo staging ideas are, of course, always welcome.

If you're interested in experimenting with mini photography, you will need a few basic supplies to get started.

  • You will (of course) need some miniature figures.  You can buy these online through large retailers like Amazon, speciality hobby/train websites (Hobby Linc was one of my favourites for sourcing), and local hobby stores. There is a huge variety of options so you can start small and build your collection over time. The price point makes them easy gifts for family/friends to help you grow your stash as well. Quality varies significantly, and what's ok to the eye in a large model train landscape can look rather sloppy in a macro level photo. It's worth paying a little more for good quality.  I have a variety of minis, but have found Preiser (my fav) consistently high quality. Woodland Scenics and Bachmann Trains generally good and have some fun figures as well.
  • You will need a camera capable of taking clear macro photos, which can be as simple as your phone if you're just starting out and not yet ready to step up into digital camera gear. Many point-and-shoot cameras also have a macro setting (look for the flower symbol) but the best image quality and flexibility will be with a DSLR and a macro lens. 
  • Bright but diffuse natural light works well for photographing minis without harsh shadows and is an easy place to start experimenting.  You can often get this with careful positioning indoors, with a lightbox, or by working outdoors in indirect light or on a bright cloudy day (nature's lightbox!). You can also use artificial light such as an illuminated lightbox, off camera lighting, or on camera with a diffuser or ringflash.  Since minis are small, it's also easy to manipulate light with screens, reflectors, or mirrors. 
  • Props and staging can be anything you wish, so no need for a big investment here in your initial experiments. I usually photograph my minis on a staged backdrop (scrapbook paper works great!), but have done some staging outdoors. If outdoors is your jam, pop a rag (cleaning the minis and props) and a kneepad/blanket (getting down to mini level) with your gear. A sneaky little bit of poster putty can help if there is difficulty keeping the figurines upright and in position. 
  • Whether or not to use a tripod or a beanbag for camera support on your macro shots depends on your location, equipment, set-up, and personal preferences. 

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