Taking Better Model Pics!

Taking better photographs the easy way
It has taken me about 7 years of tinkering and trying to get to the level of picture taking I am right now, and I have been able to lean on a friend in my club who is a professional photographer. Here are some quick tips we worked out to help a beginner get quality photographs without too much work or outlay. This assumes, of course, that you already have a digital camera.
build a backdrop
Get some foam-core board at any store with a craft section...Ben Franklin, Wal-mart, Target...etc. Also, get some blue poster board...these should all be the size of about 2 ft x 3 ft. or so. Cut the foam core board to make a ‘L’ shape, and use a few scraps of the foam core board to strengthen the sides with strips about 2 in. x 5-6 in. I glued mine together with White Glue (Do NOT use superglue or epoxy...it will eat the foam in the foam core board and give off toxic fumes). I used tape to hold it together while it dried. Once dried, I took the blue poster board and cut it so it would fit to the width of the ‘L’ assembly, and then laid it down so the "front" was even with the "front" of the L. I then let it gently curve up to the top of the L, so that you should have a flat area to put models on, and then a nice flowing slope to the back. Hard to explain, but I hope the picture will help you get the idea. This will give you a fantastic area to photograph on much like professionals use.
get a tripod
You will also need a tripod to attach your camera to. I got one at Target for $20.00. Nothing will upset you more than perfect, blurry pictures. Also, know your camera's settings and features. The one I have has a special setting for taking pictures close-up called a Macro setting.. Consult the manual.
use lights
Get a cheap light stand from a store like Wal-mart. Mine holds three lights and is 6 ft tall. Also, get three energy efficient light bulbs, those twisty ones, I use two 100 lumins bulbs and one 200 lumins bulbs. The reason for this is they give off great light cheap and WITHOUT nearly as much heat as a normal bulb. Heat is not a good thing when dealing with models. Now I can light my work sufficiently, and yet not melt it. The down side is that if the bulbs are not full spectrum (energy saving bulbs are fluorescent, not full spectrum) they will give off yellow-tinted light in your pictures. Bummer.
enhancing your images
Get friendly with your photo-editing software. I use Photostudio 2000 SE, it came with my computer. Your computer should have some sort of program that allows you to change your pictures (get rid of red-eye, lighten/darken…etc.). All you really need to learn is how to control the colour spectrum, primarily to add blue to your spectrum because the traditional manner to fix the yellow or off-spectrum problem would be to add a blue gel filter on the front of your camera lens, but digital cameras usually don't allow this. However, this is where learning to add blue to the spectrum of your digital pictures in your software comes in. Doing this will simulate the use of a Blue Gel filter, and you will get nice vibrant looking pictures. You will either need to look through the manual for your program or else you will have to look through the program for something like “enhance”, “tone adjustment”, or “spectrum adjustment”. Whatever you end up with, it should allow you to add or remove Blue, Red, and Green. Just add blue until it looks right. I usually have to add 100% to get things correct. Using a blue backing for your photo stand (as described above) will also give you the perfectly consistently coloured item that will allow you to judge when you have added enough blue to the picture. It works for me anyhow. See the pictures at the side (before and after) to see what I mean. The second set of pictures of the paratrooper have also been cropped. All that I did in these pictures was add blue back into the spectrum using my photo-editing software. As can be seen, the results are very pleasant and it is easier to do than using fancy lighting and special adapters, but will make quite a bit of difference in how the pictures turn out.
  • backdrop
  • stand
  • lights
  • P2220008a
    With blue added
  • P2220008
    Without blue added
  • P2220020
  • P2220020b

About the Author

About Jacques Duquette (Jacques)

The first model I remember building was a glow-in-the-dark P-38, running around my bedroom in the dark flying it, and stubbing my toes. I do a lot less running around with glowing models now. I mainly focus on 1/35 armor and figures, with Modern Russian military vehicles being my favorite. I a...


Well done Jacques..I've just learned the benifits of a tripod... Sure beats leaning against something.. Dave
DEC 13, 2005 - 03:48 AM
Very nice article there Jacques. I think I will be trying out the foam backdrop as I need some better backgrounds on my models to get back into par with all the great photographs being displayed now adays. And I agree 100% with the tripod as being one of the most important items.. they are really inexpensive as you can get table top models for less than $10 and larger ones for only a little more..
DEC 13, 2005 - 04:54 AM
I'm a great fan of narrow aperture, long exposure shots. (thanks Eric). This allows a "macro" picture that takes in the length of the vehicle instead of just the headlight lens and everything else is out of focus. Either way, a tripod is a MUST! Save yourselves a lot of grief and invest in the £$€ 10 -40.00 (pick a currency) it costs. It saves so much hassle and aggravation. Another very good investment is a remote trigger... Again not expensive, but It stops you moving the camera at the vital moment. I hate blurred shots because the pressure of my finger on the trigger moved the camera just as I took the picture.
DEC 13, 2005 - 06:42 AM
Jacques, great artile thanks for sharing it with us. cheers Kevin
DEC 13, 2005 - 06:45 AM
Thanks for that, this is going to come in handy when the big day comes around and i get my camera redleg
DEC 13, 2005 - 06:50 PM
Nice feature I like it a lot - lots of good information I'd like to add my two cents - when I'm doing review photos of individual parts, I get right up on the part. The part is about 4 or 5 inches from the lens and the lights are only about 10 inches away. The lights I use are regular round bulbs you get in the US. I use 3 light sources from 3 different points.
DEC 13, 2005 - 09:20 PM
Interesting tips, will have to try them, already have tripod, and lights...... and photoshop6... just need to learn to use them.... :-) :-)
DEC 14, 2005 - 04:21 AM