How-To: Mini Photography Part 1: Backdrop

The Basics of Mini Photography

 
Hello ladies and gents welcome to the Mini Photography article. We hope that all the info will help you in improving your photography skills.

We all aspire to paint minis that just blow people away and have them go "WOW, how did you do that!" All too often when people submit their work to CSO we see some beautiful minis ruined by bad photo-fu. Bad photos are probably one of the top reasons that people get rejected or are asked to resubmit their work. This tutorial is here to help you bring your skills up to par for making your submissions or to help old pros make yours look even better. This tutorial will be broken down into 3 stages for easy understanding and to help you understand the process of taking great photos of your minis.

1: Backdrop construction for displaying your mini right
2: Lighting setup and cheap alternatives
3: Camera operation and use

Each section will be filled with oodles of information and diagrams that will help you to understand and improve your skills. This is not the hard and fast rules but a general guideline to get you started. That is the wonders of photography not every rule is always the right one. Alright here we go...

Backgrounds

Now this is a very liberal area that we all have our own views of what we think looks good to us and that is perfectly fine. What need to be understood is that the background is there to add to the overall effect of your image but should not detract from your beautiful work. So if you have a big rock (large piece of painted Styrofoam) standing next to you mini it could draw the viewers attention away from the mini unless it is very well done and blends into the background.

The following will be a step by step walk-thru of a simple but effective backdrop that I use for my CSO photos. This is designed for those of us that need a quick break down and not take up much space. You can change this up to fit your style any way you see fit if you follow a few simple rules. First let’s gather the supplies...

116x20 basic wooden photo frame $15 (You could do this without the frame but it makes it easier to store and keeps the terrain flat)
2Foam board $.30
3Flocking (personal choice but keep it a neutral as pos.)$9
4White glue $2 (you will need at least a bottle maybe a little more depending on the size of the bottle)
5Some trees (Local train or modeling store there are several to choose from) $7
6Light blue poster board $.25
7Craft Knife
8Old paint brush rather large
9Spray glue (if you are impatient like I was)
10Smaller old paint brush
11Masking tape or blue painters tape
12Super glue
13Some finishing nails
14Spray matte acrylic finish
15Any other types of background stuff you may want to add. (Rocks, buildings, Cliff faces, etc.)
 
Total cost around $45. (If you have some of the supplies already maybe even less) About $75 for the first one if you have to buy all of the supplies and $20 for any others you may want to do. I have found this to be more versatile than any other system.

Side note: when choosing your flocking material grass is always a good choice. It can be used for almost any mini. Where a snowy setting would look funny with a summer camo mech. The nice thing about this is you can switch the base board out rather easily and make several different setting if you would like.

Okay now that you have gathered all the needed supplies, let's get started.

First disassemble the frame be careful with the glass. You can use it on another project or you can dispose of it.

Take the matte board that came with the frame. Trace its outline on the foam board. Start in one corner (you are going to need that extra foam board later). Now with your craft knife cut out the foam board test fit to your frame and trim as needed.

Once the foam board fits leave it in the frame and flip it over. Now trace the inside of the frames edges onto the foam board.

Take everything but the foam board and set it aside. Now tape the edges to your marks or a little over if you'd like to give yourself some wiggle room.

Now is the time to get messy. Take your white glue and pour a generous portion in the middle of the foam board. (This is not a good project to do in your kitchen unless you have no pets or kids and a lot of newspaper.) Using the old larger paint brush spread the glue around until you have a generous layer covering the foam board inside of the tape. You need to move quickly or the edges may start to dry a little on you. Now sprinkle the flocking materials in a pattern of your choice remember to try and keep it looking natural.

A second way to do this and a preferred method by myself is to spread the glue in strips across the long side then flock let dry then do the next strip and so on until the board is covered. This method will cause less warping and more time to tweak the look of the surface if you are using more than one type of flocking.

Either way will work it is up to you what results you want to achieve. Now walk away and let it dry thoroughly. This could take a couple of days depending on humidity and temp. When it is dry shake any loose flocking from the board ,save this you may need it if not it can be used on other project. Now spay with a couple of coats of your matte finish letting it dry between layers.

Remove the tape (this may require making a slight cut along the tape to help removal) and test fit in your frame. Look at the edges and look for any areas that you can still see the foam board. Use the smaller brush and touch these areas up with a little glue and flocking. I usually mark these areas with a pen and the do this outside of the frame. That way I don't glue the board to the frame.

Seal if you did some touch ups and let dry.

While this is drying take your remaining foam board and cut a piece the same length as the inside of the frames edge. Don't worry about its height. This will be the back support for the blue poster board.

Take the remaining foam board and cut in half these will be the sides.

Okay once everything is dry mount the base into the frame. Take the finishing nails and from the bottom along the back push them up thru the bottom and align the back board. Now mount the back board but do not glue it down yet. Do the same for the sides.

Remove the base from the frame and cut the backs and side pieces to the same height. Now using the super glue the back piece in place. Once it is dry do the sides.

Now take the blue poster board and spray with the spray glue. Press to the back starting at one side and work your way around across the back to the other side. Let dry.

Once dry use the hobby knife to cut off the extra poster board.

Now is the point where your creative juices get to flow. In the 4" inch area from the back, place your trees etc. to create a more dramatic background.

You now have a backdrop to take you pictures against that will pass CSO standards. Plus it can be hung on the wall when not in use.

Now on to how and light your backdrop...

Part 2: Lighting Setup

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I opened the baggie to find...

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As part of the CSO Team's effort to support Iron Wind Metals website updates, I recently received a copy of the Tonbo Superheavy Transport VTOL, as described in Catalyst Game Labs' Technical Readout 3085, pages 52-53.

I opened the baggie to find...

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For me weathering is something that truly makes a Mech ‘come alive’. I just love it as it can add so much detail and character to a miniature. A couple of times I have tried to paint a clean Mech with a shiny ‘out-of-the-factory’ scheme, but I can’t. I always come back and add at least a little bit of wear and tear. Hey, even with Jamie Wolf as the pilot the paint scheme will suffer scratches and wear around the feet just moving out of the factory.

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