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"So you wanna take a good photo huh." Topic

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Scurvy Inactive Member02 Aug 2007 7:41 p.m. PST

Here is some help for you. (posted on Maks blog thread but I figured it was worth repeating in its own thread due to it being one of those rare posts I make which is actually usefull insted of just starting fights.)

High quality images for print = 300DPI (dots per inch)

High quality for screen (ie your blog) = 72DPI there is no point going over 72DPI as that is the best look you are going to get anyway. (unless its for HD TV)

Now that being said the better the mega pixels rating on the cam the more detail it can pick up. On a good 7-8 megapixel camera you can take a photo of someones face 6m away and then zoom into the eyeball and see the reflection on the eye of the person taking the pic in perfect clarity. (this means you can get some really nice images from a tiny portion of the fig you photo keeping in mind after zooming in and getting the portion you want take it back to 72DPI cus it wont look any better on a screen at higher res than that anyway) but…

The best camera I have found for taking pics of minis is an ancient Fuji finepix 1.3 (megapixels) digital. The trick is to get the camera just the right distance from the fig.

So to improve your pics I would do the following.
1: Put it on the macro setting.
2: Do your white balance. Ie get a peice of paper that is (like duh) white put it infront of the camera so it covers the entire area the photo would take and use that to calibrate the balance. This means you are getting true colour from the get go without having to fiddle around later with photoshop et all to get a compromise you can live with.)
2: Experiment to find out what distance is best. Start out 1'6" away and move in an inch at a time taking a pic as you do so. Then port the images across to the comp to find the 'sweet spot'
3: Use natural light or a true light fluro. Natural light filtered through a gauzy material to soften it slightly is really cheap and effective. True light fluros cost a bit more than free sunlight but are the bomb.
4: Back your image (ie the fig) with light blue card. This means the cameras lens can focus on the fig more easily cus its puny auto focus brain has an easier time working out what to keep in focus.
5: Now you have your white balanced pic with good lighting, blue backdrop, correct focus length etc…

Ok so back to the software side of things.

First off lets set up the image. RGB for web/screen CYMK for print. reason being CYMK is set up for colour printing as printing inks cannot duplicate things like gold and silvers very well. CYMK compensates for this. RGB is set up for screen.

72DPI for screen and 300DPI for high end print. 175DPI is reasonably good for print. WD would be somewhere around 175 to 220DPI. Glossy film mags images are 300DPI.

Now if you scale the image up/down then you will lose pixel clarity as the software fills in/deletes pixels. If you scale up for example the computer makes up the missing pixels based on the existing pixels around it. Better to scale down than up if possible. If not then try take the pic closer to the fig. (getting back to correct setup once again. The less you have to scale the better the image.)

Once you have set the image up then go into your channels and tweak them. Lets concentrate on RGB cus I suspect you want good pics for the web more than print. RGB stands for Red/Blue/Green. By adjusting these settings you can really make your colours 'pop'

Now for really fancy pants stuff you might want to even select parts of the image using the magic wand or poly lasso tool and individually tweak them. Eg. A fig with Red pants and a blue shirt will look much better if the pants and the shirt are tweaked individually as you can increase the red balance on the pants without effecting the blue of the shirt and vice versa. (Now there are other more complex ways of doing this but this is a good noob method that will give you CMON quality pics.)

Some other tools that are worth experimenting with are your Hue/Saturation, Brightness and Contrast tools. Though using selective RGB balance and Brightness/contrast will get you over the line just fine.

For the final effects for mega fancy pants stuff you could throw in some lens flare on a sword tip using that filter or other filter effects that you feel compliment the image. (plastic wrap filter has gotta be used on something someday, I demand it!)

For a bit of cheaty stuff you could use a layer mask and then with the brush settings at 25% opacity and 25% Fill bring out some nice pattern work/tattoo/texture placed on the layer underneath the image of the fig. Dont forget with stuff like tattoos you will want to use the warp/distort setting to bend the tattoo shape to match the limb. Also use some guassian blur on it to give it that inked in effect. The trick with layer masks is knowing when to stop and using the hue/sat or RGB settings to do some colour matching with the above image. Now I could wax lyrical for ages on this sort of thing but this should see you off and racing with what you want to do without bombarding you with stuff you will never use. Though for a personal challenge if you find you like this sort of thing try painting a primed fig using photoshop insted of actual paint via masks. If you do it well you will wow the CMON weenie boys with your phantom brush skills. :)

Anyways feel free to disagree/add more advice etc.. as the mood strikes you. I dont consider myself an expert but do consider I have better training in this sort of thing than the man in the street as I have been taught by those who are in the industry and I use this sort of knowledge every day these days.

aecurtis Fezian Inactive Member02 Aug 2007 7:54 p.m. PST

"Though for a personal challenge if you find you like this sort of thing try painting a primed fig using photoshop insted of actual paint via masks."



Personal logo gaiusrabirius Supporting Member of TMP02 Aug 2007 8:49 p.m. PST

Thanks, Scurv, that was interesting, good tips.

I'm curious, is there a community "ethics" standard for digital manipulation of miniature photos? How far can you go to embellish/blend/alter your paintjob before our colleagues cry foul? I suppose it depends on the purpose for which the photograph is offered.

Scurvy Inactive Member02 Aug 2007 9:44 p.m. PST

I would say anything that scores 9+ on cmon has been heavily manipulated. Thing is people never own up to it due to others getting all antsy. The stupid thing is you are presenting the image of the fig for judgement so I cant see the validity of crying foul for using ALL the tools at your disposal to get that image looking great.

I am very keen to try paint a fig using photoshop insted of paint myself. I suspect it will be a challenge to pull off but the end result will look better than anything a brush could do if done right.

RobH Fezian03 Aug 2007 3:57 a.m. PST

The heavy manipulation is not a problem when it comes to self satisfying ego trips like most of the stuff that is posted on CMoN.

However if you look at some of the images that win prizes in online painting comps you will see evidence of "blurring" and other manipulation to achieve smooth blends and fading that the painter is unable to do with paint.

Shame that cheating (which is what it is) like that is happening, but understandable these days. The prize is more important than the pride.

I too think it would be fun to try "painting" a figure only using photoshop

Scurvy Inactive Member03 Aug 2007 5:30 a.m. PST

Maybe we should set up a comp to do just that. :)

Garrison Miniatures Inactive Member03 Aug 2007 6:44 a.m. PST

Personally, my abilities are limited to getting the thing just about in focus then cropping and altering the brightness of the finished photo.

It shows.

Barks103 Aug 2007 6:56 a.m. PST

Outstanding post, Scurv, very useful.

MaksimSmelchak Inactive Member03 Aug 2007 9:55 a.m. PST

Hi Scurv,

Thanks for the advice… much appreciated, mate!

[[[Scurv: Oh and one other important thing. Sit down and paint your ****'ing figs. Far too much silver on the blog! Try only blogging finished figs for a better looking blog. ]]]

Beleive you, me. I'm trying. This week has been a wash… lots of OT and way too much to do… I'm beat…


Personal logo McKinstry Supporting Member of TMP Fezian03 Aug 2007 11:58 a.m. PST

Thanks. Good advice and very welcomed.

MelEbbles Inactive Member03 Aug 2007 12:13 p.m. PST

That's exactly what I did with the James Bot photo that Bill was tormenting everyone with before Zardoz became all the rage around here. I normalized the 'mech areas of the photo into shades of gray, then used color overlay layers to get the tuxedo paintjob set up the way I wanted.

It's an useful way to preview how a figure looks in a certain color combination without wasting paint or lead. Just take a photo of the figure after priming, then normalize the tones so that the tonal midpoint is RGB 127 127 127, the highlights are close to white, and the shadows are close to black. After that, do each color/area in a separate layer, pick the blend mode that looks best (usually Overlay or Hard Light), and paint away.

I also used that technique to digitally repaint my stepdaughter's house when she needed to choose a new color scheme for it.


Scurvy Inactive Member03 Aug 2007 2:07 p.m. PST

I have to write up 15 tutorials for school and thinking about it I cant see why doing a tute of the above with screen shots et all is not a valid use of the assignment breif. The bonus is I can also give it to Billy Armintrout as a workbench. Might do a 4 parter.

1: Setting up the shot
2: Painting with photoshop (or PS and coral draw as I recently had a drive of that one and got all excited about what it can do)
3: Improving an existing hand painted fig with photoshop.
4: Making a spinning image using flash or after effects. (more likely flash as AE is not something most of you have and with flash you can also place in spin it this way or that way buttons)

Patrick Sexton Supporting Member of TMP03 Aug 2007 2:32 p.m. PST

Thanks Scurvy. This is very useful though I imagine my pictures will still suffer from "operator error".

Have a great weekend,


Chthoniid Inactive Member03 Aug 2007 8:03 p.m. PST

I like steps 1-5, might add that a tripod is a really good idea also, as well as a shutter-delay to minimise camera shake.

Lighting and background are often the crucial elements to a good picture. I think over the years I've seen some excellent pics by older cameras (1.3 megapixel) that still hold their own against more modern 5-8 MP jobs. Staging the shot properly can overcome a lot of issues. Poor lighting can't be overcome by current technology.

I'm not a big fan of a lot of photo-editing however.

Scurvy Inactive Member03 Aug 2007 8:27 p.m. PST

yes a tripod or at least the camera resting on a table or the like is a must. Good pick up Mr C.

Shutter delay is something I didnt consider but on reflection is also a good call.

Personal logo Der Alte Fritz Sponsoring Member of TMP07 Aug 2007 8:04 a.m. PST

Thank you for the tips Scurvy. I will give them a try, and get a tripod too.

Mal Wright Fezian Inactive Member16 Aug 2007 12:16 p.m. PST


I've just put up some more of my photographs. Early ones with an old camera. Newer, clearer ones with a new digital.

I use most of the things Scurvellian Scurvellious says to use, but he has taught me a few new ideas in the above. I agree completely about a tripod or base to rest the camera on. For example I might use a paint tin, a stone, certainly also recommend a tripod. Or at least a solid anything that is just right for the area I need to fit the camera into, and rest it on that. Much better than trying to hold it steady yourself.
Most camera shops sell small, table top size tripods.

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