Written in 2011, first posted on The Warhammer Forum, text and images all by The Dice Bag Lady. Feel free to share but please cite your source!
I know lots of people struggle with giving their wonderful paintjobs justice so here’s something I knocked up. Hopefully it’s easy to follow and doesn’t require mental expensive kit or effort, kind of an anymans guide.
1. SETTING UP
To set up, you need a flat surface, a table is preferable, the floor is just a pain. You also need a back edge, in this I have used a cardboard box but you can use anything like that, even the wall. Sometimes I make do with doing the whole thing on a chair but it’s really awkward. A3 paper is ideal, but you can use masking tape to join a few sheets of A4 together, it shouldn’t be that noticeable in the end piece, depends how good your camera is. It doesn’t need to be white, but it generally looks the most professional. Tape or blu tack the paper as shown. It’s called an “infinity curve” if you want to show off 😉 . Basically taping it like this creates a pure flat background, so don’t crease it into the join, just make sure there is flat space for the model to stand.
This is the most important bit, and can make or break a photo.
OUTSIDE: Ideally, use natural light as it is by far the best. If you can do this outside on a good day, you’re a million steps ahead and your life is much easier. The main tip with sunlight is always have the light BEHIND YOU, not behind the model. So don’t place on a sunny windowsill unless a silhouette is really what you want.
INSIDE: A little more difficult but no problem. Assuming you’ve spent ages painting this fine model, you’ll have some kind of lamp. Choose the lightest part of your house, kitchens are generally good. Put the light on. If you have two lamps it is great, put one either side and play around a bit til you have a nice diffused light, not too close, not too far away, you want the image to be clear but not glared out. This is hard to explain, I might add further images if it gets confusing. If you have one lamp, place it kinda by the corner of the paper, facing the model about 45degrees. You may get shadows, depends if you want them or not, some will, some won’t. I don’t really mind, the only way to really get rid of them is light from different angles. Just make sure it’s not harsh or you’ll obscure some detail.
First and Foremost
NEVER USE THE FLASH!!
It is evil, and makes even the best painted mini look pants. Stay away, it’s not your friend, turn it off! It’s usually the symbol of a lighting with a “DENIED!” circle around it
If you are outside, the default should be fine. However most cameras, and I think phones too, have a setting called WHITE BALANCE. It’s usually on auto. For outside, use the image of the sun, or if that fails, the cloud.
If you are inside, unless you have a daylight bulb, or the room is lit bright from the window (then see above), your lights will be synthetic. The option to chose here is usually the lightbulb, or “incandescent”, or sometimes the one which looks like a bar, which is “fluorescent”, for strip lights. This is a really vital thing, ever found your pictures come out really yellow, or blue? This is because the white balance is wrong, cameras aren’t really that clever and get this bit wrong a bit with their “auto” setting.
Sometimes if these are still a bit off, you can try “autocorrect” or “white balance” in photoshop or any basic image editing programme, but I won’t really go into that (unless anyone really wants to know) as it’s super easy to get right beforehand.
3.THE ANGLE, DISTANCE AND HOLDING STILL
A common error is that many photograph downwards onto their minis. You need to get right down and dirty to eye level. Or if you’re feeling really artsy, angled looking up slightly from the model will make it look a bit heroic.
Another one, is getting too close. Even pretty cool cameras default lens won’t be able to cope that close, and the result is blurry. Most cameras, even phone cameras, are 3Megapixel and up, so the image is pretty big, so you can stand back and crop.
If you have zoom, (optical zoom I mean, forget about digital zoom, throw it in the bin with the flash) It’s far better to stand back and zoom in than get too close. You know if you have optical zoom because you have a lens that moves when you zoom in and out. Your phone won’t have it.
Some cameras have a setting called “macro”, its a small flower that resembles the one from Mario. If you can get this on, it will help, it makes your camera focus on right near the lens, it’s designed for close up, but this still doesn’t mean put your lens right on the mini.
YOU WILL SHAKE. Everybody does. Even if you can’t feel it, you’re trembling. If you have a tripod, use it. (If you really want to get into this you can get an aluminium one for under £20) If not, make it interesting. Just LEAN on something the best you can. At basic, just support your camera with your spare hand and breathe in. Usually you can just lean it on the same surface if you have space and then it will be at eye level too. Just think of ways to steady your hand, lean against a wall maybe, or build a tripod out of books and boxes (sounds silly, but I’ve done it many times!) Be as still as you can.
Press the button
Does it look crap? Don’t worry, just take loads til you’re happy, its the wonder of digital photography, the main problems if it sucks is that it’s blurry, or lit bad, fix it.
4. FINISHING OFF
Chances are, you really struggled to find a place to do all this because your house is full of sprues and cups of coffee or cats or kids or something. It really doesn’t matter. When you take your picture, sod it if you have half a tail in the side, as long as you can see a square around the dude, it can be cropped out.
Upload your photo onto your puter. Even if you’ve been doing all this on your phone it’s probably best to go on a laptop now.
There are a million image editing programs so this bit is hard.. Microsoft Office Picture Manager for example comes with many so lets use this as a quick example. Right click the image, open with > Microsoft Office Picture Manager. Then the “Edit Pictures” option at the top, on the side bar is a crop option, click that, and drag the corners until you’re satisfied. The more megapixels your camera the bigger the file is, so the smaller you can get away with cropping and still have a decent sized image. If the image is huge, you can resize it, for web purposes you don’t need it more than 800 pixels wide. Try click “autocorrect” to see if it makes the picture better, sometimes it does, sometimes it looks worse so just undo. Then save. I use Photoshop, but there are loads of image editing software out there for free off the web or under £20. The software your camera came with should suffice for this too.
5. UPLOADING TO THE INTERNET
This could be a guide in itself, but you you could go to http://www.photobucket.com or http://www.flikr.com to upload your photos. Create an account and follow what it says. They have options to resize and crop there too which is pretty handy and could save you most of the previous step.
You could also upload to your twitter or facebook accounts. Once they are done, If you are using Firefox, right click the photo, go to properties, and copy the link. Then paste it into your forum post/blog/dating profile and surround it with IMG tags. [if you’re using Internet Explorer, go download something better] Create a post here, and look up you’ll see options for bold, underline, quote, code, list, it’s up there us “Img” Click it and this appears (but without spaces) , just paste your link between them, and ta da! Photobucket (think Flikr too) gives you a link with this included, so you can paste it right in.
And hooray, your amazing finecast model is there for the world to criticise!