The other day, I showed you my new lighting setup for taking action figure photos. The lack of a lightbox to diffuse the harsh light was preventing me from getting the shots I really wanted, especially for straight up product shots. A trip to the fabric store solved the problem. I purchased a yard of white nylon fabric, and draped it over some PVC pipes I rigged up to the shelves above the staging area.
The results were instant. Here are some non-retouched test shots straight from the camera…
As you can see, the harsh glares and shadows are no more! The fabric diffused the light without reducing the overall brightness of the subject. It’s a little difficult to see the difference in the top comparison, but the difference is obvious with a dominant light source on one side, as seen in the bottom set. Believe it or not, those two photos show the exact same lighting and camera settings — the only difference is the addition of the fabric.
The effect is quite effective when you go in for a close-up…
Here’s a sample of a typical product shot, showing off a full figure…
Without the diffusing fabric, the figure would cast shadows on itself and the backdrop, and many of the highlights would be blown out. (Okay, so this guy’s sword and shoulder are a bit blown out, but I was in a hurry!)
Of course, with the solid color background, I can always use the green screen approach and swap in a more exciting backdrop…
Overall, I’m very pleased with the way this project has turned out, and I hope these posts help you with your action figure photography. I’ve been having a blast working on some special effects and building techniques.
Check out the next article for an easy way to make an “explosive” special effects!
Thanks for sharing these! I’m really wanting to improve my photography this year and your posts are definitely giving me some great idea.s. Thanks and please keep sharing!
Glad I could help! Check back in if you have success with any of these tips. 🙂
Chris Mapp says
Thanks for these last couple of posts. I’ve wanted to work on taking better shots indoors, but I’m on a strict budget right now. I might actually be able to make something like this with stuff I have laying around the house.
Excellent! Give it a shot!
Excellent article. Thanks a lot for sharing. I’m always experimenting to try to find better ways to photograph things for my site. Do you find that you’re using the same camera settings for most of the shots? If so are you able to share things like your aperture, shutter speed and ISO? I think I normally have my shutter speed at 200, the aperture at about F2.5 and then just adjust the ISO accordingly. But it often depends what I’m shooting etc. Cheers again for posting. Michael
I typically put my camera in AV mode and set it at the lowest F stop I can get with the lens, usually 5.6 or 2.8, which results in a shallow depth of field (blurred background). The ISO is set to 200.
The biggest challenge I have always had was the white balance. With the new lightbox setup, AWB (auto white balance) is fine, but I used to have to change it to the incandescent lighting setup since everything always turned out blue.
I wish I was more skilled at controlling the camera settings, but once I found out what worked, I stuck with it. I will usually do some post-production work in Photoshop to pump up or tone down down the shadows and highlights.
John gaither says
I always enjoy these photo tips Brian.
I’ve been using a Cowboy photo tent from Amazon for the past few years and I really like it. I especially like how easily it folds up for storage. My two further points of advice have to do with the backdrops. First of all, I always keep a roll of masking tape or scotch tape nearby to pick up all the dust that will magically gravitate into your shots. My other piece of advice is to buy some of the small shipping tubes from FedEx/Kinkos (they cost a couple bucks) to roll up the backdrops and store them in. Keeps them clean and wrinkle-free. Great post!
Excellent advice! Lint on those black fabric backdrops is the worst! For paper backdrops, I keep an artists brush handy, the kind that draftsmen used to swipe off all the eraser dust from their drawings. I wonder if they even sell those anymore — I’ve had mine for 20 years!
Thanks for the tips!
I am gravitating to making one of these for myself since I am collecting all my loose figures for display. It’s great to know that I can get great results with little cost or skill.