I love to take photos of action figures but it’s a bit of a headache to set up the light booth and lamps. It’s not easy when you have to dismantle your photo booth and lighting setup after every session. I was inspired by Philip’s new home photo studio over at Battlegrip, and challenged myself to come up with a semi-permanent setup of my own.
Here’s an overview of the new setup. I cleared off a desk in the basement that already had shelves above it. I’m using the same cheapo clip-on lamps that I’ve always used — the shelves make them easy to move around — along with a couple of flex-neck photo lamps. Having all the lamps on results in way too much light. I’m going to have to devise some sort of light box to help diffuse the harsh light, but that’s a project for another day.
I attached a couple of binder clips to the shelf above the desk, which will allow me to easily switch out the background poster board. Using a large sheet of paper that curves is usually preferred over using two sheets of foamcore that would give you a hard edge where they meet. Nothing fancy here, but it works!
The photo above was taken using my camera phone. There’s way too much light on the figure, which is why a lightbox of some sort would be helpful.
Having a number of lamps around the subject area allows for a variety of different lighting scenarios. These photos were taken with my DSLR, but with different lamps turned off and on. The mood of the image certainly changes with the shadows.
Now the fun part! Bring in a few props and switch off some of the lamps, and don’t forget to turn off the room lights, which will affect the photo. Here, I have one regular incandescent bulb shining from the left, and a red bulb on the right, which results in this…
This lighting treatment makes me think the figure is lit up by headlights and taillights of nearby vehicles. The props are just a few random plastic bits from the parts bin, and the fence is a plant tray I got from Lowe’s with last year’s tomatoes. A great trick is to put something in the foreground, in front of your figure, which helps to give depth to the image. The closer it is to the camera, the blurrier it will be, which is just fine — it’s not important what it is — if all the items were in equal focus, this would be a boring photo. Lighting and props really turn a product shot into an action shot that tells a story.
I still have some tweaking to do, but I’m happy with the way this is headed. I’m always looking for good advice — do you have any favorite photography tips that I should try?