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Beginner's photography tips, please !!

atkinsaratkinsar Member
edited March 2011 in Photography/Video
I have a Canon EOS 5D that I inherited from my dad that I literally have no idea how to use. I mean, I can turn it on, insert a CF card, turn the flash on and take a picture, but that's it.

I am looking for some very basic tips or links to resources on how to take half decent photo's of sets and minifigs.

In particular, for starters:

> what tips do people have for taking photos of mirrored objects?
> I have a light box, but again have no idea how to use it really (aside from stuff goes inside!)


  • bluemoosebluemoose Member
    edited March 2011
    The 5D is a very sophisticated camera; it's capable of taking some pretty stunning shots in the right hands. What lenses have you got for it?

    You could take a look at this site ...
    ... for some basic hints & tips.

    On-board flash & Lego don't mix very well; natural light, a tripod & long exposures are your friend :-)
  • drdavewatforddrdavewatford Hertfordshire, UKAdministrator
    edited March 2011
    I have had some pretty respectable results just using my wife's old Ixus; often I don't even use the flash - I just rest the camera on a stable surface, carefully choose my camera angle, hold very still, zoom and shoot. In order for this to work it's sometimes necessary to adjust the camera settings to increase the brightness. This approach works fine when using the digital macro setting and photographing minifigs, or photographing particularly shiny or mirrored objects. Another tip is to photograph against a plain background. I just use a big black sheet.

    Bluemoose and Huw take it to the next level, however - excellent pics from those guys which I suspect involves a lot less trial and error and more science (plus light boxes and other proper kit) so I'd listen to their tips !!
  • HuwHuw Brickset Towers, Hampshire, UKAdministrator
    Lighting is the most important aspect. Doesn't matter what camera you use, if the lighting is uneven or shadowy then the pictures will be rubbish even with a 5D. It did take a lot of trial and error (and £500 worth of Nikon flash kit) to get the current batch of minifig images as good as they are, and there's still room for some improvement, which I'd probably only get if I invested in a studio lighting setup which I don't have room for.

    I do intend to write an article about how I take them (and will add Ian's exellent tips for post-processing, which I was hopeless at before) as I seem to get asked a lot now.

    Even with one external flash gun you can get pretty good results if you put the models in a lightbox on a piece of curved card, rest the flash on top then fire it remotely from the built-in flash (I assume the 5D can do that). The box diffuses the flash and bounces it round to evenly light the subject. On my setup I also have two macro flashes that illuminate the figs within the box at c.30degrees off centre on eitther side, all triggered remotely.
  • Thanks guys, some great tips there. I think I'm going to make learning more about this a priority, maybe combine it with a beginner's photography course.
  • brickmaticbrickmatic Member
    edited March 2011
    Like Huw and others said, proper lighting is so much more important than the camera. In fact, I would go as far as to say lighting is the most important thing you should consider when taking photos.

    Huw, I am really looking forward to your article about photos! I want to be able to contribute to the minifig galleries by using your methods.
  • korkor Member
    Like others have already said, lighting in the number one thing. Invest the money and get one of these...

  • HuwHuw Brickset Towers, Hampshire, UKAdministrator
    That looks like the tent I use. I have a piece of curved card for my backdrop though. that'll prevent Batman from looking as if he's standing in snow :-)

    Are they daylight bulbs, or do you adjust the white balance in camera/post-processing?
  • korkor Member
    It snows in Gotham City, right? Maybe he's on vacation,lol!
  • So I have the tent, and even the curved card, but can you point me to a decent set of lights to use with it?
  • korkor Member
    The Light tent I got came with the lights. Before that I used to use these sunlight lamps

    Not sure how well those will work with the tent. Whatever you decide to try make sure you're using the same wattage bulb on each side to keep your lighting consistent. If you have any photography or camera stores in your area I would suggest talking to them about what your best lighting option would be.
  • Yep definatly all about the lighting. I love the clean shots you've done for the minifig gallaries Huw, the lighting is fantastic, and really shows off the details. And kudos for the consistancy with the shots- really makes the whole gallery stand together.

    Thought id chime in with a slightly cheaper lighting/ backdrop option. Been shooting my toys for years, and love Lego photography. Always favoured outdoor shots, as with a nice sunny day lighting was not an issue. However living in the UK, the sun often does not shine ;)
    Was playing round with indoor lighting for a while. Simply did not have the money (or space) for a decent lightbox/ tent set-up. Took me a while to find an option I was happy with, but eventually discovered a great little torch app for my iPod touch. After messing around with it for a bit, have been lighting the majority of my photos with it for the last few years. As a backdrop I just use a plain piece of A4 white paper- its perfect for lego minifig shots.
    Very cheap (well I guess the iPod's not, but any led light source would work as well), and doesn't take up any space! As I hold the light in my hands its great for getting different lighting effects.
    Check out my flickr stream for examples-

  • drdavewatforddrdavewatford Hertfordshire, UKAdministrator
    ^I think I've seen your pics on Eurobricks, smokebelch. I love them ! I'll have to try your iPod lighting trick as I also struggle with lighting issues.
  • korkor Member
    Great photos smokebelch!
  • smokebelchsmokebelch UKMember
    edited April 2011
    ^ Thanks Dave. Yeah I post my shots up on the eurobricks forums, and started a Star Wars photography thread there.
    The ipod (or phone) is so useful for lighting small stuff like Lego minifigs. Very versatile too as you can change brightness etc. Also worth playing round with settings on your camera with using this as a lighting source. I usually take my shots on a long exposure, with either a small tripod, or just the camera on my desk. You can also play round with the f-stops if your camera will let you. Takes a bit of experimenting to get the shots to come out right- i.e. Not too over/under exposed. Shoot me a message if you need any advice on this method :)

    Edit: & thanks kor :)
  • drdavewatforddrdavewatford Hertfordshire, UKAdministrator
    ^ I've ended up using my wife's old Ixus for my pics, even though I have inherited a couple of far more capable cameras. Somehow the results always seem more pleasing with the Ixus - on the manual setting I can vary the exposure, white balance, focus etc. and I can achieve quite acceptable results.

    I feel almost embarrassed to offer my Flickr details after viewing yours (!), but in the spirit of fair exchange you can see a few of my pics at :

    What's the name of the lighting app you use, incidentally ?
  • I would just play around until you have the shot. Check my moc pages and my blog:
  • schmeissesschmeisses AustriaMember
    having a good camera helps a lot, but it can't replace (as others have mentioned ;) ) lighting. you can get great shots with a rather cheap cam, if your setup is done right ( i have done some nice shots with my cheap aiptek camcorder(it has a really nice macro function)

    choosing the right angles, the composition, the distance and your tripod/mount are equally important ...
    and don't forget to improvise if your equipment isnt right ;)
    if you don't have a lightbox, use white bedsheets and sunlight, for example

    current equipment:
    aiptek ahd-h5 (cheap but reliable camcorder),
    Panasonic gh2 with the 14-140mm and the 20mm lenses,
    3 small tripods (from 15cm (6inch) to 30cm (12ich) height) and a normal, adjustable photography tripod

    i hope to get/build a lightbox in the future, and some more lenses :D
  • DRChurchDRChurch Member
    edited April 2011
    As is the common theme, the lighting is more important than the camera. I use a custom made light tent which I constructed out of Playskool Pipeworks constuction toy and a few white sheets. I always found that the ones you can buy are far too small for my MOCs, so I improvised. Seen here: image

    Another useful tip is to play around with the white balance and exposure on the camera to get the exact white background you're looking for.
  • Just another shoutout for the iPod / iPhone trick suggested by @smokebelch. Works a treat and I've used it successfully with my pics too all thanks to smokes tips -

  • What's the name of the lighting app you use, incidentally ?
    Its called iTorch, but there Loads of different ones on the app store. They all pretty much do the same basic job.
  • drdavewatforddrdavewatford Hertfordshire, UKAdministrator

    What's the name of the lighting app you use, incidentally ?
    Its called iTorch, but there Loads of different ones on the app store. They all pretty much do the same basic job.
    Thanks !

  • Flashlight. And for MOCs I use the same app on my iPad.
  • What's the best wattage for the light bulbs? I'm assuming CFLs would do?
  • The higher the wattage, the brighter the lights, the more light is available for the picture (although with energy saving bulbs the correlation of wattage to brightness changes, so really you should talk about lumen instead). With more light you can have a faster shutter speed or you don't need to open your aperture as much. In general brighter is better, although it really depends on what you're trying to do.

    However, in addition to brightness is the color temperature of the light. Light usually has a color that your eyes compensate for. Cool light is blueish and warm light is reddish. The color of the light affects what color something looks like. The human eye is very good at adjusting for this automatically; cameras are not as good at figuring this stuff out. Which is why pictures taken in artificial lighting tend to look yellow, because incandescent light is very yellow. You'll want to set the white balance of your camera to match your lighting source. Ideally your lighting source would be daylight temperature (i.e. the color of sunlight on a clear day at noon). You can also correct color balance in post processing if you need to.
  • Thanks for the tip.

    I use only a point and shoot camera. I'm pretty much satisfied with the pics as long as it's in the macro setting. I also usually shoot late at night so that "everything/one is quiet".

    One more thing, will there be bothersome shadows if the brightness of the bulbs are not the same?

  • I also usually shoot late at night so that "everything/one is quiet".
    When I said daylight temperature I meant your light bulb would be daylight temperature, or about 5000K.


    One more thing, will there be bothersome shadows if the brightness of the bulbs are not the same?
    There certainly can be.
  • OrthobotrexOrthobotrex Member
    edited April 2011
    Oh, and would the filters/lightbox be enough to eliminate the shadows despite of the difference in brightness (not too much difference among them, of course)?

    From the examples above, one has two bright lightsources while the other has another one on top. Any significant differences between these methods? (Sorry, I'm really naive at this).
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