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How to photograph models for beginners.

Updated on November 13, 2013

Making model cars look like their big brothers

Model car photography is not unlike capturing images of full size motor vehicles. The best results can be achieved in a controlled environment where the photographer can manipulate lighting and backgrounds. Since cars are primarily metal - the rules associated with photographing shiny metallic surfaces apply. With a modest selection of materials excellent results can be achieved in combination with smart post processing in software like Photoshop to the GIMP. Within this lens I will take you through some basic techniques that can be used at home in limited space.

Preparing the model for shooting - Image: The Batman Tumbler

The Batman Tumbler
The Batman Tumbler

Since you will be capturing the model cars up close, and most of them are constructed from shiny metallic materials, you will want to polish them and remove any dirt on them to limit the amount of clean up you will have to do in post production. Black is particularly nasty for showing up dust, so you will want to pay special attention to any models in this shade.

The basic studio setup - Image: A simple studio setup for photographing a model car

A simple studio setup for photographing a model car
A simple studio setup for photographing a model car

In this image you can see a basic setup for photographing a model car. I am using two white bounce cards attached to stands on either side of the car, and one primary continuous light at the back that I am bouncing off the rear wall. By using these elements in combination we are limiting the effects of harsh light and diffusing it to prevent hotspots in the final image. The two cards on either side both act as light reflectors eliminating harsh shadows while also providing neutral reflections in the cars metallic surface. The car is then placed on a surface which is slightly curved so that when the camera achieves a type crop on the vehicle, the wall is not in shot.

Keep images simple and uncomplicated - Image: Aston Martin One-77 Scale Model

Aston Martin One-77 Scale Model
Aston Martin One-77 Scale Model

Consider different perspectives - Image: Scale Model Bugatti Veyron

Bugatti Veyron scale model
Bugatti Veyron scale model

When it comes to shooting images of your model consider all the different angles and perspectives you could shoot from. Explore different elements of the model and adjust your bounce cards and camera as required. Be aware of how the light reflects in the metal textures and use that to paint unique images of the vehicle. When setting up your camera explore with different depths of field, and ways this can be used to highlight different elements of the model or guide the viewer to specific features.

Explore by using gels on lights - Image: A CTB gel applied to a continuous light

A CTB gel applied to a continuous light
A CTB gel applied to a continuous light

Today it is very easy to apply visual effects to photographs digitally in programs like photoshop. Sometimes it can also be fun to explore different effects by experimenting with lighting. One of the easy ways to do this is to apply gels to the front of lamps. In this image you can see I have attached it using bulldog clips, so it is possible to use house hold reading lamps if you don't own professional photography or film lamps.

Use more than one light to create interesting light and shadow dynamics - Image: A two light setup

A two light setup
A two light setup

Sometimes one light is not enough - experimenting with two can create interesting image dynamics. Be careful not to overdo it though - too many lights can result in over exposed and flat images.

Some scale model cars from Amazon to get you started.

Dramatic lighting to add interest - Image: Scale model working helicopter

Scale model working helicopter
Scale model working helicopter

In this image I have provided an example of what can be achieved by using two lights, some gels and a bounce card.

Take the time to clean up - Image: Classic gangster car

Classic gangster car
Classic gangster car

If you are using a good camera that is well focused on the subject - you will most likely end up with some dust and dirt on the model as well as other imperfections. Taking the time to retouch the image in a program like Photoshop or the GIMP will result in more pleasing images. Remember to keep an eye for detail and don't forget to zoom in on the problem areas.

Explore different models - Image: Examples of scale model photography

Examples of scale model photography
Examples of scale model photography

Most importantly have fun and don't forget to explore different techniques with different scale models.

Some useful links - Further resources and links to my own pages

This is merely a short list of links you may find useful as well as links to my own site to give you more photographic examples.

Possibly the best book to learn photography from. - From legendary and charismatic photographer Bryan Peterson.

Understanding Exposure, 3rd Edition: How to Shoot Great Photographs with Any Camera
Understanding Exposure, 3rd Edition: How to Shoot Great Photographs with Any Camera

Of all the photography books I have found most useful, this one would have to be my favourite. In an easy to understand format this book covers everything from composition to using the correct aperture and shutter speed when taking photographs. This book could easily be applied to both film and digital photography, professional or amateur. Bryan Peterson's books are fun to read and are accompanied by stunning images. Many photography schools and colleges are now using this book as a text book and it is easy to see why.

 

Some of my personal recommendations to get you started.

So you have a camera, an eye for detail and an absolute passion for photography but don't know where to begin. Having a camera is the easy part but knowing how to use it properly and capture the images you want is another thing all together. In this module I will hopefully provide you with useful products that will start you on your photographic journey.

The Digital Photography Book
The Digital Photography Book

I have long been a fan of Scott Kelby and his books. Unlike a lot of professional photographers who write books, he writes in a language most beginners can understand. Unlike a lot of photography training books, he presents his lessons and tutorials in easy to understand language and in a step by step way giving you excellent results quickly. If you are looking for a book that will get you started quickly with your digital camera, this would be my first pick. I have personally found it useful and continue to use it to this day.

 

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    • RetroMom profile image

      RetroMom 5 years ago

      Useful lens. Easy to follow tips for beginners.

    • profile image

      sherioz 5 years ago

      Thanks for the photography lesson.

    • Virginia Allain profile image

      Virginia Allain 5 years ago from Central Florida

      Fabulous results. I haven't tried photographing model cars, but am always looking to expand my photography skills. Thanks for all the valuable tips here.

    • JoyfulReviewer profile image

      JoyfulReviewer 5 years ago

      Nice photos ... I especially like the one of the colorful helicopter.

    • grinagallery profile image
      Author

      grinagallery 5 years ago

      @ernieplotter: Thanks. Its amazing the effects you can get using lamp gells. :-)

    • grinagallery profile image
      Author

      grinagallery 5 years ago

      @davies86: Thanks. :-) Hope its useful for you.

    • grinagallery profile image
      Author

      grinagallery 5 years ago

      @davies86: Thanks. :-) Hope its useful for you.

    • davies86 profile image

      davies86 5 years ago

      really cool lens

    • ernieplotter profile image

      ernieplotter 5 years ago

      Cool pictures. The color on the helicopter looks amazing.