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Using Laptop Screen Images For Toy and Gunpla Photography

Updated on February 25, 2019
Mamerto profile image

Mamerto Adan is an engineer by profession, but a writer by night. He loves toys and knives, and has a martial arts background.

After doing articles on gunpla posing, I thought I need to improve my lighting and settings. I mean the gunpla photos look a bit dark and shady. And how about the background? Well I only used the gunpla box to provide a makeshift white background, resulting to this sad and somewhat dark photo effect.

The problem is I’m yet to set up a desktop toy photography. So, expect my photos to be as amateurish as ever. I mean I only got an EDC keychain light for the lighting, and a brick wall for the background. Nevertheless, I found something rather helpful while searching the deep reaches of the web. Why not improvise and use what you got?

And that’s exactly what I have done.

Currently I’m using images from my laptops to provide a rudimentary background for my toys and gunplas. You heard it right. The laptop screen will serve as an improvised photography background. I’m testing if the HD images from the web will be enough to make a form of photo diorama. At the same time, I like to know if the laptop screen images will be convincing enough. There are pros and cons when using your laptop for toy photography, and we will know them later. But firstly, let’s get playing and snapping.

Toys and Gunplas We Will Use

Firstly, let’s decide on what stuffs we will use for our crude toy photography. Among the many toys and gunplas in my inventory, I chose the following below being the most appropriate:

  1. Takara-Tomica was making amazing stuffs for years. Their diecast vehicles are insanely detailed, though pricier than the more budget friendly Hotwheels. Nevertheless, their rendition of the Jurassic World Velociraptor Blue blew my mind. For its size it is the most detailed diecast figure I have seen so far. I have a weakness for small detailed work of art, hence Blue will be called in for the pictorial.


2. Meet the gem of my collection. I have this lovely HCM pro Gundam Heavyarms for almost a decade. Back then it beats the early HGs and MGs in terms of details. And it wasn’t until those lines matured, and the RG released until the HCM pro line was outperformed.

3. Yes it’s him again. He was in my previous articles and he will join the others in this toy pictorial. It’s just than this Kamen Rider Black by Figuarts is so real, like a man in the suit. I wonder how real he will look with a makeshift background.

The HCM Pro Gundam Heavyarms (left) and my Figuarts Kamen Rider (right)
The HCM Pro Gundam Heavyarms (left) and my Figuarts Kamen Rider (right)

4. We just mentioned how much the HG and RG improved over the years, and the HG take on the Gipsy Avenger proved it. The completed kit packs more details than most action figures. In fact, it reminds me of a humanoid Apache gunship.

One of the finest HG kit.
One of the finest HG kit.

5. Lastly is our RG kit. My newest is the Justice Gundam which is like a Gundam Epyon fused with the Bradley fighting vehicle DNA.

What I got last Christmas.
What I got last Christmas.

The Gadgets

Again, I’m yet to set up my desktop studio, so my stuffs will be as crude as possible. Maybe I could prove a point that hobbies like this won’t make you broke. Nevertheless, below is everything I got:

My laptop and flashlight.
My laptop and flashlight.

Yup, just a budget laptop and my EDC keychain light. The keychain light I will use is the tiny, but powerful Olight 3E EOS. It packs 90 lumens of beam, and to anyone wondering what it means, it is brighter than your cellphone flashlight. Try shining it to your eye and you will know. This might seem too much for a tiny toy photography but controlling the distance between your subject and your flashlight will do the trick.

Small light, to travel light.
Small light, to travel light.

Then there is my laptop. Again, it is the budget friendly, but Windows 10 infested tool/toy Lenovo Ideapad S130. It had an 11inch screen though the Windows 10 OS is giving me a headache. I’m thankful though that it had an HD screen, which means that I will get clearer images for backgrounds.

My camera is nothing special. Just a regular mobile phone camera of my Lenovo Vibe P1. This 3year old workhorse (as of I write this article) has a 9megapixel camera, so at least I won’t get blurred images.

The Main Cons Of A Laptop Screen

You might have noticed that the toys featured here are just under 6 inches tall. The obvious shortcoming of a laptop screen is the size. You are limited by the size of the screen, and in this case, I only got 11 inches of working image. And believe it or not, I must crop my images and do half body shots to make it convincing.

Then there is the laptop keyboard, which made it hard for the figure to stand. It was a good thing that my toys and gunplas here was never heavy, or else it could mess the keypad.

Tomica Velociraptor Blue

I was thankful that Tomica came up with figures this small and detailed, and it seems like it is made for this. First, I’m using the box as a sort of platform, so my figure will align with the background.

And for the background, I found this forest scenery somewhere in Wikipedia

Took me forever to load this, thanks WIndows 10!
Took me forever to load this, thanks WIndows 10!

I noticed that the brightness of the screen will cause your figure to appear as a shadowy silhouette in the mobile phone screen, hence this is where the keychain light kicks in.

I set my lighting an arm’s length above my figure. Yet it will depend on how you prefer the lighting. The thing is your lighting must match the shades of your background.

Then crop your photos until we arrive at the surreal image at the bottom.

Photo before cropping.
Photo before cropping.
The final photo.
The final photo.

Here’s another shot I did, with darker lighting and different background.

Kamen Rider Black (Figuarts)

We will do the same approach with the Kamen Rider Black Figure this time. In this case I chose the deserted, dark warehouse for the background, as this is the usual settings when he slugs with man-beasts in the show.

Unlike the Tomica Velociraptor Blue, we need to work on his pose. I chose the static standing pose as again the screen is too small! And even without controlling the illumination with my flashlight, the photo already looks eerily real. This one had the edges cropped.

Yup, it looks real.
Yup, it looks real.

Again, with minimal lighting and a lot of shadows, we will get this real looking photo with the figure like a man in the suit.

Rider change!
Rider change!

HCM Pro Gundam Heavyarms

We won’t get realism in this case, as our action figure here is based from an anime. But we will give him a ravaged war scene as a background. Again, we will use the same approach of light controls and photo cropping.

And below is the result.

HG Gipsy Avenger and RG Justice Gundam

The Gipsy Avenger turns out to be photogenic among the bunch. I got the background from one of the Pacific Rim sceneries. I will say it again, we will do the same approach. This time, the misty effect of the background works well with the dark color of the kit. The result is somewhat surreal.

In one pose, I never used any lighting.

Here’s one with my flashlight on.

The RG Gundam Justice poses a special set of problem. This so-called small kit is wide (backpack and all) and beefy. Only half of it was caught in the photo.


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