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08-11-2009, 01:51 PM   #1
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1/35th scale model photgraphy

Hi Guy`s
Just purchased my first DSLR .. Pentax KM with standard lens. Any advice would be welcome on the lens type and camera settings to achieve a good depth of field and clarity of pics goos enough to use for magazine articles. I use 2 500 watt lights on a stand and white artist paper for the background. I also have a Velbon tripod..

Thanks for any tips and advice you could offer


08-11-2009, 03:08 PM   #2
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Expose very carefully, probably with a gray card. This will help get your white paper white and the color of your model correct. Customize white balance off your white background paper. We could write paragraphs about this alone, but once you get the exposure right, you can shoot on manual and all your shots will come out the same.

Shoot with two second-delay self timer to turn off SR and enable mirror-lockup for less mirror slap vibration. Unfortunately your K-m (I assume it's a K-m digital (a.k.a. K2000 rather than a late 1970's KM film camera) lacks a cable release socket but you could get the IR remote to enable triggering with out shaking the camera.

This will probably become apparent with your test shots but it is likely that you'll want to close the aperture down to increase depth-of-field. I would start at f/11 as it will provide generous depth-of-field without sacrificing much lens sharpness to diffraction. Shoot a similar shot at f/16 and f/22 and compare closely--does the extra depth-of-field make your entire subject sharp, or is there little benefit?

Here's the good news. Unless you actually need the extra magnifcation from a real macro lens (meaning that you want to focus closer), your kit lens is already really good at f/11 so you might not benefit a whole lot from a dedicated macro lens--that is, again, unless you need the extra magnification for your subject. So I'd go with what you have for now.

If you're not already shooting RAW, I'll suggest that it will allow you to best make corrections to color/white balance/exposure during post-processing with the least amount of quality loss for the very best results. If you use the right software (Adobe Lightroom, Adobe Bridge/Camera RAW, ACDSee Pro, etc.) you can automate some of these changes for a batch of photos for a whole shoot--apply this white balance tweak, apply this curve/highlight boost to make the background disappear white, etc.

Good luck,
08-11-2009, 03:11 PM   #3
Damn Brit

Welcome Andy, what do you mean by "good depth of field"?
If you want a shallow DOF (subject in focus, background out of focus) you will want a lens with a wide aperture, f/1.4 - f/2.8 are what you are going to need to be looking at (f/1.4 having the shallowest depth of field).
All lenses will give you a deeper DOF, if you want everything to be in focus you are probably going to be using f/8, f/11, f/16 (with f/16 having more depth of field than f/8)
Those three apertures are considered the 'sweet spot' apertures where the lens will be at it's sharpest (and most lenses will be satisfactory at those apertures).
Depending on your set up and how much room you have will also factor into it. If you want to shoot an individual model (an airplane for example) something like a 50mm should be suitable.
If you want to take a picture of a complete model train layout for example, you will need something much wider to get the whole thing in the picture, something like 18mm.

If you have the standard 18-55 lens, that should work ok for you unless you want a shallow DOF.

Zooms in the bigger aperture range are going to be more expensive and 2.8 is the widest aperture you will find.
If you want bigger than 2.8 you will be looking at single focal length lenses. These will also be expensive and you will probably be choosing between 21, 28, 31, 35, 40, 43, 50 and 55mm. You will probably want at least two, maybe three from that list if you go that route.
08-11-2009, 03:28 PM   #4
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Sounds like you ought to read up on light tents and curved paper backgrounds too, enjoy.

08-11-2009, 05:05 PM   #5
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As a follow-up to Damn Brit's response. My interpretation of your 'good depth of field' was presuming the typical white-background documentary product shot. For this, usually the goal is to get everything in focus, front to back. If you want to *limit* depth of field, then Damn Brit's recommendation of faster prime lenses makes sense.

If shooting at high magnification close up, you may find that depth of field is quite limited already with modest apertures of slower lenses like f/4 so you should definitely explore the capabilities of what you already own.

If you want super-limited depth-of-field and selective focus, which can sometimes make models look real or reality look like models, you might want to look into what lensbabies can do.

08-11-2009, 07:36 PM   #6
Damn Brit

And as a follow up to what Andrew said... only joking.
08-12-2009, 06:03 AM   #7
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I just built a setup for scale model photography. I built a framework of PVC pipe to hold a length of foam sheet made by creatology:

Creatology™ Foam Roll
I dunno if that link will work, just search creatology foam roll.

I did some experiments and found f18 with the flash on auto (with a diffuser) worked really well. I still have some more experimenting to do, and need to do a gray meter, I think, but the results were pretty good. I noticed some sensor dust when stopped down like that and have since blown it clean but haven't checked how clean yet...

VF0D Completed preview on Flickr - Photo Sharing!
08-12-2009, 06:31 AM   #8
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unfortunately this kind of macro photography is best served using a Tilt Shift lens

08-12-2009, 06:50 AM   #9
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Andy Taylor on the Pentax forum?
Man, I really like Thunder. "Tremblin'" is just a fantastic song. You really gained my respect when you recorded with Power Station. It seems like it gave you the chance to stretch out your guitar abilities compared to your work with Duran Duran; although I enjoy that group as well.
Welcome to the forum, brother.

(in walks a figure wearing a suit of armour and strikes Nowhere Matt with a rubber chicken)

Perhaps you are not that Andy Taylor.

Well what was it like being on the Andy Griffith Show?
08-12-2009, 08:32 AM   #10
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Scale models are my primary hobby and it merges beautifully with photography. I've been doing this for years and I write/photograph for Model Cars Magazine.
For scale models, depth of field is critical. I typically shoot aperture priority at least f8, higher if possible depending on the DOF requirements. Of course a tripod is required. The biggest challenge with light is shadow control, as shadows can throw away the illusion of scale. Whenever the magazine editor is photographing for a feature, he uses a large softbox directly over the camera pointing down.
I use a home made light box and if possible, I prefer to set up next to my hobby room door at noon for natural light help.
Your kit lens may limit you in terms of how close it allows you to focus. In that case you may need to crop the resulting image.
As for white balance, a trick we use is putting a grey card in a corner of the frame, so it can be used to set grey and crop it out eventually.

Here are a few examples of my models: These are all 1/25 scale. These images are lower quality res for web.

You can see my more of my models here: My Scale models

Let me know if I can be of any help. Sorry for the lenght but I'm very passionate about my 2 hobbies

08-12-2009, 11:41 PM   #11
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Ismaelg demonstrates with his pictures the importance of the models being in their "natural environment." If you are photographing cars, and you don't have/want a standard solid coloured backround, maybe try photographing them where an actual car would be; Show them on the road, or use some forced perspective to get the car infront of some 1:1 scale street signs, or 1:1 buildings. If you're photographing aircraft models, try placing them in a spot that will give you a dramatic sky.

Also, when I've photographed scale models in the past, I've found that my eye tends to like a longer focal length, so I use my D-FA 100mm macro, so you might want to consider purchasing another lens (uh-oh LBA . Of coarse the perspective that 100mm gives isn't pleasing to everyone's eye, but it is fun to experiment with different focal lengths. Here's some photos with a 100mm perspective.

08-13-2009, 12:30 AM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by ismaelg Quote

These two shots look like the real thing to me, there's some good work on display here.
08-16-2009, 11:43 PM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by kerrowdown Quote
These two shots look like the real thing to me, there's some good work on display here.
Yea. I highly agree. The Camaro is a good shot, but you can tell it is a model. The yellow wheels.

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