PHOTOGRAPHING PAPER MODELS
Many of the paper modellers who make their pictures available on the internet, via various forums or other links like my own collection on www.flickr.com/photos/zeist_bouwplaten/, are also excellent photographers.
However, good (enough) pictures can also be made without a near-professional camera or studio. Some tips. It is difficult to say what factor is the most important - just regard this as a check list, and see if your pictures turn out better than they used to.
The human eye (and brain) automatically concentrates on the most important parts of what it sees, and filtesr out the rest. However, this doesn't work this way when we look at a pohotograph. The background of a picture should therefore be almost completely empty, 'neutral'. Look at any number of advertising photographs in magazines and you will soon see what I mean.
My own simple solution: an old slide projector table, in combination with my old tripod (both easily found second hand). The background is a fairly large sheet of thin card drawing paper or similar, preferably off-white for best contrast. Drawback: the fold always shows in the pictures. If you don't want the angle to show, do not fold the sheet and try to make the central part curve. You could also use a larger table and a sheet.
POINT OF VIEW.
Try to experiment with the angle at which you take your pictures. Many are taken from too high up. Almost every picture benefits from a lower angle!
LIGHT. Whatever camera you are using, from SLR down to your telephone, light is the most important factor. Never use the easiest option, flash - it causes very harsh shadows, unnatural colours. Try to find a place in the house where you can install your background construction with light coming in from the window. If there is no wind (at all!) you can of course work outside. In both cases, choose a bright, but overcast (slightly cloudy) day. Bright sunlight is as bad as flash: harsh shadows, unnatural colours. The colours can always be corrected by photoshopping (if you are good at that), but the hard contrasts are difficult to cure.
SHARPNESS. In this digital world we tend to forget about the basic laws of photography. Your telephone or smallest pocket camera will do its best, but it doesn't teach you how to avoid un-sharp pictures... So here goes.
Sharpness of your picture depends on the combination of available light and shutter speed. Working in the conditions I described above, you will often not have enough light. Up to a point, the camera will choose a lower speed. However, this will often result in darker and un-sharp pictures. So the camera automatically compensates by using its flash. If the camera (your telephone!) has no flash, you will again get fuzzy pictures, or it won't work at all. Provided you can switch off the flash even the smallest real camera will give better results - as long as you use a tripod:
USING A TRIPOD. If you have one, this will always give better results. Tripods come in all sorts, sizes and prices. If you go for the table top method, one of those cheap little tripods for pocket cameras is perfect. If you use a heavier camera you will pobably know all about the larger (and more expensive) tripods.
TYPE OF CAMERA. Keeping the above tips in mind, you will get very acceptable results with any small camra. Choose highest resolution and zoom in. Make several pictures and select the best ones.
The next step up, with unfortunately nothing in between, is a camera with which you can manipulate speed and aperture - in other words, a Single Lens Reflex. A lot more expensive, no more complicated than cameras used to be less than twenty years ago - and anyone who used to work with those will know all they need to know. The next paragraph may help younger enthusiasts on their way.
SINGLE LENS REFLEX CAMERA, DEPTH OF FIELD.
An SLR almost always has a Manual mode, where you can manipulate speed and aperture. You will always need a tripod for this method! In manual close up photography, one tends to focus on for instance the nose of a plane model. The tail will be unsharp. This illustrates 'depth of field'. This can sometimes be improved by simply focussing on the middle of the model. However: a simple law of photography says 'the smaller the aperture, the slower the speed, the larger the depth of field'. Do some experiments, and you will almost immediately see great improvements.
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