Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Not to forget the Circle

I painted these a couple of months ago, but this is the first time I've had a chance to post pictures.  We've got some new additions including the Bloodtrackers + Nuala and Gallows Grove.  I've yet to put either on the table but hopefully this weekend it will happen.



Gallows Grove

Monday, October 29, 2012

New editions to Cygnar

I finally got around to photographing the recent models I've added to my Cygnar army.  Despite writing a tutorial on photographing minis, I'm certainly no expert.  I'm not super-pleased with how the pics turned out. They're lacking contrast and look flat to me.  Click on the photos to embigginate.

Gun Mages 
Stormblade Gunners

Stormblade Officer Attachment

Stormblade Infantry

Defender - front

Defender - back

Ol' Rowdy - front

Ol' Rowdy

Ol' Rowdy

Hunter - front

Hunter - back
Disclaimer:  The guys below were done quite a while ago.  I look at them and cringe a little inside.  Still, I like to keep them here for the sake of continuity.
Journeyman Warcaster

Journeyman Warcaster - back
Squire, saddle my horse and fill my tankard!
Squire - front

Squire - back

Monday, October 8, 2012

Photographing Minis

I've written a brief tutorial on how I photograph my minis.  It's a simple setup designed to get the best results with the least complexity.  I wrote it assuming little familiarity with photography.  If you're not satisfied with the photos you're taking, have a read and see if anything below strikes a chord.

I've also included some "problem" photos as examples.


The most important part of the setup is not the camera, but the lighting.  There's a limit to what your camera can do and without good lighting, you're fighting an uphill battle.

What's good lighting?  In the context of miniature photography, there are three qualities to light that matter the most - brightness, diffusion, and color.

Ideally, you want to flood a miniature with enough diffuse light that makes for a bright image, but doesn't cast shadows onto the background.  Background shadows are really distracting.

  • Brightness - room lighting is typically not enough.  You'll want to use at least two external lights positioned to the side and front.  [image here]  If the camera has a flash on it, I recommend using it.  The downside of using a bright flash is that it's very direct and usually bright, which will leave shiny spots on the model.  However, if you're supplementing extra lights, it shouldn't fire very brightly.  They're pretty smart that way.  
  • Diffusion - the best case for lighting is when you look at the miniature and you can't tell where the light source is.  Bright, diffuse lights will wash out the background shadows very well.  I made a light box out of a cardboard box and tracing paper.  It does a pretty good job.  
The background shadows are a result of too much direct light, probably from the main camera flash.
  • Color - this one is a bit harder to control.  I look for "daylight" colored lights or "warm" lights.  The color of the light affects what the photo technology refers to as White Balance.  Fortunately, this is one of the easiest things to correct for in photo editing software.

This is an example of poor white balance and too intense directional lighting


The camera is the least important part of the setup.  You can get good results with a craptacular camera (even a camera phone) if you follow some basic guidelines.  Most cameras now allow you to select various shooting modes including "aperture priority."  That's about all you need in a camera.

"Macro mode" is not needed.  In fact, I recommend that you don't use it at all.  More on that below.


Here's how to do it in a few bullet points.

  1. Use a Tripod
  2. Avoid "macro mode"
  3. Set your camera's shooting mode to aperture priority and select an aperture between f/8~11
  4. Move the camera away from the subject and zoom in
  5. Turn on the flash if you have it
  6. Unless you have a remote trigger (if you're not sure, then you don't) use the camera's timer function to snap the picture.  
A tripod is essential.  With the amount of light present in your house, you probably won't be able to photograph at a high aperture using a shutter speed fast enough to eliminate motion blur, especially when zooming in.  As a rule of thumb, if my focal length is 50 mm (which I don't consider wide angle, or zoomed in), I won't go slower than 1/60th of a second on the shutter.  If you double the focal length, increase the shutter speed accordingly.  At 100 mm, I want at least 1/125 sec.  The tripod allows you to use a much slower shutter speed without losing sharpness to motion blur.  So, it's strongly recommended that we use a tripod.  You're not as steady as you might think.  

Avoid "macro mode."  Macro mode lets you get really close to your subject.  In this case, you don't want to be close, you want to be far.  More on that below.

An aperture around f/8~11 will increase your depth of focus, helping to keep the whole miniature sharp.  Moving away and zooming in will flatten the image and make the miniature stand out from the background.  It's a neat effect.  
Notice how the ax is out of focus.  This resulted from using a very low aperture.

The on-camera flash is optional.  If you want more light on the front of the model, or if you don't have enough lights, you can use it.  That's something you'll have to play with.

Finally, and critically important, don't hand-trigger the shot.  Since we're using a small aperture (high number) the camera will likely compensate by using a slow shutter, unless you have a ton of extra light.  In that case, the image will be very sensitive to motion blur.  Meaning, if the camera moves, the image will blur.  It only takes a tiny amount and because we're zooming in, that motion will be exaggerated.

In summary

Use a lot of diffuse light, shoot on aperture priority mode between f/8~11, always use a tripod, and don't trigger by hand.  A light box can be made really cheaply and helps out a great deal.

I'd like to develop this tutorial more, so if you have questions, please don't hesitate to ask them.

So, what does it look like when everything comes together?  

This is one of my favorite shots.  The detail stands out and the light isn't harsh.  The little bit of shine seems purposeful.

Good shooting!

New photo setup

I'm trying out a fancy new photo setup.  The pictures below were taken with a light booth made out of a cardboard box, two external lights, and my iPhone.  Just goes to show you that it doesn't take much to get half-decent photos of your dudes.

Gorman di'Wulfe

There are still some shadows present below, but I think this will be mitigated once I strap the flash onto the SLR.  The iPhone camera is surprisingly good and it does fine in a pinch.
Smaller Gorman

The key is to flood the model(s) with enough diffuse light to eliminate some shadows.  Diffusing the light also makes for fewer shiny highlights.  You can also change the position of your light sources to add depth to the model.

A common mistake people make is using a very low aperture that limits their depth of focus.  If one part of the mini is sharp, but the rest is blurry, that's what's happening.  Best case is to use a tripod and lower the shutter speed.  Also, if you have a zoom, move the camera away from the subject and zoom in.  This can effectively blur out the background while keeping the model sharp.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Centurion Piston Spear Conversion

I don't do much in terms of modifications to models since I'm always short on time in getting them ready for the table.  I made an exception in the case of the Centurion's spear.  I wanted to replace the spear in the metal kit with the one from the plastic warjack kit.  As the pictures will attest, I was largely successful.

Who doesn't want a bigger spear?  The weapon on the metal version of Cygnar's Centurion warjack is ridiculously tiny (seen in the photo below, right side).  It's a toothpick.  The version from the plastic kit - now we're talking.  To quote Crocodile Dundee - "That's not a Piston Spear, THIS is a Piston Spear."

Plastic Vs. Metal

Monday, October 1, 2012

Painting with Stormgunners

I picked up a few things from watching the Jen Haley and Anne Foerster DVD's and tried them out on the Storm Gunners.  Instead of using washes for shading, thinned paint was placed deliberately where the shadows would be.  I've done this before, but watching it done right added to my confidence level.  Also, I  learned to leverage the fact that the amount of paint that is laid down increases from the beginning to the end of the brush stroke (when it's thin enough).  This was especially useful with the highlights as opposed to shadows since it can be difficult to end a brush stroke in the crevice of a model.  

The other thing I did was fully commit to the edge-highlighting.  It's another thing I've played with in the past but only had to guess at how it's done right.  Turns out it's pretty simple.  Remove a lot of paint from the brush - not as much as dry-brushing, but enough that it won't flow off onto the model.  Then, just drag the side of the brush against the edge you want to highlight.  The thinner the line, the more you can increase the highlight level of the color compared to the base coat without it looking weird.

The models in the image are incomplete, but the shading and highlighting on the blue armor is done.

Blue armor is complete with shading and edge hightlighting