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How to photograph lego?

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How to photograph lego?

Postby Romas » Fri Apr 07, 2006 10:51 am

Many MOC's can look amazing or like crap depending on the way the are photographed. Lego is made of a particulary reflective plastic, and sometimes it makes it hard to photograph properly.
Some members can photograph their MOC's beautifully, where you can see all the details and depth, while others lose the intricacies of their work due to badly taken photos.
I'm a really poor photographer, and I was wondering if some of you guys could enlighten me (and possibly other members as well) on how to photograph Lego in order to make them look their best.

Thank you
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Postby Peppermint Pig » Fri Apr 07, 2006 11:36 am

Good topic, which could perhaps use a greater tutorial to answer...

First off, garbage in, garbage out: If you use a mediocre camera, it will bring about mediocre results.

About a year ago I received my first digital camera: Olympus C-765, with a 4.0 megapixel resolution. Try to get a camera that can do 3 megapixel or better. Learn the functions on your camera, and test often.

I would discourage people from using analog cameras for the most part, as people often need to take many photos to find the best few shots, and the time involved makes upkeep of such a camera less convenient.

Since you're posting on this forum, that would suggest you have a computer, or at least access to one, so again, digital camera is recommended.

Photoshop and other graphic editing tools are very useful, but it requires skill and practice. I rely on an old copy of photoshop to clean up nearly every image I take.

I've never taken a proper photography course, but I would suggest these few tips:

1. Capture the Action: Try to make sure that the majority of the content in frame is interesting, avoiding non lego elements, such as room furniture or other objects that would distract. If you intend to crop the image later, this is not as important.

2. Since Lego constructs on a matrix, it is important to seek shots that are at off angles to the grid (30, 60, 45 degrees, etc). This helps give your shots a sense of good depth. Castles shot at an angle are nearly always more interesting than ones taken side-on.

3. Macro shots: Lego is small, and so your camera should be able to take clean looking pictures within a matter of inches. Be sure to consider this when shopping for a camera.

4. Field of depth: when you take shots close up, the field of depth decreases, resulting in blurry figures nearer to the object in focus. While such macro/close-up shots are important and can give VERY stable images, it is recommended that you back away and use the zoom on your camera if you happen to have a larger scene and you wish to keep more of it in focus. You sacrifice some detail, but with a steady hand, you will get shots with more sharpness overall further away from the focal point.

5. Lighting: If your lighting is poor, a flash photograph may be the only option you have, though I would recommend other light sources over a flash. Daylight is great if you can move your model. Flash photography also has the tendency to tint your colors and place reflective light spots dead-on to whatever you are capturing, creating ugly light balance extremes. Also, don't do close-up flash photographs! If at all possible, try to use mutliple lighting sources. When photographing an 'outdoor' scene, you should either use a diffuse light source, or rely on MANY more lights. Remember: The stronger your light source, the darker your shadow may be.

6. Backdrops: This can be as simple as a white tablecloth, or white or colored paper that accentuates the scene you are shooting.

Photoshop can do wonders, but the most crucial thing is a decently lit scene, and a steady hand. Tripods are highly recommended, though they can be quite expensive. If you can, find a chair or stack some lego tubs (be careful not to spill or knock over the contents!). Makeshift stands such as this are very convenient.

Now, photoshop:

1. Learn how to use levels. Avoid using auto adjustments. Avoid brightness/contrast. Use hue and saturation: switch from 'master' to a color of your choosing. For example, switching from master to green: greens tend to photograph looking more cyan, and a bit light, so darkening and yellowing the hue is good. Blue tends to turn out light also, especially with a flash, so darken, and add saturation if needed.

2. In my experience, there's always an issue of detail loss in the shadows, and most people who do interior photography will need to deal with this. First off, select your entire photograph and copy it. Enter into mask mode and paste the image. By doing so, you are creating a mask/selection that will be based on the luminosity of your photo. Invert the mask data and then exit mask mode. From here, use the level adjuster to influence the darker colors of your image. Don't overdo this, and be sure to clip the dark colors to improve contrast to an absolute black in the lower ranges.

3. If there is a problem with the highlights, color adjustments and levels can both help, using the forementioned techniques...

4. Scaling: After you scale an image to a reasonable size (800x600), you might want some more sharpness. Usually I find that sharpen is TOO STRONG for the image. To fix this, simply copy the image, then paste that copy into the same document without deselecting it. Apply a sharpen filter, and use whatever layers tool panel is present to tweak the opacity between the sharpened and unsharpened image. Remember, a sharper image will create a larger jpg file, so seek harmony by blending the two images.

.. I have a number of advanced image retouching techniques I could share, but they might be a little bit much for a first-timer. Please let me know if these tips are helpful. Good luck!
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Postby JoshWedin » Fri Apr 07, 2006 11:50 am

Great topic, but it belongs in Publishing.

So moved...
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Postby E of Alshire » Fri Apr 07, 2006 12:30 pm

JoshWedin wrote:Great topic, but it belongs in Publishing.

So moved...

Ah! Mod'd!

Anyway, I don't have much to add, exept make sure you rcamera has a Macro function and use it often. That's the single most important thing you'll ever need on your camera.
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Postby Dunechaser » Fri Apr 07, 2006 2:49 pm

Here are a couple of topics further down in the Publishing forum that might also help: ... php?t=6380 ... php?t=6696
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Postby smcginnis » Fri Apr 07, 2006 5:11 pm

Peppermint Pig wrote:I've never taken a proper photography course, but I would suggest these few tips:

Are you kidding? :lol: Seriously, though, I don't have anything to add, except maybe that you should always use manual focus, as opposed to automatic focus, when doing close-ups (I don't think PP covered that :wink:).

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Postby Peppermint Pig » Sun Apr 09, 2006 2:48 am

Well, I'm a pro with Photoshop, but not camera use :P

smcginnis makes some good points: I like auto zoom, but macro shots do work better with a manual zoom.

Furthermore, it's good to use a shutter or manual mode when taking photos. Higher shutter speeds give less time for light to be captured, but tend to give you a crisper photo: Sometimes I don't have a stable place to set the camera and need to stand above my work, so a low shutter speed (which would give a more exposed shot) may end up blurry due to an unsteady hand. As long as your capture is not too dark, and reasonably sharp, you ought to be able to use Photoshop to correct the levels afterwards.

BTW, do your level correction before you scale your image! Any time you correct an image, there's a chance you'll be losing some of the color count/resolution. But if you edit, then scale, your editor application should be able to resample the image (which also may make it slightly blurry looking, hence a need to sharpen), thus partially restoring some of this 'lost data' to maintain a decent level of richness to the image.
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