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Photographing black lego

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Photographing black lego

Postby The dark tide » Sun Dec 17, 2006 6:43 pm

The subject pretty much explains it. I am not what you would call a good photographer. I am currently trying to photograph a minifig that is entirely black. The problem is that every time I do none of the details of the minifig show up on the picture. Does anyone have any tips or ideas on how one could go about photographing this black menace? I do not think lighting is the isue. I have a lamp shinning RIGHT on him as I take the pictures. Thanks.
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Postby Bruce N H » Sun Dec 17, 2006 11:51 pm

Hmm, this one is always a problem. Perhaps the fact that the lamp is shining right on him isn't actually helping. Try and place your light source off to the side, or else put a sheet of white paper in front of the lamp - something to help avoid the glare you sometimes get. Natural lighting is always a good thing to try. Also, once you take the photo, you can play with brightness/contrast in photo-editing software (e.g. Photoshop or Gimp) and that may help.

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Postby Recluce » Mon Dec 18, 2006 1:30 am

I think natural lighting is the best way to go for this. Take it outside on a nice day and your pictures will be fine.
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Postby The dark tide » Mon Dec 18, 2006 2:14 am

thanks guys. I will try the natural lighting and see what happens.
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Postby DS9 » Mon Dec 18, 2006 2:17 am

just take it on a place with enough light, then take a picture without the flash!
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Postby Littlebrick » Fri Dec 29, 2006 4:54 am

It might help to have more than one lamp shining on the mini-fig.

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Postby kelderic » Fri Dec 29, 2006 5:16 am

Normally, I use the soft-flash setting on my camera. It is half normal intensity, and I don't get a glare. Most cameras don't have this setting though, so I'm not sure if this will help.

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Postby ottoatm » Fri Dec 29, 2006 5:29 am

I always use a combination of a lot of natural light and (from a distance) white fluorescent light. This combination has proven to work always, with only one exception... when I try to photograph an all-white fig. :?

If you can, give it a shot... I'd love to see the results.
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Postby g2 » Thu Jan 04, 2007 5:47 am

Photographing black Lego is a real problem. I like the suggestions with the natural light. I will have to use that one day. But what I have found that works, is adjusting the levels with Photoshop (or any good graphics program).

Let us know how you go with the image.
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Postby Morgan19 » Thu Jan 04, 2007 1:59 pm

I'd asked the same question a while back on FBTB for the voidfighter contest. Bluemoose had some excellent advice that really helped me get a handle on how to not only photograph, but edit predominantly black MOC photos. I use a simple lighting setup similar to his (overhead fluorescent, a few natural bulbs, whatever light I can get from the window, etc.) and then just run the images through Photoshop per his steps.

bluemoose wrote:I usually find the answer is to slightly over-expose the photograph - if your camera has an "exposure compensation" option set it to +1, give or take a little. Might also be marked as "EV compensation". A lot of digital camera have it, but it might be buried in a menu somewhere; make sure you set it back afterwards ;)

Alternatively, you can compensate in Photoshop using 'levels' - adjusting the midpoint should bring out the details without effecting the overall balance of the image. Using the "local contrast enhancement" trick with UnSharp Mask (small amount setting (~10%) & large radius (200+)) might work well too.

Some quick examples ...

The first is as exposed directly by the camera ...


The next is that image very quickly processed in Photoshop - "auto color" to correct for the warm color-cast, midpoint on the levels panel adjusted to 1.3 (and endpoints tweaked slightly), noise filter & sharped (USM) run ...


The third is exposed with a +1ev compensation ("1 stop over exposed"), but otherwise straigh out of the camera ...


And the final is the above photo, with all the adjustments made other than the levels correction (i.e. auto-color, noise & USM only) ...


... which I think is the best one.

The photos were taken on a scratch-built photo table, in my garage under artificial light - strip light directly above, plus two 60 Watt bulbs (one standard indoor bulb, the other a so-called "daylight" bulb) on the left, bouncing off a white sheet on the right - not ideal, but good enough I think. No flash.

The baseline exposure was 1/8 of a second at f8.0 (ISO 800); 'over exposed' shot was 1/4 sec at f8.0 (ISO 800). Camera was supported on a tripod (that needs replacing - it's not strong enough for the combined weight of the camera & lens, hence the softness in the image, from the camera shaking very slightly during the exposure). I used the self-timer on the camera to minimise the shake from me pushing the release button.

EDIT - summary image here

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Postby BreadMan » Sat Jan 06, 2007 1:21 am

Lighting is always an issue. The reason people have had success with natural lighting, I suspect, is because sunlight is a few hundred times brighter than any man-made light. Man made lights are in fact really dim, they just seem brighter because the human eye is able to adapt to a wide range of brightnesses. Cameras aren't so sensitive. I personally use no less than four 75 watt lights when photographing MOCs, and I still have to up my exposure time and drop my aperture significantly for good results.

The thing about photographing black is that black by definition is the absence of light. However, black ABS is very reflective. Glare is not so bad if you have multiple lights; more shiny points on a black surface means more depth - the eye is better able to detect the 3D nature of it. What I have found to be more important though is to have lots of bright colored things nearby to be reflected. Have a look, for instance, at this photo. You can clearly make out each black piece because they are reflecting the white environment, which is just a big sheet of white paper.

I really need to do an article on moc photography sometime...:P
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