Taking Miniature Photos on a Black Background


July 31, 2007 by TAB Studio

Well, after being asked a few times how I get the black background on my miniature pictures and how to photo black itself.  I give you what I can to help you, do what I do and, if you need any other information feel free to comment here and ask 😀

 The photo below shows the set up I use , I came across this odd process during the charity project. I took some 5000 photos of other peoples miniatures for the eBay auctions these were donations of some of the finest painters in the world, and I wanted to do my best for them yet often… I had an overwhelming amount of work, here is what I came up with.

Photo set up

 The magnifying light I use to paint with is the fundamental to the whole process…it is my light source for the photo though I leave the overhead lights on.
The bulb in the light  is a daylight fluorescent bulb and the overhead light that I leave on while taking pictures in my dining room is converted to Revel Daylight bulbs there are three in the ceiling light fixture I have above the table. hot situation but great for painting.

I use the interior of a Wood Elf Army box as my background, I have spray primed the inside of the box black with GW spray primer. This is the only thing I personally think the stuff is good for. I respray the inside when the surface gets scuffed etc. The paint leaves a sand like residue if I handle it too much but it is a great flat surface to photo against and worth the careful handling.

I found a 1″ glass cube in my foraging at Michaels and I have spray primed that as well this the GW primer. This allows me to raise the model up and not have the seam of the box show in the picture behind the mini. It would if I just set the mini on the inside with out being raised up in the air a bit.
I am clumsy and do not have the patience to use a tripod…thus the metal card box you see there, I used this box tonight to set the camera on. Tonight it is a MTG box I had handy but, what I choose to set the camera on changes according to the mini I am taking pictures of. Some minis I like looking up at, some I look down upon just matters what it is and how it will display well. I tend to grab things around at the time 😀

Here is the picture untouched generate by the above set up. My Avatar of Menoth work I have in progress…cute yes?

Avatar of Woe...No sorry.... Menoth

I will also share a screen shot of my camera settings. I found in the photoshop program file settings areas. They are odd settings but they work for me in this situation.

Camera data
Here is a list of my setting as far as the camera options go,
Metering : Matrix
Shutter: Single
Best shot selector: On
Image adjustment : less contrast
Saturation: Maximum
Exposure Lock : Off
Focus Options : Area Mode
Image Sharpening : Normal
Auto Bracketing: Off
Noise Reduction:Off

The common error I see when looking at mini pictures is the lack of measuring the White balance or using the white balance setting.
I have a meter in the camera information settings area and each time I photo a mini or change the lighting, I remeasure the balance. I would highly suggest you look at your camera instructions and find where and how ‘your’ cameras white balance metering works and how to use it.
I am able to simply place a sheet of white printer paper in front of the mini, then do the measurement function. I remove the paper and take the picture. I use the timer feature when taking pictures then I can back off and not shake the table as the shutter does it’s thing of beauty.

One trick I learned in all the photo work …. to get focus on a mini that has a sword or other feature jutting directly toward the camera lens. Place your finger at a mid range or rear area of the miniature as you are taking the picture. You can withdraw it right when the shutter goes of or you can leave it in an area that is easily cropped. This fools the camera in to focusing on the ‘whole’ miniature not just the thing closest to the lens.  Can you see the finger of doom?
giving the finger

So biggest concerns to take the photo like this are…. White balance measurement,  slow shutter speed, no flash, primed box and primed block to place the mini on top of, direct focused light source, (you could use a shop light with a revel bulb as an alliterative to what I use I have and it works), timer setting or delay setting so you are not holding the camera or pressing a button when the shutter goes off and patience. I hope this helps and again ask away about anything that may be unclear or need further explanations.



3 thoughts on “Taking Miniature Photos on a Black Background

  1. Hmm, I should try this. I doubt the appropriateness of the pale blue gradient for photographing more sinister or evil miniatures. I see the trick is for it to be a VERY matte black, so it doesn’t throw back reflections of the strong light source.

    I also need to come up with a good (short) camera mount so I can use a delay shutter, as it is I just take a couple of pics of each view and use the ones that didn’t come out jiggly…

  2. Ingo says:

    After I have read your great article here I have tried to set it up at home for me. I took a old box, sprayed it inside matt black, and tried to take some pictures. I have a Nikon Coolpix 995, but the black in the background always looks like darkgrey, and not as black as it looks here on your pictures. Does anyone has some hints for me?

  3. TAB Studio says:

    Ingo Hi there
    lest see if I can help
    Things to check for me please
    You did your white balance before hand??? (sheet of paper that is right in front of the mini you are going to photo)

    Did you remember to set you camera f-stop to 4.8
    and your cameras speed to 400?

    You are using a daylight bulb as a light source?
    Please let me know and also feel free to email a picture also maybe I can tell from that.
    Please let me know if any information above helped.

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