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Taking Photos of your minifigure

iannn29iannn29 Member Posts: 9
edited March 2014 in Photography/Video
Hi everyone, my dad recently gave me this expensive dslr camera and i got interested in taking photos of my collection. They are good but simply because of the camera itself. When i see photos like these my photos sure look terrible. Anyone here with good advice?Cheers


  • ShibShib UKMember Posts: 5,456
    my advise will be learn to use photoshop. its what designers do with pictures for any toy advert, box art, etc is to take pictures of each item separately to keep the focus nice. the scarecrow picture you showed there is very obviously edited to include that background/foreground and vintage/grungy look
  • TheLoneTensorTheLoneTensor MericaMember Posts: 3,937
    edited March 2014
    Wait, are those your pictures or what you strive to get?

    If they are yours, they look great already. If not, post some examples of your own to get critiqued.
  • ShibShib UKMember Posts: 5,456
    I read it as those were samples of what were being aimed at.
  • ColoradoBricksColoradoBricks Denver, CO, USAMember Posts: 1,659
    Huw has a guide he posted in this thread, while not everything might be applicable to you, there are a lot of good tips.
  • Steve_J_OMSteve_J_OM IrelandMember Posts: 993
    Shib said:

    my advise will be learn to use photoshop. its what designers do with pictures for any toy advert, box art, etc is to take pictures of each item separately to keep the focus nice. the scarecrow picture you showed there is very obviously edited to include that background/foreground and vintage/grungy look

    I don't think the OP should worry about this for the time being. It is far more important to get to grips with the camera itself, learn how to use it properly, learn how to take a decent photo of a minifigure and then worry about editing down the line.

    That would be my main advice, really - start learning how to use the camera. Spend some time reading about exposure so that you don't have to depend on the auto function - when you have control over the manual settings you have a lot more creative control over the photographs you take.

    I echo @TheLoneTensor, post up some examples of your work if you'd like some friendly constructive criticism.
  • iannn29iannn29 Member Posts: 9
    Thanks guys! And the huw page on taking photographs really helped. This is my efforts. I went on 3 tries and include one unedited version straight from the camera (jor-el). I realize I need to buy better lighting.
  • madforLEGOmadforLEGO Chicagoland USMember Posts: 10,712
    edited March 2014
    I get pretty close to this with a 10 year old 5MP Kodak camera. It just matters how much you can zoom in with your camera (mine goes to 4X I think) and also how close you physically are to the item. If you get too close it causes the pic to be blurry.. also do not shake (though most cameras have compensation for that now)
    Also keep the light behind you so you do not have over bearing contrast. I use just sunlight behind me to get enough light to get good pics of the figures. any Flash or direct bulb just reflects on the figure. Indirect light is the best. I am not a huge photog fan, so I just open my blinds on a sunny day and do not let the sun shine on the figures, but light up the room enough to not worry about using a flash or dark photos
  • Steve_J_OMSteve_J_OM IrelandMember Posts: 993
    Not bad, especially given how long you've had the camera. One thing that would improve them is having the minifig standing instead of lying down. You could curve your back-drop against a wall (I use white paper which I blue-tac to the wall). As you say yourself, you probably need better lighting equipment to take better pictures, but until you do, try taking photos in daylight and using natural light. Do you have any surfaces near big windows where you could place them? The on-camera flash is always unflattering, particularly when your subject matter is plastic :)

    I have a few of my photos on Flickr, feel free to take a look and let me know if you have any questions:
  • cardgeniuscardgenius Member Posts: 153
    edited March 2014
    I learned that lighting and keeping the camera as stable as possible will help a bunch. Get a Tri-pod for the camera and one of those lights with the diffuser/indirect covers that professionals use. They do a really good job of lighting up your subject so you don't have dark, shadowy areas. A good backdrop will help too.

    Then just take lots of pictures while messing around with the settings and positioning of the camera to see what works best.
  • preusspreuss CanadaMember Posts: 101
    One thing you should keep in mind is that an expensive DSLR may not be the best tool to take the kind of picture you want, mostly due to their limited macro capabilities (unless, of course, you also get a macro lens that could cost more than the camera body itself).
    This is one of a few situations where a compact camera's tiny image sensor may produce better results than the DSLR's bigger one. The smaller sensor increases your depth of field and allows for sharper pictures at very close ranges (such as minifig portraits), without the need for expensive lenses.
    Having said that, I would recommend you keep working on the lighting of the images as cardgenius recommended, so that you can use smaller apertures (higher F numbers) to increase your depth of field. And since smaller apertures mean slower shutter speeds, his tip about using a tripod will also help a lot.
    You may also try to set the manual focus to the shortest distance possible and move the camera as close as you can while keeping a sharp image, even if the minifig doesn't fill the frame as you'd like. You can crop the surroundings afterwards and take advantage of your camera's higher image quality where it counts.


  • Pitfall69Pitfall69 0 miles to Legoboy's houseMember Posts: 11,454
    My wife's Macro Lens was around $1,400. My brother n law worked at a camera shop and he got it for her at cost. Lenses CAN be very expensive.
  • bluemoosebluemoose Member Posts: 1,716
    On compact cameras 'macro' is a marketing term that means "can focus real close"; for dSLR lens systems 'macro' has a very precise, and technically complex, meaning. They are, confusingly, two slightly different things with the same name. A decent dSLR 'macro' lens is effectively a scientific instrument, and unfortunately the cost will reflect that.

    I'm trying to remember for sure, it was a while ago now, but I don't think I used a macro lens for any of the shots I took for the "LEGO Space: building the future" book; the degree of control over depth of field allowed me to get the shot I wanted in most instances, using regular non-macro 16-35mm and 24-70mm zoom lenses - most of the shots were taken with a fairly small aperture (f16 or f22) to get a good depth of field; wider apertures were used sparingly to isolate objects in the scene for interest.

    Every shot I took for the book was taken with the camera on a tripod, and using a remote release trigger and mirror lock up, to minimise the risk of camera shake - the small aperture meant long exposure times. I also used manual focus for most if not all of the pics.

    Getting the lighting right was the biggest job throughout production of the book; it definitely had the biggest impact on the quality of the shots. I don't think we could have done anywhere near as good a job with the book if we'd have used digital compact cameras, but getting the lighting right was the key.
  • BooTheMightyHamsterBooTheMightyHamster Northern edge of London, just before the dragons...Member Posts: 1,502

    I'm no photography expert - I just bumble along, learning as I go. I've got a a nice DSLR, and a fairly expensive macro lens which I use on occasion - often with minifigs, but the biggest improvement came after I spent £30 on one of these:

    It's a small, fold flat, light tent, with four different coloured backgrounds and a couple of small lights. These, combined with a flash, have improved my pictures (imho) no end.

    I'm pretty sure @Huw has a thread somewhere showing his photographic set up, which is well worth a read.
  • Mister_BricksMister_Bricks Member Posts: 7
    I'll second what @BooTheMightyHamster said above, get a cheap pop-up lightbox. I also have the one linked and it makes a big difference.

    I don't often get my DSLR out, most of my photos are taken with my Galaxy S3 using the light box.

    The macro function is really important, making sure the minifig is in focus. Enough even lighting, so there are minimal shadows and a little in-app editing is what I go for.

    Instagram has loads of Lego themed accounts, mine is
  • bluemoosebluemoose Member Posts: 1,716
    Some examples of fig shots I've taken here, some taken with a dedicated macro lens, some with a non-macro lens ::
  • drdavewatforddrdavewatford Hertfordshire, UKAdministrator Posts: 6,733
    edited March 2014
    bluemoose said:

    Some examples of fig shots I've taken here, some taken with a dedicated macro lens, some with a non-macro lens ::

    Some lovely pics there, Ian !

    Providing you have the requisite skills, I don't think there's any doubt that you'll get superior results using a decent DSLR, good quality lenses, a tripod, a lightbox etc.

    It is however possible to get reasonable results with a cheap and cheerful set-up if you're willing to spend some time experimenting. All the photos on my blog, including the minifig pics, are taken with an old point and shoot Ixus, no tripod and no lightbox. Some of the older pics in particular are admittedly a bit ropey, but as time's gone on I think the quality has improved as I've found set-ups which just happen to work. I don't use a flash anymore, and the room isn't even very well lit, but putting the camera on manual and tweaking the camera settings, a nice plain backdrop, and judicious use of Photoshop, mean you can get away with spending hardly anything on kit and still achieve acceptable results.

    I've included a recent minifig pic below as an example, and you can see more examples of recent photos on my Flickr stream at

  • bluemoosebluemoose Member Posts: 1,716
    edited March 2014
    There's some good advice about about lighting, backgrounds, supports, etc. from the other posters; I've got a bit of time this evening, so please excuse me going into 'tutorial mode' :-)
    iannn29 said:

    When i see photos like these my photos sure look terrible. Anyone here with good advice?Cheers

    You've set the bar very high aspiring to work like that of powerpig & LegoKlyph - these guys are *very* good at this sort of stuff. A good way to learn is to try to recreate an image you like, maybe with a different fig? Working through the process they went through, and then trying different things to see what works & what doesn't, is a good way to learn & get better :-)

    You're off to a good start - the pics you posted above are good, but they are a little bit 'police line-up', if you get my meaning. Powerpig's zombie chef is at an angle to the camera and in a 'dynamic' pose; LegoKlyph's scarecrow is straight on, but has been shot from a low angle; it also looks like he's done a lot of post-processing in Photoshop (or similar) to get that final image. As you've said you've got a decent camera already & wanted some advice, how about I walk you through my thinking on how I'd go about recreating one of those two images?

    Taking powerpig/Chris McVeigh's "WHY YOU NO LIKE GROK STEW?" image, you can check the 'EXIF' data here, to get an idea of the camera settings he used -

    He used a Canon EOS 500D / T1i, an entry-to-mid level dSLR from c.2009. The EXIF doesn't tell us what lens he used, but we do know the focal length when he took it, 70mm, so he was probably using a zoom like the 18-85mm, which is a fairly popular lens on those cameras, and it covers a fairly typical focal range for that sort of camera. Based on the exposure time (1/10th of a second) & how sharp the image is, he definitely used a tripod to hold the camera still. I would also be willing to bet that he used the countdown timer function - when you press the shutter release, this will move the mirror in the camera out of the way, then wait 10 seconds before moving the shutter - this gives the camera time to stop wobbling before taking the photo, to make the photo extra sharp. Non-dSLRs don't have a mirror, so it's less of an issue for them, but just pressing the shutter button will make the camera wobble a bit, so it's good practice for 'still life' shots to use the countdown timer.

    The fig is posed upright on a piece of dark grey card; this will be curved up behind the fig to provide a background, as you've done with your pics. The camera is close enough at 70mm focal length that the card fills the background, but far enough away that he could still focus on the fig. According to the spec sheet for that lens the minimum focus distance is 1.2ft/0.35m, so that's not going to be a problem here. Chris has put the figure in a dynamic pose - he's clearly supposed to be walking across the scene, looking at the camera, and striking a pose; this zombie chef is on a mission!

    The lighting is fairly even, but it looks like the fig is mostly lit from the front and from the left hand side of the camera - there's a very slight shadow on the right of the image, behind the fig. There are no sharp or deep shadows, so the light source is very diffuse. There is still some light coming from the right hand side, and the background is evenly lit, so there's either a 2nd light on the right (maybe further away since it is dimmer), or he has used a piece of white card as a reflector. Notice that there are no harsh reflections on the shiny fig - he's worked carefully to place the light source so that there aren't any major reflections/'hot spots'. The EXIF data says that he didn't have a flash connected directly to the camera; he may have been using studio-like flash units, but I'd bet he was using constant lighting. There's a pretty good chance that the light is simply daylight from a nearby window.

    The camera has been set to an ISO of 100, the lowest setting on the camera, which will result in a longer exposure time, but will result in very little 'noise' in the image. I'm betting he used the camera in 'aperture priority' mode ('A' on the dial); he set an aperture of f11, which is in the middle of the range on the lens - this will give a reasonable depth of focus around the fig, to make sure it's all sharp, but will leave the foreground & background pleasantly out of focus, isolating the fig from its environment. f11 also going to be near the 'sweet spot' for the lens, where it will be optically at its sharpest, with the minimum distortions. A bigger 'f' number (say, f22) would have given a greater depth of focus, but would have needed a longer exposure time, while a smaller 'f' number (say, f5.6) would have given a shorter exposure time but a much shallower depth of focus, with bits of the fig probably blurry. The exact exposure time will vary with the specific lighting set up, but isn't too critical once you've got the camera stabilised on a tripod. I suspect he set the lens to manual focus, rather than auto focus, and used the viewfinder to carefully set the focus distance to make sure the fig was properly sharp.

    The great thing about digital photography is that it doesn't cost anything to take lots of photos, and you can check them almost straight away. I'd recommend setting up a little desktop 'studio' and play around with different camera settings and light configurations. Take a bunch of photos, then when you review the pics on your PC, think about what you like & what you don't like in each image & try to work out how to improve it; then go take another batch & repeat. Unfortunately practice really is the only way to get good at this!

    As you've got a decent camera already, all I'd suggest you need in the short term is a cheap tripod & some stiff white card to act as a reflector. Move a table/desk near to a window & start playing :-)

    Let us know how you get on; always happy to help if you've got any questions.
  • BooTheMightyHamsterBooTheMightyHamster Northern edge of London, just before the dragons...Member Posts: 1,502
    I'm bookmarking this! That's an excellent little mini-tutorial, @bluemoose !
  • binaryeyebinaryeye USMember Posts: 1,809
    bluemoose said:

    On compact cameras 'macro' is a marketing term that means "can focus real close"; for dSLR lens systems 'macro' has a very precise, and technically complex, meaning.

    I understand what you're getting at, but that's somewhat incorrect.

    "Macro", whether on a compact or SLR, simply means the magnification ratio is 1:1 or greater. At 1:1, the size of the subject as projected onto the film or sensor is the same as the size of the subject in the real world. There's nothing particularly precise or complex about the meaning itself.
  • bluemoosebluemoose Member Posts: 1,716
    But that was my point; it *isn't* used to mean that on most compact cameras. I didn't really want to get into a boring discussion about sensor sizes ...
  • zoffyzoffy Member Posts: 6
    Hi guys, I use this product called the "Foldio" otherwise know as the Orangemonkie. This is the website where it can be purchased.

    It's meant for those of us who are not really DSLR users and don't want to be bothered with F-stops, apertures and ISOs. In fact, all I use is the camera on my smartphone.

    I will take some photos of my mini-figs and post them up.
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