When checking out miniatures, there are many different vendors spanning multiple themes and scales, from common everyday life (e.g. featured in H0 scale models often used for train sets) to dramatic and violent fantasy battles such as Warhammer, Lord of The Rings amongst others. Whether you are a miniature collector, diorama artist, or simply a macro photographer looking for a new subject to shoot, miniatures can be very interesting subjects, so here are a few useful pointers for shooting miniatures.
How to make a macro photography story
- Choose the theme and scale – First of all, decide on the theme of your shoot, and the scale of your miniatures. In my case, I have opted to shoot a Warhammer Fantasy miniatures, since their diversity and colorful appeal, as well as stunning level of detail provide numerous photo opportunities. If you themes are mass scale conflicts, you cant go wrong with one of these. The warhammer miniatures are easy to come by (sold in many hobby shops), and you can customize them to your liking through assembly and painting. Check Gaugemaster, or Games Workshop sites for more info on where to buy the miniatures.
- Decide on your scene – Basically, here you have to decide what your subject is. Do you want to make a portrait of a single miniature, or shoot for the entire scene ? If so, what is the scene about ? Is it a small intimate scene with only a few miniatures telling the story, or a mass scale full-on conflict busting with action. All these choices will affect the way the subject(s) will be presented. I have decided to capture a battle scene portraying the conflict between a Bretonnian archer squad backed up with two Bretonnian knights and an uprising undead army coming from the local graveyard. It is a diorama that i have built from scratch a few years ago (when i was heavily involved with creating battle scenes using Warhammer figures). I have used the following miniatures:
1x Skeleton Regiment – Vampire Counts
1x Blood Dragon – Vampire Counts Commander
1x Imperial Archers – mini pack
1x Imperial army command Squad (Commander, Standard Bearer and Drummer)
2x Bretonnian Knights
- Tell a story – Here you need to take the role of a film director. You know what your scene is about, and what miniatures are available at your disposal. Try assembling your miniatures in a way that they portray a story. Decide who are your main actors, and what their role is in the scene. Usually writing a small scenario will help you get a better understanding of the actors, and the interactions among them, as it will help you decide on the look and feel of each individual shot. Your overall goal is to tell a story through a series of photos.
- Shoot your scenes – Go through your storyboard, and shoot the pieces of the story. Try to focus on not more than 3-4 subjects as it may get confusing. Once you decide which role each actor has, try to find a way to record it with your camera.
Creating the whole warhammer diorama was quite a long project (around 2 months), involving many trial and errors, however in the end i was quite pleased with the result. I will not describe how to create battlefields using scrap materials here (check out Maffo models for that), as our main focus here is to take macro photos.
Here are a few pointers on how to shoot miniatures.
- Get down low – almost at the miniature’s eye level. This will help you get into their perspective, and see through ‘their eyes’.
- Use longer lens focal length if possible – Basically, macro lens with shorter focal lengths (e.g.35mm) will force you to come to close to your subject and knock off some of the tiny details from your models. Here is where that 1:2 zoom such as 70-300mm 1:2 macro lens comes in handy. It will give you longer work distance, and prevent you from having to maneuver your bulky camera between those tiny miniatures.
- Play with depth of field to emphasize the message you are trying to get across. For personal shots use wide aperture to isolate your subject, while for battle scenes use larger DOF to portray the conflict.
- Sometimes, combining your miniatures with real life objects gives an interesting sense of scale, you may wish to portray. However, this was not the case in my diorama.
What is your preferred macro subject ?