|It is quite possible to take good pictures of
miniatures using almost any light that is available. But each
of the main types of lighting, natural daylight, flash, tungsten
bulbs and fluorescent tubes, has its own advantages and disadvantages.
1) Natural Light: Natural light
can give very good results, it's free and it's fairly easy to
arrange - just take your miniatures outside and photograph them
there or use the light coming in through a window.
The trouble is that natural light is completely unreliable
- it changes from minute to minute, day to day and season to
season. When there are dark clouds in the sky natural lighting
is just not bright enough and at night it goes out. Bright sunlight
gives harsh shadows, though these can be minimised by using
a reflector. Not usually an option for taking pictures of a
game in progress.
This picture was taken outside on a bright but cloudy day.
The diffuse light means that there are no sharp shadows.
2) Flash Lighting: A flash setup
is easy to transport and can be used anywhere. Once you've established
the necessary settings needed for a given situation flash will
give you completely reproducible results.
|| This picture was taken with a digital camera using
just its own built in flashgun.
An external flashgun will usually have more power than the
camera's own built in flash and for some cameras you can get
"dedicated" flashguns which link to to the camera
and its metering system to give extremely accurate exposure
control in most situations. Such systems are not usually found
on any but the most expensive digital cameras though dedicated
flashes are available for most SLR cameras.
The light from an external flashgun can be bounced
off a reflector to make it less harsh, and to fill in shadows.
Many of the pictures on this site were taken using a bounced
Under some conditions automatic flash exposure
systems can get confused, for example a dark miniature being
photographed against a white background will be underexposed,
and such systems will sometimes prove incapable of giving good
results. In such cases I switch the flashgun on to a fixed output
setting and adjust the level of lighting at the subject by moving
the flashgun closer or further away or by reducing the light
output using makeshift filters such as paper tissues. This usually
requires considerable trial and error and is not really feasible
when using a film camera.
3) Tungsten lighting:
Tungsten lighting using ordinary filament light bulbs is highly
controllable, you can see in advance exactly how the lighting
for a shot will look - but lights are bulky and not as easy
as a flashgun to transport down to the wargames club. You can
use normal desk lamps to illuminate your miniatures though higher
power photoflood lamps will usually give better results.
Pictures taken under tungsten lighting will need to have their
colour balance (sometimes referred to as white balance) adjusted
as the light from tungsten bulbs is very yellow when compared
to daylight or the light from flashguns. Our brain automatically
adjusts to such changes in the colour of the ambient lighting
and we almost always see white and grey objects as neutral.
Many digital cameras can be programmed to make this compensation
as a picture is taken (or you can do it in any decent image
editing program) but with film cameras you have to use either
special tungsten balanced films or use coloured filters which
inevitably reduce the amount of useful light available.
This picture was taken with a digital camera using tungsten
lights. The colour balance was set automatically after the camera,
my Nikon 995, took a measurement from the neutral light grey
||This one was taken seconds later using the camera's
preset balance levels for tungsten lighting. As you can see the
camera's automatic setting has not fully compensated for the yellowness
of the light.
||This picture was taken under the same tungsten lights
with the camera set up for daylight. The image is very yellow
4) Fluorescent lighting: Fluorescent lights have no
real advantages over tungsten lights. They're not usually very
bright, they're not directional and anything photographed under
them will come out a funny colour. To make matters worse different
makes and ages of fluorescent tubes have different colour balances
so it can be difficult to apply a consistent colour correction.
Not recommended unless your flash is broken and it's the only