Saturday, 29 October 2011

Brief Tips to Gundam Close up Photography

This guide aims for Gunpla hobbyist that new to DSLR camera and photography.

UPDATED: Feb 2014

A nice background is required, whether only a white canvas, or a nice pattern that can looks awesome when zoomed up in close up. A nice backdrop will saved you times to clean up via photoshop. In Gundam photography, the background usually will dictate what is your overall theme. This can be only a flat white color background with emphasizes only to the model, or a thematic one such as a war theme.

a standard white backdrop, a pattern backdrop and an outdoor background done with nice 'bokeh'

Those who enjoy creating diorama for your gunplas will have no trouble creating a simple light box for photography purposes. Here some of images that can give your inspirations:

a cabinet with white surfaces wall will do!

electronic interior will also do!, you can check my photos using this kind of background, here.

Lightning is the most important aspect on your photos. For a quick tips, a bounced light is preferred since it will show 3D dimensional of the object better. Usually on your camera, flash light is your default setup. This is not so great since it is only give brightness but dull in recreating 3D dimensional of the model (see illustration below 'Frontal Flash Light'). In a "studio" setting,  lightning can be arranged to face one directional to the Gunpla. This is also related to the pose we want to created and composed the lightning effects for that pose. Then there were color of the light. A white matte light create the most neutral effect.

A Frontal Flash Light usually give a flat portrait, even worse a shadow may occured
Lightning from Side and Top are much preferred since it will give more 3D effects to the portrait
and for Backlight, unlike in human portrait where we can get a nice hairlight, there is not much in effect in Gundam photography except it will created a nice silhoutte

This is the technical thingy that has no strict guideline.
In common language, aperture is how large the lens to open. Quick fact, just see the f-number on your camera, the 'smallest' the f number the effect will be the more small area of focus your photo going to produced. This mean it will create a nice blur or 'bokeh' background for many unwanted background. On the disadvantage side, the smallest f-number, the more difficult to get your object focus, so be careful.  The other thing to consider is your distance of camera and model and model to background, most usually you will need to stay in distance between one meter to as close as 30 cm. Aperture f-number setting will get complicated when you also play on this distance factor, so experiment your self. A quick setting, with distance of camera about 70cm to 40 cm to object, and about more than three meter background:

- f 8 and above will give you a panorama view, with mostly all object stay in focus
- f 8 to f 4 will give you a good overall focus on all model but already blurred out the background
- f 4 and smaller will give you extreme focus on one spot, even able to blurred out the other parts of model
biggest fact: the smallest the f-number the brighter your photo is, the opposite applied

Another technical aspect is a Shutter Speed. This is how fast your lens to open and close, it is done by stating how many second the camera need to open the shutter, for example from 1/200 second to 1 second speed. Since Gundam is a still object, then the shutter speed usually did not come in much effect. We can fix the shutter speed accordingly to the need of light. Why, because the faster the shutter speed the darker the photos and the slower the shutter speed the brighter we get. When come to the need to put shutter speed below 1/60 second, I will suggest to use tripod to avoid handshake. Gundam is a small object and a slight motion blur will come in effect to ruin the pictures. Tips, the only handy good use to play with shutter speed is when we need a moving effect background to sweetened the pictures.

shutter speed set at 10 second and we can created a nice 'light painting', the creativity is unlimited

And yet again, posing the Gundam model is the biggest aspect of fun in Gundam photography. Unlike a human pretty model who can pose as you wish, in Gundam we need to "manually" create it. When creating the pose, referred to a photograph. See how the anatomical related when you create certain posture, mean don't use a non realistic pose with a hand and body not realistically connected.
Use the effect of gravity, that is a weapon holding should give the hand a little bit "heavy" stuff around. Use dramatic "time freezing" pose, like a jumping or fighting pose. The quality of Gundam recommended is a HG above, and I assume you who read this will have the knowledge on Gundam grade. When I collected a Gunpla, the most enjoyable factor is they able to pose as I wish, this make the different between fixed action figure and Gundam.

A High Grade model will sufficient to create you a desirable posture
A Master or Perfect Grade will give you the most posture to enjoy

Finally one more equipment you need to take care. Shooting Gundam is similar in shooting portrait plus a bit of macro element. To shoot your Gunpla, you will most probably need a fixed lens / close up lens or fancily also called 'prime' lens. A quick tips, get the one with 50mm, 85mm and above, because we are shooting small object so it will zoom out. Not too recommend is, to use wider fix lens such as 40mm or below. The fixed lens usually already come with required f-number we need, as in f1.8 or even below. You rarely can go beyond that 'f-number' when using  non prime lens. With this, as discussed in 'Aperture' section, you can get a nice "bokeh" background effect.

Lastly get a specific macro lens. With magnification of 1:1, you can give your Perfect Grade Gundam a zoom photos, showing details of his face.

On this guide, I mainly only use Canon EF 50mm lens together with Canon 650D. Canon 650D is entry level DSLR camera for beginner. Both camera and lens are in affordable prices.

Have funs....

Gundamshutter recommend entry level DSLR camera, Canon 100D and Canon 700D. For Nikon it will be Nikon d3200.

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