Notes on model photography

Photography of small objects of unclear function is a pretty big topic, but as long as you have to do it, I would recommend getting into it. I have had a little experience photographing products, and a little more experience photographing architectural models. Since documentation is such an important part of this work, I think we should all contribute any tips we may have.

OK, photographing models. Here is my spiel.
  • I do not know what the BAC has in terms of lighting and backdrops, but they probably have some softboxes on booms and some paper backdrops.
  • I don't feel like going to the BAC every time I need to take a picture, so I have turned my work area at home into a convertible photo studio. This was easy.
  • I got a 30x40 piece of printmaking paper and sprayed watered down ink onto it. This created a dark gray variegated texture that sets models off really well. Smooth and continuous tones can look fantastic but they show flaws much more easily. The ideal backdrop is indistinct in
  •  Get some different lights. Traditional portrait lighting consists of one main light which casts the shadows you want, another light from the opposite side which makes those shadows less contrasty, and another light on top or in front, which illuminates everything evenly
  • Play with the light. It helps to move lights while looking through the viewfinder. It won't take long to get sensitized to how light changes the impact of the image. See below, it is the same view with different lighting schemes. 

  • Get one sort of bulb and use them in all your lights, otherwise your paper models will be 3 different shades of white. I'm partial to the ge reveal / verilux incandescents, especially in the winter. You can also use photo lights, but that sort of defeats the purpose of using stuff around the house. 
  • The camera is a whole different issue, but in general you want to maximize depth of field by using a smaller aperture. f8 works well; anything above f16 or so starts to get fuzzy. 

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