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Shooting Your Toys :giggle I mean diecasts
Blurry, out-of-focus photos are of no use to anyone who's trying to accurately document a collection, shoot for a publication or just impress friends and relatives. Even getting both ends of your toy cars in focus can be a problem for most cameras. Unless you're aiming for abstract art, you want your viewers to know just what it is they're looking at. So here are a few tips to make your photos look better -- for whatever reason you're taking them.

Macro vs. Micro
The smaller the subject, the closer you have to get your camera to it. Forget "Instamatics" and disposable cameras. You need a better camera for shooting sharp, clear close-ups of your toys. "Macrophotography" is the term used when you're shooting extremely close to a small subject. It differs from "Microphotography" only in the degree of magnification required. Microphotography generally refers to a magnification factor of 100x or more, while macrophotography covers the range of around 1x to 10x. For typical 3 inch diecast cars such as Hot Wheels or Matchbox, you'll need a camera that will allow you to keep your subject clearly in focus from no more than 8 inches away. For larger models, you will be able to shoot from a greater distance. Although the price of technology is dropping all the time, a good macrophotography-capable camera s becoming very affordable. Test it in the store before buying it. The camera I use is a Fuji S3500 Zoom (4mb) digital with 6x Optical zoom. It has above average macro capability and will accept lens attachments. The flash on mine is always too bright for close-up photography since it washed out the subject too much… until I taped a piece of plain white paper over the flash. More modern cameras are now available with much greater storage capacity, and the price of technology keeps dropping. Nevertheless, you must still test it in the store on a sample subject before buying it to make sure you can shoot a sharply focused picture before spending the your money

Fill the Frame!
So often I've seen pictures of diecast cars that are lost in the photo because the photographer shot from too far away. The farther away from your subject you shoot, the greater the zoom capability you'll need. One way to guarantee you buy a camera capable of shooting clear, sharp close-ups is to carry with you one of the smallest models you'll be photographing. Before buying, try every camera to ensure that you can get as close as possible and fill up the frame with your subject. Remember, the smaller the subject is in the photo, the lower the resolution will be.

Filters
If you want true color, you'll need to shoot outdoors, or with "proper studio" lighting, or use a blue colour correction filter for tungsten or fluorescent lighting. Many better digital cameras have a color-correction setting for indoor photography. If yours has such a setting, use it. You can also color-correct digital photos (to a certain degree) with various image processing software. Paint Shop Pro is a favourite for its balance of simplicity and versatility, but it's not as versatile as some of the more complicated programmes, such as Adobe PhotoShop.

Lighting
It's best use to quartz halogen lights, which have the same colour temperature as the common tungsten light but which still require a filter or color-correction setting either on your camera or in your image processing software. Two is the minimum recommended number, one to illuminate your subject and the other for fill lighting at the back. A large piece of light grey poster board is best for a neutral background. Curving it from a flat, horizontal surface in front to a vertical plane in the back removes distracting fold lines. Keep your surface clean and spot-free.

Keep it simple
Don't complicate your photos with needless clutter around your subject. Unless you are shooting within the context of a diorama or complimentary items, photograph your subjects on a plain, uncluttered surface with no other distracting items within the frame of your picture. A neutral grey background is best. Ideally, a large piece of light grey posterboard that forms a flat surface in front and curves seamlessly up the back creates a perfect stage for your subject. My "studio" is a 3' x 4' table with a 36 inch x 48 inch sheet of neutral grey posterboard. For 3 inch models, you can often get away with using a piece of 8-1/2" by 11" card stock, available in neutral grey from most printing supply stores.


Shooting from a higher angle can sometimes be effective for showing different aspects of the vehicle,
but it isn't very dramatic.


This dramatic low angle close-up draws attention to the front end detail,
but the proximity of the lens to the subject causes the back end of the vehicle to be out of focus.

Low angle is best
Another factor in getting good pictures is more a matter of aesthetics. You can make your model look like a toy or you can make it look like a real car, depending on the angle. Shooting from a low angle gives your diecast or model a more realistic and dramatic look, whereas shooting from above it places the viewer in a superior position, thereby diminishing the model as the focal point of the picture.

Depth of Field
"Depth of field" is the term used to describe the variation in distance between the closest object in focus and the farthest. A wide depth of field means that close objects will be as sharply focused as distant ones. A short field depth means that, while object far away are in focus, close object aren't, or vice versa. This isn't a huge problem when shooting landscapes or even portraits, but it becomes critical in macrophotography. The closer you get to an object, the narrower the depth of field becomes. When you are as close as a foot or six inches, your depth of field can be so narrow that the back of a 3 inch long diecast car can be out of focus even though the front is sharp and clear. There are a couple of solutions to that problem.

Brighter is better
The brighter the light on your subject, the less light your camera needs to create an image. Most modern cameras have automatic apertures that electronically adjust to light intensity. As the aperture adjusts smaller for brighter settings, it increases the depth of field. As it opens up more for dimmer light, the depth of field decreases. The primary limitation of bright lighting is that conventional lighting can heat up a small room pretty fast, and even melt the plastic in your models if the lights are too close to them. The alternative is to use a camera with a good zoom.

To zoom or not to zoom…
The primary advantage of using a zoom lens to get closer to your subject is that you increase your depth of field just by virtue of being farther away from your subject.


Shooting from farther away and zooming in to fill the screen provides better proportion while broadening the depth of field.

The problem is in finding a camera that will focus on your subject at optimum zoom. Many cameras with zoom capability are designed for telephoto shots of big things hundreds of feet, or even miles, away. Many zoom lenses are not designed to zoom in on tiny things that are mere inches from the lens. That's another thing to check when you're testing a camera in the store before buying it.
 
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Ken,

Thanks for taking the time and putting this together. :nicejob

Can you put something together on picture size as well and add it to the above. I am looking for something that describes file size as it relates to quality.
 
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Great tips for the amateur photographer there Ken :cheers

Thanks for that , I think it will come in very useful . I need all the help I can get :giggle

Interesting point you made about taping over the flash to reduce its brightness , Ill have to try that one :eek:k
 
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First of all, I want to thank you for taking time to write this fine article. You mentioned that there are some solutions to the problem like the rear part of an object being out of focus while the front part is in focus. Could you please educate me how to solve the out of focus problem? FYI, I own a Canon PowerShot S320 camera. Thanks again :eek:k :eek:k :eek:k
 
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Cool. Thanks Ken. I've copied and pasted it to a word file to put with the other helpful advice from Felix. I'm compiling my own little file of info for myself.

Your help is hugely appreciated. :cheers
 

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That is a wonderful write-up Ken. :nicejob :nicejob :nicejob There are a lot of good tips there, especially about focussing on diecasts. I noticed that camera-placement to shoot 1:43 to be quite different from 1:18. Personally, I find shooting 1:18 to be a LOT easier than 1:43 just because of the focus issue.
 

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This particular problem relates to depth of field. The smaller the lens aperture (the larger the f-stop number) the larger the depth of field, which equates to more of the subject being in focus. If you have the ability to set Aperture Priority on your camera, do so and choose the largest f-stop number you can. The camera will set the shutter speed to expose the shot. In this case, the exposure times will be relatively long (seconds, depending on the lighting) so you will most definitely need a tripod to avoid blurring due to camera shake. I'd also recommend using center-weighted focussing on your camera if its available, and focus about a third of the way back into the model. That way, you have the best chance for most if not all of the model being in focus. Use the self-portrait auto-timer to activate the shutter.

Good luck, and have fun experimenting! :eek:k
 
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Right on the more of these I read the more clear this photo thing gets, Thanks for your help Ken this is very helpful :goodpost :iagree
 
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Kenrobinson sir, I'm a newbie here.I've been collecting for about three years now.I'm from the philippines and i'm very much interested in diecast photography.I recently bought a canon 50d and a couple of lenses for this purpose. i hope you can help me out. My lenses are 17-40mm and a macro lense.I will share some pictures for you to comment on.



 

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Well, those pics are fabulous, so you are certainly doing something right! You will see that this is an old thread, so Ken might not actually see it (he has not been online since last September, I believe). :cheers
 
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Well, those pics are fabulous, so you are certainly doing something right! You will see that this is an old thread, so Ken might not actually see it (he has not been online since last September, I believe). :cheers
Yes sir. I think so. maybe, someboby might take over or might be interested and wanted to share his/her knowledge and wanted to revive this thread. Tnks for the info
 

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Those are some really good shots eagle7 (esp. the first one). I'm just a newbie with my dSLR (it's a Nikon D50) so I don't have a huge wealth of knowledge to share. But what I can say is that your depth perspective on the Enzo is great because whatever you did made it look much larger than the house in the background. So, your car looks like a 1:1 relative to your house.

If I recall correctly, macro lenses have a pretty shallow depth-of-field. So, it focuses on a very specific distance. Anything much closer and further away from the distance is purposely out-of-focus. I'm led to believe a non-macro lens would be better for photographing diecasts (esp. 1/18s).

What kind of lens did you shoot your photos (above ones) at? Do you have any of the camera settings for each of the shots (the EXIF data)?
 
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I use a 17-40mm lens sir, f5.o opening with AV setting(aperture priority)but the background is a bit blurry.It's actually my first shot and i'm trying different settings to come up with a more vivid picture. I hope others could share their knowledge and inputs and hopefully share their experiences,too.Btw, thanks for the comment.
 
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