Miniatures Photography 101

2 May 2020

One of the problems that many people run into in this hobby is how to take pictures of their painted miniatures (or terrain, although that's a little less difficult). I've been taking pictures of my stuff ever since I started, and I thought I'd pass on a few tips that may help people who want to get pictures of their minis!

Note - this is an older article, today much can be done even with a decent smartphone camera, especially if it has a 'portrait' mode. I'll create an updated article at some point!

Get the right camera

This is probably the most important thing! I'm assuming you'll be using a digital - but most of the same things apply if it's a film camera. You need a camera with decent resolution (I'd say at least three megapixels, more if you're taking pics for a catalog or something). But even more important, the camera needs to have manual focus! Auto focus works fine for most things people use their cameras for, but not miniatures. The cameras just aren't smart of enough to focus correctly in my experience. So get one that lets you do it manually.

Slightly less important, but still nice - you want to have manual control over the exposure settings.

Get a Tripod
You'll want to be able to keep the camera steady, so get some sort of tripod - mine is some no-name brand that I found for $10 - it's about as crappy a tripod as you could find - but it gets the job done.

The more light the better! I don't do anything to fancy - for most of my pics I just used a desk lamp off to the side shining directly on the mini from relatively close range. That plus the normal room lights get me plenty of lighting to work with.

The Process
First, set up your mini(s) - think about what will be in the background! For most of mine I used either a neutral background (white paper, gray foamcore, cardboard, etc) or a piece of terrain. Next set up the lights. Set up the camera on its tripod. Now, for my pictures I tend to use a relatively long exposure and a timer - the camera is on a tripod so you can hit the time and step back to make sure nothing bumps camera or mini.

I also usually take several pictures with different focuses and different exposure settings - it's a digital camera so it's not like I'm wasting film! Plus with just a little LCD screen on the camere sometimes it can be hard to tell whether the mini is focused or not.

Well, I hope that helps! Now go get some pics!