Diecast Photography Tutorial

For special skills and tip to make collecting better
David MG
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Re: Diecast Photography Tutorial

Post by David MG »

My wife took this on her i pad air 2.
She no longer uses her Leica bridge. Takes the i pad everywhere.

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Cheers,
David
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protzenegger
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Re: Diecast Photography Tutorial

Post by protzenegger »

Just thought I'd add an observation of how much technology has progressed since Ian's post, as well.

These pics of my GT2 were all made with an iPhone SE :D I've never been enough of a photography buff to justify shelling out for a fancy camera - and with results like these, who needs one anyway :P
"It would be a waste of life to do nothing with one's ability." -Bruce McLaren

Tom
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Re: Diecast Photography Tutorial

Post by Tom »

I agree. For car interior photography at work I use a Nikon DSLR. However, test shots with my -inexpensive- Samsung smartphone often work out better than the Nikon's.

Alex_W
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Re: Diecast Photography Tutorial

Post by Alex_W »

I just got around to reading this. Really good stuff here. I've been working on making my photos look more presentable and this will help a lot.

Tom
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Re: Diecast Photography Tutorial

Post by Tom »

I recently got one of these

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It has a ring of LEDs in the top, it's made from light yet sturdy enough plastic that folds away when not in use. It comes with a storage bag and six different colour backdrops. The LED light gives the option of bright white and/or warm yellow light in four brightness settings. It's 5V USB-powered so a smartphone charger or power bank will work.

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This was shot with my Samsung smartphone. I used a basic editing app to crop and resize and turned up the contrast a little. Will post DSLR shots later.

You can also shoot through the hatch in the LED ring for a top view

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This works fine for smaller 1:43 models but you need to put the model well back into the tent because lighting from the front is lacking. For better results one of those 'blogging' ring lights would be a good idea.

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I had a diffuse 20x20 cm LED panel on order to fix this, but it seems that it got lost somewhere. :(

There's another type of light box available that might work better. It has two bars of LEDs, one in the back and one in front at a slight angle. As these were only EUR 6 each from China, I have the second type on order too. If and when it arrives, I will do a side by side test.

Why get these small light boxes? Well, our money-grubbing government has decided to levy import charges on anything above EUR 22 including shipping. Those charges start at EUR 25 or thereabouts, so importing anything over that sum would be cost prohibitive (and I have had a 95% bad luck rate with my shipments getting picked out for checks). The small tents are EUR 35 from local vendors, BTW.

Jager
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Re: Diecast Photography Tutorial

Post by Jager »

I wonder if the LED lights are too bright Tom as they're creating a lot of reflection. The 'blogging' ring light looks like it might be softer light and hence better for photographing models with glossy paint.
“Racing is life. Anything before or after is just waiting.” - Steve McQueen

Tom
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Re: Diecast Photography Tutorial

Post by Tom »

I quite like the reflections myself (they add a little 'life' to the pics) but if you don't, a sheet of semi-transparent paper would make an easy fix.

Tom
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Re: Diecast Photography Tutorial

Post by Tom »

Still working on a routine that makes photography easy and gives good results. I've found that switching to the white LED lights in my lightbox gives the most faithful results, you don't need to remove a yellow tinge and while the light is not as bright it still works fine. To have nice diffuse light on the entire model you need to place it as far back in the lightbox as possible (a little counterintuitive, as it does not allow the background cloth to make a subtle curve that gives a seamless appearance). To avoid having the edges of the back wall in your picture, move the model to the left or the right of the box depending on your perspective.

This is what the raw picture looks like
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Because I shoot the pictures on my Samsung Android smartphone, I use two (free) Android apps for editing. One (called Pixlr) is used for straightening, contrast and colour correction and the other (called Image Resizer) for cropping and resizing. Though Pixlr does cropping and resizing too, I've found that it makes your images lose all sharpness. In Pixlr I use the auto balance function to get rid of any colour cast and improve contrast and separately fix brightness and optionally shadows to get rid of the remaining background and to clear up the muddy darker parts of the image. Per picture, this takes about 30 seconds.

Cropping gets rid of unwanted parts of the background and puts the model right in the centre of the image, making it appear as large as possible. I do not keep any surplus information so I always scale back to 800x600 before uploading, makes them load faster.

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From setting up the lightbox to uploading a set of five images of one model takes about 10-15 minutes including unboxing and boxing the model, so this is a quick and easy way to get decent results. My DSLR is past its prime but I've tried a few shots anyway, will edit and compare later.

If anyone cares I could do a step-by-step tutorial for the editing apps. Also, if you have recommendations for Android image editing apps, I'd be interested to know. I tried three and this gave the best results, but that does not mean that it's the best around.

Paulius43
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Re: Diecast Photography Tutorial

Post by Paulius43 »

Useful info!
I actually got myself a huge light box from amazon (their own brand I guess), it was discounted and got it for some 70euros shipping included (I needed the big size for the business).
Their led lights are super powerful, and even shine through my semi transparent silk paper sheet and create reflections.

Haven't tried to shoot models (yet), this is a pending task.. It's been many years since I stopped taking photos of my models so there is a hell lot of work pending here :lol: :lol:
"A picture is worth a thousand words, but a model is worth a thousand pictures." Harley J. Earl
My concept car 1:43 collection: viewtopic.php?t=1096

Tom
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Re: Diecast Photography Tutorial

Post by Tom »

If you mess around with the position of the model you might be able to reduce the reflections... as said, I think they add a bit of life to the pictures.

Comparison of smartphone shot:
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and DSLR:
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The differences are not so great as I'd like them to be. Granted, this is a low-end DSLR (Canon 1100D) that saw some heavy use and was given to me as defective. It is about 10 years old. A good, recent DSLR should improve on this.
The model has some weird shapes that reflect the light in odd ways. This makes for strange differences in colour between the door and the wings, for instance. It even looks like the door is flat grey.

Tom
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Re: Diecast Photography Tutorial

Post by Tom »

My second light box arrived.

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It seems to work fine but it lacks the control of the other one. Only white light (no problem with that), no dimmer (I generally use max setting anyway) and no hatch for photography from above. It also doesn't seem as solid and the sides tend to bow inwards. The single light strip is on the front flap which gives a pretty even light distribution and can easily be angled down. The USB lead is quite short and the attachment is not sturdy. Use an extension lead or a power bank as a power source. Also, no on/off switch. The background cloths (black and white only) are higher quality and seem to be rubbery which doesn't crease or get dirty easily. If like me you don't mind the wait you can pick this up for EUR 6 shipped from China or if you're in a hurry it's EUR 15 on Amazon and you'll have it next week.

So, what are the results like?
There's not as much power as the other box has.
Also, the openings in the rear corners are much larger and will show in the pictures unless you retouch. Pretty easy to get rid of though

This is straight out of the camera

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And this is a basic brightness adjustment. You can see the opening in the corner, a little moving around with the model and camera might avoid it but with larger models it's inconvenient.

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If you're on a budget and don't mind the downsides, this could be a nice way to photograph your collection. If you collect trucks, transporters or like to do group shots I'd advise you to get a larger light box.

For comparison, this was shot with the other light box (with yellow and white LEDs together)

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I hope someone benefits from this info. If I'd known earlier that these made my photography so much easier I'd have saved myself a lot of experimenting and the quality of my images would've been a lot better.

Tom
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Re: Diecast Photography Tutorial

Post by Tom »

I have my day off today and after chores and shopping there was some time left to fiddle around with photography. I tried some lighter models against the black background

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The backgrounds for this light box are neoprene rubber. Unfortunately this shows a grainy structure in the background and it's more of a dark grey than deep black, but the models do show up a lot better against the black. These needed only minimal correction, they're pretty much straight from the camera. Not bad. The smearing on the right is a dirty lens, should've fixed that beforehand.

And with the white:

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There's still room for improvement but for an effort/result ratio this is by far the best I've achieved so far. For an EUR 6 light box, that is impressive.

Tom
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Re: Diecast Photography Tutorial

Post by Tom »

In some instances, I've found the light from the top would not be sufficient and would leave the front-facing area a bit dark. I really wanted one of those 'blogging' ring lights but delivery times from China are now long. I have tried using flashlights or other light sources but the effect was disappointing: focused light instead of diffuse light which still gave overly bright and dark spots and some weird reflections. Luckily, a discount chain store had this on offer and for just under EUR 10 I felt this would be a worthwhile gamble.

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It's a heavy steel plate with room for three flexible arms. One is for a microphone (I chose not to install that), one has a smartphone holder and one is a blogging ring light. It has two sets of LEDs, one bright white and one more yellowish. They can be used together and independently in several brightness settings. On full blast it gives an impressive amount of light for such a compact unit.

I have yet to experiment to see if it's any good. I like the smartphone holder, it gives you the option to make HDR shots (high contrast range pictures made by combining three or more shots from the same image, with under- and overexposed pictures) and it makes it possible to shoot from the same angle every time. Will report back!

Tom
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Re: Diecast Photography Tutorial

Post by Tom »

Continuing my monologue... :lol:

I've been experimenting and it's a bit of a mixed blessing. It essentially doubles the amount of light in the lightbox which is a good thing, as it allows for higher shutter speeds and less CCD noise. It's also great for detail and interior shots, because you can get the light exactly where you need it yet still diffuse enough not to cause bright spots. Surfaces curved downward, which usually get less light, can now get plenty if you aim the beam carefully. The smartphone holder works very well as a tripod.

But...
Shooting through the ring to get even light on the subject is harder. Keeping the ring out of the picture is not that easy, and focusing takes more time. For some reason, some of the pictures get a yellow cast (not hard to correct luckily). If you shoot the side of a model straight on, keeping unwanted reflections out is a huge challenge. If you use the yellow LEDs exclusively the yellow cast is horrible, in mixed mode the light seems fine.

Will show the results in my thread, and keep messing with it until it's spot on. I'll see if there's a remote shutter release for my phone. And though my DSLR is at the end of its life, I will try that too to see the differences.

LM24HRS
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Re: Diecast Photography Tutorial

Post by LM24HRS »

Hi Tom. Interesting read. Like you the biggest draw back I have found is getting enough light onto the front of the model. To over come this I have started to use my large model magnifier which has a ring LED and pivots on it base giving flexibility to position the light in front of the model but at the same time enough room to take pictures using my LG smartphone. I will add a pic later to show you my set up.
I am certainly inquisitive to see read about your experiments and results. Good stuff.
Paul - "Collecting Motorsport in Miniature; for the passion and its history".

Tom
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Re: Diecast Photography Tutorial

Post by Tom »

Thanks Paul, that is rather similar to my solution, which appears to work with varying degrees of success.

Lighting from the front works well with 2/3rd shots. Straight-on gives a mess of unwanted reflections
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For shots like this one, light from the front is essential. Without it, the sides of the cars would be one black lump
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Without front fill-in
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With front fill-in
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It takes some experimenting to find the best angle for the front fill-in, but luckily it's continuous light so you can judge the effect of your adjustments instantly. My main concern is that it's in the way, so you'll have to shoot around it. Holding the camera in front of the fill-in will reduce light output and cast unwanted shadows.

Jager
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Re: Diecast Photography Tutorial

Post by Jager »

The light seems too strong when photographing cars side on. Have you tried using a piece of white gauze or similar to filter the light ?
“Racing is life. Anything before or after is just waiting.” - Steve McQueen

Tom
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Re: Diecast Photography Tutorial

Post by Tom »

It works better for some models than it does for others. I've experimented with diffusors but the results were not satisfactory.

Not-too-shiny paintwork in a medium shade seems to work best here.

Tom
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Re: Diecast Photography Tutorial

Post by Tom »

I'm about to try something new. I've just acquired a rotating platform that should fit neatly in the photobox and will try to do 360° shots like those you can find on some web shops. I have no idea how hard it is to do well, but it's a nice challenge.
If it works out well, I might try doing it commercially for web shops here. Looks like a fun project for my -scarce- time off.

dcast
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Re: Diecast Photography Tutorial

Post by dcast »

Tom wrote:
Sat Feb 13, 2021 9:51 am
I'm about to try something new. I've just acquired a rotating platform that should fit neatly in the photobox and will try to do 360° shots like those you can find on some web shops. I have no idea how hard it is to do well, but it's a nice challenge.
If it works out well, I might try doing it commercially for web shops here. Looks like a fun project for my -scarce- time off.
Cool, that sounds very interesting :) Have been thinking about the rotating platform myself, should I get one or not. Looking forward to see your pics with it :)

Tom
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Re: Diecast Photography Tutorial

Post by Tom »

It cost EUR 5.50 with the adapter (which is just a 230V mains USB charger, as it turns out) so it's not an expensive gamble. I do hope the new LED strip for my light box will arrive soon, so I can get started. Looks like Chinese New Year has shut down everything though. :cry:

Tom
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Re: Diecast Photography Tutorial

Post by Tom »

I have some time off so I decided to do a quick how-to on image processing. Not everybody has a DSLR and Adobe Photoshop, which frankly isn't required for casual photography either. I generally use my Android smartphone and the free Pixlr app for editing (also available on iOS), here's a rough guide.

This is the image straight from the phone cam. It's serviceable but could be better. The annoying lines in the back are the corners of the lightbox and the reason to go for a larger lightbox

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The app changes its language preference after the phone, so mine's in Dutch. I'll translate however-

The toolbox (bottom left) gives these choices:
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To the right, second row from the top it says 'auto contrast'. That usually helps well. Use the check mark on the bottom right to confirm or the X when it does not yield a good result

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The model now stands out more from the background.

Next choose 'autofix' (to the left of the auto contrast button), again check mark to confirm if it looks good. That gives you this, a little more dynamic and true to life image

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Tom
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Re: Diecast Photography Tutorial

Post by Tom »

The background is still not 100% white and the sides of the lightbox show some shadow. That'll be fixed by a highlight edit, second row from the top, leftmost button:

There are several ways to edit the balance of the image. I generally use 'brightness' and slide it to the right. This needs some experimenting to get right, you'll get experienced and become quicker after a few images

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Next is 'shadows' (go to the options at the bottom of the screen, slide to the right). This helps reduce the muddiness of the image, restoring definition in the tyres and the lower areas. This needs a move to the right as well.
Note: this is the only part of the processing that takes some getting used to.

Now we exit the toolbox and go to the brush, second on the left. This gives the following menu, use the 'doodle' at the bottom

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We use this to remove what's left of the annoying shadows in the rear of the lightbox. Your finger acts as the brush here, take care not to erase anything you want to keep. This is the reason why, when dealing with a small lightbox, you position the model so that the annoying spots do not come close to the model

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Getting better now. Now the model is pretty small in a sea of white- if you did a close-up shot of the model you wouldn't need this step but close-ups make the camera focus on one specific area and you generally want the whole model in focus. Also, close-ups tend to distort the model. We now need the crop tool, top left

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I generally use 4:3 proportions for my images because that works best for me. Feel free to experiment to find your best setting. Adjust the crop window so that there's roughly equal amounts of white to the left and right, and decide where you want the model to be horizontally.

The result looks like this

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Much better, eh?

One remaining issue is the size of the picture. I tend to shoot at high resolution, but use 800x600 for posting here. I want the images to load quickly so I resize before I upload. I've found that using Pixlr to resize images results in a blurry image, so I use another free app called Image resizer for that

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You can now upload to your favourite hosting service.

That's a quick and easy tutorial, I'd be interested to see how you do it. In the past, besides Photoshop, I've used freeware Windows software like PhotoFiltre and The Gimp. Results were comparable but the above method is a lot quicker since the images are processed on the phone itself.

You'll notice that there is still some blurring on the right, the result of the camera focusing on the bits closest to the lens. I can reduce this by shooting from a larger distance, but because that effectively makes the model use less pixels the image quality degrades. A better phone cam would give better results, mine is not anywhere near the top of the range. After a lot of experimenting I've decided to compromise.

reeft1
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Re: Diecast Photography Tutorial

Post by reeft1 »

Very interesting tutorial Tom. Thank you.

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