MINI WARGAMING: The Revenge Of Scurv!
My graphics manipulations program finally went to that place in the sky and I recently solicited advice on The Miniature Page (TMP) on how to improve my digital photography and where to find a good graphics program. To my surprise, an old acquaintance (...and I daresay friend ) piped in... in his characteristic mannner (...full of bluster... but also a little heart.):
Here is some help for you. (Posted on Maks blog thread but I figured it was worth repeating in its own thread due to it being one of those rare posts I make which is actually useful instead of just starting fights.)
Scurv is a scrapper and we certainly disagree about a thing or two (It was once suggested that Scurv and I work on a peace project together... never quite happened though.), but in the end of ends, he's a pretty OK bloke and his advice can be royal:
High quality images for print = 300DPI (dots per inch)
High quality for screen (i.e. your blog) = 72DPI.
There is no point going over 72DPI as that is the best look you are going to get anyway (...unless it's for HD TV).
Now that being said the better the mega pixels rating on the cam the more detail it can pick up. On a good 7-8 megapixel camera, you can take a photo of someone's face 6m away and then zoom into the eyeball and see the reflection on the eye of the person taking the pic in perfect clarity (...this means you can get some really nice images from a tiny portion of the fig you photo keeping in mind after zooming in and getting the portion you want take it back to 72DPI because it won't look any better on a screen at higher res than that anyway), and…
The best camera I have found for taking pics of minis is an ancient:
Fuji Fine Pix 1.3 (megapixels) Digital Camera.
The trick is to get the camera just the right distance from the fig. So to improve your pics I would do the following:
1. Put it on the macro setting.
2. Do your white balance. I'd get a piece of paper that is (like duh) white put it in front of the camera so it covers the entire area the photo would take and use that to calibrate the balance. This means you are getting true colour from the get go without having to fiddle around later with Photoshop to get all to get a compromise you can live with.)
3.: Experiment to find out what distance is best. Start out 1'6" away and move in an inch at a time taking a pic as you do so. Then port the images across to the comp to find the 'sweet spot'
4. Use natural light or a true light fluro. Natural light filtered through a gauzy material to soften it slightly is really cheap and effective. True light fluros cost a bit more than free sunlight but are the bomb.
5. Back your image (i.e. the fig) with light blue card. This means the cameras lens can focus on the fig more easily because its puny auto focus brain has an easier time working out what to keep in focus.
6. Now you have your white balanced pic with good lighting, blue backdrop, correct focus length etc…
And that is pretty good advice, but Scurv has never been know to hold back, so he shared even more... (Please note the "world rejection & anarchist disclaimer" statement, which is easily recognized by being all in caps...)
Time to take it into the image manipulation program. Now before I go on I must repeat the mantra of image…
IF YOU DO THE WORK I HAVE STATED ABOVE BEFORE YOU SHOOT THE PIC, LIFE IS GOOD. SKIMP ON THE GROUNDWORK AND YOU WILL STRUGGLE TO GET IT RIGHT WITH THE SOFTWARE. SOFTWARE IS THE END TOOL, NOT THE BE ALL AND END ALL OF A GOOD IMAGE! IF YOU IGNORE THIS ADVICE, THEN REMEMBER:
CRAP IN = CRAP OUT!
Ok, so back to the software side of things:
First off lets set up the image. RGB for web/screen CYMK for print. reason being CYMK is set up for colour printing as printing inks cannot duplicate things like gold and silvers very well. CYMK compensates for this. RGB is set up for screen.
72DPI for screen and 300DPI for high end print. 175DPI is reasonably good for print. WD would be somewhere around 175 to 220DPI. Glossy film mags images are 300DPI.
And now, Scurv starts getting REALLY technical and discusses digital manipulation of photos. I got the impression that he has a chip on his shoulder about the CMON folks, which I believe is a miniatures photography site, where folks post photos of their minis and a larger community rates them. I've heard rumors that some folks "digitally paint" their minis and never touch a paint pot. Scurv seems to believe this:
Now if you scale the image up/down then you will lose pixel clarity as the software fills in/deletes pixels. If you scale up for example the computer makes up the missing pixels based on the existing pixels around it. Better to scale down than up if possible. If not then try take the pic closer to the fig. (getting back to correct setup once again. The less you have to scale the better the image.)
Once you have set the image up then go into your channels and tweak them. Let's concentrate on RGB because I suspect you want good pics for the web more than print. RGB stands for Red/Blue/Green. By adjusting these settings you can really make your colours 'pop' Now for really fancy pants stuff you might want to even select parts of the image using the magic wand or poly lasso tool and individually tweak them. E.g. A fig with Red pants and a blue shirt will look much better if the pants and the shirt are tweaked individually as you can increase the red balance on the pants without effecting the blue of the shirt and vice versa (Now there are other more complex ways of doing this but this is a good noob method that will give you CMON quality pics...).
Some other tools that are worth experimenting with are your Hue/Saturation, Brightness and Contrast tools. Though using selective RGB balance and Brightness / contrast will get you over the line just fine.
For the final effects for mega fancy pants stuff you could throw in some lens flare on a sword tip using that filter or other filter effects that you feel compliment the image (...plastic wrap filter has gotta be used on something someday, I demand it!).
For a bit of cheaty stuff you could use a layer mask and then with the brush settings at 25% opacity and 25% Fill bring out some nice pattern work/tattoo/texture placed on the layer underneath the image of the fig. Don't forget with stuff like tattoos you will want to use the warp/distort setting to bend the tattoo shape to match the limb. Also use some Gaussian blur on it to give it that inked in effect. The trick with layer masks is knowing when to stop and using the hue/sat or RGB settings to do some colour matching with the above image.
Now I could wax lyrical for ages on this sort of thing but this should see you off and racing with what you want to do without bombarding you with stuff you will never use. Though for a personal challenge if you find you like this sort of thing try painting a primed fig using Photoshop inst ed of actual paint via masks. If you do it well you will wow the CMON weenie boys with your phantom brush skills. :)
Anyways feel free to disagree/add more advice etc.. as the mood strikes you. I don't consider myself an expert but do consider I have better training in this sort of thing than the man in the street as I have been taught by those who are in the industry and I use this sort of knowledge every day these days.
You can check out a selection of Scurvy's images here:
And Scurv runs a Yahoo E-group (...with lots of photos of his work) here:
Have a great Tuesday!
Notes regarding photos / pictures / videos: These are not all my images and videos. I am using various images and videos from around the web, mostly from public sources and/or private sources used with permission. I have tried to include only images and videos under public domain, creative commons, or fair use. If I have inadvertently violated any copyrights, please inform me and I will remove your image/s (if it is indeed an infringement).