You'll find a little of everything here. Genres covered in this blog include (so far) prehistorics, fantasy, old west, swashbucklers, pulp, Blood Bowl, Ghostbusters, gladiators, nautical, science fiction and samurai in 6mm, 15mm, 28mm, 40mm, 42mm and 54mm sizes. You'll also find terrain, scenery, basing, gaming, modeling, tutorials, repaints, conversions, art and thoughts in general about the hobby.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Photos and lightbulbs

Short version: Old photo setup had a desk lamp to the left front of minis, and three bulbs on a lamp tree above minis. New setup has two desk lamps in front- one to left and one to right- of the minis (no light from above), and I think the photos will improve with this new setup.
(I made this short version because I ramble a bit in the following post, and I'm too dang lazy to go back and edit down. Oh well, pitfalls of a blog and my own laziness! :) But don't forget to scroll down to see the photo example for this post.

So I've tried some energy-saving light bulbs. They work OK, but there has been a slight difference in the quality of my photos since I added the new bulbs. I hope I can find an energy bulb with the right color/lumens/wattage balance before the mandate kicks in (yep: Those little coiled up flourescent, energy-saving bulbs will be required in the U.S. in the next couple years.) I save my 60 watt incandescent bulbs for painting and photographing minis. I prefer their slightly warmer light, though I have read some energy saving bulbs have a warmer light- I just haven't found the right model yet (it has to do with the Kelvin rating etc etc...more than I want to get into here.) Really, they're not bad and can be corrected, I just want to deal with less camera-setting and Photoshop work.

ANYWAY, to get to the point: I think the quality of my photos has decreased a bit in the past year or so, so I wanted to try something a bit different. My old photo setup had a desk lamp in front of and to the left of the minis, and two to three bulbs shining from above (on a lamp tree I have. The energy saving bulbs were on this lamp tree.)

Today, I purchased a new desk lamp and set it to the front and right of the minis. BIG improvement! The two photos shown here were taken with only the two desk lamps in the front. I tried a few shots with the lighting from above, but there was no marked difference except that there was a little more light shed on the backdrop.

I like this setup a lot better; The colors are better; Very little, if anything, is in shadow; and I especially like how the background fades to black (it's more of a taste thing; a lot of people like the blue or white backdrops- I prefer something a bit darker.)
The energy saving bulbs have washed out a little bit of the color, but that's something I should be able to correct with camera settings. I still like the Reveal bulbs better in this example, simply for the tiny bit of extra "warmth" they bring, but I'm not unhappy with the energy savers.

So I hope you like my photos using this slightly different setup.

Edit: So here's another try with the Energy Smart bulbs using an automatic white balance setting to try to kill some of the yellow. The photo is just a touch dark from me trying to adjust the levels in Photoshop to regain some of the washed-out colors. Otherwise, not so bad?
(I posted the camera info just for reference; I don't have any control over shutter speed, f-stop or focal length.)


  1. The GE Energy Smart seems to be a bit yellow in comparison to the Reveal. Do you set the white balance on the camera before taking the photos? If that can compensate for the yellow - then the Energy Smart would be a winner.

  2. Yeah, I keep coming back and looking at the pics- you're right about that yellow. I don't play a lot with the white balance, though the setting I'm using is supposed to compensate for flourescent light. (I just use a little Canon Powershot A460).

    I'll keep at it, though. I'm at least happier now than I was yesterday.

  3. According to GE's website, they have a Reveal CFL out now.

    What kind of lamps do you use?

  4. I've seen that they have the Reveal CFLs; I just haven't had the guts to pull the trigger on them since they're more expensive. I use a swing-arm type desk lamp, and today I bought a cheap flexible arm desk lamp.

    Also, to follow up the white balance issue: I've tried all the preset settings and they either come out with extra yellow in he photo or extra gray (reds are washed out a bit). BUT, when I try the AWB (Automatic White Balance) setting, it seems to have come out as good as the Reveal incandescent bulbs (just on first look- haven't compared pics yet- I'll post the new pic).

  5. I went thru the same thing with Auto White Balance in GIMP - I had some photos from last night that were crazy yellow... but running them through Auto White Balance fixed them up pretty nice.


    White Balanced

  6. A very interesting and helpful post. Thank you.

    I try to photograph in natural (from a window) light, supplemented with internal and normal 60watt light bulbs. They seem to work OK. I also have a separate set up in the shed with two 'daylight' 40watt bulbs which give better quality but a different lighting.

    I think I will have to do some 'specialised' photographing and compare different bulbs and lights (as you have done), before I decide on a definitive set-up.


  7. A coworker of mine spent a few months researching light bulbs in his spare time to come up with optimal duration/cost/color for the rooms in his house. After he'd replaced all the bulbs in his house, he give a mini-presentation to our team over lunch. Yeah, we're all nerds. Too bad I don't remember much or I might have been able to offer advice :-).

  8. Thanks for the comments, everybody.

    So I've taken a few more pics with the new setup using the Energy Smarts, and I think they win!

    Now the only thing that has me concerned about the government mandated switch to energy saving bulbs is how they're gonna keep all that mercury properly disposed of.

  9. Have you tried the good old trick of taking an additional photo of a reference card (for example with black, white, and neutral grey colors on it) after taking photos of the miniature?

    It's so easy to set correct white balance, even using automatic functions, on the reference photo, and then use the same corrections on yout other photos?

    I hate taking photos of miniatures with artificial light whenever possible, as I hate the reflections which are much more difficult to avoid (even with a tent) than when I use natural light. Unfortunately it's difficult to rely on it in Winter when days are short.

    I also love cloudy sky as natural softener of shadows and a natural substitute for a tent :)

    Anyway - I just found that taking this one additional photo for easier white balance corrections is a great helper for me, and I tend to take pretty many photos of miniatures, so it's important for me to make it as easy as possible.
    This thing makes using artificial light easier for me...