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  • Macro Photography with a Digital SLR and Photoshop Post-Processing

    Here I'll give you step-by-step instructions for taking photos of your minituares and processing them in Photoshop.
    Materials Needed:

    1. Digital SLR Camera
    2. Tripod
    3. Lightbox (you can make your own very cheaply by cutting "windows" in the sides of a box and covering them with tissue paper)
    4. Three incandescent desk lamps, preferably with bendy necks (you can get away with just 2)
    5. Sheet of WHITE paper (printer paper works best) - I use white to fascilitate Photoshop post-processing, but you can try different colors if you want. Lately, I've switched to gray paper, but something color neutral is ideal.
    6. Light Meter - most Digital SLRs have one built in
    1. Place the lightbox on the edge of a table, if you're using a full-size tripod, or on any surface, if you're using a mini tripod.
    2. Position the lamps to shine light from either side and down on the top of the box.
    (Tip: If you only have 2 lamps, position one at the top and one at the side, angle your mini to face one of the front corners of the light box so the side lamp gives it decent coverage on its own. My photo below shows this setup.)
    3. Put the paper in the lightbox, curving along the back and bottom of the box. (see photo below)
    4. Place your camera on the tripod next to the table, slightly above the mini, so it's looking down at it just a bit. You can adjust this angle to photograph certain key features that can't be seen well from this angle, but for most of your basic shots, this angle works best.


    Camera Setup:

    ]You'll need to check your camera manual for how to make the following settings on your own camera model
    1. Turn to Manual Mode. (For most digital SLRs, there's a dial with an M for manual).
    2. Select the 2-second timer
    3. Set White Balance to Incandescent
    4. Set your ISO as low as it can go

    Focus and Exposure

    1. Zoom in as far as possible while still capturing the entire mini in the frame. Depress the shutter trigger halfway to auto-focus. If you can't focus that close, unzoom a bit or move the camera back until you can.
    2. Set your F-stop to 22 - you want to capture as much detail as possible
    3. Use your light Meter (probably built in to your camera - read the manual) to set the Shutter speed for 0.5 or 1.0 exposure. Yes, you're overexposing, because the light meter is reading the white background, averaging the light on the mini, and telling you there's too much light. Don't worry about this. 0.5 or 1.0 (try both!) will give you what you want.
    4. Take your picture. Remember the 2-second timer? The shutter speed is very slow, so the slightest jitter will blur your photo. The timer ensures that any movement of the camera from your finger pressing the button is long ended by the time the photo is taken.

    Photoshop Post-Processing:

    1. Image-Lighting-Levels: Look at the histogram. If it ends anywhere short of the rightmost side, move the far-right slider until it just reaches the edge of the histogram.
    2. Image-Color-Remove Color Cast: click on the white background. (If you used a color background paper, you can try clicking on a white spot on the mini itself, but it doesn't work as well.)
    3. Duplicate the background layer, set the duplicate layer type to Screen, then turn down its opacity to about 20-30%.
    4. Layer-Flatten Image
    5. Crop
    6. If you want, at this point you can use the Magic Wand to select the perfect white background (see, it's really the best thing to use!), delete it, and replace it with any background or gradient that you want.
    Comments 6 Comments
    1. LOBO's Avatar
      LOBO -
      Nice tutorial MamaGeek and thanks.
    1. Ulfgrimr's Avatar
      Ulfgrimr -
      Many thanks MamaGeek, always good to get advice on photographing minis.
    1. RogerB's Avatar
      RogerB -
      Thanks for the article. One thing, I don't have the colour option in the dropdown menu in photoshop.
    1. MamaGeek's Avatar
      MamaGeek -
      The thing you want is "Remove Color Cast", so pull up Help and look for that. Different versions of Photoshop put things in different places.
    1. RogerB's Avatar
      RogerB -
      Oh, it's the ayto colour command in my version. Yeah, I've used that before. Thanks.
    1. Shaps's Avatar
      Shaps -
      Thanks, the light box bit will come in real handy although I have to hold out for the posh camera though.