7.11.2010

Digital Concepts Light Studio: A Must Have

I'm the proud owner of a Digital Concepts Light Studio, and I've got to say very few things have made me this excited.



If you're not new to Strictly Average, you're probably aware of my philosophy of always giving the reader (that's you) something to look at.  I've relaxed that over the last year, depending on the type of article, an editorial for instance.  With those I'll give you the wall of text 'cause either you'll read it or you won't, regardless of the pretty pictures.

That said, the vast majority of my well-over 250 posts have had pictures, most of them taken by yours truly.

I've done what I can with my handy Cybershot, but it's become obvious lately that the pictures I'm taking don't match reality.  Simply put, the ambient light and the camera's flash all distort the actual colors of the miniature, washing out the detail.  The Master Manipulator (every store needs one) has been helping me learn what I need to know on the subject... 'cause he's an OCD perfectionist.  The dude posted like 2 pictures somewhere and decided he had to learn everything he could.  I've posted hundreds and didn't know anything was wrong.

Ah well.  Here's the equipment.

As you can see, the bag folds out and three separate screens attach to form the sides and top.  These diffuse the light sources.  There is also a mat in blue and gray, a reversible backdrop for your subject.

The key light is the primary light, usually the flash from a camera or the sun itself.  Ideally, you can center a light to replace the flash, but either way you position the other lights, shown above, to provide source lighting from the sides and/or top.  The light is diffused by the screens so it isn't harsh.

I'm a long way from using this properly, but I couldn't help myself and started snapping pictures.  I beginning to understand the best way, through trial and error and the Master Manipulator (every store needs one)'s advice.  For example, he told me that you never want to hold the camera, rather you want to set up the tripod and use the timer.  I scoffed a bit at first but that actually makes a world of difference.

Like I said, I'm still experimenting, but compare these to the original pics of the same miniature I posted a month or so back.  In order, they are flash, no flash, and distance; like I said, I'm still experimenting.

You can see the harsh glare and the too-bright white - there is simply no competition here.

I urge you to shop around and find one of these kits for yourself.  I've only started using it and I'm not sure I could go back to my old methods.  The MM(esno) found a sale and didn't break the bank on the sets he purchased.  I'm pretty sure Gauthic is getting his hands on the third and last, so expect cool things from his blog.

EDIT: The comments section has some great info from both k.Blas and the MM(esno) - also, refer to k.Blas' blog via this link for even more.

6 comments:

Master Manipulator (every store needs one) said...

Not sure how you have it set up, but here are a few more things to think about. Because of the way the light box is set up, you really need to place the mini far in the back.

Place lights left and right of the subject and in front so that they light as much of the front as possible. This kit only came with two light, but if you have a third place it above shining down on the mini. The object is to remove as many shadows as possible.

If you have the mini in the back portion of the box, and the lights closer to the front but still shining through the sides it should fix a lot.

Also, since the lights are on stands you may consider placing something like a book under the blue mat to raise the mini up so the lights are not casting shadows below.

Besides all that text mess...it looks much better than what you were doing.

k.Blas said...

Another "tip" I could give you is that when at all possible, try and adjust the actual "focal length" to your target subject instead of the camera's magnification.

What I mean exactly is move the camera either closer or further away from the subject instead of going into 2x 3x 5x 10x (!) mode. The reason being is distortion. The closer you are to natural (usually 35mm ) the more normal your miniature is going to look. Especially if you are taking pictures in Macro mode (you know the little flower)

If you need some help with this or the light box in general, shoot me a line. I'll try and help the best I can.

Brent said...

Ya, I'm going to do a setup in the gameroom. I've got a good 3rd light to use.

In the pics, I set the model in the middle of the box, so I'll push it back. I like the book idea - that solves some problems I was having.

k.Blas - anything you've learned is much appreciated. I had no idea what the macro button was, but I'm still not sure of when it's appropriate to use it.

Master Manipulator (every store needs one) said...

With most cameras, the macro setting basically fixes the focal length at a very short distance. Many cameras will not use the digital zoom in macro mode, or at least the 3 different ones I have used did not.

Another thing I do is shoot big. You can always crop the picture or re-size it down, but I always shoot it as big as possible.

One other note, I finally used mine tonight. Took some pics the Doom Diver I finished today. They definitely were better than I have been shooting but I was unable use the lights that came with the set because they were not bright enough for me. One nice thing though was that Picasa has a color tuning option called "I Feel Lucky". I did, and I was. Fixed the color correctly first time around.

Ok I will shut up now.

k.Blas said...

(not) Brent; I just posted a bit of a Macro tut if you will on my blog. /shameless plug

Also I've been holding on to this link for a good while now. I know you have a light box, but some of the stuff they talk about in it are good, along with a second link in the last post talking about photoshop hints and tips.

Homemade Light Box

Brent said...

Ha! I love shameless plugs - it turns me on to blogs that are sometimes hard to find.

I've got you linked, now - makes it easy to read your stuff again in the future.

Good article.

Not (not)Brent

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