This morning I decided to add a brief post about this crucial side of our hobby. Let me premise a thing: I'm not a photographer, so please don't take the following advice as a bible of photography!
Let's start from the very beginning: essential tools and basic setup.
I use an old Canon EOS 1100D. It's an expensive tool, it's not mandatory to have a reflex or a professional tool, but as soon as your camera allows you to manually set exposure time, ISO, aperture, and focus, you should be able to take good quality pics.
It's important to have a tripod or something to put your camera on and be sure that it is stable: I strongly recommend, in fact, using a self-timer option (I use 10 seconds self-timer) when you take a photo, so the camera has enough time to stabilize from the moment you push the button to the moment when it actually takes the photo.
Of course, it's crucial to have a decent light setup: after all, photography literally means "writing with light"!
As you may imagine, there are endless options available concerning light setups, but you can achieve good results just by using a very basic setup like this one:
Here you can see two Ikea lamps and a simple A4 paper as a background. Of course, the light bulbs are crucial and I suggest investing some money in them because they really make a difference. In this specific case, I use two 35W 5500K light bulbs, bought on amazon. 5500K means that the light is very close to natural light, so it gives you a realistic rendition of the actual colors, as they are illuminated by natural light.
It's important to use at least two lamps, so the mini is evenly illuminated. I put them slightly above the mini, one for each side of it.
If you want to upgrade a big your setup, you can invest in two softbox like these (this is actually my current setup):
I bought them on Amazon, about 100€ in total. What is the difference between this setup and the first one? First of all, light bulbs are more powerful: 85W each (the first ones were 35W each). Moreover, the softbox (as the name suggests), softens the light resulting in softer lighting, which is important to avoid too harsh shadows and lights.
DIY advice: if you don't have a softbox and you want to get the same result, put a piece of white baking paper in front of the light bulb. This way, the light will be filtered by the baking paper and you'll get softer lighting.
the two light bulbs I use. The big one is for the softbox, the little one for the ikea lamp.
So, once you have a nice photo setup, it's time to take a pic!
I put the camera slightly above the minis, let's say with an angle of 20/30 degrees.
I used manual focus, not only because the autofocus feature of my camera doesn't work, but because it allows me to be more accurate.
These are the basic parameters I usually select to take pics of my minis:
As I said, it's important to have a camera that allows you to manually set these parameters. If you take pics with your phone and you can't edit them manually, just focus on a good light setup and put your phone on a tripod, you should be able to get nice results the same (I think that 70% of the quality of the photo comes from the light setup).
As you can see, I used RAW format: it has higher quality and resolution and allows me to edit better my photos. Of course, it's not essential, just be sure that you are shooting at the best resolution of your camera/smartphone.
Once you take a photo, it's time for editing it. This step is not essential, and in this step we don't want to dramatically change the result of what we have shot. The main goal is just to add, if necessary, micro-adjustment to make the photo as close as possible to the actual miniature.
This is the non-edited photo I shot this morning:
This is the same pic, but after a quick editing:
This is the editing process I did:
As you can see, I did only minor adjustments, in specific I decrease a bit the white ("Bianchi"), I increased a bit the general lights ("Luci"), and I add a little bit of contrast ("Chiarezza"). Moreover, the original pic looked a bit too "greenish" for my eyes, so I increased a bit the "tint", bringing it to magenta ("Tinta").
As you may imagine, my process is EXTREMELY amateurish. Camera Raw, in good hands, allows you to really adjust every single parameter of your photo, but I honestly know only the very basic features, as I said: I'm not a photographer. At all.
Once I adjusted the main parameters on Camera Raw, I exported the pic on Photoshop:
Again, I usually did only minor adjustments because my graphic skills are extremely low: I cropped the image to give a neat look, then I used Unsharp Mask (it's in the Filter menu, under "sharpening") to give more focus.
And that's it.
Of course, if your goal is to shoot photos worthy of an award, or if you want to shoot professional photos, I think that this "tutorial" might be too basic and naive for you. But if you want to just improve a bit the photos of your minis, I hope that this post may help you!