Tag Archives: Photography

More HDR

Nothing fancy here: when I took the Gremlin / Necron photos on Monday, I thought I’d try some Fantasy-themed HDR / backdrop  photos.

More with HDR

I actually wrote the HDR post about a week before I posted it: I’m trying to be better about pacing my posts.  I’ve been antsy about it going up ’cause I think it’s interesting.

That antsy-ness, plus avoidance of the Daemon mess, motivated me to fiddle with stuff some more.

I changed up the lightbox arrangement a bit. First, I swapped out the Pegasus terrain with the prepainted Ruined Chapel piece since it’s got a bit more varied color in it (and the neat stained glass effect).  Then, I worked my way through my images folder to find suitable backdrops and printed out a couple of them on 11×17 paper. Mounted them to foamboard and hit them with some Dullcote to cut down on reflection.  Finally, I replaced the white drop cloth with a black one.

Then, I took some more HDR pictures, matching up a few different HDR apps.  Here are the results:

Librarian:

Deathwing Techmarine: 

(Next time, I’m just going to do row & column headers.  I think that, by this point, we know the second row is post-I’m Feeling Lucky, right?)

Anyway, what do y’all think?

My observations:

  • I’m Feeling Lucky doesn’t actually seem to do the Pro HDR images any favors.  Interesting.
  • Looking at these, I feel like Pro HDR produces images that are too bright.  (Mind you, I’m just talking about the macro photography that I’m doing here.)  
  • I’m waffling between preferring the results from HDR Fusion and the camera in HDR mode.  I think I like the regular camera in HDR mode run through I’m Feeling Lucky the most.
  • The other thing is that this setup works for 40K and other sci-fi minis… it’s not terribly appropriate for Fantasy minis.  If I stick with this, I’ll probably have to pull something together for that.
  • That could be a fun project: building a photo setup for each army.  Hrm.

Adventures with HDR

I feel I need to preface this with a disclaimer: I’m not much of a photographer.  Photography’s not my hobby: taking better pictures is, for the most part, something motivated solely by my desire to better present toy soldiers that I’ve painted.

Also, HDR is a thing that’s been around for 160 years, with software-based approaches being invented while I was still in high school.  So, this is nothing new… but it’s new to me, and that means it merits a post. :)

I’d never heard about it until I saw a post that HDR Fusion was free for a day.  Free’s my kind of price, so I grabbed it and immediately learned that it’s terrible for taking pictures of cats.  (Because they barely sit still long enough for one exposure, nevermind two.)

The short version is that, rather than taking a single picture, you take multiple pictures at varying levels of exposure, then run them through a process that pulls them together into a single image: the dark parts are darker and the light parts are lighter, resulting in a more vibrant, interesting result.

I really love this example from the Wikipedia article linked above:

There are some more gorgeous examples here.

Inspiration seized me to try it out on minis.  Unfortunately, I was at work, so I only had MOTUC figures, and not minis, handy.  Here are the results: the same figures photographed using the normal camera and the HDR function, with both images run through Picasa’s I’m Feeling Lucky.

As I’ve mentioned before: Picasa‘s I’m Feeling Lucky makes everything look so much better; given how negligible an effort’s involved, everyone should be using it.  Really.

Still, this… was not very impressive.  I actually think the Normal + Picasa looks the best out of the four, but Gygor’s undeniably a much more vibrant neon prehistoric Eternian ape warlord in the HDR + Picasa shot.

I figured that this is because they’re just in front of the bland, off-white my office walls are painted.  For HDR to produce interesting results, it probably needs contrasts: more brights to brighten against more darks to darken.

So, after I got the dining room table cleared off (amazing how messy the house can get when everyone but the cats is sick for a month) and the lightbox out to photograph the Ratwyrm, I figured I should grab some terrain and fiddle with HDR some more.  Here are the results. (Make sure to click through to see them at the full resolution.)

Warlock Engineer:

Librarian:

(I’m glad I only did the two: pulling together the comparisons in GIMP isn’t difficult, but it sure ain’t fast.)

I stuck them on some Pegasus terrain; it definitely made a difference.  For better effect, I probably should layer some terrain to obscure the white backdrop (and consider replacing the white with black, but I don’t know if that won’t just change one boring background for another).

As expected, I’m Feeling Lucky made everything better, and I think the HDR results (modified by Picasa or not) look better than the normal photographs.

In both cases, the HDR produced warmer results.  It’s even more pronounced with the Engineer, because I took his “Normal” shots with my the camera I normally photograph minis with (which means it got the setup I normally use for mini photography); all of the Librarian photos were taking with the same cameraphone using the HDR app.

I think that, in both cases, the Normal (unmodified) produced truer colors, but I don’t think any of the other shots distorted them significantly.  Rather than some of the crazy effects that I linked to above, I’ve gotten fairly accurate pictures of my minis, just more striking.

Another thing to consider is that these HDR images were done with HDR Fusion: the phone’s camera natively supports HDR (apparently), and I’ve read that Pro HDR is the go-to HDR app.  Never mind the fact that this is all being done with a freaking cameraphone.  A real camera would be sure to produce even more interesting results.

What do y’all think?  Useful?  Interesting?  Helpful?  I’m curious!  Maybe if there’s enough interest, I’ll put some different HDR apps up against each other.

Pics from the Lightbox

I’ve been kvetching about how I need a lightbox for quite some time, now.  Just as I figured out how to take really great pictures with my crappy old digital camera, I decided to treat myself to a new, much nicer point-and-click.

The new camera takes much better pictures… of everything but miniatures.  I’ve attributed this to really terrible lighting conditions when I take those pictures… something a light box should be able to remedy.

I finally got around to ordering one of these off of eBay.  It showed up in record time; I’d played around with it a bit but hadn’t really had the chance to use it to actually take pictures until this weekend.

The results are decidedly better.  I’m quite certain that there’s some room for improvement (I think another light & diffuser would help, as would some additional camera configuration), but we’re looking at Much Better.

Before I get into the actual pictures, it’s important to note: I run all of this stuff through Picasa.  My process is to take 3-5 versions of each picture I want and then keep the one that looks the best. Then, I open it up in Picasa, click “I’m Feeling Lucky,” and maybe crop things so the composition is a bit better.  Commit the changes and call it a day.  That’s how I did it before the lightbox and it appears that that’s how I’m going to have to continue doing it afterwards.

Here’s a Vampire Priest to show why I do this.  The one of the left is before Picasa, the one of the right is after:

See why I do that?

Anyway, here are some comparisons of photos I took before and after the lightbox.  Before’s on the left.  After’s on the right.

In each case, the photographs’ much clearer and brighter.  It does a better job of showing off the miniature.

Here are some more photos of older stuff I took in the lightbox:

So, I definitely think this has been worth it.  What do y’all think?

On a related note, since I’m talking about photography… I’ve started trying to mix up the sort of pictures I take.  While I’m continuing to take the pictures that showcase the overall miniature, I’ve tried talking pictures that are better composed: more dynamic pictures that objectively work better as pictures as opposed to the neutral presentation ones.  The last two above, as well as the first picture in the post, are examples of this.  Do y’all think these work?