Model Photography

Lighting the scene

Professional photographers make use of sophisticated and expensive lighting equipment when taking pictures indoors (studio flashes, reflectors, filters,...). No need to get such an equipment for our purpose ; good results can be obtained by using common lighting appliances. But remember that the final result will be very highly dependent on the care taken to light the scene. Thus, it is a matter not to be overlooked.

The first idea that comes to mind is to use a flash, since it's indoor photography. This is not a good idea as a flash does not produce a natural lighting but rather is a pinpoint light source that will produce heavy shadows, hiding many of the details in the scene. Besides, a flash will perfectly illuminate the foreground, but the background will be much darker as light intensity decreases proportionally to the square of the distance.

What we are looking for is a natural lighting, just like the one that is found outdoors, provided by the sun which illuminates everything evenly, or almost, with soft shadows as light reflects everywhere.

The technique to use, called "bounce lighting" consists in indirectly lighting the scene so as to obtain a soft, natural light.

To do that, gather all halogen lights that you can find at home. The more, the better. I personnally use 2000W of halogen lamps to take my model photos - gets hot ! Natural lighting comes from above. So point all your halogen lights at the ceiling of the room (assuming it is white) and you'll get a nice, soft reflected light on your scene with very little or no shadow at all. Now, you want to create some shadows so that the scene comes to life. To do that, use the last halogen light that remains and place it at a 4-6ft distance from the scene, pointing at the scene. Then move this light around until you get the shadows where you feel they look better and you are all set.

The photo at right shows a typical lighting setup that I use for taking pictures of my layout. The 500W lights are ordinary halogen lamps while the 1000W light is an old halogen movie flood light.

A word of caution : halogen lights heat a lot. Keep them far away from your plastic models if you don't want to see them melt, even if the intensity of light is slightly decreased and you need to increase exposure time.

Now is the time to load your camera with a film and take pictures.

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Page created by Jean-Louis Simonet
Last update : 03/07/2000
© 2000, Jean-Louis Simonet