Tuesday, October 30, 2012

A brief post from Spike on in-game photography

Thank you to all the people who have given positive feedback on the photography in both of Steve's blogs. It was the hobby of miniature gaming that got me enthused enough to take my photography from simple snap-shooting up to the next level. I'm still a hobbyist with no real intent of going professional, but I thought I might share a few tips for others who want to get pictures of games in progress.

With any sort of photography, light is the most important thing. The brighter the area, the faster the image can expose. Quicker shutter speeds equal less blur and less work for the automatic focus. If your game area is under-lit, there's no need to spend piles of money. I invested in three "clamp lamp" style shop lights...basically a bulb socket with a removable metal reflector found at your hardware store for around $7 USD. Each is fitted with a 20 watt "soft white" CFL bulb, and all three are arranged around the room so that their light is directed toward the ceiling and reflected evenly on the game table below. This gets a nice even light with no harsh shadows.

Secondly, a sturdy tripod and hands-free shutter operation make for a crisper photo. Most modern digital cameras, even the inexpensive compact kind, have a 2-second timer option which eliminates any shake that a finger on the shutter button might cause. Many of the more sophisticated DSLRs have a jack for a remote shutter control and/or an infrared remote controller. 

For super-macro shots taken at "ground level" on the playing table, sometimes the slope of the terrain will not permit simply setting the camera flat on the game board. For those occasions, I keep a zipper style plastic bag full of uncooked rice. This allows me to position and level my camera on an uneven surface where a tabletop tripod isn't feasible.

But the most important thing to remember with in-game photography is not to excessively inconvenience the players. Experiment with different angles and vignettes before the game begins. If your camera has a manual white-balance function, take a moment to adjust white balance right then rather than have to fiddle with it in your photo editing software later.  Try to avoid using flash, as it can be anywhere from a mild distraction to a great headache, depending on the player. But mostly try to pay attention to the game even if you aren't a player. That way you're always ready for the "highlight" moments.

I was a little sad not to get to play in the two Martian scenarios, but then again I get to have games with Steve all the time...which is how he would have it if not for day-jobs and the need for slumber. I may one day soon ask him for a rematch and avenge Ben's vanquished Martian invaders with my "WOMD"...the mother of all tripod walkers...


  1. Spike,

    A very helpful blog entry. I may well try some of your techniques next time I photograph my wargames.

    All the best,


  2. Hi Spike,

    That is really helpful - I have a lot of trouble with many of my games due to the effects of lighting and definition of the object being photographed close up. I like the bag of rice idea - very neat.

    All the best,


  3. Spike

    I love the rice bag idea - I'll give that a go next time. And I'll be trying your other ideas too - your resulting photos are convincing proof of our techniques.


  4. Thanks, guys! I might (with Steve's permission, of course) make photography-related posts a periodical thing here..perhaps every few weeks or so.