Lacking anything more productive to do on this cold, wet holiday, I decided to reshoot Kokoro, being that my earlier pictures were particularly hideous. While I was at it, I thought that I’d provide a look at the “studio” in which I take my figure pictures. It’s not a particularly complicated setup, although it certainly is a mess.
This isn’t a particularly large area; I’ve got maybe a little more than two square feet available to me. It’s an annoyance to have to clear off the area whenever I want to take pictures, so I don’t get as much photography practice as I would like.
I ordinarily use two or three lights to take pictures, but for white backgrounds, I use up to five lamps. You can see three of them here; one of them is cut out of the picture up top (although you can see the clip) and the other is hidden by the Kleenex box that I’m using to block light. There’s nothing special about them; I bought them for eight to ten bucks at Lowe’s or Wal-Mart, and I use ordinary daylight fluorescent bulbs (either 60W or 100W equivalent; for a shoot on a white background, I usually have the brighter bulbs lighting up the background with the dimmer bulbs lighting the figure). Being lazy, I don’t use a standalone diffuser to soften light; I just tape paper towels to the front of the lamp. I’m thinking I might try Kleenex or tracing paper or something less opaque, though. I constrain light by taping paper right onto the lamp; I’m using red construction paper here that I had bought for a diorama idea I had a while ago. Like many of my ideas, it went nowhere, but the construction paper proves useful nonetheless. I also sometimes use packing invoices to block light; I just fold them in half and tape them to the side of the lamp. They tend to let more light leak through so I don’t use them as much as of late. I also use solid objects; I’m using a box of tissues here, but I’ve also used sandpaper, other figure boxes (very useful, since I have a bunch of these and they come in various sizes), and books. I don’t use my camera’s onboard flash since it kills the battery, and I have not the slightest clue how to use an external flash.
I used to use various sheets of fabric as a backdrop; my earliest pictures featured a ratty blue curtain, and I also experimented with various colors of cotton sheets (as seen in my earlier Kokoro pictures). I switched over to using black fabric and that worked much better, but I now use foamboard most of the time. It’s cheap and stays in place fairly well, whereas I had to use a ton of duct tape to tape the black fabric backdrop to my wall. If I want reflections on the ground, I use a transparent plastic cover sheet from a cheap poster frame. It works pretty well, although the plastic is susceptible to getting scratched up. You can get some interesting effects if you place it over a sheet of colored posterboard. For example, I placed some red posterboard under the poster cover in this shot of Sheryl.
For Kokoro, I used a large index card as a reflector, but I usually prefer to use a comic book backing board. I also usually prefer to prop it up on my favorite can of sliced pears; this can’s been with me through half of college and expired last year. I’m kind of afraid to open it, so I keep it around to hold things up or to weight things down. I should take a picture of it sometime; actually, you can see it in this post on figure.fm for one of the contest giveaways. It’s in the photo with the Master Chief over the Matrix sentinel, over on the right; I forgot to Photoshop it out. I love my can of pears.
The box of Kleenex can also prop things up, like Meiya’s hair.
If anybody is curious about the equipment I use, I use a Canon Rebel XS, the lowest-end DSLR that Canon manufactures. I use the cheap 50mm f/1.8 lens for most of my pictures, and the kit lens (18-55mm f/3.5-5.0 or something, I think) for the rest. Most of the pictures in my recent Kenshin review were taken with the kit lens, since Kenshin was too bloody big to completely fit in the frame while using the prime lens. I use a cheap tripod that I got from Best Buy; it’s flimsy, it wobbles a lot, but it works alright. Actually, I tend to use its looseness to make adjustments to the camera position. I recently got a set of inexpensive close-up lenses to futz around with pseudo-macro shots and do depth-of-field tricks. I don’t really know whether I want to buy more lenses, but I’m sort of interested in getting a wide-angle lens to play around with.
And that’s pretty much all there is to my photo studio. All my figure pictures have been taken here, and it’s a real pain to try to fit more than one figure into this space. It’s not a very high-tech setup, but it does the job.
Meiya and the president get ready to throw down.