Saturday, March 29, 2014

I made a cheap lightbox for better mini photos.

Mini photography is not something I've paid a lot of attention to. Some mini modelers also have in-home photography studios with fancy tripods and lighting setups, to better show off their efforts. But it seems silly to spend a bunch of money on photography equipment for a blog about cheap fantasy mini collecting. Luckily, thanks to this tutorial for building homemade lightboxes, I found a way that ought to dramatically improve my photographs while staying true to my cheap hobby ethos.

So what is a lightbox? As you might imagine, it's a box—in this case a shipping box recovered from an online delivery—that you shine light into. The secret is a defusing material through which light shines that fills an area with light while killing a lot of shadow and glare.

The diffusing material is a $1 white shower curtain from the dollar store. I cut holes in the top and two sides of the box, stretched the curtain over the holes, taped into place, and cut to fit.

Inside is a sheet of white poster board, less than a dollar at the dollar store. Note the curve along the bottom corner for a seamless backdrop. I know many mini photographers prefer a mottled gray background as oppose to white, so maybe I'll experiment with that. Also, note the duct tape and scrap PVC pipe for support; you could just as well find something just as cheap to support the box.

Here's the lighbox in action. The lights are just a desk lamp and a cheap shoplight shining through either side of the box.
Here's the prepainted Schleich dragon, once with the lighbox lit up, the other time with just my camera flash. Apart from cropping, neither of these shots are touched.
The same shot above with some simple digital enhancements. It looks sharp and clean with very little shadow. I could probably get rid of the remaining shadow if I added a light source above as well. I suppose this means I can control where any shadows I may want are cast, in addition to eliminating shadows entirely.
The project cost me less than $2, and construction took a little over an hour while I watched TV. I still used the same midline digital camera that I've always used, and while I still need to mess around a bit and try shooting my smaller figures, I have a good feeling about these preliminary results. Well worth the investment!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

One year blogiversary!

It was a year ago today that I started this blog, and despite not having as much hobby time as I'd like, I'm proud of what I've done over the past year (plus the few months I was painting before blogging about it). I want to thank every visitor, from the one-time readers who found me via Google to all the regulars, who make blogging about this peculiar niche of a niche of a niche of a hobby completely worth it. Thanks especially to everyone who's ever left a comment, and to all the folks who follow CFM or put it on their blogroll. I've still got a ton of project ideas, so here's to another great year of Cheap Fantasy Minis!

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Beasties 3x3

Some quick paintjobs for a project I'm working on. I'll reveal what it is when the time comes; your fairly useless hints are the names of the monsters, and the fact that I painted three of each. I'm not a very fast painter usually, but I got these guys done in about a week. Just some simple block colors, lots of drybrushing, and some "magic" washes. My magic wash blend could have been a little darker, but overall I like the results.
Gargoyles, and not the nice kind that fight morally ambiguous plutocrats played by Jonathan Frakes. These are Twilight Creations demons, with one headswap and one horn clipping for a bit of variety.

More Twilight Creations demons who will serve as ghouls (note the tasty hand snacks, or "finger food" as the Crypt Keeper would probably say). A simple headswap for one and a repose for another again adds variety to the figures.

Some ectoplasmically green wraiths, made principally from Caesar Miniatures undead, with a HaT Gallic Command figure loaning its body.
I've got some hobgoblins in progress made from Caesar Miniatures orcs, but they've been slow going. The gang here was pretty simple, but I think they turned out well, and it was nice to get something done quickly for once.