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DT
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
RailRider in this post asked for input on photographic techniques used in photographing railway models.

Do you have any advice or special techniques that you can share?

I must admit that I have learnt a lot over the last few years. I have a good digital camera that has great macro capabilities.

The biggest issue related to photographing models is lighting. As many photos are taken at a high f-stop to achieve a large depth of field, the aperture is small. This means that not much light is getting into the camera. That means you have to supplement the ambient light with spots.

I've tried 500W halogen site spots, low voltage halogen MR16 bulbs, LED MR16 bulbs, flourescent daylight bulbs... And flash guns. The best is a combination of static bulbs. I've changed my flourescent daylight bulbs and plan on changing again. The high output bulbs are not available in DIY shops, but they are becoming available online.

It is an ongoing challenge, but good results can be made with non professional equipment. A little tweaking of lighting an contrast levels in Photoshop and you can have great shots.
 

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Hey, cheers for an incredibly swift reaction to my cry for help!


You've already put your finger on more than one aspect of good static pics.
I suspect that a SMALL enough aperture may be the reason for some very poor digital camera performance in the still life field. Manufacturers tend to dazzle us by emphasising how wonderfully fast their cameras are and completely forget the other end of the scale. My Lumix FZ20 can maintain f2.8 throughout its 12x zoom range, but the useless thing can't close down to less than f8! So, no great depth of field is possible nor nice long exposures.
Hmm, I think I may be stuck with that, grump, grump.
 

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DT
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Another aspect of taking low light photos is steadying the shot. A tripod is vital and using the timed shutter is often required. I set my shutter timer to a 2 second delay so that for speeds under 1/60th second it will be rock-steady on the tripod. Even with the lights, I may take close-up photos from 1/125 to 3 sec shutter speed.

In most macro environments, it is prefered if the subject stands out from the background (thingk of a flower or a qute little insect) so a large depth of field is not required. Most macro settings will not allow a depth of field of more that about 15 cm. Take this into consideration when taking a photo of a train from and amlost head on angle. A long loco will not fit into the in-focus area.

Even this shot of the N-scale Dapol Class 66 fades away at the rear.


This shot of the Hornby Flying Scotsman shows the same thing: You can't fit it all in in macro mode.


This image, with the loco at an obviously more shallow angle, shows the whole subject in focus.


Having part of the loco slightly out of focus isn't such a bad thing. Sometimes it adds to the character of the image. The photos of the Class 66 and Flying Scotsman above are not that bad. So you don't have to have the whole thing in focus. This next photo is one of my favorite shots. And as you see it has a shallow in-focus depth and it is lit by some yellowish domestic lighting.


Turn the loco around some more and more of it comes into focus:


And turn it perpendicular to the line of vision and all of it comes into focus:
 

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Another very nice set of pics there.

In theory . . . it occurs to me that greater depth of field could be wangled round digitally by a series of absolutely identical shots, the only modification being the focus point. Then a LOT of painstaking work with Photoshop or similar, blending them all together into one final shot. There's a nice project for next winter!

But, on my initial, jealous enquiry re Dennis's Edelweiss coach pic, perhaps Neil got it exactly right in suggesting it might be an incredibly well crafted drawing . . . it would be gratifying to know for sure, so I could stop eating my heart out at not being able to achieve the impossible!
 

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A top tip i can give for photographing is avoid domestic yellow lighting

With Domestic Lighting With Daylight Lighting
You can see the difference, try to avoid using the flash on images as the foreground turns white and the background black, My camera also has a mode where the foreground is misty and the background clear
Here is the difference between macro and non macro pictures

Macro Image Non macro Image
 

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DT
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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
QUOTE (Rail-Rider @ 19 Jun 2006, 17:59) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>...
In theory . . . it occurs to me that greater depth of field could be wangled round digitally by a series of absolutely identical shots, the only modification being the focus point. Then a LOT of painstaking work with Photoshop or similar, blending them all together into one final shot. There's a nice project for next winter!...
You don't have to even sweat. Check out Helicon Focus for their DoF tool. I tried the software a few times and had some fun with it. More time is needed to get it to work properly though.
 

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Thanks for some very helpful info there Doug.
My problem is that my main camera is not digital. I still use a traditional film SLR as the photo quality is better. I only have small digital camera and have no intention in the near future of replacing it with a digital SLR. Hence my photos in my reviews have not been as good as they could be as I have to use the digital photos. I may see if there is a way they can be scanned on from my SLR photos as that should bump up the quality somewhat.
 

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QUOTE (Doug @ 20 Jun 2006, 01:05) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>A SLR?
LOL!!!! Definitely no prize for you there!


Helicon . . . no luck so far, though.


Neil - might be worth having your photo processor scan the pics to disk at processing time. The pros generally have significantly better scanners than we normal punters can afford or justify. Kodak used to provide an excellent service on this, but may have withdrawn it. Worth checking other processors' prices, anyway.
 

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I thnk there are two quite distinct problems here. One is shooting models that are under your control where you can add additional lights and use a tripod. The other is when you are shooting models at a show where a tripod or even a monopod are not allowed, the lighting is often iffy and you have to fight the crowds. I've been trying to work on my technique in this area. I find that I have to sometimes give up depth of field so that the background won't go dark which I like even less. I'm still trying to sorts things out and may even consider using two flashes. I've been posting shots from the Garden Railway Convention on another thread and am finishing my short article that has a bunch more pictures.

Some of the techniques I use are not available on most digital cameras so I don't know how much use they would be to others.
 
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