The Big Brass DieOur NWLGG logo

Miniature Photography 101: by Scott Hussey

Part 2: Camera Accessories

Accessory Lensestube lenses

Some cameras allow you to mount accessory lenses or filters. Sometimes there is a thread on the lens, sometimes the use of an adaptor tube that fits outside the lens is needed.

I find the close up lenses very useful. With no lens a 28 mm figure still looks pretty small in the frame on my camera, and I have to do some cropping to make it look bigger. With a +7 or +10 lens I can fill the frame with my miniature. I can fill the frame with a very small part of my figure using two stacked together. This almost gets too close, since I can see things like bits of dust caught in the lacquer coating. They do decrease the depth of field a lot. It takes some patience to get the composition right.

miniature photo using built-in lenswith built-in lens

miniature photo using +10 macro lenswith +10 macro lens

miniature photo using +10 and +7 macro lenseswith +10 and +7 lenses

The other advantage is that the adapter tube required by my camera protects the lens and the mechanism that extends the lens. I no longer have to listen to that disturbing grinding noise when I forget to take the lens cap off before I turn the camera on.

Batteries

There are basically two types of batteries used in digital cameras. Some cameras use AA batteries, and some use a proprietary battery that is usually Lithium Ion.

I prefer the AA batteries since they usually work in more than just your camera. I would recommend buying a charger and two sets of Nickel Metal Hydride (NiMH) batteries. The NiMH batteries last longer than disposables and are relatively inexpensive. You'll save money, and won't be filling landfills with alkalines. The batteries are rated according to the current they can put out over time. 1800 mAH is about average, I think the highest rating is 2100 mAH at the time this is written. The rule of thumb is, the higher the number the longer the batteries will last.

The proprietary batteries generally last longer than even the NiMH batteries. Proprietary batteries also work better in cold weather; you probably won't be photographing miniatures outdoors, but for other photos NiMH batteries lose a lot of their energy when they are cold. The camera meter that tells you how much charge is left generally works better with the proprietary batteries as well. The disadvantage with proprietary batteries is they are very expensive and very hard to find if you have to replace them.

Another thing to consider is buying an AC adaptor for your camera. You'll never have to stop shooting to recharge when using one, though these can be pretty pricey.

Flash

I don't usually use my flash if I can help it. I find it creates really harsh lighting, and that highlights will be blown out so they show up as white. Most cameras will allow you to turn off the flash if you wish.

Some cameras will also let you adjust the flash. The adjustment is similar to exposure compensation, and you can increase or decrease the amount of power to the flash.

Alternatively, you can put a piece of tissue paper over the flash, and diffuse it. You may need to play with exposure to get this to work.

Tripod Mount

mini tripodThe use of a tripod will help you a lot. If you are taking pictures indoors there won't be much available light. If you are like me you won't like using you flash. This will usually result in slow shutter speeds where hand holding will blur your pictures.

Most cameras have a tripod mount. Some are plastic, which means they wear out, and there is a danger of stripping them if you aren't careful (don't cross thread!). The other thing to look for is how it lines up with the lens. It's not really miniatures related, but if you want to do panoramas it's best to have the tripod mount lined up with the lens.

The tripod I find most useful for my miniature pictures is one of the small portable tripods. These are usually very inexpensive, they are easy to carry around, and they let you set up right on the table.

In Conclusion

There you have it. Hopefully this explains some of the features found on digital cameras, and gives you some insight into their application when taking pictures of your miniatures. The only other advice I have for now is to take lots of pictures and play around with your settings. Find out what works for you, and gives you the results you like. A basic understanding of the theory, and practice is really the best way to learn. The greatest advantage to digital is that you can just delete your mistakes!
- - -
Go to Part 1: Choosing a Camera


Written by Scott Hussey, last updated February 22, 2003
HTML conversion by Steve Patterson
Powered by Microsoft Notepad.