Photographing Miniatures

Photographing miniatures have become a common thing in today’s modelling world. The moment I joined modelling forums online, I had to figure out a way to post photos of my miniatures so that other modellers could comment on my work. The very first camera I used was a Sony Erickson 2.0 mega pixel phone cam.

I was desperate and was willing to try out anything. Anyway that was what I had with me at that time. I came across an article from Perry miniatures about photographing dioramas in sunlight. It was actually an eye opener for me cause it work quite well though I had to struggle with the stability and resolution of the camera.


Basically there are two methods of lighting that I learned when photographing miniatures. One is by using natural sunlight and the other is by using indoor lighting. Both serve the same purpose but have different results. It all boils down to what sort of image that you are trying to achieve in the first place.


The best uses for sunllight is when photographing dioramas. That was the trick when I want a realistic looking scene. Using a real sky as a backdrop can do wonders to a scene and add the realism that is needed. The only setback for using this kind of lighting is that you will need to shoot it at noon when the sun is overhead.

Cloudy days are not a good thing when you want to try this lighting technique. This approach is widely used on the dynamic dioramas website.

What makes this an impressive method is the use of real life backdrop like the bright blue sky.

With digital photography readily available, anything is possible. Our limits are our own imagination, it's more about trial and error these days than having to find online college courses in photography to know what you are doing. During my quests to learn how to photograph my miniature models, I stumbled onto photos of someone who photographed realistic looking miniatures on the web. I was so inspired that I started experimenting photographing my 1/35 scale miniature model of a scene of US soldiers in Iraq using my Cannon digital camera

It Really Works

It was several days after I posted my photos online that people began commenting how realistic my miniature models were. That made me decide to write this short article on how to photograph realistic looking miniatures using a very simple setup and equipment! Yes, it is simpler than you think.

Things You Will Need

  • a digital camera with macro function.
  • a miniature model or diorama.
  • a bright afternoon sun.
  • a small foldable table or stool.
  • an open area with a natural surrounding free of tall buildings.
  • Remember to bring along your cap or sunglasses as well.

How to Do It

  • Step 1) The time to do it must be between 11am to 1pm when the sun is overhead.
  • Step 2) Setup your small foldable table in the open area under direct sunlight.
  • Step 3) Place your miniature onto the table.
  • Step 4) Set your digital camera to macro and sunlight setting.
  • Step 5) Look through your LCD screen to compose your shot.
  • Step 6) Use the bright blue sky and natural surrounding as your backdrop.
  • Step 7) Snap your photos when there are no clouds covering the sun to have a consistent lighting for all your photos.
  • Step 8) A prayer for a bright and clear day may help.
  • Special Tip: Check the weather forecast before you go!

Have fun trying this out!

Indoor Lighting

The first time I thought about shooting indoors, I was a bit intimidated. The thought of having to invest in pricey equipment was turning me off Finally one day I got a revelation on how to do it from a web forum. The reason I was intimidated was because I was thinking about the old school way of photography. With the advancement of technology in digital camera, all I actually needed was a simple setup.

Digital cameras today have functions that could adjust different types of lighting like flourescent, incandescent, sunlight etc... It took me a while to figure out the way but I finally got it. This technique is the best because you can control the lighting that you want. You can use 2-4 halogent lights(see photos below) on right and left sides of your setup with filters to soften those lights.

Most miniature modellers I encountered invest in a lightbox to photograph their models. The lightbox is a box with 5 sides shielded by white cloth with only one side open.


All you need are 2-4 light sources from outside the lightbox shining through the left and right side of the box. The idea of the white cloth or filter is to shield or diffuse the lights so that the subject being photographed do not create harsh shadows and over expose the image.


Getting a 10 mega pixel Cannon digital camera at a sale was the best investment I made so far. Not only did I saved time from fiddling with my mobile camera earlier, I also got the best resolution photos out of my new investment. You don’t have to invest on a 10 mega pixel camera, since you only need something that is 4 mega pixel or better. The are so many affordable digital camera’s today, so your options are unlimited.

Just make sure your digital camera have a macro function and a camera stand since that is the two things you need for photographing miniature models.

If you are using the macro function, the miniature figure that you are photographing need to be very close to the camera however if you are using the manual function, the camera tend be further away and you might need to do some post production cropping later on.

Adobe Photoshop is a good software to use in correcting colours and editing pictures. You can also download some free software to edit your pictures on the internet.

One of the latest free photo editing software available today is the Picasa 3 by Google. It's features are highly superior and easy to use as compared to other free available softwares out there. So if you are in need of photo editing software, Picasa 3 is a fantastic download for you. Check out the video of Picasa 3 below.


You may need a backdrop to photograph your miniature models. An A4 size paper in various colours like black, grey, blue or white may suffice. You may also add real photos of sceneries but they have to be large enough to fill in the backdrop. Try experimenting and see what kind of result you can get.

Well that’s my 2 cents worth of ideas I could give for now. I hope it does help you fellow miniature modellers about photography in some ways. If you are not going to spend a few thousand dollars on equipment, I think you should consider the simple setup that I have suggested. Best of luck and happy photo-taking!