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Camera information and...

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Thanks for the information about the software. I was just going to go with photoshop, but what about Dynamic Photo helps make the picture better? Also, light boxes won’t really help me because I’m hoping to create large scenes and likely not much small enough to fit inside one. I will be buying one or two sets of those photography kits. They come with large backdrops, diffusers and reflecters (no idea how to use such things, but if it helps with lighting I think it’s likely necessary)...fortunately those kits are only around $150 each...

DPHDR has many features that allow you to manipulate photo quality, from adjusting the original to adding effects. I haven't played with Photoshop much. A perhaps better example:

I'm not into a lot of specials effects; I just want decent looking photos.  What you want for bigger set-ups is a light table, as you mentioned.

With bigger dioramas you will need lots of light.  The brighter the better, and avoiding direct lights thst cause a lot of shadows is important too. Sometimes it's what you use and how you use it though, there are amazing images out there by people who use limited but very specific lighting to give atmospheric effects. Colored spot lights, diffusers, gels, it can get as complicated as you want.

For the camera cost it depends on what you are going to do with the photos. If you are just posting online then a lower range camera will be just fine, it's more about lighting and photo processing for the web. If you are planning on printing, especially larger size prints then you will want a higher end camera with more megapixels. The more pixels, the finer the resolutio,n, and the bigger you can print or enlarge the images (assuming they aren't blurry from wiggling the camera etc)

Following thread because my digital is a point-and-shoot, and I would like to eventually upgrade to one that lets me control aperture and shutter speed. Ideally, I want one of those that looks and (somewhat) functions like an old SLR, but ya know, budget.

Lighting is going to be the challenge for large dioramas, because of shadows.  Your lighting kit will hopefully include several umbrella-like or soft box shaped reflectors with lights that aim/shine into the underside of the concave surface.  This allows the reflected light on the subject to be diffuse and from multiple angles, thus eliminating shadows.  You will need several of these.  A reflector will also be handy to focus reflected light directly on to a specific spot,  ie figures inside of a building.  These are usually larger flat round discs that fold/twist to a smaller round shape for storage.  They are gold on one side, silver on the other.  These can be tripod mounted to aim the light where you want it, or hand held by someone.  The two colors will provide warm or cool light, (important for portrait photography).  You might research lighting for still life photography to see set ups for shadowless larger scenes.

Most cameras have some range of digital zoom and this provides wide angle for overview shots and telephoto or zoom for close shots.  When shopping, test the focusing distance of the zoom, ie if you want to take a close-up of a scene in the middle of your diorama, can you zoom in adequately from the edge of your table and see what you want to take a photo of. 

If you want to take your photos another step beyond, consider a camera with aperture /manual override.  The “f” stop on a camera is the measurement of depth of field, or what is in focus in front of and in back of what your subject is.  Some cameras decide for you what will be in focus, (people standing in front of a landmark, with everything in focus, greater depth of field),but if you want to shorten the depth of field in a photo you will need aperture/manual override.  In the example of a scene with lots of clickies in a scene, if you have a greater depth of field, f8 or more lots of clickies will be in focus.  If you open up the f stop to f 2.8 or whatever the lowest number is on your camera, only a few clickies will be in focus, and the others behind or in front will be blurred, which gives a nice image isolating a clicks and removes the “clutter” in a photo. 

Lastly you should get a camera that can feed the image in real time to your laptop or iPad, rather than use the back of the camera.  That will allow you to zoom in on your computer screen to check your focus, lighting etc. 

Have fun. 


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