Creative => How-To => Topic started by: PlaymoGuardian on March 07, 2021, 01:06:32

Title: Camera information and...
Post by: PlaymoGuardian on March 07, 2021, 01:06:32
     I think this is the correct place to post this (since the photography section seemed to be more of a “show photos” instead of asking for information about how to take photos)... I’m looking to purchase a good camera for taking pictures of playmobil scenes and such. Any and all advice is most appreciated. I’d like a great quality camera, but the price ranges for a good camera are all over the place. Ideally I’d like not to spend a fortune and put the extra money into the expansion of my newish collection, but I definitely want a quality camera that will take some great pictures.
     When I started my newly formed collection, I began having a world of fun. This fun brought waves of nostalgia associated with hours of fun my friends and I got to have as children. We were lucky to live in playmobil worlds with the limits of creativity being the only thing holding us back. Working at times in children’s hospitals, however, I’ve seen far too many instances of children who have never had (and perhaps will never have) such opportunities. So, I decided that while collecting, it would be a great opportunity to help those children if at all possible. I want to create a children’s book to help them escape and live in some of these worlds as well. It’s been a goal and project of mine to write a children’s book with the artwork consisting of scenes from my playmobil world. This is my “mystery project” and Im hopefully entering some of the final stages of its development. I plan on all proceeds going directly to providing these books for the children or perhaps the proceeds going toward another form of gift for them instead (I work with members of various departments in a few of these hospitals so I will take their advice for what they recommend for their patients). I need help choosing a decent camera for the task. Please let me know if you have any suggestions relating to a good camera for the job. I don’t think I’ll need anything too extravagant with a ton of features. I believe I just need something to produce good quality images. Thanks for your help...
Title: Re: Camera information and...
Post by: GrahamB on March 07, 2021, 09:58:24
As with any photography, composition, lighting, sharp focus and avoiding camera shake are probably the most important considerations. Almost any camera can achieve good photos, but some equipment choices can make the job easier.

A camera which shows exactly what you are looking at can help composition. I use an SLR camera for this reason, but many cameras, including phones, show you on a screen what the camera sees.

Digital capture is essential. You can play around with lighting and composition, taking pictures as you go to check how things turn out. Digital cameras don't use expensive "Silver halide" film, so you can take hundreds of pictures for nothing and see the results immediately.

If you do have control over the lens aperture, using a smaller aperture (higher 'for number) gives a better depth of focus, useful when you have close-up objects and more distant ones in the same picture. Good lighting, possibly flash and a firm base (eg table tripod) all help to get sharp pictures with good depth of focus and minimal blurring from camera shake.

See JLMatterer's recent pictures on here to see how effective a lightbox can be. Diffuse light rather than direct lighting is often best.

Software for processing images can help to improve them. Cropping, rotation, exposure correction and brightening or darkening parts of an image are useful facilities, especially if you have already cleared the Playmobil away when you realise the picture isn't quite right!

Use a digital camera with a screen, tripod, good diffuse lighting, small aperture if possible.

If you take some pictures, post them on here and ask for constructive criticism, I will be happy to oblige!
Title: Re: Camera information and...
Post by: Tiermann on March 07, 2021, 23:30:05
I agree with Graham. Any decent quality digital camera will work. If you are just posting online and not planning to print out large prints then you will not need the highest quality camera. I use Photoshop Elements to process all my photos and reduce sizes for web loading. The brighter your lighting is the easier you will find it to get decent photos. You will want to be sure there is a macro mode, to allow for sharp closeups. I use the auto setting on my camera and it switches to macro when appropriate.
Title: Re: Camera information and...
Post by: PlaymoGuardian on March 10, 2021, 13:51:23
Thank you for the helpful insights! Any idea what price range I should be looking at, or perhaps any other features that are necessary for the camera, which will also help determining what I need to spend (like the suggestion of macro mode, etc.). The range for digital cameras seems to go from a few hundred dollars all the way through a few thousand. I’m certainly hoping I don’t have to spend anywhere near the top of that range!
Title: Re: Camera information and...
Post by: JLMatterer on March 10, 2021, 14:12:04
I have a Canon PowerShot SX420 IS. It cost about $400 on Amazon. I  think that with Prime I got it for about $300. My light box was $40, also from Amazon Prime. There are better cameras out there but this one does me fine. A light box can make your smaller set-ups look very professional.

Good software is very important. I use Dynamic Photo HDR from MediaChance. It's absolutely incredible & makes blah photos look amazing.

Dynamic Photo HDR (

For example: Pic 1 is the raw shot of the light box. (Please excuse my messy shelf.) Pic 2 is the cropped close-up. Pic 3 is the final result using DPHDR.



Title: Re: Camera information and...
Post by: PlaymoGuardian on March 10, 2021, 14:20:44
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...
Title: Re: Camera information and...
Post by: JLMatterer on March 10, 2021, 14:34:19
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.
Title: Re: Camera information and...
Post by: Tiermann on March 11, 2021, 15:45:19
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)
Title: Re: Camera information and...
Post by: Ismene on March 14, 2021, 09:05:26
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.
Title: Re: Camera information and...
Post by: kaethe on March 19, 2021, 02:36:41
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. 
Title: Re: Camera information and...
Post by: GrahamB on March 19, 2021, 08:16:03
That last point is one I haven't considered before. I can see that would help greatly with checking composition, lighting, focus and camera shake. I must see if I can do that!
Title: Re: Camera information and...
Post by: playmovictorian on March 20, 2021, 03:39:10
I am loving our Friend JL Matterer's masterclass in photography and all the tips  :love:

I personally use a NIKON Coolpix A100 camera, affordable and really easy to use.

I mostly take pictures in natural day light which can be tricky where I live by the Thames but do avoid taking pictures of miniatures and Playmobil in direct sunshine as it obliterates the colours and details.

The autofocus function was a lifesaver for me as I used an old Praktica camera back in the days which did not have one and had me swearing more that I can possibly say even if I still love it to bits  :lol:

Title: Re: Camera information and...
Post by: Bolingbroke on July 30, 2021, 18:13:10
A very interesting thread and a lot of useful suggestions.

Lighting-wise, I think you have to ask yourself what kind of toy photography you are planning to do. I shoot rather large dioramas, and I find that natural light coming in from a window, supplemented by a small Lume Cube or Litra Torch is enough for my most basic needs.

As others have said, a tripod is a must. You can’t go wrong with a mid-price Manfrotto.

Software, I use different kinds of software depending on whether I’m editing on my macbook or ipad (I prefer the ipad these days … much more convenient). My go-to software is Lightroom, but I used Snapseed for years, and that’s free! I also use the touch/retouch app for erasing stands, wires and other things that help with some poses. It’s a very powerful app and I find it’s much better than the clone/heal feature in LR.

Lastly … the camera. I started with an Iphone SE, and looking back, it showed  ;D

Then I started using a Canon mid-price SLR that I had owned for years and never bothered to use much. I learned how to use it properly - exposure, white balance, depth of field and so on - and that really helped me up my game. I’ve outgrown the Canon now, also because I’m moving to a more professional set-up that requires high resolution pictures. As a replacement I splurged on a Leica Q2. Not the most obvious of choices for toy photography, but I’m really happy with the results and also the fact that I can use it for ‘real life’ photography.

Anyway, hope this helps!