Lego Site of the Week #199
Photographing lego models is not easy.
For starters, the pieces are shiny and colors such as black are very difficult
to develop. In the following series of tutorials, I demonstrate the techniques
I use to photograph my lego models and edit the resulting images. The most important
thing is to try to start with as good an image as possible. Good lighting and
a good camera are very important.
Many of the images I see on the web were taken with a Mavica by someone who doesn't know what they are doing. There is nothing fundamentally wrong with a Mavica. They take decent pictures, but you have to understand that any camera that can get 40 images on a floppy disk is definately sacrificing quality for image size. If you have a camera like this, you can still get good pictures by increasing the quality and reducing the number of images per disk.
The typical single raw image that I take with my Nikon Coolpix is 2048x1360 pixels and is between 800K and 1.1 Megabytes. This gives me the image quality that I need to produce good images. The two comparisons below show how important camera image quality is. Both pictures are in similar lighting conditions (natural light coming through a screen door). Both photographs are JPEG compressed with a compression value of 90. Note that there appears to be white noise in the full resolution inset of the Nikon. This is not noise. It is dust that the camera is picking up. (If you want a non-lego example of how good the macro mode is, click here. It's a picture of a friend's wedding ring. You can see every speck of dust and lint.)
700 Digital camera 1.5 Megapixel camera (normal quality)
Image above is reduced roughly 35% from actual size. Inset shows full resolution of image.
Coolpix 990 3.3 Megapixel camera (fine quality).
Image above is reduced 19.5% from actual size. Inset shows full resolution of image.
So start out with as good a camera as you can get. Use natural (outdoor) lighting when ever possible. You will get much better images. Try to keep you camera as still as you can when taking a shot. If you don't have a tripod (which I don't), steady yourself as best as you can, and use the timer on your camera so the shutter button press does not jar the camera.
The following tutorial pages show how to do things like remove the background of your images, add decals, and perform special effects.
Tutorial 1- Removing the background of an image
In this tutorial, we will learn basic color-correcting techniques and see how to use the QuickMask tool to remove the background of an image.
Tutorial 2- Complex background image removal
In this tutorial, we will look at a more difficult case where simple background removal is not sufficient. In this tutorial, we also explore image straightening, and cloning to fix errors in the image.
Tutorial 3- Background removal and special effects
In this tutorial, we will learn a more advanced technique for background removal and replacement using the pen tool. This methodology is better when the image is cleaner and has fewer curved surfaces.
We also will learn how to add special effects to our image such as lighting enhancement and environmental effects.
Tutorial 4- Digital Decals
In this tutorial we will create and apply a digital decal to a building. We use lighting enhancement effects to make the decal appear to be a neon sign.