Home photography ideas: miniature soldiers fight with light painting!
Watch the video: Home Photography Ideas – Toy Soldiers and Light Painting!
Most of us probably have some old hidden toy figures that would be perfect for a fun project like this. But that’s not just an excuse to pull out some darling toys – it’s also a lesson in the power of mood lighting.
By lighting up a tabletop toy scene with a few torches, we can conjure up a powerful cinematic atmosphere. In this project we will explain how it is done, using long exposure so that we can “paint” with light.
If you are not into the war theme then consider this purely as a lighting exercise. These same tricks could be used to create a Jurassic scene or to bring a Lego landscape to life.
Our finished image here is a composite of several frames. By doing this, we can have as many light painting attempts as we want. We can therefore perfect the lighting and the distribution of smoke in one area, then move on to another.
This involves using Photoshop or your favorite photo editing software to combine frames. It’s easier and faster than you might think, because most of the work is done behind closed doors.
(Before we crack up, we have to say that we used a vape to create our floating smoke effect here. Although we’ve used a nicotine-free liquid, this method won’t be to everyone’s liking – if you’d rather not. use of vape, you could use an alternative like a garment steamer.)
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Establish a miniature war zone
01 Toys and accessories
We built our battlefield with tin soldiers. It helps to have an array of poses to add variety. We also sprinkled soil in the foreground with sticks and then used other props for the backdrop.
02 Stage depth
To give depth to our scene, we placed our characters and sets on three planes – a foreground (the most forward soldiers), a middle plan (distant soldiers) and a background (hills, statue and trees. ).
We’re going to build our image by capturing several different shots, so we need a tripod to keep them aligned. Everything should stay in the same position, so be careful not to push the board or the numbers between shots.
04 Cable release
A cable shutter release allows us to shoot without having to touch the camera. It also means that we can focus on creating the smoke and light it with the torch and then trigger the shutter at the right time.
05 Wide lens
A wide focal length is preferable, as it allows us to create an impression of epic scale – we shot at 24mm. It also exaggerates the perspective, so that objects close to the camera appear larger than those farther away.
We will be painting with light, so make sure the room is kept dark – this will allow us to use longer exposures. So turn off all lights and seal the windows, or try shooting at night. The less ambient light, the better.
Stage an action-packed skirmish
01 silhouettes of frames
Each figure will be in silhouette, so set them aside to create strong shapes. Think about how you are going to separate them from the background and leave room behind each to allow for smoke. This is what our scene looks like through the camera, but with the lights on.
02 Create puffs of smoke
We used a vape to create our smoky effect (filled with a nicotine-free e-liquid). It is best not to inhale, as the vapor is thicker when blown out instantly. Direct the steam behind the numbers, which is what we need for the silhouettes. (If you’d rather not vape, try alternatives like a garment steamer.)
03 Adjust the exposure
With our camera set up on a tripod and the dark room, we set our camera to manual, then use a low ISO of 100 and a narrow aperture of f / 20 to maximize depth of field. We used a five second exposure, but you can experiment with other lengths if you like.
04 Shine the torch
We light our torch in our scene during the long exposure – you can see how the torch moved here, creating the Z at the top. Direct the light towards the stage from behind; we don’t want to light up the characters, but rather the smoke behind them to make silhouettes.
05 Tips for light painting
We paint with light by moving the torch around the scene to illuminate areas during exposure. Results can be unpredictable, which is why we use a tripod and a cable trigger. That way we have multiple chances to inform the plan – we’ll bring them all together later.
06 Flying sparks
To make red flashes of gunshots, we used a red LED, wrapped in duct tape to let in a tiny dot of light. By holding the LED on a character’s weapon barrel and then pulling it sharply, we can create red streaks. It also adds subtle highlights to the figures.
Replenish the battlefield
01 Choose your shots
Open the images in Adobe Bridge. Browse and add a note (Cmd / Ctrl + 1, 2, 3, 4 or 5) to the photos you want to use (omit the red LEDs), then go to the Filter panel (Window> Filter) and click the stars to filter to see your favorite shots.
02 Load into layers
Click the first frame in the sequence, hold down Shift and click the last one to select them all, then go to Tools> Photoshop> Load Files Into Photoshop Layers. This opens all the images in Photoshop in a single document, with each image on a separate layer.
03 Add a black mask
Go to the Layers panel (Window> Layers). Click the eye icon to hide all layers except the last two, then examine the image and decide which areas you want to keep visible on the top layer. Then hold down the Alt key and click the Add Mask icon to hide the entire layer.
04 Paint coating masks
Grab the Paintbrush Tool, set your color to white, then paint to reveal the area you want visible on the layer. Then highlight and reveal the next layer in the stack and repeat the process. Continue until all the separate pieces in the scene have been shuffled.
05 Mix the sparks
Go back to Bridge and highlight the photos of red sparkles, then “Load files into Photoshop layers”. Once done, go to the Layers panel and hold the Shift key between the top and bottom layers. Go to the Blending Mode drop-down menu in the Layers panel and change it to Screen.
06 Copy and reshape
Right-click layers in the Layers panel, then go to Duplicate> Layers. Set the destination on the other image and press OK. Go to the other image and click on the Sparks layers, adding layer masks to hide the areas. You can reshape the sparks using the Fluidity filter.
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