Jump to content
Model Cars Magazine Forum

Taking pictures of your models

Recommended Posts

Here are some simple tricks for taking realistic pictures of your model cars, trucks and motorcycles, plus some common mistakes to avoid.

Our subject is a cleanly built Corvette constructed by Ismael Gonzalez, which I pulled out of my travel pictures. The picture has good and bad elements so I will point them all out.

Having a cleanly built subject is the first step of course.

The car was photographed in direct sunlight, placed on a piece of light gray cardboard at or about 4.5 to 5 foot above the pavement. Unless you’re being artistic, all pictures should be taken at normal eye-level with regard to the model.

The first picture is the raw image right out of the camera. Note the stark shadows because this was taken on a cloudless day in bright sunshine about noon in Puerto Rico. Normally I would have liked the sun to be behind a cloud to soften the shadow however it matches the shadows of the background so in this case it’s not too bad but not suggested with a lighter color car.


Try to keep your fingers and other “non-scale†elements out of the frame of the camera. Note the edge of the cardboard and the finger within the frame of the picture. Oops! We are going to have to take care of those using Photoshop but if one is aware, that would not be necessary.

Always try to match the color and tone of your base to the street behind to avoid lines. (see arrows)

The last trick or goof, in this case, is to be aware of your reflections!

Taking a picture of the car out in the environment gives us reflections of the trees in the hood and windshield. That is good, but we also get a view of the camera, and my assistants hand holding and bracing the base. That is not good!


In the last picture I have resized the picture, crop'd out superfluous elements and lightly airbrushed the cardboard the same tone as the street thus blending the two. Voile', the car is now sitting on the street! The reflections in the side of the car have also been cleaned up.

Not too bad huh?


Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 2 weeks later...

Here is what I do...and I learned this from a post on another board.

All the parts were put together for under 20 bucks.

Cardboard box

Desk lights

tissue paper

colored thin cardboard


Here is the result...this is just my Sony dig camera with macro mode and no flash. I am able to photoshop it a bit better, but this is the raw results with no photoshop.


Here is the picture I took before the box, taken in indirect sunlight and photoshopped.


Link to post
Share on other sites

In just two short PMs Jairus taught me how to take better pictures then I had been able to teach myself in several years worth of trying...

So much so that with just a little bit of help my photo was able to be used in the Galaxie Limited Ad in Issue #116...


Pre Jairus:


Post Jairus:


And I will never, EVER take a finished photo indoors again...

So, Thanks Jairus!

Link to post
Share on other sites

I wish i'd developed the habit of documenting my work on the really involved models i've done. i'm not into photography that much but do get into serious scratchbuilding and kitbashing and to revisit work i've done it all has to come out of memory. Makes it tough to do the same thing twice.

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 2 months later...

Thanks guys once again i go offline, to get a good night sleep

knowing that out there someone's keeping my scale world safe at night.

(its nigh over here when you guys have bright day)

Theese tips are great!!!!

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 4 years later...

When ever I post pics of a finished model (which hasn't been too often as of late), I see comments not only on the build, but of the photos themselves. There's also been a few threads over the years where folks have asked questions about shooting model car pics, and a few of us answer, but they get buried under new threads fairly quickly. So, here's a quick how-to for the way I shoot pics of my builds. I'm not a professional, and am by no means the final authority on the subject, just sharing what works for me.

First, the camera, a Kodak Z-712is that was a little under $200 a couple years ago:




For desktop shooting, I use a small mini-tripod picked up a few years back. Not strong enough for a DSLR and lens, but works for point and shooters:



My "studio" is dead simple. A piece of semi-gloss white poster taped to the desk and the wall. I use the overhead lighting above my desk which is three recessed PAR20 50w flood lamps.




The camera is set to manual mode (M on the PASM dial), with the flash turned off, macro mode (flower icon) on, ISO 100, white balance set to Auto. The aperture is set to F-8.0 to get the greatest depth of field (more of the subject in focus) possible. From there, I adjust the shutter speed to get the exposure value (EV) to 0. Sometimes I'll set the EV to +3 or -3 depending on how the first shot at 0 looks. For these two shots, the shutter speed was set to .5 sec. Even on a tripod, I always use the camera's self timer to avoid any camera shake. Let's take a look at the results:



It takes a bit of experimentation to find what works for you and your camera, but that's is the beauty of digital, if you don't like the shots, press delete and keep experimenting.


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks for the tips, Brian. I'm going to try some of your settings and see how they work.

I had a real "duh, why didn't I think of that moment" while reading this. I never thought about using the timer to avoid camera shake. I'll use a tripod sometimes but using the timer as well...brilliant B)

Link to post
Share on other sites

Very much like my setup; excellent tutorial. I have a translucent light box and a series of drafting lamps with floodlights, and one spotlight. Because the box has sides, I can move the spotlight around and shine it on pieces of white and black illustration board that I clip to one side or the other to get some good contrast via reflected light into the body sides.

On my camera there's an aperture priority mode to set the aperture to F8. I have two macro modes; super macro goes to 0.0", and I use it pretty frequently. The zoom on the camera also allows me to step back several feet (I have the setup mounted up high and use a standard tripod) and focus in for a more "natural" perspective.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Hey Brian,

Thanks for the tip, I have the EXACT same camera, so the settings you suggested are just exactly what I needed. My pictures never reflect what I built, which I why I never post, I just never got the quality I was looking for, but you opened up the door for me and I thank you.....as I am sure a lot of other people will also.

For what it is worth, I found a little tripod like that on Ebay for $.99 with free shipping, got here in about 10 days and works great. Keep adding tips, look forward to reading more.

How about walking us through posting the final shots, I for one always do better when I see something than when I read about it.

Thanks again Brian.


Link to post
Share on other sites

I consider this a very helpful post for the viewing pleasure of us all. Well done explanation of the basics everyone should know.

I'm amazed at the competence of the current crop of digital snap shooters. Paying a little attention to basics and reading your manual will reap great benefits when doing close ups. As Brian went through, using a small aperture (the f8 mentioned) will do more to get you focus over the whole model. Different cameras use different methods to adjust for closeups, so learn yours and give us some eye candy! :)

Link to post
Share on other sites

Instead of using the camera's timer (I have a Canon PowerShot S-3IS), I connect my camera to a laptop and use the software provided by Canon, make my adjustments via that software, and even snap the picture. I don't have to touch the camera, once it's on the tripod. I also plug the camera into the wall instead of relying on batteries because then it doesn't turn itself off between shots.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Maybe I need a better camera. I have a Kodak EasyShare M753. It has the flower (macro) on it but none of those other settings. Or should I just drive down the road and let you take the pics, Brian?

Link to post
Share on other sites

Great info.....But one question...What benefit does shooting in Manual mode give over aperture priority ? I cannot give you one except it will take more time to shoot. If the meter is telling you what speed to shoot at...it will set it in AP mode...The largest problem is knowing where your camera focuses...read your manual so you can set it correctly. Auto focus works off of contrast...move it a bit, lock focus, recompose and shoot Many current cameras have multi zone focus capibilities...explore them!!

I've shot in AP mode with fill flash for years.....I can AE bracket expose if the scene will fool the meter, rarely with a car but common with a dio...I will pop my grey card ,into the scene...it tells me to bracket.....Which I rarely need on autos

I will still preach to use your flash....outdoors on a sunny day. Why, you ask....its called fill flash, and with todays digital cameras the camera does it all!!

BUT...some will not allow fill in macro mode..(cause the flash head is at the wrong angle and uneven exposure can result.

No more flash meters to set all the lights for ratios needed, just a well lighted image done automatically.

I still love real photography with silver halide, fixed lenses , and manual exposures....That said my digital is so much quicker and easier vs my 35mm or 6x7 cameras...Results....almost the same....really depends on which school you belong to

Link to post
Share on other sites

One thing I'd add is, if your camera has it, that you set a custom white-balance. Usually you enter the mode and take an exposure of a white surface - in this case it would be your backdrop - and just leave it set there. With auto white balance it's constantly shifting based on the average of the colors in the picture, so your background is always a little different shade in each photo. Or find a WB setting that gives you a nice white background and leave it set there. Your lighting setup isn't changing, so you shouldn't need a different WB for each exposure. Auto WB makes your backdrop a different color in each pic.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Great info.....But one question...What benefit does shooting in Manual mode give over aperture priority?

It gives me quick access to the shutter speed and ISO settings. It's just how I roll... :lol:

Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...