Using a Light Box

A new toy arrived today! I’ve been struggling to take decent pictures of miniatures for a long time and I finally ordered a light box to see if it would help.  I browsed through the cheapest options on Amazon and picked out the product with the highest reviews.  I ended up ordering an ESDDI 16′ box that is designed for taking pictures of jewelry. The standard size is 24″ for most of the boxes I saw on Amazon but I figured this would work for miniatures and even a 24″ box wouldn’t really work for a fully rigged ship. Maybe I’ll regret getting the smaller size but I hope it will be fine.

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It arrived this week and I got it setup to try out last night. It does feel pretty cheap but for $30 I still feel I’ll get plenty of value out of it. The packaged comes with the box, 4 colored backgrounds (velvety cloth), two LED lights on little stands, and a little tripod designed to hold your phone camera. The box folds flat and uses Velcro to hold it’s shape when assembled.

I set it up and did a quick picture shoot using my iPhone 8 Plus as my camera.

Artillery Crew

I took a couple pictures with each of the four colored backgrounds just to see how they look. All four colors worked fairly well but I think blue and black worked the best for me. With some adjustment of the exposure, I was able to make the background basically disappear while using black.

Soldados. Viva Espana!

 

I don’t think the browns came across very accurately here.

The white background made the shadows more prominent but probably produced fairly accurate color readings.

I find the shadows a little distracting with the white background.

The blue is a little more interesting than black and it doesn’t make the shadows as prominent as the white. I think it really sets off colors.

It would be a challenge to get a photo of a group larger than these 5 cavalry in the space available in a 16″ box.

Some cropping is necessary to make the photos look balanced. I also found that I needed to place a large book under the background cloth on the bottom of the box to bring the mini up level with the tripods used for the camera and lights. The photo of the cavalry above didn’t use that booster book and you can see the angle is fairly high. The French officer below is standing on a nice thick study Bible which improves the angle in my opinion.

My only painted French model. I have two French starter boxes waiting for my attention!

 

When using the black background, I found the auto exposure on the iPhone would constantly want to overexpose the image. You can control the exposure by locking the focus and sliding your finger up and down to adjust that exposure level. The camera app would return to auto exposure after every photo so I switched from the basic camera function to an app called ProCamera which lets you set your exposure level and lock it so you don’t have to adjust it for every shot.

This might be a little underexposed, but the black really makes the mini “pop.”

I thought red would be terrible for my purposes, but I was pleasantly surprised by the results.

Osvaldo Torres, my current commander I’m taking through a campaign (as found in No Peace Beyond the Line).

A photo box certainly isn’t necessary but if you’re a little vain (like myself) or you plan to do some content creation like a painting guide or regular blog posts and you want your minis to look their best, it might be a useful tool for you.

I briefly considered buying a nicer camera to take photos as well, but I’m pretty happy with these results with my phone camera. I already paid for my phone and a $30 light box is easier on the budget when compared to a “real” camera.

You can find the product I’m using here if you’re interested.

Do you have any tips or tricks for getting good pictures of your finished miniatures?

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