Tourmaline .

Miniature Diorama Photographer

MMM- Photographing Miniatures – Setting the Scene

Part 2 of a 7 part series on photographing miniatures.


PhotographingMiniatures (1)

This part may seem simple, but first you have to visualize just what it is you want to create. What do you want to depict? What emotion do you want to portray? What subject matter should be the focus of your shot?

Sketch out your scene if that’s your thing, write out your ideas, really plan this thing through all the way.

Then ask yourself, why miniatures? While my passion in photography obviously surrounds that of depictions in miniature, to be quite frank, certain images are better in real life scale. If you love taking pictures of flowers because of their texture, or portraits because of the wide range of emotions one can depict in a face, tiny representations of such things may not be your thing. I personally, find miniatures to be quite effective in depicting the emotions/ aesthetics I aim for – isolation, simplistic utopian-esque scenes, grand macro illusions, various emotions through lighting, etc. You may just have a bunch of miniatures, enjoy moving them about, or feel they’re adorable and that’s why you want to shoot them – and that is completely okay. All I’m saying is have a reason, so that you can then make photographs that depict that reason.

Now comes time to gather your material. For an outdoor scene, think terrain, sky, nature. For an indoor scene – flooring, walls, furniture. Then of course whatever you intend to be the main subject of your image. Check out the ‘Miniature Resources’ link at the bottom of this post for ideas on where to source miniature items.


Routine: Pee

A miniature scene doesn’t have to cost you big bucks – gather cardboard, scrapbook paper and household items to build your own scene – cut trees from paper, use office supplies for furniture. Channel your inner child and think of the little things you used to collect for your dolls or action figures to use. Those things can work here as well.

Check out this youtube channel for ideas for interior miniature items made from everyday things.

Observe your surroundings. This sounds simple, but I mean it. When you look outside at a house in the distance, you don’t then see the horizon line directly behind it – there’s most likely something further in the distance blocking your view of the horizon line. Compare these 2 images:


Each of the above features a road with a similar perspective. However, the second image darkens so much in the background that the viewer is left to assume that the road continues on in the distance. In the first image, the road abruptly cuts off at the sky. The viewer wants to assume the road continues, but what a strange angle for a road that would be.

To accomplish an effective exterior background, you either need to force the viewer’s perspective, use blur, or lighting, or plan in advance, before the shooting and editing phase.

To do the latter, either place objects in the background of your image, such as trees, that cut off our view of the distance, or make your scene stretch far enough away from your subject that you will be able to blur out the background effectively enough that it appears there may be objects in the distance.

Don’t do this:

N scale house under construction $4

Try for something more like this (note the sky is the same sheet of paper in each of these images):

WWII: 1 (2011)

Not sure how to cut off the background of your exterior scene? Go for a hill or a mountain, or even a stage. Raise your subject up in the air, and a horizon line won’t be a problem.

For gorgeous exterior miniature scenes, see Matthew Albanese’ work here:

For interior scenes, see Lori Nix’ work here:

Further, do your best to build your scene to scale. While too large of items in a scene can create an interesting effect, only do so intentionally. To make a scene believable – one where, yes after observation, we can tell is in miniature, but upon first glance appears to be something from the everyday – it needs to be cohesive.

For perfect examples of successful, purposeful mismatched scale – check out Mark Crummet’s work here:

An intentional use of mis-matched scale:

You don’t have to use miniatures for literal scenes either – they can work for casting shadows, blurs or abstractions, or just something more whimsical.





Wherever your tastes fall within the spectrum or art and photography, you can accomplish with miniatures, you just have to experiment to find your niche.

I’ll leave you with this for now, as we’ll dive deeper into the subject with lighting the scene next week.

UPDATE (Video part 1 (part 2 and 3 in future MMM posts) added to this post 6/12/16)

Questions? Leave a comment below.

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