Tourmaline .

Miniature Diorama Photographer

MMM- Photographing Miniatures – Lighting

Part 3 of a 7 part series on photographing miniatures.


PhotographingMiniatures (2)

Ah lighting. What seems so simple, becomes so important in photography.

“A photograph simply records patterns of light, colour, and shade; lighting is all-important in controlling the image.” – Wikipedia Photographic Lighting

And then, when applied to miniature photography, you’re not following and capturing light, you’re creating a lighting environment.

So, when considering your image – take into account whether your scene is inside, outside, night or day. Then, observe that chosen lighting scenario in the world around you.

  1. Take your set outside and get the full benefit of the sun.
    1. Observe the Golden Hour – “In photography, the golden hour (sometimes known as magic hour, especially in cinematography) is a period shortly after sunrise or before sunset during which daylight is redder and softer than when the Sun is higher in the sky.” – Wikipedia
      1. Check out this Golden Hour Calculator:
  2. Photograph using specific light bulbs in an indoor space
    1. Use a light with a bulb that casts a yellow light to emulate the sun indoors
    2. Use an led light to emulate a blue light for a night scene or an indoor scene with cooler tones
    3. Use a fluorescent bulb for a green cast

Observe the world around you.

  • Make sure the way you pose your light doesn’t reflect shadows onto your ‘sky.’ In a real life scenario the sky does not have shadows cast by trees and houses.
  • Look at the way the sun hits houses, trees, light poles etc. Look at the angles at different hours and how contrasted the objects become. Find a look you like and see if you can emulate that in a miniature setting.
WWII (2)

WWII (2)

Dry Summers

Dry Summers

little house ligths on house color

From my ‘Tips from a pro for photographing miniatures’ Undersized Urbanite interview:

 Q: We know natural light is good for photographs, but sometimes we can’t get whole dollhouse outside.  Do you have any advice for getting the best lighting while inside?

A: I love emulating sunlight in my work. Smaller scenes don’t need a light the size of the sun (even though minis do look great in natural light). Get yourself some studio lights with incandescent or halogen bulbs (regular home light bulbs). The incandescent/halogen light has a yellow tint which helps emulate the glow of the sun. You can try fluorescent and LED lights as well but the fluorescent will create a green glow and the LEDs a blue. Those lights can be great for some darker, moodier shots, but if you want cheery sunlight, go with incandescent or halogen.
I have a set up similar to this for my individual scenes. These small lights (about 10″ tall) take these light bulbs. Lights like these do get very hot, so be careful.
While these work great for room sets, you may want to try a larger light for your full dollhouse. A good, less expensive option is a clamp light, typically bought for use in a garage. You can get them at hardware stores, [box stores], etc. Read the label on the one you buy to figure out which wattage is the best choice for bulb to install in it. Choose your wattage based on how bright you want your scene. I suggest 40W over 60, in that really bright bulbs can sometimes blow out your photograph. If you have a desk lamp handy, try that out too.
Remember, the sun is just 1 light source. While you may get better light coverage with multiple lights, when emulating the sun, go for just 1 light, high up above your dollhouse. It’s okay to have some shadow in there. Go outside and look at how the light falls on your real life-size house. Pay attention to where the light falls and where it falls into shadow. See if you can create that effect inside with your light and dollhouse.

Some of you may have seen the images of the 1950s miniature town and cars shot outside that have been floating around facebook for quite some time. Those images are by Michael Paul Smith and are great examples of shooting outside with natural light.

The lighting you use can greatly effect the mood of your image. An eerie image is going to be darker, possible with green or blue casts. A calmer, more inviting image will have warmer, brighter tones.

Color symbolism, plays a role in lighting scenarios as well.

Check out this great tutorial on ‘8 Magical Methods for Adding Mood to Your Photos.’

Halloween: Ghosts

Halloween: Ghosts

Routine: Shop

Routine: Shop




Questions? Leave a comment below.

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