2010 is the year when I got my first DSLR. I was no stranger to neither digital photography nor professional cameras at this point in my life, and adding a tool for me to express myself without having to get my hands dirty was something I had yearned for a few years. My first year of photography was great in that I spent a great amount of time walking throughout the city and documenting the city I lived in to my friends and family back home. It was great, it was fantastic!
Winter came at the end of 2010 and I found myself unable to take a lot of pictures, mostly because I did not know what to take pictures of, but also because I just did not feel like walking in the snow to take pictures of white things. I also did not know how to deal with low light at this point, so there was not much for me to take pictures of, or so I thought. Winter ended as did my school life, and I was soon immersed in my new job as a tester in a videogame company. Entire days went into my newfound love for work, and soon it was winter again with very little pictures taken by me… except this time around I had a plan.
I remember it well: It was a Miku Hatsune figurine I had purchased on sale a few months prior, which was set to arrive to me right as the first snowstorms hit the city. I unpacked it, positioned it as well as I could, and then took a few dozen pictures of it.
My setup, not very smartly arranged:
- Camera in full auto, minus flash
- Two light sources, one from above and another one from the side.
I was hooked! At the time I did not have neither the knowledge nor the equipment to actually take pictures of figures, as I mostly tried to get these done with a fairly inadequate lens and with no flash, but with an entire winter ahead of me and not as much work as I had had the previous summer, I had no time to waste. I googled how others did it, and experimented a bit with my own. This eventually led to me building a gigantic box with several lightsources and no flash which led to more uniformly lit pictures. Soon all of my pictures started looking very very bright. The setup:
- Gigantic cardboard box painted white
- 3 light sources
- A thousand different manual settings for aperture and shutter speed
Around this time setting a figure up for a shoot, which is something I started doing in order to write consumer reviews for them, took me anything between an hour or two to get done. Around this time I started getting into portrait photography, which led me to get a flash unit for my camera — something that changed the way I took figure pictures forever. At this point, my setup got considerably smaller:
- Flash pointed above subject
- Color backdrops
Once again, having very little idea what I was doing, I snapped again and again until I got a look that I liked and that was well received for the audience I was writing for. Long gone were the days where I prepared pictures extensively, and instead I was now spending more time actually writing about the figures I was taking pictures of. Picture editing started to be more about hitting the right tones and much less about correcting errors in the picture (something that is not necessarily true about this picture as I had to remove a lot of ghosts out of the red background). Summer graced the city with its presence around this point, and then I became that guy who takes pictures of toys in the middle of the street. Full setup:
- 40 mm macro or 50 mm prime lens
- Aperture at 1.8 or 3.2 max
- No flash
- No tripod
Natural lighting with a very large aperture proved to be my secret weapon when I was bored and had nothing to take pictures of — other than the city that I had already been photologging for years prior. It was around this point that I started carrying my camera with me wherever I went, if only to take pictures of backgrounds and to pose my figures in places where they seemed to be at home, somewhat. The sudden injection of creativity led me to getting a bit less experimental with the pictures that I took, and more textbook smart. Enter color theory and better lighting,
- Extensive usage of complementary colors/backgrounds depending on the figure
- Macro lens; properly used
- Flash bouncing off of something instead of irradiating the figure
This was one of the last figures I actually reviewed before I stopped purchasing or receiving them as gifts altogether, as I quickly went from having half a day to myself to set a shoot up to having no time at all to do reviews altogether. It was also around this time that I started using the setup I typically use to take pictures of anything small, which is basically:
- Get rid of tripod.
- Shutter speed around 1/125
- Aperture around 5,6
- Low ISO
- Flash pointing towards the back of the room
My process was then reduced to 10 minutes from taking the picture to transferring, editing, and uploading to this:
It was at this point that I was taking very little pictures of figures and more pictures of people.
Looking back at picture photography as a hobby, it pretty much defined the way I take pictures in how my backgrounds are chosen, the color grading and contrast that I use, and how my subjects are typically arranged in my pictures.
Nowadays, as my instagram followers might notice, I rarely ever take pictures of plastic. Every now and then I will take a picture of something small and think, this thing has so much detail and remind myself that if something small is greatly detailed… something large is even much more detailed.