Thursday 27 June 2013

Photgraphing miniatures part 4 - aperture and depth of field

As I promised in part 3 (gosh, that seems a while ago - Henry's beaten me to the punch with a great article in Miniature Wargames 361 since then!), I'm going to show off some of the compromises you have to work between aperture and other things. The subject is my unfinished 15mm British and German infantry.

Here we go then. Let's start at ISO400 (to handle the artificial light in my workshop). You'll need to click on these to see them at full resolution, or they're all available in a Flickr set.

f2.8, 1/250 sec

Aperture as wide as my 28-75mm zoom will allow, which in the available light gets me a decent 1/250 sec exposure. The lens is zoomed in at 75mm.

Note that the fourth and fifth figure bases in, the point I focussed on, are in focus, and as you move away from that point they become less so.

f/8, 1/50 sec

So, we've closed the aperture by three stops - f/2.8, f4, f5.6, f/8 - and opened the shutter for longer to compensate. It's not quite perfect as I let the camera's automatics do this, and it only actually set the shutter speed two stops faster!

Note that with the smaller aperture, maybe four of the figure bases are now nearly in focus. We're also, at 1/50sec, pushing the limits of what I can shoot handheld - the rule of thumb is for a 50mm lens, 1/50th or more, for a 250mm lens, 1/250 or more, etc etc

f/16 1/13 sec

As you can guess, at this shutter speed, I really had to hold my breath and hold still - we're two f-stops up from f/8, and two stops slower on the shutter speed.

All the bases are pretty much in focus, but it's marred by slight camera shake

No matter. We can fix that.

f/11 1/100 sec.

"Wait? What?" I hear you say.

Simple. ISO 1600! So that's two stops faster film and one stop wider aperture, which means we can speed the shutter up 3 stops to 1/100th. Almost everything's in focus, too, except maybe the frontmost base.


Let's look at closeups:

f/11, ISO 400
f/11, ISO 1600

Regrettably, these aren't perfect. But I think you can see that the ISO1600 shot is a bit noisy compared to the ISO400. You can see it more in the brown edge to the base, which if you look closely has some greenish speckles in it.


  1. Maybe one day I will be able to take better pictures. Thanks for posting this.

  2. Very useful tutorial, thanks very much indeed Mike

  3. Thanks for this, Mike, I always struggle with taking pictures of my miniatures, mostly because I don't take the time that making proper pictures needs.

    But I wonder why you don't let the camera rest on a stand or tripod instead of holding it in your hands?
    (When you have your camera absolutely static, try to take a hdr-picture to avoid the dark shadows on the minis)

    1. Two answers to that :D

      1) I'm often taking photos in a cramped club room where there isn't space for a triped
      2) I was saving that for the next article :D

    2. I was just about to say 'Tripod'... but it has to be said that most of my pictures are taken hand held. If you brace yourself (elbows & arms held tight into the body and hold your breath at the moment you take the picture) I find you can get sharp pictures at very low speeds. It takes practice, but it is possible to get by without a tripod, although this technique obviously has its limitations.

  4. I also want to express my thanks. I've been trying to wrap my head around these concepts in order to take better mini pictures. You've explained it in a way I was able to fully Grok. I think I'll be able to use this knowledge to come up with 'formulas' for my camera that'll work in my most common photo situations.


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