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How to Take Better Photos of Your Model Car

HOWTO1

You’re done. Finished. The model sitting in front of you is complete after hours, days, weeks and maybe even months of delicate, precise creativity and skill. Now it’s time to show it off and be proud.

The truth is whether you have a simple point-and-shoot, professional higher-end SLR camera with manual settings and an interchangeable lens or just a smart phone, anyone can shoot high-quality photos of their build. It’s easy and does require a bit of practice, but after a few clicks of the shutter- your results will be magazine quality.

Here are a few steps to follow once you pick up that camera.

Shoot on White.
Solid color backgrounds are key. The background behind your model should be free of clutter, loose sprues and opened paint jars, or anything that steers the viewer’s eyes away from your prized build. Don’t just place your car on a table in your kitchen and shoot away, no one wants to see your refrigerator or dirty dishes. Find a blank canvas to shoot on, whether it be a bed sheet draped against the wall, or pieces of foam board attached perpendicular to each other. You want a solid color like a gray or white, to offset your build’s paint. Try finding a cardboard box and creating almost your own “studio,” neatly lining each inside panel of it with a piece of white printer paper. Want to get even more serious? Search on Amazon or eBay for tabletop photo tent boxes.

Don’t Use the Flash.
Unless you have a studio lighting kit with soft bulbs, umbrellas and stands, refrain from using your camera’s flash when shooting photos of your model. Try and shoot in a very well-lit area with lots of open natural light. When the camera’s flash fires it often reflects off certain parts of your build like its decals and wheel. Chances are each window will also become be littered with glare. That artificial flash also distorts your model’s unique color that you just masterfully painted. Keep in mind though, when you don’t use your camera’s flash, you’ll need to keep your shooting position as steady as possible in order to avoid a blurry image. Consider investing in a cheap tripod or place the camera down on a hard surface when shooting, like on top of a book.

Master the ¾ Angle Shot.
The standard shot when shooting both model and 1:1 cars, is the ¾ angle. Don’t be shy though to shoot other angles as you wish, especially if you’re keen on a certain detail. Position the car flat on your solid white or gray background with the nose pointed towards your left shoulder. Line up the car’s A-Pillar (near the windshield) as the center focal point in your camera’s viewfinder. Crouch down a little bit and shoot low and straight-on. If poseable, turn the wheels to the right for a more aggressive stance. You can repeat this ¾ angle shot in many ways, next by pointing the car’s nose towards your right shoulder, or one of its rear bumpers to see your build from behind.

Share Away.
Don't be afraid to spread your photos of your completed model across various social media platforms, like our Facebook page (give us a like!), and of course the Scale Auto Magazine website's online gallery. Our editorial staff and the hobby community love seeing new builds, and your uploads will help spread inspiration far and wide.

Expert Tips:
  • If you have manual "M" mode on your camera and you’re shooting in a bright setting, drop your ISO down to 100 (or lower) and crank your F-Stop up to f/16, f/22, f/27 or higher to broaden that depth of field while at the same time letting in plenty of light.
  • Take more than one image of the same shot. This helps if you don’t have the steadiest hands or your lighting changes for whatever reason. Remember, with digital film you can always delete bad images.
  • Shoot in RAW format or your camera’s highest resolution (megapixels) for the best quality image.
  • Go about your shooting of your model as if you’re taking photos of a 1:1 car on the streets. This opens up a whole door to creativity in your pictures. Try shooting images with your build's hood open or trunk propped. Open up a door to the interior or flip the car over so people can see the detailed underside.
  • Having a bit of an issue with lighting? Trying using a bounce card to direct the light onto certain parts of your build’s exterior, like the grille or darkened engine bay, or into parts of the interior, like to brighten up the dashboard. An easy, cheap bounce card can be made using a piece of cardboard with tin foil attached to the back of it.

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