This is the first of a series of articles dealing with the subject of photographing scale models. They will cover the equipment needed, technical aspects and techniques including post-photography image editing.
The articles are written from the point of view of a modeller wanting to take photographs of their models and so assume the reader is familiar with scale modelling, but unfamiliar with photography. These articles are devoted entirely to digital photography as traditional film photography is becoming increasingly rare and specialist. However, much of the subject matter applies to both types of photography.
This particular article is an introduction to the subject and discusses reasons why so many scale modellers want to take photographs of their models. Other articles can be accessed via the ‘Related Articles’ box on the right of the screen.
Why Do We Photograph Our Models?
Scale modelling is by nature a solitary activity with the vast majority of scale modelling being done by individuals alone in a room. If you are into team sports, then scale modelling will not be high on your list of activities. That does not mean, however, that scale modellers are reclusive and want to hide away.
Carpenters, blacksmiths, sculptors, potters and painters share a great deal in common with scale modellers. Their chosen art or craft is similarly a solitary activity. All these other artists and craftspeople devote their energies to creating objects with the intention of showing them to the public at large. It would seem very strange for an artist to be creating one painting after another only to store them away where nobody can see them.
Go to the home of a potter and you will almost certainly see examples of their work displayed around the house and garden – you may even eat your dinner off them. Go to the home of a musician such as J. Cole and you will more than likely hear one of his albums playing in the background. It is completely normal and natural for any artist to want to display the products of their efforts, both for the pleasure of themselves and others.
Many scale modellers have the desire to display their work, but most probably never put their models on show. There are perhaps several reasons for this. No doubt one reason is practicality. Scale models are extremely delicate and leaving one out on a shelf to be regularly picked up and dusted is likely to lead to damage. Also, there are limited places where a scale model can be shown off and many modellers would only feel comfortable if their models were safe behind glass in a sturdy display case and that is quite an investment.
Another reason why scale models are not often seen on display is the matter of suitability. Nobody would bat an eyelid at a vase of flowers on the table in an entrance hall. But how about a muddy Sherman Tank? That would be considered a little odd and unlikely to match the rest of the room’s decor. Maybe you can get away with putting a model of a race car somewhere in the living room, but let’s face it, the overwhelming majority of scale models have a military connection and are out of place on show in a family home.
Perhaps one other reason is the reaction of the general public to scale modellers. We scale modellers know that our craft involves immense skill, patience and artistic flair, but most folk still think of scale modelling as something kids do on a wet Sunday afternoon and not what a grown man (or woman) should be spending their time on. This is, of course, a completely wrong and unfair attitude. Kids play football, but that does not mean it is something that adults should not take part in – ask David Beckham. In any event, I suspect that scale modelling these days is almost exclusively the preserve of adults.
Nevertheless, because of this attitude, many scale modellers do have a reluctance to broadcast their hobby and so their works of art that have involved hundreds of hours work are consigned to a box in the attic.
Thank heaven for photography
This is where photography comes in. It allows modellers to capture their work in images that they can view themselves (even when the model itself is stored away) and also show off to other modellers.
It is no surprise then that there are numerous Internet sites for modellers which have galleries devoted to photographs of models submitted by their builders. These sites sometimes have literally thousands of models on display in photographs. When you consider the time and trouble it takes to take good photographs of a model and post it to an Internet site, it is a testiment to the desire of modellers to display their work.
There are, in fact, several reasons why a modeller might want to take pictures of their models. The first is to make a permanent record of the model that quite likely will outlast the model itself, since models tend to be quite fragile. The second reason is to show the model to others – particuarly the modelling community. It is a lot easier to send a picture of a model than to transport the model itself – once again they are very fragile. Finally, there may be a desire by a modeller to write articles for magazines or Internet sites. There are a large number of magazines devoted to scale modelling and most of them are always on the look out for interesting, well-written articles supported by good photographs.
For all these reasons, model photography is very popular and photography questions frequently arise in modelling magazines.
So if you are a modeller, who has wanted to take good photographs of your work but not known how, or tried but have been disappointed with the results, move on to article two in this series and all will be revealed.