In this first of two articles, I'll quickly show you how to create 360º photos for use with our Mini360 feature. These photos can really show off your miniatures like never before, and give followers of your work the next best thing to viewing it in person!
The process can be very simple, but there are a number of tricks that will speed things up and produce first class results.
- I use a standard Canon point and click camera. It's not expensive, but it's plenty good enough.
- A tripod is essential. I bought mine for about £3.50 on eBay.
- A turntable is also essential. Mine is a photographic turntable from eBay (around £69), but it doesn't have to be that expensive. A quick search for "lazy susan" on eBay will find you a perfectly good turntable for under £5. The main thing is it needs to be stable. Don't buy anything too tall!
- You'll want some kind of background or 'sweep'. I've found white is best if you want to edit your photos later, but you might find black brings out the colours in your miniature better. You can buy a large piece of paper very cheaply at any art shop, and this will do the trick.
- You'll probably want some kind of light source. I use a standard desk lamp that has white LEDs to eliminate the yellow hue you might get from light bulbs.
If you don't have convenient markings on your turntable to tell you how far you should be rotating it between photos, you'll need to add some. A simple method is to find the center of the turntable and using a pencil and protractor to divide it into segments as shown on my lazy susan turntable below. Divide it into as many segments as you like. I ended up with 32 as I started by dividing the turntable into quarters, and then just kept halving them. Finally, don't forget to mark a starting point - you don't want go around twice by mistake!
Getting Everything Setup
You don't need a photographic studio to produce good results; I got everything setup on my desk at home. Just make sure the model is dead center and everything is stable (desk / table) and nothing wobbles about. The main enemy of 360° photos is movement in any direction except the rotation of the model itself!
On the subject of unwanted movement, you should minimise camera movement when taking each photo. The simplest way to do this is to set a delay on the shutter. This means you can click the button and take your hand away, letting the camera steady before it takes the shot. If your camera is fancy enough to have a remote control, even better.
There is another option available to owners of Canon cameras, and that is CHDK (Camera Hack Development Kit). This allows you to open up a host of hidden features on your camera, including the ability to remote control it from your computer using PTP (Picture Transfer Protocol). Not only does this eliminate camera wobble, the photos can be sent direct to your computer. It all sounds rather geeky, but if you can get it working you'll save a lot of time when taking photos of miniatures (not just 360° photos) and you'll never look back! Here's a quick screen cast of photos being taken in quick succession directly to the computer:
Once you're happy with your setup, take a few test shots just to make sure you've got enough light, the camera is in the right place and in focus etc. Preparation is everything - you don't want to get half way through your shoot only to realise you're out of focus. It sounds obvious, but be aware that if your miniature is fairly large or long, it'll be closer to the camera at some angles. For this reason it's best to set your camera a reasonable distance away to increase the depth of field.
Taking the Photos
Once everything is setup, it's time to start shooting. MiniWars can generate 360° photos based on up to 36 individual images, but you don't have to use that many. Why not start with 8 or 16? The exact number is up to you, and our system automatically adjusts depending on how many you use.
Set your turntable to its starting point and go! Take your time, don't bash / knock anything, and make sure you know exactly which mark on the turntable you should be taking your next photo at. If you get distracted at any point this point becomes relevant (did I take a photo at this point, or should I be moving on a notch??).
After the first couple of times you'll get into a rhythm and the shoot should take no more than a few minutes.
And that's it! In part 2 I'll be taking you through preparing and uploading the photos to MiniWars.