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Digital Photography Tips

The final photographs for my F-18 Hornet article were a lesson in patience and experimentation. From previous pictures I had taken and articles I had written, I knew that the photographs of my subjects were really lacking and didn't justify the work that went into them. So, for this F-18 I spent a lot of time experimenting around with different photo techniques and setups. Here's the process I went through.

The camera I use is an Olympus D-460. It's a 1.3 megapixel digital camera with 3x optical and 2x digital zooms. It has the ability to take regular 'through the view finder' pictures or you can put it in macro mode to take close-up shots. It's an older camera and not the best on the market but you can get good pictures with it.

An example of the early indoor photos.

For my first set of pictures I had to do some shopping (a.k.a., do a wife impersonation) and pick up some items for my photo shoot. The first stop was Home Depot (a hardware store here in the states) and pick-up some G.E. Reveal light bulbs. They cost about $2.50 for a four pack so they're not bad. Then I headed over to the electrical area and picked up two clamp-on light fixtures. These fixtures have a clamp on one end for attaching to something (like a chair) and the other has a light socket and a reflector. The fixtures cost $5 each. Next stop was the local craft store, Michael's. Here I was looking for a good sturdy white base that I could use to set the Hornet on while I took pictures. I found what I was looking for in a 30"x20"x1/8" piece of foam board. It was exactly what I was looking for-sturdy, durable, large enough for a model and inexpensive ($2.50). If you don't have one pick-up a piece of white cardboard to use as a background. I had one at home so I didn't pick up one.

About the Author

About Bryan Dewberry (Tin_Can)

My interest in modeling started while watching my dad work late night's on old Star Trek and WWII plane models. I modeled planes for about 3 or 4 years before joining the Navy in 1990 and then took a 12-year break from the hobby before starting back-up again last fall. Man has it changed since I'v...


For those who don't have photoshop ($$$) i recommend a really GREAT shareware digital paint / touch up program that I have used for years. Paintshop Pro.... if you can find and download v3.11 or v3.12, then all you have is a nagware bootup... later versions than that begin to lose features after 30 days unless you register.... but for what we typically do, v3.11 is WONDERFUL... and best of all FREE to use (although i encourage you to register and purchase the product if you find it as nifty as I do!)
MAY 20, 2002 - 01:20 AM
Bryan, If you are looking to make the tarmac better you could make some tire marks on it. If you've ever been to an airport you notice a lot of tire marks everywhere. To do this you could take some black paint a make some lines then rub them in with your finger to make them look worn in. I would try this on a spare sheet of cardboard first because I have never done this before so I don't know if it works. Just an idea. Mark
MAY 21, 2002 - 05:34 AM
Bryan, Thanks a bunch for a great article that was VERY helpful to me!!!!!
MAY 24, 2002 - 08:52 AM
Glad it helped Gene.
MAY 24, 2002 - 08:20 PM
Howdy there! I finally got around to reading your article, and I've got a few questions: 1) I've got Photoshop 4.0 (it's a cop.... er, I'm borrowing it from my brother. Yeah, that it... .heh heh....) I know you can resize the whole image and adjust brightness, and still be able to save the file as JPEG; but, can I select a specific part of the picture, copy it, and paste it as a new picture and be able to save as JPEG? Whenever I try to save the new picture file, I can only save it in .PSD format...(I mean, in a picture of a tank use the selection tool to draw a rectange around the turret, hit 'copy', create a new file, and paste the copied turret into the new, smaller, image) - I hope that makes sense!! #:-) 2) when you photographed you model outside, was the only lighing you used the natural sunlight? 3) when saving JPEG files in Photoshop, I know you can set the picture quality level... 1 thru 10. Is there an easily noticeable difference between, say, level 4 and 7? Thanks! I hope all these questions make sense!!! YodaMan
MAY 30, 2002 - 02:07 AM
Yoda, to answer your questions (although I know nothing of PS 4.0): 1) Instead of using the rectangle tool and then copy/paste to make a new pic just use the 'crop' tool. This allows you to select a portion of a pic and then 'cuts off' the area outside the area you want to keep. Then you can just click save and it will save the file as-is, using the previous file name (i.e. .jpg). I'd be surprised if you couldn't do the copy/paste method you described and save as a .jpg. Theres got to be a way. 2) Yes, the outside shots were using all natural light, i.e. sun. The sun was to my back when I took the photo's and it was around late afternoon. Bright enough to bet the detail but not too dark. After that the pics were run through photoshop using any combination of the following commands: brightness, contrast, auto levels and sharpen. 3) As far as the different numbers when saving as .jpg's, I haven't ever really noticed a big difference in quality unless the original was of very high resolution and detail and you zoom in on the low quality image yousaved it as.
MAY 30, 2002 - 04:58 AM
Mark, your absolutely right. The tarmac I built was a rapid solution to using something other than a white base. I have further plans for that tarmac as far as detail and/or making a new tarmac using the article in the January issue of FSM.
MAY 30, 2002 - 05:00 AM
Another tip on creating tire marks that works great for me is this: I take some rubber aircraft tyres that you find in some kits. I paintbrush them with black paint (Enamel like paints proved to be best). After airbrushing I wait for about two ours and take the painted tyre between two fingers and simulate a "touch and go" on the Tarmac. This leaves marks that are visually close to the real thing. Do so practice on how thick the tyre should be painted for the best result. Good luck and let me know if it works for you too.
MAY 30, 2002 - 05:07 AM
Question. You discuss that you went out and bought GE Reveal bulbs, but all of the pictures show either early indoor shots (under normal light I guess) or outdoor shots. Are there no shots taken with the GE bulbs? Also, in my experience, regular bulbs are typically not enough to sufficiently light a model. Granted, things change when using a digital camera as opposed to a standard SLR, but lighting stays fairly concistant between the two. I personally recommend photo bulbs from a camera shop. More expensive; Yes. More heat; Yes. Burn out quickly; Yes. More wattage; Yes.
AUG 23, 2002 - 01:46 AM
Yoda - when cropping the files your way, you create a new layer, in PS you cannot save as a jpg when you have more than one layer. All you need to do is go "layer-flatten image" then you can save as a jpg again. As for the numbers, these alter the amount of compression applied to the image, and yes, there is a noticeable difference between 4 and 7. But it also depends on what compression setting is applied by the camera at the time you take the photograph. You should always use the highest quality (lowast compression) and the largest files size available.
NOV 13, 2004 - 12:07 PM