Miniature Photography Setup & Tutorial

Hello painters of the Dark Lands. Amidst recent prodding to do the thing I was virtually bullied into starting this thread. I am by no means a photography expert which will no doubt show here but maybe that gives folks encouragement that it doesn’t take much to get your Golden Hat entries in ship shape. As many lament, photos can be the most difficult part of entering the contests. We all create lovely models on this forum, it’s time to show them off properly!

To start this will mainly focus on the black backdrop style I use but I would strongly encourage anyone to add lessons learned in photography and/or share their setups in this thread to collect our knowledge here.

Here is a simple cardboard box with one side cut out to let in ceiling ambient light. Two of the flaps have also had windows cut in them. Those side windows were covered with white tissue paper ideally with as few wrinkles or creases as possible. This helps diffuse the light from my crappy lamps. I’m sure better lamps/bulbs would be… better?

For a while I just had black construction paper in the box for backdrop. It works okay, but could be better. Results look like the below image. You could certainly stop here for the dirt cheap easy setup.

Upgrade your setup by becoming an apprentice to the Sith Lord, Darth Backdrop. @MichaelX turned to the dark side first and convinced me quickly with the results he was getting. Even in this picture you can see the difference between black paper and black cloth. Green Stuff World has a few different sizes but I went with the XL MAXX DARTH. If anyone has any alternative sellers of a similar product please link them in here! GSW also has :two::deer: full lightbox solutions but like… just… grab a box… and… some lights… Hopefully the pictures below will at least justify the cloth purchase compared to sad doot Squidward above.

We all know the primary purpose of a phone is for taking pictures of your minis. Camera experts say that better cameras would be better but you can get okay results with a phone. I have a dumb tripod to eliminate hand shaking that I admittedly skip sometimes when I want a specific angle. Also, I tend to add a 3 second timer so the pictures are delayed from the movement of pressing the button. Small tip, minimal extra effort. Does it help? Probably?

Now that I’ve wasted your time and money for something that still looks meh like the below, let’s try to actually black out.

It’s amazing how much dust impacts the result. To maintain your cloth, buy lint rollers and don’t leave the cloth in the open collecting dust for long periods whilst you’re just fosching your pile of shame and not doing any BATG. Also don’t fold your cloth when storing, roll instead so it doesn’t develop creases.

Try to position your mini a good bit away from the back of the backdrop. The backdrop, should be the background, in the back. Play with this depending on the size of the mini, the size of your box, and which cloth you buy. The XL cloth gives you more flexibility to move your mini around. I’m sure trial and error was exactly the advice you were looking for to really speedrun your way to the Golden Hat Hall of Fame.

Play with these factors to get a good result that keeps most of the mini in focus while getting a nice blackground. Take a lot of pictures and write down what you did that worked for you.

  • Drag those exposure settings down.
  • You don’t need to put the camera too close to the mini.
  • You don’t need to zoom in too much, cropping after the fact is okay.

As I said, please add any of your experiences taking photos of your collection. Camera advice for pros? Tips for white backgrounds? Post processing tips? Any other purchasable solutions?

Here’s a before and after Darth Cloth comparison.


Great starting point @Reaver, that absolutely covers the basics.

Ill add some of my own thoughts and tips later, so this is also (hopefully) a placeholder for that.

Ackshually @Loidrial was first, i copied him and you copied us! Does that mean we should fight it out until there are only 2 left, and than have a battle for who is master and who is apprentice?

STEP 1.1: The Void
For bulky objects, or if you don’t have a dark box, there’s a budget-friendly photogrammetry trick called “shooting into the void.” Here’s how:

  1. Black Paper Background: Drape a black sheet of paper over the edge of a table, creating a void behind it. This eliminates background distractions.
  2. Darkness is Key: Dim the room as much as possible. Ideally, work at night to minimize ambient light.
  3. Replicate Step 1 Setup: Position the model on the black paper, similar to how you placed it in the light box (if you used one). The light should fall at an angle on the model.
  4. Frame the Model: Place your camera on the table, ensuring the frame captures only the model and a small border of the black paper. You might need to adjust camera settings for optimal results.

The outcome? With some tweaking, you should achieve results comparable to using a light box.

STEP 3.1: Camera settings
Ready to take control of your photogrammetry results? Let’s dive into some key camera settings!

These settings are common on most DSLRs, mirrorless cameras, and even some compact cameras (often hidden in a “pro mode”).

  • Mastering ISO: Imagine ISO as a volume knob for your camera’s sensor. Lower ISO means less sensitivity to light, but also less grain (like static on a TV). Higher-end cameras can handle higher ISO without the graininess. However, for photogrammetry, we generally want to keep ISO low for crisp images.
  • Freezing the Moment: Shutter speed determines how long your camera’s “eye” stays open, capturing light. We want the model to be brightly lit, so aim for the fastest shutter speed that still achieves this.
  • Sharpening Your Focus: Depth of field controls which parts of your photo appear sharp. Too narrow, and your model gets blurry edges. Too wide, and the background creeps in. The sweet spot? Just enough depth to cover the entire model, blurring out any background clutter (like the light box, cloth, or void). This magic is controlled by your camera’s aperture, often displayed as an f-stop number (e.g., f/2.3).

Here’s the trick: Higher f-stops mean a narrower aperture opening, resulting in a deeper depth of field (everything sharp). Conversely, a wider aperture (lower f-stop) creates a shallow depth of field (only the foreground is sharp).

Finding the perfect settings depends on your camera, setup, and the specific miniature you’re capturing. Experiment and have fun!

As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words…


Glad to know it worked and people kept doing better and better xD
I’m waiting exactly now to receive next week a new darth cloth and the max darth paint to make extreme deep black flat surfaces
Bravi guys, great work going on as usual with our standards



excellent advice. one shows more of the golds and bronzes and even greens, the other makes the whole model exist in a vaccum so it pops as a whole

Excellent guide.

A trick I’ve found relevant is when you tap the screen you can pick a focal point and then swipe up or down to increase/decrease exposure and get brighter/darker pictures as a result.

A problem I’ve found with my newest phone camera is that the resolution is so high, uncropped pictures come through at a larger filesize than this forum can handle. It’s worth messing around with zoomed-out pictures and cropping to cut the filesize down!

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Also, if you do this you have to re set it every time you take a pic and takes time and inconsistency will be a factor.
Switch the photo app to PRO mode (or whatever an iPhone will have) and lower the exposition value EV
That will make wonders, depends on what you are looking for (especially with such blacker black bg) just a few notches will be enough
I usually go from -0.7 to -1.3 range depends on wtf goes on my table and living room


updated my post with 2 additions. @Reaver, feel free to curate them into the main thread for clarity if desired, and remove it from my reply.

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Even phones without pro mode sometimes have a setting to preserve exposure settings which may help.

Great additions all! Keep it going!

I have found a solution and it is that I can just not upload the Original file size. Uploading “Large” brings the file size down below 1mb.

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