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INTRODUCTION There has been considerable interest from many folk, not only regarding our airport night time lighting effects but also, on how the photos were taken – and how to photograph model planes in general. So, in response to this, here are Mark’s top 10 tips on how to photograph your own models, with examples of the end results we can all achieve. 1. Make a small diorama Every subject looks better in context. With the plethora of freely downloadable buildings and airport ground foils there is really no excuse for you not to build a small diorama to set behind your models. It does not have to be big, and indeed, should not be, as you want it to be easily moved to take advantage of prevailing natural lighting conditions. The diorama below was built in a day, using free resources from the net, and makes a fine, small backdrop for anyone to showcase their models.

If you want to see where you can download all the above elements FOR FREE, then please check out our links on our website: http://federalwayairport.weebly.com/useful-links.html 2. Use a tripod We are dealing with very small subject matter, and the closer you get to your subject, the less light will hit the lens, also you will want to achieve maximum depth-of-field (this is very important). So this means you will be shooting at very SLOW shutter speeds, so ideally, you will need a tripod. Don’t worry if you have not got one, as you can always balance the camera in front of your diorama on a flat surface, although this with limit the angle you can


photograph from. The picture below was shot on a tripod, with MAXIMUM depth-of-field (f32) for a whole 22 seconds!!!

3. Turn the flash off and use natural light Flash is the last thing you will need, as it often over-lights the subject and produces harsh and un-realistic shadows. The best light to use, is God’s own natural light, from the sun. It might be 93 million miles away, but it’s free to use. That said, you are probably best moving your diorama outside on a slightly overcast day, when the shadows are less harsh. The photo below was taken in natural light, with an exposure of 3 seconds.


4. Set your camera to manual exposure In order to maximize the depth-of-field, you need to stop allowing the camera thinking for itself, and start to tell it what to do! If you have an APERTURE PRIORITY setting on your camera, use that. Again, if your camera is not that sophisticated, don’t worry, just try NIGHT, SUNSET or INDOOR PARTY mode (remember to turn the flash off in the latter – that should do the trick), or any other mode as that will force the camera away from those nasty AUTO settings. 5. Use a large depth-of-field (DOF) The secret to getting everything in focus is to use a large depth-of-field(DOF). The DOF is effectively what is in focus from the front to the back of the picture. The photo below has a small DOF (f4)

You can see most (but not all) of the model is focus, but the background is blurred, giving the viewer a sense of depth. The larger the f-stop number, the deeper the depth of field, the smaller the f-stop number, the more shallow the DOF is. The picture below was shot at f32.

6. Use the self-timer As you are shooting at low shutter speeds, camera shake is always a challenge, leading to blurred and disappointing images. If your camera has a self timer, use it. Once you have set up your shot, you can hit the self timer button, then, walk away from the camera and let the camera trigger the shutter on its own, thus avoiding and camera shake or image blur. 7. Find and focus on a subject You’ve spent your hard earned money on the model of your dreams so you’ll want it to be the ‘focal point’ of the picture won’t you? So focus on that first, or, even if your camera does not have MANUAL FOCUS at the very least, ensure that the AUTO FOCUS has been engaged.


Then compose other objects around it – like maybe gates or airport ground vehicles, anything to add a little interest. But don’t clutter the picture – remember MORE IS LESS. The picture below shows the aircraft as the central ‘point of focus’ with little details to augment the scene. Note in the picture below the coach is intentionally out of focus but just adds a little foreground detail.

8. Use perspective Think of yourself as a ‘mini-me’ and try and get down and dirty and mix it up with the action. After all we are trying to create our own little world so we need to see it from our little people’s perspective. Also aircraft on approach, on taxiways or lining up for takeoff are on the move in the real world, so give them space in front of their nose to move into.

9. Paint with light If you are photographing your airport at night, you might want to try to illuminate your subject a little more than the background. This can easily achieved by using a small handheld torch, to illuminate the subject, and let the background take care of itself, as the picture of this Lockheed Galaxy shows.


10. Be prepared to experiment Above all – as with most things in life – it pays to experiment. Unlike in the old days, you can take as many pictures as you like, it does not cost any more to develop one or 100! Probably for every picture in this document there are 10 others in the recycle bin. So go ahead, get your cameras out, whether big or small, expensive or modest and have some fun. The picture below was really an accident – I just got lucky as I forgot to turn the torch off that was lighting the B747 – but then, we make our own luck, don’t we?!

How to Photograph Model Aircraft  

A guide to photographing model aircraft by Mark Thatcher.

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