What’s up, everyone!? It’s Nick Twist here, aka @toysnfigures on Gemr. Today I’m going to discuss the best ways to photograph your action figures, collectibles, records, antiques — you name it, you can photograph it!
Let me preface this by saying that I’m a collector, just like all of you. I’m not a professional photographer and I don’t have any high-end professional equipment at my disposal. My goal was to create a photography environment on a minimal budget that gets the job done to, what I consider, brilliant performance. I’m going to list the techniques and products I use to photograph my personal collection and also touch on some products available that can assist in figure and collectible photography!
How do I BEGIN!?
This is a very branching question: “how should I approach photo documenting my collectibles?” Well, there are a few ways to go about this, so let’s dive in!
I said before that I’m no professional photographer, but I do know professionals in the field that I’ve asked for advice from. The one thing I’d say that is of utmost importance (if it’s not already glaringly evident) is lighting. Good lighting is a staple in photography of all mediums. I have a friend that does professional set lighting, and I’ve learned so much from her in what works and why. Here’s the thing: adjustable, soft lighting and direct lighting are both wild beasts. They both need TLC (not the 90s trio) to be done correctly. I find that soft LED lighting has been my best friend going forward outside of a lightbox scene.
They have 3 levels of brightness, clips, a soft brightness overlay AND are rechargeable. The best part? I got 3 on Amazon for only $9.99 each, and they are wonderful! They don’t HAVE to be clipped onto a surface to use, and the fact they are rechargeable is fantastic. Some of you might say “$30 is kind of a pricey investment,” but I say you gotta invest in some form, so lighting is the way to go. These are actually very inexpensive for what they offer. Soft lighting is essential to avoid harsh highlights, and these lights have a built-in softness filter.
I got the lights, now what?
Now is the fun stuff! Time to take pictures! The goal is to take photos with minimal shadows and clean backgrounds. The LED lights I chose have 3 levels of brightness on top of the clips, which makes them indispecible. Set your lights up to eliminate as much shadow as possible (unless you want dramatic shadows for a particular effect). Let me give some examples:
Though some shadows are still present, the figure on the right is highlighted properly using the right kind of lighting. Try setting up your lighting by moving the lights around to achieve the look you want. Personally, I like a clean background most of the time to give primary focus to the figure. If you’re going to create a scene or diorama for your figure, the lights I recommended can help create a well-lit solution to capturing what you desire. There are ways to create lighting effects using colored cellophane, but that’s a subject for more advanced lighting techniques.
Light boxes are great if you don’t have an uncluttered area for photography. They diffuse the light source you use to make it more ambient and soften shadows. The one I have for larger figures that don’t fit right on my usual photography shelf is 24” x 24” inches. It’s collapsible for easy storage and the LED lights I have clip on nicely to the metal frame, allowing me to place it anywhere. Click here to get one off of Amazon.
Of course, they also sell other kits that come with lights, but I found them to be more expensive than buying the lighting and lightbox separately. I’m sure it’s safe to say that pricing fluctuates and you may find it cheaper to buy the full light box kit elsewhere instead of Amazon (it’s less expensive there as of this writing). Having a few different colored backdrops is nice to accentuate and compliment the figure or collectible you are photographing.
I hope this was a useful set of tips and tools to help get your figures and collectibles photographed nicely on a minimal budget. I look forward to seeing all of your photos on Gemr and can’t wait to see what you all collect next!