Learn How To Make Quality, Scratch-Built Dioramas

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Photographing Your Dioramas For Magazines, etc.

Diorama Studded WallsYou can also photograph your dioramas for magazine articles, if done properly they can look so life like that people won’t believe that the photo is something you actually scratch built by hand. I would normally address this about photographing later on but some of you may want to photograph the process while you are building your diorama, so I thought I would do it now.

You’ve spent hours perfecting your diorama but the pictures you take do not do it justice. When you look at it the buildings are correctly scaled, figures look real, and the detail is so realistic you feel like you could be in the scene yourself. But the pictures you take make the building look fake or made of cheap plastic and unrealistic.

Diorama Shadows

There are three types of pictures you can take: showing the whole diorama, showing a perspective of the diorama without the intrusion of peripherals (room walls, etc.), and cropped close ups of the detail. The most realistic is the perspective shot which shows nothing but the diorama. In order to do this properly, you must cut off some portion of the scene.

Assuming the diorama is on a table or propped up, position your camera on a sturdy tripod a few inches above the nearest corner so as not to include the sides of the diorama. Set the lens manually at the smallest F stop. Set the camera at aperture priority (A) so that the exposure will be automatic. A point and shoot camera can be used but do not use the flash. Make sure the top of the picture includes only the background and none of the room walls. If a background is not a part of your diorama, buy something that looks like the sky and place it behind the diorama as close as possible.

The flash on the camera is not a good source of light for this type of picture, what is needed is a point source of light like a 150 watt clear incandescent bulb. Place the source as far as possible from the diorama, ideally eight times the width of the diorama and about thirty degrees above the level surface and to the side. The photograph must be made in a shuttered dark room or at night so that the only source of light is the bulb. There will be enough scattered light in the room to light up the shadows sufficiently. If the bulb source is close to the wall or ceiling, cover the areas near the bulb with black cardboard so that there will be no reflected light from around the bulb.

The purpose of this configuration is to provide normal looking, sharp shadows in your diorama picture that will simulate sunshine. Experiment with different angles & lighting positions, the lower you can get to theDiorama Under Street Light diorama the more realistic the picture. Overhead shots look like shots taken from an airplane or helicopter while low angle shots simulate a raised but ground level perspective. Have fun with your pictures & send them to all your collecting friends, make them jealous of what you just created from scratch, they may even want to hire you to build something for them.