Photographers -- Tips and tricks?

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jchunick
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Re: Photographers -- Tips and tricks?

Post by jchunick » Thu Feb 18, 2016 2:29 pm

Law wrote:...
CBS really is a game changer. It lends itself to much larger layouts, it tends to involve layouts which are comprised of a greater variety of elements (as opposed to just a bunch of walls and doors) and even photographing it may require adjustments on the fly (dismantling something that's either blocking a shot or that's occupying space you need to position the camera). Really phenomenal product, but on a much larger scale than anything DF has done before.
I agree, it is definitely a game-changer.... and I've had to dismantle several walls and the like while shooting some perspective pictures for the Tapestry of Deceit module.
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Re: Photographers -- Tips and tricks?

Post by lostpict » Thu Feb 18, 2016 2:14 pm

As someone that takes adequate photos mostly using my cell phone, here is what I do. For gaming, I always start by taking an overall or overhead shots to establish scale, relative position, and help jog my memory latter. I then take low angle photos and always try to include minis and clutter for scale and interest. For these types of photos, I was advised years ago to divide your view finder into 9 sections (tic-tac-toe) and place the primary human or mini subject in either the left or the right column and either the top or the bottom row with the terrain centered in the frame. A friend of mini uses a digital SLR and has a tiny tripod (2 inches tall) that he uses to give street-level views. I find that most of my photos lack the depth of field and focus I would prefer, but I am usually aiming to show the tactical situation or some simple gaming terrain trick to other interested folks.

When I really need a nice photo of my minis or a game, my best tip is to beg the wife to use her cameras and expertise. :D

OBTW, in my professional life as an engineer I have taken hundreds of thousands of polaroid, film, and now digital photos where you basically center the object and take scores of pictures with varying lighting, aperture, and F-stop to get the one perfect picture that shows the technical detail. I am very good at this, but it sure is boring compared to candid mini shots.
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Re: Photographers -- Tips and tricks?

Post by Law » Thu Feb 18, 2016 2:10 pm

All great suggestions. I had originally considered using a backdrop, but that proved unworkable because most only look good from straight on (i.e. level with the backdrop as opposed to slightly below or above it). I like the idea of shopping one in.

The use of a generally lower perspective is good. I've tried to do that where possible, and it has the added advantage of producing really cool "you are there!" shots for cities. It has the disadvantage of hiding some aspects of a layout (collapsing distances and making unclear exactly where buildings are in relation to one another). It also means that figures on balconies or battlements pretty much vanish. But there's no reason EVERY shot has to be taken that way. It may end up my preferred method. Then it's just a matter of practical challenges -- it's almost always possible to photograph any area of a layout from above, but to get lower angles you will have parts of the layout itself in your way.

CBS really is a game changer. It lends itself to much larger layouts, it tends to involve layouts which are comprised of a greater variety of elements (as opposed to just a bunch of walls and doors) and even photographing it may require adjustments on the fly (dismantling something that's either blocking a shot or that's occupying space you need to position the camera). Really phenomenal product, but on a much larger scale than anything DF has done before.

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Re: Photographers -- Tips and tricks?

Post by Vegomatic » Thu Feb 18, 2016 1:55 pm

I would recommend you take the perspective of a person on the street, or in a building observing the scene. The only up high shots are those from the perspective of a tower window/balcony or to shoot a photo of the layout.

So, as mentioned, lower your perspective... maybe shots "over the shoulder" of minis.

Shoot horizontally and maybe angled upward when possible.

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Re: Photographers -- Tips and tricks?

Post by jchunick » Thu Feb 18, 2016 1:48 pm

Mydienon wrote:I'm not a photographer, but I wonder if having city walls would provide a suitable frame?

If one or two edges of the city on the table have walls (with towers, gates, etc.) they would frame the interior buildings, and the walls would be a logical end for any streets. They might also provide a good backdrop for photographs, as long as the walls are behind whatever buildings you're photographing.
In that same line of thinking I've been imagining having a backdrop that I could Photoshop into a pic I've taken (or use a practical printed background during photographing)... there are angle and perspective issues, but I still think this might be do-able.
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Re: Photographers -- Tips and tricks?

Post by Mydienon » Thu Feb 18, 2016 1:36 pm

I'm not a photographer, but I wonder if having city walls would provide a suitable frame?

If one or two edges of the city on the table have walls (with towers, gates, etc.) they would frame the interior buildings, and the walls would be a logical end for any streets. They might also provide a good backdrop for photographs, as long as the walls are behind whatever buildings you're photographing.

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Re: Photographers -- Tips and tricks?

Post by pacarat » Thu Feb 18, 2016 1:01 pm

some things to think about there...

maybe lower shot angles, and half buildings (think model RR layouts)?

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Photographers -- Tips and tricks?

Post by Law » Thu Feb 18, 2016 11:46 am

I'm curious -- so many people here are great at taking photos of DF in use, I'd like to hear what people have to say about what they find works for them, what challenges they've met, and so on.

I'll note a few things I've been working out as I experiment with CBS.

First, I've noticed that the very concept of a city is a little trickier to photograph because it's essentially an inversion of the standard "diorama frame" normally used. In what I'm calling the "diorama frame" you have a central focal point, the so-called "vanishing point" of perspective, and then framing that focal point you have images which recede as they grow closer to the center. The center of the picture is farthest away from the viewer, and the "frame" (the top, bottom, and sides of the image) are seen as closer to the viewer. Think of the shape of a regular corner piece in KS1 -- place at an angle and photograph a miniature standing on the piece, the camera will capture an image that fits perfectly with your normal perspective -- the corner behind the figure is farthest away, and the walls on either side grow closer to the viewer as they reach the extreme left and right of the pic.

That's how a basic stage works, or a set for a movie or television show. You put walls and floors in place, to create a backdrop frame for the action at center stage. The background frame captures and holds the image at the center.

Now think about photographing a building. You can photograph it from straight on one side, reducing it to one wall and two dimensions. That's dull. If you want to capture the building in three dimensions, you face it from an oblique angle and capture two sides at once, and perhaps the roof as well. Now compare that with what I was trying to describe above. It's totally backwards! The center of the image is the corner of the building - which is CLOSER to the viewer. The walls, as you move to the sides/top/bottom of the frame, are FARTHER away. It becomes incredibly difficult to capture a natural-looking image of a building as seen from the outside, as opposed to a room as seen from the inside, because the natural perspective is in tension with the object being captured. It results in "fishbowl" images of corners being thrust awkwardly at the center, distorting the shape of the object. And it doesn't look good. Our eyes aren't trained to see this way, and the inversion of normal perspective is ugly.

One way to get around this is to repurpose a city scene to mirror an interior scene - use buildings, or rows of buildings, like walls. And make the center of the image a negative space -- like a plaza, or a wide open street. On one side (or both) you place a building (for which only one wall is visible) and you re-create the interior corner I described above -- you see a plaza or a street, with a background "wall" comprised of one building (or set of buildings), another "wall" comprised of another building (or set of buildings). The central image is no longer any of the buildings, but whatever action is happening around them -- a market, a fair, a fountain, a street brawl. That's easier to photograph, but now the city is pure context, pure background. It makes for a far more dynamic picture, a very exciting one, but you aren't getting a good photographic record of the building. Nor are you highlighting it to the viewer.

That was inelegantly put, and way too wordy. But hopefully it was interesting to some people.

One other issue I've noticed:

The temptation to give things a proper "context" is tricky, too. By "context" I mean, I don't want a photo of a building on a table, I want a photo of a building in a city. I want to preserve the illusion, make a completely immersive photo. For that purpose, I want the entire frame to be occupied by the scene. If I'm photographing a building, I want it to be situated in a city, not sitting at the edge of the map with a table behind it and surrounded by streets that just suddenly mysteriously stop.

But at the same time, the natural perspective I was talking about above, and just general line-of-sight issues, means that the best way to set up a layout (for the purposes of photography, that is) is to place larger buildings around the edges. That way, the larger buildings aren't blocking your view of the smaller ones. And it also means the larger buildings create a "frame" for photographs as described above - they serve as backdrop for a more central image.

The problem is that these two goals are in conflict with one another. Larger buildings tend to be more interesting and one tends to build larger structures with the idea that they will be a focal point. If you place your larger buildings in the center, however, you're blocking the view of the buildings at the edge, thereby rendering them either completely superfluous (because you simply can't see them at all) or at the very least creating an ugly framing, where you've got large buildings at the center instead of serving as a framing backdrop for a focal image (in other words, the same problem I described above).

I tend to place large buildings in the center because I really want that context, I want them to be properly situated in a city. But the result is that I end up with pictures that don't create that natural frame which the eye favors. It also means my "full city" shots aren't as effective, because everything is clumped together at the center - and I don't have a nice frame where larger buildings serve as a backdrop for the smaller ones in the center. Pics that leave negative space in the center and use larger buildings as a frame are more pleasing to look at, on the whole. But it also means that larger buildings ARE on the very edge of the map, and if I try to take a picture focusing on them, there's clearly nothing behind them and the streets just end suddenly and it isn't as satisfying.

Still trying to work it all out. Taking pictures of CBS has proven to be FAR more counter-intuitive than taking pics of traditional DF interiors. It's incredibly fun, but it really stretches your brain.

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