Tag Archives: photography

Portraits for Portraits

Generally when I’m getting ready to paint a model, I’ll take my main inspiration from one picture and then find other similar references to augment the one view I have. It’s a rare pleasure to be able to take multiple, detailed pictures of the same horse, in the same light, at the same time of year. This kind of detail and accuracy is important if you are doing a portrait of a particular horse.

The newest horse at my barn is a gorgeous dapple Welsh Cob mare named Violet. She is a beautiful mare and one of the most willing, calm, trainable horses I’ve ever seen. She’s being started by a friend, so of course I must make a portrait as a gift! After all, this horse just begs to be painted.

Since I was lucky enough to be there in person with my camera, I took all the reference shots I’ll need for a detailed depiction.

Right side

Left side (less angled would be better but…)

A decent full body shot of both sides of the horse are pretty essential for a decent portrait, although I’ve snuck by with less before. But the best case scenario is to get all your angles, so you don’t find yourself partway through thinking bollocks, what color are her armpits?

This is the color of her armpits.

It’s pretty important to have a picture head on and a rear view too, especially with a horse who has such particular facial markings and tail coloring.

And because why not, I held the camera up high and took a shot of her topline.

Of course, I took more pictures- she too pretty not to photograph and more detail is always better. But those are at least the basics I’d want for most portraits. If anyone else wants to use the above pictures for reference, enjoy! You can even email me if you’d like more and/or larger sizes. That color is just too pretty to keep to myself!

Note: Violet’s owner does know about her eye. Although it looks like something scary, that lump is just some scar tissue from an old injury. It’s completely harmless and doesn’t impede her sight. And yes… I do intend to sculpt it on my portrait.

Goldilocks Trys Model Horse Photography

Too light!

Too dark!

Juuuuust right!

I finally got some photo show pictures of my more recent customs, even the difficult-to-photograph Liam (above) and Lilah. I snuck them into the May IMEHA show at the last minute and it is already paying off- Kettil Blacksmith was Overall Reserve Champion in breed halter!

How to Make a Simple Light Box

Last July I decided, all of a sudden, that I wanted to make my own simple light box (or light tent). A light tent is a three-, four-, or five-sided box made out of a thin material (such as fabric or tissue paper) that diffuses light, used primarily in photography. Using the tent helps get rid of distracting shadows and reflections, and evens out the light within the space so that your camera’s white balance setting can do its job.

I wanted to make one that was more sturdy than cardboard, but still cheap, and also collapsible and easy to use. My plan was very successful and has helped me take much better photographs. The finished product is simple but effective.

There are a lot of tutorials out there for building one (most miniaturists have a need for good, well lit photos of tiny things) and I read through a bunch and then cobbled all the ideas together to make my own version. And now, only eight months later, here is How I Made My Light Box.

Step One: Make a plan. Here’s one my husband drew when we were designing it.

Hopefully this one that I just made will be a little more useful to people wanting to make their own:

As I said, this is a very simple design. It is only three pieces- two supporting sides and a top- but it’s functional and easily collapsible. It collapses flat and is thus easy to store. Many light boxes have a back too, but since I will always be using photo backdrops it in I found it unnecessary. If you wanted to add one you could use the same basic technique in this tutorial to add another piece of frame.

The dimensions I chose were based on my small scale collection. If you plan on photographing traditional sized models, especially in scenes, you’ll want to scale it up. Please note that for ease of description, I’ll be referring to the different pieces by the sizes and colors shown in the colored diagram above.

Step Two: Gather Tools & Materials. Have a plan before you go to the hobby or lumber store so you know how much wood to buy. I used 1/2″ square dowels for my frame. From my plan I knew I would need six 16″ pieces (orange), four 12″ pieces (blue), and two 18″ pieces (green). The dowels are usually sold in three foot pieces, so I used some simple arithmetic to figure out how many I needed and where I’d cut them.

Here’s what you need:
Enough wood to make three 4-sided rectangles for your frame
White tissue paper- enough to cover each frame
Masking tape or blue painter’s tape
14 small nails

You’ll also need a small wood saw, a ruler, scissors, and a pencil. And a nice, large flat area to work.

Step Three: Lay Out the Frame

Cut the wood to the proper lengths and lay it out like so. Make sure that you put the corners of the wood together the same way on each side, so that your 16″ pieces are on the outside and the 12″ pieces on the inside.

Step Four: Make the Attachments

The two frame sides will support the top “ceiling” piece and attach to it by a simple nail-and-hole. You make this part before attaching the frames together because otherwise you can’t hammer into the center of the wood (it would just break).

Take the 16″ short side of the ceiling piece (orange) and put a nail through the center. Then line it up with the piece of corresponding length from the side frame, (again, orange) and nail into that.

The point is to fix the nail into the wood of the ceiling piece but only to make a hole in the wood of the side frame. Then when you want to attach the pieces the nail in the ceiling piece just slides into the hole made in the side frame. This is how the three frame pieces will attach to stand up.

Wiggle the nail around so it fits snugly into the hole in the side frame but is easy to pull out again. Leave it stuck firmly in the side of the ceiling piece.

Make sure you keep track of these pieces! The piece with the hole in it needs to end up in the top part of the side frame, and the side of that dowel with the hole needs to face upwards when the frame is assembled. For that reason I marked it with pencil so I wouldn’t put it together the wrong way.

Similarly, the pieces of the ceiling frame that have the nails both need to point down so that the nails point in the same direction and both attach into the supporting side frames.

Repeat this step for the other side so that you should have two 16″ pieces with nails sticking out of them and two corresponding 16″ pieces with nail holes.

Step Five: Assemble the Frames. Making sure to keep your corners square and the nail and nail holes aligned as I described above, nail the three frames together. For extra strength, put a drop of wood glue between the two pieces before you nail them all the way together.

Here is one of my assembled side frames:

Once you’ve made your three rectangular frames, use the nails sticking out of the top “ceiling” piece to attach it to the two side pieces with the corresponding holes, like so:

Step Six: Attach the Tissue Paper.Take the frames back apart and lay them on a flat, cat-free surface. Lay white tissue paper over the space and cut to fit.

Using masking tape or blue painter’s tape, attach the tissue paper on all sides. I don’t worry about attaching it perfectly- when I inevitably rip through the tissue paper it’ll be easy to just tape more on. Just make sure the paper isn’t too wrinkly.

Once all three frames are covered in tissue paper, you can reassemble the tent and voila, you’re ready to take pictures!

Many people use a light tent with positioned lights (usually from the two sides and the top). I don’t have the necessary equipment, so I use the available lights in my kitchen/living room and the bounty of natural lighting coming in the windows. All of this light hits the box and is softened and made consistent within it. After that I use the camera’s white balance setting to make evenly lit photos.

Husband is teaching me how to work the big fancy camera

Nightfox's winning halter photo

My favorite thing about this light box design (besides the fact that it was dirt cheap- maybe $10) is that it stores flat and sets up in no time. It’s perfect for a miniaturist with limited space who wants to take good photos without a ton of hassle.

New Faces!

I’m excited to say that I am now finished with two customs, Linus and Alianora. Linus is a commissioned trade for my Chips Thoroughbred and Alianora is now up for sale on MH$P.

Linus

Alianora

With these guys done I feel like I am making some real progress. My goal is was to finish these guys along with Liam, Lilah, Alpo, Typhoid Mary, and Troy Soldier (and repair Doublet) before the live show at the end of March. And I’m on my way! Alpo and Typhoid Mary are getting close. I might even finish up my Fjord stallion, but let’s not push it…

My fake studio pictures above were really pretty simple. I took advantage of the bright morning and added the power of my stove top light to the natural light flooding in. My backdrop is just an old t-shirt, and my base was a cutting board.

None the less, I’m very pleased with how my photos came out!

Great Eye Candy & Reference Site

In my last post I said that I had 712 photos in my reference library. Now, thanks to boblangrish.com, I have 753. You’ve probably heard of Bob Langrish and seen his photos everywhere in the horse world, but you may not know (I didn’t) that he has a huge archive of photos on his website. And to my delight, they are even organized in such divine demarkations as breed, color, behavior, etc. Check it out. You won’t be disappointed.

All of the photos have watermarks to protect copyright, but they are still useful as reference photos. And handily, if you really want a print of one, you can order it up from the site.

Here are just a few of my favorites (click to enlarge).

And if you’re a huge horse color nerd, check out this dictionary of color terms in different languages.

New photo show set-up

Last week I took some new pictures just in time for the February IMEHA Show. I’m judging a division for this show, but since the site gets real slow and/or doesn’t work when everyone is trying to judge, I can’t work on that right now. So I’m posting about my latest photography technique… using the stove!

That’s right. I was cooking and suddenly realized hey, not only is my kitchen one of the lighter rooms in the house but the stove has this nifty bright light built right in above it. Why don’t I set up photo shoots on the stove? So I did…

This is a pretty simple yet effective set up. I’ve got a felt ground cover with a background printed and mounted on cardboard (I’m tickled because the picture is actually of my friend’s arena back home where I ride my own horse). There’s light coming from the small window to the left of the stove, above the stove, and the red light. I covered the red light with white fabric (just a cut up t-shirt plus masking tape) to diffuse the light and prevent harsh shadows.

I’m pleased with the results for Schleich/Safari/Little Bit/Pebbles scale, although it ended up being too harsh of lighting for micro minis. I think it would most likely work with Stablemates, I just didn’t have any that needed show pictures. Here are the fruits of my (minimal) labor:

Radek, grey Kladruber stallion (CM Safari Lippizan)

Rabbit, brown spotted Donkey jack foal (CM Schleich Donkey Foal)

The one thing about using the stove light is that you need to be able to adjust your camera’s white balance, since stove lights are harsh and yellow. My results suggest that this strategy would work well for classic and traditional horses. But remember to ask your partner/significant other/spouse/housemates/parents before monopolizing the stove with your ponies!

Daylight Florescent Bulbs for Photos: Worth it?

I don’t know first hand, but this post from Noble Farms Custom Saddlery has some compelling evidence that these pricier bulbs can make a big difference in lighting for model photography. I’d like to see how much better they light up a horse with a backdrop… maybe I’ll have to splurge one of these days.

Noble Farms Custom Saddlery: New supplies…lights, wire and a “hole punch”.