RECAP: “Gunpla and Photography” was originally intended to be one post but after realizing how many aspects I want to talk about for photographing Gundam models, I’ve decided to break it up into a series of posts over time so I don’t end up dropping a wall of text on you all. This will also help me organize topics better and minimize confusion. Again, by no means am I a pro photographer but I love photoshooting Gunpla in an attempt to bring out the “life” of it (“inochi” haha). Just thought it’d be nice to share this aspect of the whole Gunpla experience with everyone. For this post, I’ll cover backdrop, lighting, and Gunpla posing.
If you ever wonder what I use as a backdrop for my current reviews, then here’s how it looks like. It is basically a black presentation board in front of my TV haha. Now… a backdrop (or background) is important because it helps to set the Gundam model into its own world (example: diorama), distort its scale size, and provides more focus on the model itself. For the lazy person like me sitting in my room all day (no natural landscape), I prefer a solid color background- the focus and only thing you see is the model, the plain emptiness doesn’t give you how big the model is so it looks more “real”, and gives off a bit more sense of professionalism than a background of dirty laundries :P.
The color of the backdrop is also important. Dark colors are great for light-color (white) Gundam models since you can see the outline of said model but if you have the camera on higher ISO, you might see more “noise” on the photo as well (the annoying tri-color specks you see on some parts)- I try to prevent this by utilizing as much bright light as possible to keep ISO down.
Here’s my former backdrop. A white backdrop is nice for darker models and can provide for some nice “blurry” effects all around. Lastly, having some depth in your background is also nice since then the backdrop can just blur out from the depth of field. If you can use natural landscapes like mountains, the sky, forest, and whatnot in broad daylight then by all means do so… provided that they’re not obstructed ^^.
Summary on backdrop in a room: solid color and good depth. Lastly, it should also be big enough so you don’t see any edge to the “outside world” and such.
Example of a terrible backdrop ^^;
Lighting is VERY important! It is what sets the tone and feel of the color of your photos! At least that’s how I see it. Your camera can only do so much (or not much at all) without proper lighting. While I very much prefer daylight over anything, said light source isn’t available 24/7 so I make do with as many 100w pure “daylight” white light bulbs as possible. A good source of light also means you do not have to use flash. My reactor is a nice source but it burns me up after awhile since it emits so much heat ^^;
However, pure white light is just too white sometimes and the photos can come out a little too… well, white-washed. To counter that and bring a closer imitation to sunlight, I also turn on a lower wattage yellow bulb sometimes to balance out the color. I think the DIRECTION of the light source is also important as it dictates what details are shown/obscured.
I usually like my light source coming either up or down at an angle from the side but never directly in front or from top. I just like the effect that way. The above is light coming down from the left at an angle.
Light coming from lower right angle. See the effects it makes on the photo with the same backdrop? I do not like having lights from all directions (see Dalong) since it just looks so… static/dead? I’ll change this when I find the right word to describe what I want to say >_>. Just like to say that a little bit of shadow looks nicer.
My own example of shoddy lighting. Light coming straight down from a single low-wattage lamp.
Summary on light: broad daylight ftw… otherwise high wattage “daylight” bulbs with a secondary lower wattage yellow bulb. Play around with directions for different effects.
Warning! rant alert! —– Now… I completely understand that not everyone has or can afford a decent camera for quality photos, so that is perfectly okay. Not everyone has the money to fork out for lighting and get a backdrop just for photos, that is also very reasonable. Lastly, we all have different modeling skills so no one is laughing if your model doesn’t look as good as Keita’s and that is perfectly alright as well. I do not criticize anyone for the aforementioned things HOWEVER! (here comes the rant) I will bash on you if you put your finished model in a sloppy pose and decided to show it publicly on the internet for everyone to “enjoy”. Unlike the aforementioned things, the ability to pose your gunpla is right in your very own hands (literally). I am specifically targeting those who take photos of their Gunpla with the body all stiff-up, head and body crooked… or looking completely limp (example). The Gundam just looks like a cheap toy like those Chinese Robocop/Megazord light-up figures. At this point, I don’t think the person is probably even trying. Since we can compliment on great poses, then I feel we should also be able to criticize for poor posing- constructive criticism is helpful even if it might sound “mean”. We all make few bad poses every now and then… but we should still minimize making the model look silly.
Posing- To me, it means setting the Gundam model up to imitate the actual thing as close as possible. I like to do my best in keeping this true about my own models. This applies to the way it stands, its battle stances and to the dynamic/action poses. Isn’t that one of the points of Gundam scale models in a way? This is why I find sloppy posing to be a bit on the offensive side of Gunpla photography. Let’s start with the basics:
THE “GFF” STANCE
You will see this kind of shot and pose in just about all of my reviews… it is THE stance I put my models in for profile shots. It is also the stance I will ultimately put my Gundams in after a review. I dubbed it the “GFF” stance because it was directly influenced (but not exact copy) by the Fix Figuration line-up (just look at the back of any GFF box and you’ll see what I mean). It is an understated, simplistic yet elegant pose that can still show off how awesome/badass a Gundam model can look.
I believe this stance should also be the norm on whether a model can actually “stand” or not, both aesthetically and functionally. This pose usually points out if the model can handle being topheavy, backheavy and whatnot. This is also the easiest pose to do: line up and make sure the upper body looks soft and relaxed, legs shoulder-width apart and feet pointing slightly outwards. Done. No skills required. This is also my favorite pose to put any Gundams in ^^
We all love making dynamic poses with our Gundam models. Admit it! Although it is fun, capturing the intended action is the actual hard work. I’ll leave half of equation out for today (focus and camera angle) and just focus on the Gundam/posing. One key point in most action poses…
ROTATE THAT WAIST! This is what makes a dynamic pose look… dynamic. I don’t know how to explain why but it just does. It’s also the main reason for the rage against the 1/100 00-Raiser model. I like to make good use of this particular articulation since it is so essential. A free rotating waist allows for more better looking poses but one should take note in not overdoing it because then it looks awkward or cheesy.
Turn that waist!
and really turn that waist! Another thing to note is the bending/straightening of the legs for certain poses. I usually bend the knee on one leg all the way and move it far apart from the straight leg so the model doesn’t look stiff. As with the waist, don’t overdo it or it looks funky. The same goes for the arms. I also make sure to rotate the shoulders along with the arms too… it looks better and shows more fluid motions that way. In short, just do what makes the Gundam look “natural” in the pose. I make it a point for myself to articulate the position of every joint on a model, from positions of the arms and legs to the angle of the head to even the fingers on the hand, so everything is intentional and just how I wanted to look (My own Gunpla OCD). This is part of the challenge of posing a Gundam model.
Alright. That’s it for this post of “Gunpla and Photography”. There will more stuff to talk about in later posts so this is a good start. In photoshooting Gunpla, I think the setup and the Gunpla itself is just as important as the camera and the photographer- the two gotta go hand in hand! Feel free to ask away or leave feedback of your own for others ^^. Thanks for reading!
For those who missed the first post, here it is: