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Gunpla & Photography: Backdrop and Lighting

Hello everyone! My name is Zhi (just call me “Z”) and It will be my pleasure to share with you how I photograph my Gundam models in this article series on Hobbylink.tv! Since this is my first post, please allow me to do a brief self-intro: I am a Gunpla reviewer/blogger and I love photography just as much as the Gunpla hobby itself; instead of expanding my modeling skills and techniques like spraypainting, I focus more on my photography skills while fine-tuning my model-building techniques. One thing I love about the hobby of Gunpla is that there are many ways to turn it into a form of “art” ^^.

I actually know and understand very little about photography since I only learn from trial and error while shooting with my camera; I am not a pro by any stretch of the imagination. When I photograph my Gundam models, my style and goal is that the sole subject of focus and center of attention is the model itself so I try to set up everything accordingly to remove unwanted distractions, and such. I want to show that the model is able to mimic its anime counterpart as best as possible, giving a “realistic” feel to the model. Okay… Enough about me, let’s move on!

Let’s start with the workspace and the backdrop. As you can see, there is not a lot of free space in my room and the above is all I have to work with so I try to make the most out of it. Since this is my spot for my Gunpla photography, having the TV there detracts from the “realistic” feel I want to create. So I have the TV covered…

My choice for a backdrop is just one giant black poster board. I would love to use a giant construction paper or something like that so I can get rid of that crease where the board folds but my little desk is not deep enough. The plain background also helps to obscure the size of the model, adding to the “realistic” sense that I strive for. This board is a great alternative to construction paper since it is just as easy to use, simple, looks more or less just as nice but also is a lot more durable I would assume. If you have a similarly tight workspace like I do, then this would be perfect for you as well. Other people will have different options like crafting a photobooth or box out of paper and those are great too. The most important thing is to find what works best for you. On to lighting…

With proper lighting, any camera within the last decade can take decent to great photos. This photo of Sinanju is taken during a bright sunny day on the very same glass desk you see above before I bought the TV. There’s no editing done to the photo! See how great sunlight is? But alas, the sun is not out 24/7 so there are times we will have to make do with artificial lighting.

One of the two setups I opted for is an adjustable 3-way floor lamp fitted with one white “daylight” 5500k fluorescent bulb and one warmer, less powerful bulb. The idea was that I thought it could replicate the shine of daylight but the real stuff is always better ^^;. Some use smaller desk/table lamps and I think those would also do wonders; the power of the light bulb is the part that really matters.

This is the lighting effect I get with both of the light bulbs on (note the ever-so-slight orange tint). Depending on the color of the model, I sometimes use only just the white bulb for the photo shoot.

Here is one photo of using just the white light. This setup is my personal preference for the majority of my photo shoots. Again, it all depends on the color of the model. If I were to shoot the Ez-8 (an almost all-white Gundam), for example, then I might use the orange bulb as well to not make things look so wash out.

And this is the effect with just the orange bulb. Different light settings set the mood different and I rarely use this setup because it doesn’t show the true color of the Gundam being photographed… not to mention it makes things look a little grim ^^;.

What I like about a thin floor lamp is that it is also versatile; I can just rest the lamp on my knees to produce some sort of “spotlight” effect to give it a more showcase look.

I think this is a decent example of the backdrop obscuring the size and the lighting providing a sense of “hugeness” to the GFFMC 1/100 RX-78-2 Gundam ^^.

If for whatever reason I need maximum light coverage, I’ll activate this reactor of sorts (something I got for my birthday) and it will basically cover my entire desk from top to bottom. This is a great alternative to a lamp setup but the heat produced by this thing can be a bit much… especially during the summer.

This is the photo result from it. Since the lights are beaming at the model horizontally, the entire front of the model is virtually shadowless whereas with the lamp shining at an angle, the face is usually darkened.

That’s all for part one of “Gunpla and Photography”- Having a proper lighting setup and background is a good place to start Gunpla photography I think. Since this is supposed to be a “How to” series, I hope you can find something useful here that can help you with photo shooting your own Gundam models as well. I find taking photos of your models to be a very enjoyable process and should be a natural part of the whole hobby especially if you put in a lot of effort into your work and want to share it with everyone (on the net or in person).

If you also have photography tips to share, then please do share with the rest of us :).

Next one will be about posing Gundam models! Thank you for reading!

Gundam kits in the photographs:

1/100 MG Gundam Astray Red Frame Custom
1/100 MG Gundam Astray Blue Frame 2nd Revise
1/100 MG Turn A Gundam
1/100 MG MSN-06S Sinanju Ver. Ka
1/100 MG Gundam Exia Ignition Mode
1/100 MG MSM-04 Acguy
1/100 RX-78-2 Gundam Ver. Ka
1/100 MG Infinite Justice Gundam

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  1. Interesting, just when I was thinking how to get some dramatic picture for my gundam…thanks for the informative information ๐Ÿ™‚

    Think I will try to focus more on the photography aspect of gunpla too.

  2. Z’s liking his Astray Frames. ^^;

    Good tutorial of sorts! I’m kinda surprised that you didn’t do any editing to the Sinanju pic…Sunlight really can do wonders, eh? Looking forward to the next one!

  3. Nice article Z! I’d love to see an article on posing. I suck at posing my Gundams and they always look stiff and ‘robotic’ ๐Ÿ˜›

  4. Thanks for this awesome tutorial.

  5. Question in the 12th image, it talks about maximum light coverage. I was wanting to know where you can get that lighting device? Is it still on the market and can I find it in the U.S.?

  6. @Samurai

    I actually don’t know where my friends got it from ^^;. But you can achieve the same effect if you have one of those bright rectangular bar-bulb desk lamps that can swivel so you can point it straight in front of the model.

  7. Very useful info, and well presented. I have a question what camera and lense setup are you using?

  8. @Andrew I am using the Canon XSi w/ the 18-55mm kit lens.

  9. Hey there, how far does your spotlight have to be from the kit, and what angles? I’m always having trouble with big ugly shadows, can you like add something about lighting angles and the stuff related. thanks.

    • @Ivan if you use spot slights you will always have shadows, they are spot lights and that is their nature. We use a “SoftBox” setup at HLJ which cuts down on harsh shadows, i would suggest using white LED lights with a very thin white material in-front of the light to allow light to pass through the material onto the object. But be careful working with hot lights and material.

  10. Thank you Z~!!
    I wonder What kind of Digital Camera are you using for taking Gumpla Picture???

  11. you paint all of these kits ?
    including the infinite justice?

  12. is it possible to take a great photo like above with a standard digicam?..the pocket one i mean….

  13. @Bambi It is possible, provided that you have the proper lighting.


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