Lego photo setup cover

Behind the scenes: "Nature photography gone wrong"

Ideas, ideas, ideas

As many of you might know by now, my biggest problem is inspiration! I often need hours to even think of a feasible idea. Because of this, once i have an idea that might work, i don't ditch it right away if the photo itself does not work.

The idea for this image

Being in Canada for work, I only had limited (plastic) resources and time to get some photography done. In the end I only created one image I liked ("Eye of the beholder"), but of course I shot a few more images that did not make it. Before I create a "rejected Lego photography"-post, I usually wait to see if the idea is still usable. This idea I tried in nature (under time-pressure), resulting in the images in figure 1 and 2.

Failed Lego photography
Figure 1: Experiment one

 

Rejected Lego photo
Figure 2: Experiment two

In hindsight they weren't too bad, but I didn't like the light and for some reason the fact that I didn't use the legs, did not feel right. Also the images looked out of focus to me. sadly, in the end I did not have the time to redo them.

Back home, the setup

Once home, I decided to recreate the image in my basement, and purely in a Lego environment. This way I could control the light better. The primary setup for this Lego photo can be seen in figure 1.

Lego photo lighting setup
Figure 3: Setup

Figure 4 shows a close-up of the setup, showing you a few lights bringing out a few contrasts in the background. Also, it keeps the background from becoming too dark!

You can also see a few tiles on the left... this plate I used for another photo before; "the startled guard".

Lego photo setup close-up
Figure 4: Close-up of the setup

Concluding

This time it is a pretty straightforward behind the scenes post. The main message is to give your ideas a second, or maybe even a third chance if the first image does not work.

Ultimately, I don't know if I like the resulting image yet. The lighting is nice, but not really logical with the light coming in from the left versus the darker side on the right... I explained it as being dawn, but there's something off. Anyway, it's not a stunner... but it'll have to do for now.

 


Other interesting posts on Foolish Bricks:

You can also subscribe to Foolish Bricks to receive a weekly dose of news and goodies from the surreal Lego world of Foolish Bricks.


Rejected-Lego-photo-cover

Rejected Lego photos - part 1

To learn is to make mistakes.

Over the years I've made many Lego photos. The first two years, because of the time-pressure of a 365, I published every photo I made. For better or for worse, readers of Foolish Bricks could follow my growth, and also see every mistake I made. Eventually, there were many failed images.

The last few years, I created less images, but still published (almost) every image. This year I decided to stop publishing images I was not happy about. Yet, it can be very helpful to keep them in mind. Once a mistake is made, i might be able to avoid it in the future. So, following are three of the images I rejected.

Wrong color-settings and 'texture: rejected

Rejected lego photography example
Figure 1: Rejected Lego image one

The premise of this image was of course my newborn and the non-existent sleep at night :). However, I just couldn't get this image right. For some reason the colors are off. The green just does not work for me. I tried to make this image 'pop', but I did not figure out how. It was just not there.

Too much going on: rejected

Lego photography tips rejected
Figure 2: Rejected Lego image two

There was just too much going on in this image. It was one of my first attempts at a backdrop, it did not look very natural. Furthermore, I just had to do too much to make it look a bit natural. The backdrop, the sun, the color-adjustments, the shadows. It was all too much. Besides I had a rel light in the car, but it did not bring anything extra to the image. All in all, a disappointment and so I rejected the image.

Too unnatural: rejected

 

Lego photo rejected example
Figure 3: Rejected Lego image three

Another try at a backdrop. This time I tried many things, and this image was shot with my computer-screen in the background. It ruined all the lighting and colors in this image, making it all way too unnatural. It simply looks as if it was shot in my basement.

Concluding

There will be posts like this once in a while. I feel this is a nice way of using my rejected images, maybe someone will benefit from them. Or - even better - if anyone has an idea of how to improve them, just let me know!


Other interesting posts on Foolish Bricks:

You can also subscribe to Foolish Bricks to receive a weekly dose of news and goodies from the surreal Lego world of Foolish Bricks.


Cover-BTS-lego-photography-good-old-times

Behind the scenes: "Good old times"

This is a behind the scenes post for the Lego photograph: "Good old times".

Planning the Lego photo

This time I was looking for a happy emotional scene. And again, I wanted to try something complete new to me. I had seen a lot of toy photographers use photos as a background. Up until now, I never did. I always feared it would look too artificial. Yet, a few months back  i did print a few backgrounds... to be put in a drawer unused. One of these backgrounds was a sunset. The sunset struck a cord. It got me thinking of a couple walking into the sunset. For some reason an earlier toy photo of mine entered my mind: "Lonely old man". That brought me to the decision to use an elderly couple.

Contrast in the title

Some of you might know I like some kind of contrast in my photography. I did not see any contrast in this image. Instead, the contrast is a little hidden in the title combined with knowing about the "lonely old man"-photo. Good old times can refer to the good times these two 'old' people are experiencing, making this a happy image. Yet, it could also be the lonely old man remembering the good old times...

Setup

As stated I used the sunset picture as a background. Lighting could also be relatively simple this time. One light as far to the front as possible. Because I did not succeed in putting it directly in front, I put it to the side a little as shown in figure 1.

Lego-photo-setup-example
Figure 1: Setup for the Lego photo 'Good old times'

The plates to the side serve two purposes; first and foremost they prevent direct light from entering my lens. Second, they regulate the lights/shadows on the trees and couple a little.

Building the scene

Typically I build the scene before I do the setup. This time I Used the path from the 'startled guard' image and put the couple on there as he center of the image. Next i placed the camera, framed and lighted the scene. Only then I started to build the scene, constantly looking through the cameralens for the effect of everything I added. I did something like this before in the 'back alley ghost' image and again I was surprised at how few Lego bricks were actually needed to fill the scene as you can see in figure 2.

Tip-tricks-behind-the-scenes-Lego-photography
Figure 2: Close up of minimum scenery needed

Take a special look at the trees. The small tree in the back right was used for adding a little depth. Because of the contrast with the much higher tree on the left, it looks as if the tree on the right is much further away than the one on the left (forced perspective).

Also take a look at the ugly big tree in front. I could have build a stunning tree, correct and beautiful. However, it would've never shown in the photo. Because I was a little short on time this tree was build brick by brick, looking through the lens for the effect of every brick. The illusion of a normal giant tree is there (I think).

The shot and post-processing

I took the shot with a f100 mm Pentax macro lens at ISO 100, aperture f/5.6 and shutter speed 1/60. In post-processing i added vignetting and adjusted the levels a little. The resulting image is below.

Lego photography - elderly couple happy sunset

In the end, I am not completely happy with the effect of the background. It looks... well... like a photo in the background. I'll have to see how I can refine the technique, so if you have any tips, I'll be happy to hear them. Have you ever used photographs as background in your photography? How did that work out?


Other posts on Foolish Bricks that might interest you:

You can also subscribe to Foolish Bricks to receive a weekly dose of news and goodies from the surreal Lego world of Foolish Bricks.

 


Cover-Lego-BTS-Lego-photography-hope

Behind the scenes: "Hope"

This is a behind the scenes post for the Lego photo: “Hope“.

Inspiration

For this image I wanted to capture a dark image wherein light would play the starring role. I would’ve liked an image that was dark in nature, yet with a glimmer of happiness, serenity or hope. After some time I decided to work with a prison image, with a prisoner showing some kind of peace with the situation.

Setting up the scene

The final image changed quit a bit from the first concept in my mind. I build a small prison corner and put the minifigure directly in front of the barred window so the warm yellow light could shine on half his face. I used the sleepy head so it would look asif the imprisoned minifigure would seem to be silently enjoying the warm rays of sunlight with his eyes closed, remembering better times.

That did not work quite as well as I hoped. Because the minifigures have flat round heads, all contrasts that could provide depth in his face got lost. Also, you couldn’t see anything from the inside of the prison because of the darkness behind the minifigure (figure 1).

rejected-prisoner-cell-reflection
Figure 1: A prisoner before the barred window. An annoying reflection (both on his face and next to the window)

I tried adding a second light behind the prisoner, but that looked really artificial and unbalanced. I needed some kind of light source behind the prisoner. Next I tried a candle on the wall. This could’ve worked, yet, I wasn’t looking for contrasting light sources, so I removed it again (figure 2).

Rejected-lego-prisoner-candle
Figure 2: A candle behind the prisoner. Notice the ugly connection to the wall and the annoying reflection besides the window

There was more of the prison in the image, yet, there was too much focus on the barred window itself. I needed the focus on the prisoner (figure 3).

Lego-photography-prisoner-sun
Figure 3: more of the prison in view

Then it struck me; I simply had to move the prisoner away from the window! This way I could use the natural light hitting the prisoner AND the wall, I could use the structure of the whole minifigure for depth and I wouldn’t need a second light source. So that’s what I did. I added a few smalle details, like the bucket and (of course) a rat. That was it.

Technical

You can see the final setup in figure 4. You’ll notice the large plates outside of the walls. This is something I do in almost all my pictures and keeps the light from bleeding through the slits of the Lego blocks of the wall, especially if the light is shining perpendicular on the walls.

example-lego-photography-setup-hope
Figure 4: Final setup Lego photo “hope”

Post-production

This photo didn’t need that much work. The only thing I did was lighten op the whites and shadows in camera raw (photoshop) a bit. The before and after is below.


Other posts on Foolish Bricks that might interest you:

You can also subscribe to Foolish Bricks to receive a weekly dose of news and goodies from the surreal Lego world of Foolish Bricks.


camera angles lego comic

Camera angles - a guide for Lego comics

This post on camera angles follows the post on camera shots. I will discuss the basics of camera angles int he context of Lego comics. Though you can also use this information for Lego photography not related to comics.

What are camera angles

The term itself says it all, camera angles are the angles at which a photo of a subject is taken. Using different angles can effectively add subtext to an image. By using you camera-angles carefully you can, per example, make characters look like giants or dwarfs, cool or insecure. Also buildings can look larger or smaller than in reality, making them look very impressive or insignificant. Just like minifigures. Besides you can influence the atmosphere of a panel or person. Is everything okay, or is something/ someone off. Choose you angles carefully, you probably don't want to inadvertently convey these kinds of information if you don't intent to.

Types of camera angles

Below are the most used angles

High angle

At high angle, the camera looks down on characters or objects. This makes them less impressive, small and insignificant. The readers seem to dominant the depicted character. Sometimes you can even make the character look scared or like a loser. Figure 1 shows an example, but its impact would've been significantly higher if I shot Willy from a little further away. This would've made him disappear in his surroundings a bit.

On the other hand, this is also a good shot to use to establish surrounding (for example combined with an (extreme) long shot. Also I've been seeing a lot of images from antman recently, these photos also benefit from high angle camera positions.

camera angle high angle lego photography
Figure 1: High angle

Overhead shot/ birds eye/ God's eye shot

An extreme version of the high angle shot is the overhead shot. A very unnatural view of a scene. It makes the readers look down on the characters and surroundings as if he were a bird or in a plane.

It is a distant, remote point of (world) view and sometimes conveys sort of philosophical thoughts and ideas.

Another thing to remember is that it can make characters or objects unrecognizable or look strange from this angle (like hats, parasols or anything for that matter).

camera angle overhead shot lego photography
Figure 2: Overhead shot

Eye-level shot

Eye level is the camera angle which is mostly used. Especially in conversations. This is the most natural angle to most readers and have no real dramatic power. If you deviate from this angle, make sure you think about the why. For example in a dialog scene, you can make a character look more or less significant than its conversation partner.

camera angle eye level lego photography
Figure 3: Eye level

Low angle shot

The low angle shot makes a character (or object/ building) look strong, powerful, gigantic and/ or ominous. You can also use this angle as a point of view (POV) shot from a character. In those cases the readers might share a feeling of awe with the character whose point of view is showing.

Examples in movies of this angle as point-of-view is in dog-movies or the ant-man. In those movies you instantly know you are seeing through the eyes of the dog or small antman whenever a low angle camera shot is used.

camera angle low angle lego photography
Figure 4: Low angle

Dutch tilt

The Dutch tilt is a camera angle that makes the reader feel there is something off or wrong. It's a confusing viewpoint for most readers. Usually we strive for straight lines in a photo (like the straight horizon for example). This is important because apparently human perception is very sensitive to off-levels, especially off-level verticals than off-level horizontals. This means that off-levels will create some sort of tension or confusion.

This angle is used just for that; to create confusion, anxiety, paranoia, danger, mall-intent or mystery. Below, figure 5 and 6 show examples. In itself they may not be as powerful, yet, combined with other angles these Dutch tilts camera angles become much more effective indeed.

camera angle Dutch tilt lego photography
Figure 5: Dutch tilt

 

example camera angle Dutch tilt lego comic
Figure 6: Another example of a Dutch tilt

What angle to use

Under normal conditions try to shoot a eye levels of your characters. Many lego comics out there are shot with high angle shots and doing so makes the Lego minifigures unintentionally look small, make everything look much more artificial than it already is and can take the reader out of the story.

However, it can look dull only photographing at eye-level. I myself change the angle of a shot a little to add some visual diversity to my comic. In these instances I'm always careful not to overdo it because I don't want to inadvertently add subtext to certain panels.

Camera angles vs. lenses

You can use any camera or lens. Especially smartphone cameras are so small they can easily be set at the angle you'd like. Yet, this (currently) still comes at the price of lowered quality of the image and I'm quiet attached to my RAW-images.

In the Foolish Lego comic I rarely use a low angle shot. And when I do, it's mostly not that effective due to technical issues. My camera (a Pentax K1 with f100 macro lens) needs to get very low and close and is often too large to get it where I want. And when I do get it in place, it's usually too close to be able to focus. In future I'll try to still use these shots and post-process them (for example shoot from further away and then crop so the character seems to be closer), that's what I did to get the low angle shot in figure 4.

In conclusion

There you have it. These are basically the most important camera angles to know. When thinking about shooting the scenes for your Lego comic make sure to use the right shots and angles. Combine camera shots and camera angles to make the best of the composition of your Lego comic panels besides adding all kinds of subtext.


Other posts on Foolish Bricks that might interest you:

You can also subscribe to Foolish Bricks to receive a weekly dose of news and goodies from the surreal Lego world of Foolish Bricks.


Cover behind the scenes of back alley ghost

Behind the scenes: "Back alley ghost"

This is a behind the scenes post for the Lego photo: "Back alley ghost".

Inspiration

Inspiration for toy photography can arise from anything. The past few years I've been reading all the stories of Tom Puss (Dutch readers will instantly know who this is). One of the stories, "Kwetal de Breinbaas", published in 1949 had a panel which immediately struck my eye. As you can see in figure 1, the inspiration for the back ally photograph came from one of the panels in that comic.

Example inspiration for Lego photography
Figure 1. Tom Puss in 'Kwetal de Breinbaas' as inspiration for a Lego photo.

Setting up the Lego photography scene

The basic Lego setup can be seen in figure 2. Pretty straightforward.

Basic setup Lego stage photography
Figure 2; Basic setup of the stage

While building this Lego stage, I kept my camera close, so I could check and see if what I'd build was large enough. This way I could keep the building to a minimum.

Lighting the scene

It was to be a night scene. At night the main light source is usually the moon. So way up in the air I put my LED-panel at low light and at a color temperature of 5600 K (I used the same panel overhead in the coffeeshop-scene). Furthermore, I wanted warm light from the window as a means to light the front part of the image. In figure 2 you can see I used a simple tabletop light for that purpose. To keep the light from leaking into the scene, I used a few Lego plates to block the light where I did not want it.

Lastly, I needed a subtle lighting of the back part of the scene. If I made the moon too bright, it would have washed out the front warm light, so I put in a small LED light from Brickstuff behind the shed-wall for this purpose (figure 3).

lighting a lego stage
Figure 3; lighting the back part of the stage.

Populating the Lego stage

Though Tom Puss is prominently featured in the comic book scene, I did not want to put in a cat(like) person. I've been looking to feature Dwaas in one of the images so I first tried to put him in there. You can see some examples in figure 4,5 and 6.

Example minifigure placement Lego photography
Figure 4; Example of Dwaas in the scene
Adding minifigures to Lego photography
Figure 5; Example 2 of Dwaas in the scene
Toy photography and placement of people
Figure 6; Example 3 of Dwaas in the scene

Yet, for several reasons, I did not like the result, mostly because Dwaas blocked quiet a few parts in the scene or Dwaas pulled too much attention from the scene as a whole. So in the end I decided to add a subtle ghost. By the way, now that I see them again, I kind of like the first of these three images to be honest. :)

Post production

Of course I added the ghost to the image. You can see him standing on a Lego stick in Figure 2. I used a similar technique to the one used for the 'into the sky' Lego photograph.

Lastly, I deepened the colors a bit and added some contrast. The resulting Lego image is below:

Lego photography - back alley ghost

 


Other posts on Foolish Bricks that might interest you:

You can also subscribe to Foolish Bricks to receive a weekly dose of news and goodies from the surreal Lego world of Foolish Bricks.


behind the scenes lego toy photography example lighting

Behind the scenes: "Coffeeshop"

This is a set I build specifically for the Foolish Lego comic. However, it was such an elaborate set I wanted to create at least one high-end picture too. To be more specific, I wanted to see if I could light it as close to reality as possible. This behind the scenes post will specifically be on the lighting of the ‘coffeeshop’ Lego image.

Lighting the scene

Mostly I like to have at least two color temperatures in an image because I like the subtle contrast. In this scene you'll see different regions with somewhat different temperatures somewhere between cool and warm . First I wanted to take care of the main light-sources; the light falling through the windows and the ceiling-lights. This part actually consist of three lighting sources. The ceiling lights over the counter are from a wonderful company called Brickstuff and emanate a warm yellow light (figure 1).

example lighting setup lego photography
Figure 1: Main lighting: counter and windows

The light through the windows is from a harsh, cool LED-light, coming slightly from above because the sun would come from above at this time of the day (the clock in the corner reads 11:50 AM ;) ). The customer-area was underexposed, so I added a third (soft) cool LED-light, whilst also blocking this light over the counter-area with a few large plates, so I would not lose the warm light at the counter (figure 2).

lighting Setup example lego toy photography
Figure 2: main lighting; customer area

Smaller lightsources

As you can also see, the pastry cabinet is lit. For this I used two strips, each consisting of two warm yellow LED-lights (Brickstuff). These two strips are fixed with a little tac (figure 3).

small light source example lego toy photography
Figure 3: A smaller light source: the pastry cabinet

Lastly, I needed a light in the fridge. This one could be better, but I had too little space to fix get more lights in there. Anyway, I used another Cool white LED light from Brickstuff (figure 4).

small light source lego photography setup
Figure 4: A smaller light source: the fridge

Final touches

Then Icarefully placed the Lego minifigures. I wanted to create the illusion of a busy coffeeshop without accidentally blocking interesting scenery with the minifigures. That was a challenge, yet, I feel it worked rather well.

I shot the whole scene with my Pentax-K1 at f105 mm (focal length), f/20 (aperture) 1,30’ (shutter speed) and ISO 100. In post-production, I deepened the contrast a little and added a few subtle light beams.

Lego photography - coffeeshop

That’s it! The final Lego image: ‘coffeeshop’, is done.


Other posts on Foolish Bricks that might interest you:

You can also subscribe to Foolish Bricks to receive a weekly dose of news and goodies from the surreal Lego world of Foolish Bricks.


cover guide to camera shots lego comic

Camera shots - a guide for Lego comics

Your Lego comic will consist of one or more scenes. Of course, these scenes need to build. And the actual building blocks of scenes are the so called camera shots. In this post I will discuss the basics of camera shots in the context of Lego comics.

What are camera shots?

Camera shots are camera positions related to how much of the subject and its surrounding area is visible in a panel. Not be confused with camera angles. Camera angles provide the shots at different angles. I discuss camera angles in separate post.

Choosing your shots and angles carefully will help you convey information about the story you are telling. Like, where you characters are, who is present, how everybody is positioned related to each other, if there is anything going on besides the main action, any emotions that need extra attention, etc. An example of conveying information is combining a full-shot (see below) with a shallow depth of field (remember your aperture settings!) focussed on a specific character or purpose, can tell your readers who is present in this scene whilst also directing the readers to the person or element you’d like them to focus upon.

Besides these functions you can also alternate camera shots to make your comic visually more attractive. Some Lego comics out there have very static panels which, in my opinion, make comics visually less engaging.

Anyway, you’ll want to try to keep the readers of your Lego comic engaged in multiple ways so choose your shots carefully.

Types of camera shots

In general, there are two types of camera shots; framing shots & function shots. Framing is defined by how much is included in the shot; function about what the purpose of the shot is.

Framing shots

First; any shot that includes only one character is called a single. Furthermore, a shot with two character included is called a two shot, one of the most essential shots of storytelling.

example two-shot lego comic
Figure 1; Example of a two-shot (ch 2 ep 8)

If the shots are focused on characters; there are usually called character-shots. Figure 1 shows examples of several character shots.

character camera shots lego comic
Figure 2; Character camera shots

Below, I listed a few of the more well know camera shots. However, the naming and definitions of all these shots might vary somewhat.

  • Extreme long shot, shows the general area of the current setting. For these shots you would have to build a large stage. This shot all about scenery and gives your readers some idea of the geography your scene takes place in. I haven’t used these shot in my comic yet, simply because it is too much work to build such a large stage. However, I might use it in future using micro builds of a city or forest for example.
Example extreme long shot lego comic
Figure 3; Example of extreme long shot. Establishing shot, showing the geography, general mood and more (ch 2 ep 1).
  • Long shot, (wide shot); still is about scenery, more  specifically showing where the action in the scene takes place. This time however, there (mostly) are characters present in the shot.
Example long shot lego comic
Figure 4; Example of a long shot (ch 2 ep 51)
  • Full shot; a complete view of a character. There may also be more than one character in this shot, showing what the relationship between characters is.
Example full shot lego comic
Figure 5; Example of a full shot - single (ch 2 ep 148)
  • Cowboy (American shot); a variation of the full shot, where the character is in view from the wast up. This comes from the western genre to show the gun-holster on the characters.
  • Medium shot (social shot); the character(s) from the waist up. For example characters at a table or behind a counter/ bar. This shot brings your readers closer to the characters and into the action.
example medium shot lego comic
Figure 6; Example of a medium shot (ch 2 ep 7)
  • Close-ups (personal shot);  there are many variations of the close-up and brings you readers up close and personal with your character. With Lego there are no subtle emotions that can’t be seen from a medium shot, however mostly it does change the feel of a frame if you move in real close. The variations of a close-up are;
    • Medium close-up: mid-torso and up. In my comic, this is the tightest shot I used up until now. The tighter close-ups did not seem to bring me any extra.
    • Choker: from the throat up.
    • Tight close-up (big head): just below the head, cutting of part of the hair.
    • Extreme close up (Italian shot): even less of the head is visible in the frame. You can also use this for objects; for example only a knife, or part of the character.
example medium close-up lego comic
Figure 7; Example of a medium character close-up (ch 2 ep 131)

 

Example close-up object lego comic
Figure 8; Example of an object close-up  (ch 2 ep 18).
  • Over the shoulder: a shot where we are looking over the shoulder (close-up) of one character to another character/ object (medium shot or close-up). It ties two characters or a character and an object together.
example over the shoulder shot lego comic
Figure 9; Example of an over the shoulder shot (ch 2 ep 60)

Function shots

  • Establishing shot; A shot that shows the readers of your comic where the action is taking place. Besides giving the readers a ‘where’, it can convey much more information; what’s the weather, is it a busy, hectic place or the opposite, are we in a rich environment, is there a lot of police in the street and much more. The possibilities are endless. Usually an extreme long shot or long shot is used.
  • Reaction shot; shows the reaction of a character to some kind of event or text. Usually a medium shot or close-up is used.
  • Insert; a part of the larger scene that gives your readers extra information about what is going on. For example a clock showing time or a name on a name tag. Usually a close-up is used.
  • Transitional shot; A shot between scenes that is not a part of either scene. This can help for atmosphere or give some information. For example a sunset or sunrise, or a busy street indicating that the workday has begon.

Camera shots vs. lenses

If you’d like to get all the shots straight out the camera you will need a macro-lens, certainly for the medium shots and close-ups. Alternatively you can photography your scenes as full shots or bigger and crop the images in an image-editor (for example: Photoshop or GIMP). If you edit afterwards, use the highest quality images you can shoot with your camera to prevent having too much noise in your images after cropping.

For the really tight shots, you might need a combination. I use a f/100 Pentax macro for most of my comic photography and should I need anything tighter than a medium close-up, I’d probably need to crop in post-processing after getting in as close as I could with my lens. Thos Lego minifigures are really small after all.

In conclusion

When I started my comic I had no idea of camera shots. I only varied shots to make the panels look different from each other so the comic looked better. Over the years I started thinking about my panels and the shots more and more. I have to admit, it makes shooting the comic more amusing, thinking about how you want to shoot the frame to use as a panel, how to get information across. Yet, I still have a long way to go, especially because Lego is a very different medium than the more classical comics out there and I have to figure out how to use these camera shots in Lego.

Are you a Lego comic creator? Do you ever consciously use camera shots?

Next time: camera-angles


Other posts on Foolish Bricks that might interest you:

You can also subscribe to Foolish Bricks to receive a weekly dose of news and goodies from the surreal Lego world of Foolish Bricks.


Coverphoto behind the scenes 019

Behind the scenes: "Lazy Sunday Morning"

To my surprise one of my images was featured on the Brothers Brick recently; “Lazy Sunday morning“. This is a behind the scenes post on that image.

The idea

As some of you might know, for several reasons, I am not a fan of building with Lego. This time however, I felt the urge to build a nice MOC (my own creation) for a photograph. I’ve been wanting to experiment with light coming through windows for ages, so that was the goal for this build.

Because I wanted the light to hit something I wanted the build to have textures on the walls, so I did not want to use flat surface Lego bricks. Also I wanted a warm apartment. To achieve this I used more brownish colors.

As narrative, I wanted to add all kinds of elements in there. First elements to show he’s relaxed; cosy sofa (modeled after a sofa I own myself (brown 😉 )) with a pillow so his nek won’t hurt besides a few books for relaxation (love that myself). In contrast some work-related stuff (his suitcase and closed laptop). He is also a man of travels (a map on the wall) and loves a bit off fantasy (a Harry Potter wand on the shelve). And so on.

As stated by in the review, there aren’t any fancy building techniques, however I was proud of one inventive part use: look at the fruitbowl, its the lower part of a Lego Ninjago mask 🙂

The set-up

I have my mini-studio in  the basement… but it’s a mess! As you can see in figure 1. So I had to shove some stuff aside to make room for my little apartment (the mayor’s office is in the back).

Setup of the lego image
Figure 1; The setup

Besides that the setup is pretty straightforward; a large daylight lamp outside the windows and I keep dim light in the room to break the general darkness. I do not own a light with adjustable temperature yet, so I figured I could change the temperature of the light in post-production.

Furthermore you can see a camera-remote-control lying around (to lower the chance of camera-movement), and a little piece of paper-towl, to remove as much dust as I can see.

The original image

I used a Pentax K1, with a f100-macro-lens. The camera settings were: f/11, 2”, ISO 100. I always shoot my frames in dng-raw. Figure 2 shows you the original image. I wanted to get in really close, invading his personal space to make the viewers feel as-if they are part of the scene.

original Lego image before editing
Figure 2; The original image

I shot quite a few frames before this image came to be… Cat not standing correctly, the light didn’t hit the walls like I wanted, the books reflected too much light, suitcase out of the frame, I knocked over some stuff trying to clean some dust away (and only noticed that afterwards), etc…

Post-production step 1; Cleaning up

There is always dust in my originals. The macro lens enlarges everything so much, that I don’t notice it with the naked eye… but it’s there. So the first step is digital cleaning. Besides, now I can also remove annoying reflections too! The result can be seen in figure 3.

Post-production removing dust etc
Figure 3; After removal of dust and reflexions.

Post-production step 2; “Basic” adjustments

This part is the most extensive, and also a lot of fun. I experiment somewhat until the image looks like I imagined. I started in camera-raw, first adjusting white-balance (higher temperature and more tint), second I Adjust the exposure settings (selectively darkening and brightening different tones) and lastly a bit more clarity, vibrance and of course saturation). After these adjustments I use ‘dodge and burn’ and ‘levels’ to selectively adjust the image. The result can be seen in figure 4.

Post-production after basic adjustments
Figure 4; ‘basic’ adjustments

Post-production step 3; Light through the windows

The windows were lighten and light beams added. Afterwards I selectively lowered brightness, saturation and played a little with the ‘levels’-settings in the rest of the image. Look at figure 5 for the result.

Post-production after addition of light beams
Figure 5; After adding light beams

Post-production step 4; details

I need my coffee in the morning, especially if it should happen to be a lazy morning. I also need that coffee to be hot! So I used a smoke-brush (you can find all kinds of free brushes on the Internet) and added some steam to the mug. Oh, and I cleaned a bit more because I mist specs in the first round of cleaning. The result is in figure 6.

Post-production; added steam
Figure 6; Last adjustments (like steam)

Post-production final step; outside!

At first I figured I was ready. I even uploaded the image as it was. Still it kept bugging me! It was missing something. That something turned out to be the windows. They looked as-if they were taped shut. I wanted something outside the windows. To add some contrast to the cosy inside I decided to add a busy city outside the comfort of this guys home. I overexposed and undersaturated an image of New York and used a layer mask to place that image in the windows. Below are the original vs. final version of the image.

So, thats it! It was more fun than I thought and I expect to be building some more after this experience.
What do you think, is there anything you would  have done differently?


Other posts on Foolish Bricks you don’t want to miss:

Did you know you can also subscribe to Foolish Bricks? If you do, you will receive a weekly dose of news, notification and goodies from the surreal world of Foolish Bricks.


ISO settings in Lego photography | A beginners guide

After writing on several aspects of exposure the past few weeks,  we will end this beginners-course with a post on ISO. As mentioned before ISO is not a part of exposure because it influences the brightness of your photo AFTER the light is recorded by the camera sensor as opposed to exposure settings which influence the amount of light that reaches your camera-sensor. However, it is good to know about ISO, because it gives you a bit more freedom to adjust other settings (like aperture and shutter-speed) to your liking given a certain amount of time.

What does ISO mean?

In analog photography ISO (/ ASA) was the mark of how sensitive a film was to light. This light sensitivity was indicated by a number; the lower the number the lower the sensitivity of the film. The main governing body that, amongst other things, standardizes sensitivity ratings for camera sensors is the International Organization for Standardization. Many photographers think ISO is an acronym of this organisations name.However, because  the name would have different acronyms in different languages (IOS in English, OIN in French for Organisation internationale de normalisation), they decided to simply name the sensitivity ISO. And ISO is derived from the Greek isos, meaning equal.

Is ISO about sensor-sensitivity to light?

Well, actually: no. As stated before ISO stated the sensitivity of film to light in analog photography. At higher ISO-numbers, the resulting photos will be darker at a given exposure-value (EV). Conversely, at lower ISO-numbers, the resulting photos will brighter at a given EV.

In digital photography the brightness of your photos will still change when changing the ISO-setting on your camera. However, strictly speaking the light sensitivity of a camera does not change when adjusting ISO-settings. ISO is simply a post-sensor gain applied to the signal from the camera sensor.

What do the ISO-numbers mean?

Digital cameras (DSLRs) typically have ISO-settings that range between 100 (low sensitivity) to 204,800 or even higher (high sensitivity). Compact cameras and camera phones will have lower maximum ISO-settings than DSLRs.

Effects of changing ISO

Changing ISO-setting influences the brightness of your images and it changes the signal to noise ratio. It also has (some) effect on color and dynamic range (the ability of the camera to capture detail in both highlights and shadows)

Effects of changing ISO: brightness

The effects are:

  • The lower the ISO-setting, the less gain applied to the signal from the camera-sensor and the darker the resulting photo will be at a given EV.
  • The higher the ISO-setting, the more gain applied to the signal from the camera-sensor and the brighter the resulting photo will be at a given EV.

The gain applied to the signal will double between each ISO-setting. This means that doubling the ISO-setting will double the brightness of your photo and increase the EV by one stop. Conversely, halving ISO-setting will halve the gain applied to the signal, decreasing the EV by one stop.

These stops are, again, the same as the ones when adjusting aperture or shutter-speed. This means that when you increase or decrease the shutter-speed and or aperture by a number of stops, you can adjust the ISO in the opposite direction by the same amount of stops. The brightness of your image should remain the same, however motion-blur might, depth-of-field (DOF) will and the amount of noise might change between settings. Remember the exposure triangle! Figure 1 gives you examples of how the brightness changes resulting from changing the ISO-settings.

example iso brightness lego photography ultimate guide

Lastly, brightness can also be changed in post-processing. Yet, the quality of the photo will usually be better if the ISO is set correctly in the camera as opposed that adjusting the brightness in post-processing.

Effects of changing ISO: signal to noise ratio

Image quality will change when adjusting ISO. The higher the ISO is set, the higher the amount of noise (/ grain) in your photo will be. The lower the ISO, the lower the amount of noise in your photo.

The signal to noise ratio depends on the sensor in your camera. In general the smaller the sensor; the more noise a sensor will produce.

Besides, as said before ISO is about the amount of gain applied to the signal that is produced by the sensor after exposure to light. And the higher the ISO, the higher the gain applied to the signal. However, the gain is applied to both the noise and the signal. So, at higher ISO-values the noise becomes visible. Figure 2 shows you the noise in pictures at differing ISO-settings. The EV is equal because I adjusted shutter speeds.

example iso noise levels lego photography

Okay, to be honest, I never tested my camera (like I recommend later on in this post) until I decided to create figure 2 today. As it turns out, my camera is pretty good with noise levels, I need to go to very high ISO-levels to get an amount of noise that is not acceptable anymore. In the end, figure 2 loses some value because of this. Just compare the level of noise at ISO 100 with the level of noise at ISO to get an idea of what is possible. Also recognise the difference in color and dynamic range between the two most extreme settings.

Setting your ISO

Most cameras only have aperture- or shutter-speed priority mode. In these modes you usually can set a range of ISO-values from which the camera can choose. As far as I know only Pentax camera’s have an ISO-priority mode. And of course you can use Manual (M-)mode.

Test the ISO noise-effects of your camera

Each camera sensor differs with respect to ISO. It is best practice to test your camera at differing ISO settings, deciding for yourself which amount of noise is acceptable. Be sure you judge the amount of noise on your computer (!) and not on a small telephone of camera-screen. Also remember that noise is usually higher in darker photos at a given ISO-setting.

Choosing your ISO-settings

All in all it is recommended to shoot your photos at the lowest ISO-number possible. This will produce the best quality photos. Also keep in mind that quality of color and dynamic range increases at lower ISO-settings.

However, sometimes that may not be possible. The worst circumstances being if you want a relative small aperture whilst freezing motion (high shutter-speed) in a photo at low light shot from the hand. That photo will not be possible without increasing ISO-values.

Anyway, I almost exclusively use ISO 100 when shooting Lego. The fact that Lego scenes are usually pretty static makes it so that I can usually shoot from a tri-pod at low shutter-speeds without needing to increase ISO. Yet, sometimes I still need to increase ISO, this is almost exclusively due to the need of a certain shutter-speed. For example, to freeze the motion of an object in the scene but mostly because I need a higher shutter-speed because I can’t use my tripod and need to take a picture from the hand. A higher ISO means I can use faster shutter-speeds with a lower chance of camera-motion due to my hands shaking.

Conclusion

This post concludes the course on the basics of camera-settings. Reading about exposure, aperture, shutter-speed and ISO, understanding how these values relate to each other and practice will surely increase the quality of your (Lego) photography. Besides, it will give more freedom to photograph a scene exactly as you like.

If there are any more questions, let me know in the comments!


Other posts on Foolish Bricks that might interest you:

Did you know you can also subscribe to Foolish Bricks? If you do, you will receive a weekly dose of news, notification and goodies from the surreal world of Foolish Bricks.