Improve Your Composition in Miniature Photography
You’ve spent hours painting your miniature. Hours! Now you want to share your effort with the world. Obviously, you should take a photo.
…you hesitate because you feel you can’t do your work justice. Well, it’s true that a lot of variables go into a great photograph, but the good news is that one of the biggest factors that make a powerful image doesn’t rely on your equipment. Even a smart phone can take fantastic photos.
Here’s the one thing I fixed that improved my miniature photography:
Composition: Move your miniature away from the center of the frame.
In 1797, John Thomas Smith, the famous British painter, wrote down the compositional guidelines for “the rule-of-thirds” (also see this modern guide) (Figure 1). The basic idea of the rule-of-thirds is to keep the image dynamic; that is, give the viewer empty space to look around. Let the eyes wander.
A subject needs to breath.
Give the subject space.
When you photograph your miniature, the easiest way to make it more interesting is to place the model toward the sides of the frame.
The natural inclination for many new photographers is to center the subject. This is likely because most cameras (or smartphones) have an autofocus setup for the middle parts of the frame.
The problem is that if you take a photo of a miniature lined up in the center, then you’ll get a “flat” feeling in the image (Figure 2). But, if you move your miniature to either side of the frame toward sides using the thirds as a guide, then you automatically add something else to your image (Figure 3).
In application, I’ve learned to incorporate the rule-of-thirds into photographing my work (Figure 4).You also don’t need to do this while you’re taking the photograph with your camera or smartphone. You can use the free software that comes with your computer to crop your photo like I did in Figure 4.
You can even zoom in on your model (i.e., fill the frame) while relocating the miniature’s placement. A neat trick here is to also make sure that the model is facing the empty space. This way, the subject will feel or look like it’s moving in that direction, toward the empty space.
Fun Fact: The interior design of jet fighters have dashboard layouts that follow a similar concept of providing proper visual space to maintain the pilot’s focus and attention on what is important [1, 2].
Here are some more examples of models I’ve photographed using the “Rule of Thirds”.
If you found this article helpful and enjoyed the photos, please leave me a comment. I’m always opens to new suggestions for topics on photography and miniatures.
- Vsevolod, P. et al. The Neuroergonomics of Aircraft Cockpits: The Four Stages of Eye-Tracking Integration to Enhance Flight Safety. (2018) Safety, 4 (1). p.1-15.
- Batey, A. How to Design the Fighter Cockpit of Tomorrow. BBC website. http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20150106-the-jet-cockpits-of-tomorrow. last accessed 09-25-18