Taking great photos of LEGO is hard! In this guide, we will explore the three biggest obstacles to getting great photos.
We will explore three ways to improve your LEGO photography:
- Lighting and color balance
- Focus and Depth-of-field
- Camera Angles & Perspective
Lighting and color balance
To make a long story short, LEGO bricks are made of a shiny plastic that can cause harsh reflections. diffuse lighting can greatly reduce glare and make for better-looking photos. White fabric between the light source and your model, or a purpose-built soft box can significantly reduce unwanted reflections.
Another thing to consider is a light source for the backdrop, to reduce unwanted shadows. This is often accomplished by placing a light directly above the area you are working. While this does provide light on the LEGO model, it is most useful in providing even light on the backdrop.
Backdrops could include: an attractive LEGO building environment with wood or similar tabletop. A neutral white or gray backdrop. (ex: large posterboard, can be bent to create seamless backdrop.)
The other challenge with regard to lighting is that you want to ensure that the colors which appear on screen match the colors of real LEGO bricks. This is made more difficult by the fact that computer monitors can’t reproduce all colors effectively.
If you have multiple lights, make sure they are of the same type (specifically, the bulbs have the same color temperature. ex: all Incandesent bulbs, all “warm” LED bulbs, etc…)
The biggest trick here is to ensure camera is in a “manual” mode without “auto” color settings, and to shoot occasional photo with a neutral gray card like this one: https://amzn.to/2OJwkFU
After shooting a series of photos with the same lighting and a gray card, you can synchromize the color calibration across a set of photos in Lightroom, ensuring accurate color reproduction and balanced whites and blacks.
Focus and Depth-of-field
This is a longer technical subject that will need examples. In brief summary, the goal is to ensure that the subject is in sharp focus, while controlling focus of the background.
In some cases you want soft focus on the background to make the model stand out. In other cases, the background can be in focus because it is important to the image, or it is a neutral background and it doesn’t matter if it is in focus or not.
Camera Angles and Perspectives
This is also a larger topic that needs more development, but in summary the goal is to pick natural looking angles. One easy trick for new photographers is to ensure that there is plenty of extra space on all sides of the model in the photo, allowing more flexibility in post-processing.
The more in-depth topic is around camera angles and vanishing points. It is often desirable to achieve a tilt-shift style effect for rectangular models, especially LEGO models of Architecture. This can be achieved in camera with wide angle lens, a dedicated Tilt-shift lens, or tweaked in post processing using perspective correction features.