Photographing those models

My technique needs work. Photo by author
There are thousands of photos of scale models on the Internet and in magazines. Not only are the models stunning, the photography is also. Good photography brings out the best in models, figures and dioramas. Many of these photos are taken by professionals, but you can take great photos of your models at home. 

The essential factor in good scale model is proper lighting. Good equipment is also important, but it’s not necessary to have an expensive camera. There are tutorials about how to take better model photos, how to make your own light tent and reflectors, how to use your camera and more. 

Some of these tutorials delve into the specifics of overall photography techniques, but if you’re really interested in taking good model photos, they are well worth the read. Here’s a few to get started. 

Model photography links Armorama


Digital Model Photography: Tips and Techniques

Photographing Your Minis

How to utterly lose your mind

Photography 101

Photographing Minis and Figures by Giovanni Azzara

Scale car photography explained in detail

I need to revisit some of these sites and polish up on my skills. Practice as much as you can and have fun!

Whether or not to weather

Rusty abandoned tank in Lebanon. Credit Getty Images

You’ve got your new model built and have the basic paint job done. It looks okay, but something is missing. What could it be? So you take a break and look at modeling sites on the internet.

You look at a few examples of models that blow your mind. You realize that you need to weather that bad boy! You read every article on weathering you can find.

Soon you learn the basics of weathering: rust, dust, mud, chipping, wear and tear, rain steaks, fuel and oil spills. But wait a second. How should you apply each effect and when? It can get confusing.

I recommend this article over on Armorama . It gives you a definite plan to tackle each step and a guideline for when to use an effect. Lots of factors go into what happens to a tank or vehicle during service and that affects what techniques to use.

As far as the techniques themselves, they are many and varied. Here are a few to look over.

Rusting, Chipping and Weathering

Chipping Paint with Rubber Cement

Basic weathering techniques (aircraft)

Weathering Military Models

Craftsman Boomer Trail – August 2010 (trains)

How to build a diorama

imageA diorama, in scale modeling terms, is a miniature scene made by a modeler, usually depicting a vehicle and or figures doing something. In military modeling, it is usually historic, showing  a particular time and place, a certain vehicle and its crew or people involved with them somehow. Popular time periods are WW2, the Gulf War, the Vietnam War and the recent and ongoing conflicts around the world. 

Subjects can vary widely, some focusing on the hardship and tragedy of war, or a light or humorous moment during military life. Dioramas serve also as a showcase for the modeler’s skills because not only does the assembly and painting of a vehicle demand certain techniques, the creation of a whole scene needs different skill sets. Terrain, trees, grass, rocks, buildings and the whole environment all have their own challenges to making the scene realistic. 

Just as the modeler wants the vehicle to be accurate, so should the setting be. What time of year is it? What is happening? Has it been raining? Is it a scene of rest or action? Is there fighting going on? All these factors play into the final scene.

You can find many tutorials on building dioramas on the internet and in modeling magazines. As an example, here’s a link to an article I wrote about making my WW1 Tadpole tank diorama.

As you can see, building a diorama can be a complicated and long process. The above diorama took me a straight month to finish. Some take months or years to complete, but it’s satisfying to finally finish it and show it off to everyone.

If you want to build your own diorama, here is a link to a great tutorial showing how to get started.
Dive in and have fun!

The hazards of scale modeling


Even though scale modeling is one of the most relaxing hobbies for many, there are some things you have to be aware of while working with chemicals, power tools and sharp knives. 
Adequate ventilation is a must to get rid of the fumes from the glue and paint you’re using. Open a window and use a fan to keep fumes away from you. Some modelers may have a system set up to extract fumes, but keeping windows open is a basic good suggestion. Also, when using an airbrush or spray paint, you might want to do it outside. 
Staying safe while using those razor sharp hobby knives is important too. Knives should always be sharp to lessen the force needed to cut something. Always hold the part firmly, maybe with a clamp if necessary. Cut away from you. Of course, if you can use a pair of side snippers to cut the part, it will be safer. Just watch out  for flying parts. 
Wear gloves while working with paint and glue and keep fingerprints off the model. Wash your hands frequently to remove dust, paint, glue, etc. Do not smoke or eat while modeling.
Protect your eyes while modeling, especially if you are using power tools, such as a rotary tool. Wear goggles to keep debris away from your eyes. Wear magnifying lenses even if your eyesight is good. This will reduce the strain on your eyes while focusing on small details.
Take a break once in a while to walk around or stretch especially if you’re having a difficult time doing something.
This is just a quick overview of things to be aware of. Here’s a link to a website that goes into more detail.